A parklet movement is springing to life along Polk Street. An installation completed last week in front of Crepe House near Washington has already been buzzing with activity while a second parklet began construction this week in front of Quetzal, a popular cafe with sidewalk seating on Polk Street between Sutter and Bush.
Although it’s surrounded by some of the densest neighborhoods on the West Coast, Polk Street lacks adequate public space. It’s also a major north-south bicycling corridor.
“I’ve been complaining all semester that there’s no place to sit down on the terrace. I’m ecstatic that this is here. I’ll be coming more,” said Claire Toussaint, who lives a block away from Crepe House, and was enjoying her lunch in the new parklet today with friends and fellow students from the Academy of Art.
“It’s great in any neighborhood,” said Lorris Williams, who was sitting alongside Toussaint. “Cars aren’t exactly beautiful on the side of a street. The less cars can park on the street is generally better for the street.”
“I think it’s exciting,” said Steve Black, the owner of Lush Lounge on lower Polk Street, who is trying to bring a farmer’s market to the alley adjacent to his bar where a new mural is going to be painted soon.
“When I first opened my business on the corner of Post and Polk and I saw somebody running down the street, they were running from somebody. Now, when I see somebody running it’s joggers and people enjoying the neighborhood,” said Black, who added that the parklets are long overdue and he would like to see more.
Research conducted by interns for the Great Streets Project shows a demand for parklets on Polk Street. They spent some time talking to people on the stretch of Polk Street where Quetzal’s parklet is being installed:
- Of the 31 people surveyed, 77 percent of people came to the area by foot. The majority of people (74 percent) lived nearby in the same or another neighborhood, but only 61 percent agreed the area has a strong positive community character. For a similar survey along Divisadero Street, 80 percent thought the area had a strong positive community character before a parklet was installed, and this increased to 90 percent after.
- 67 percent said they would come more often or much more often if the area had more public places to sit, 55 percent said they would come more often or much more often it it were easier to come and go by walking.
- When asked what would make the street a better place to spend time, the majority of comments related to increasing police presence and addressing problems with drugs and homelessness. Other comments included more types of businesses, cleaner overall and street improvements such as fixed potholes, better crosswalks, and more places to sit.
District 3 Supervisor and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who represents Polk Street, said he is happy to see the parklets being installed.
“New public spaces will make this vibrant street even more active. We also have the opportunity to create one of the first protected bike lanes in the city on Polk, and I’m actively working to help make it happen,” said Chiu.