The City’s First Residential Parklet Springs to Life on Valencia Street

'Deep's parklet under construction today on Valencia Street near 20th. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Amandeep Jawa (a.k.a. ‘Deep) might be recognized by many San Franciscans as the man who can turn any street into a party as he glides by on his music-booming “Trikeasaurus.” As an organizer of events that inject life into the street like the San Francisco Bike Party, he naturally jumped at the chance to create a beautiful social space outside his Valencia Street home with San Francisco’s first residential parklet.

“Valencia is not a great pedestrian street even though it’s a great public street,” said Jawa. “I wanted the front of my house to reflect the fact that people come and hang out there. In general, that’s a great thing, and that’s what Valencia’s all about. The parklet is a natural extension for that.”

Affectionately dubbed the “‘Deepistan National Parklet,” it will be the first in the city to front a home rather than a business. It’ll bring more breathing room, a social resting spot, and an abundance of plant life to a skinny sidewalk. With the help of Jawa’s friends and colleagues, its construction is well on its way to completion in time for the grand opening celebration this Sunday.

Jawa decided to create the parklet after he consulted with architect Jane Martin on beautifying the streetfront of his house. She suggested expanding the project by applying for the first round of parklet applications last fall. Jawa loved the idea, and Martin helped him design it.

'Deep rides down Valencia on his Trikeasaurus during Sunday Streets. Photo: Bryan Goebel

“I’ve been a very big fan of Park(ing) Day and parklets since the very first one, and I thought, ‘oh my god, that sounds fantastic’,” said Jawa. “It also dovetails with a lot of my views and visions for how Valencia Street should be, so it was kind of a no-brainer.”

The parklet’s design will have a different approach than other parklets, explained Martin. Instead of a protective railing between the parklet and the roadway, it will have an opening in the center to keep it “porous to the bike lane.”

“A lot of these parklets put a railing to the ‘back’ but this really remains open,” she said. “For him, he can still get his bicycles and tricycles into the garage, but it’s much more flexible. It’s not a single-use, it’s a multi-use space.”

The deck will also extend into the sidewalk to “straddle” the curb cut ramp, resulting in “a bigger feeling that it’s a social space more perpendicular to the street as opposed to parallel with it,” said Martin. “It’s literally counter to traffic, which is really exciting to me.”

Benches will be included as extensions of the planters, and designed in a way that encourages shorter use of the space than typical parklets that front businesses. “It’s kind of a place to rest your butt, frankly,” said Martin. “It’s intentionally narrow to encourage people to stay for a short while but not to be there overnight.”

It will also have an emphasis on large, low-water plants, she said. “The big planters are really to balance the physical presence of the cars. I feel like a lot of the parklet prototypes we’ve seen out there are still very diminutive and the hulk of the car still dominates next to a lot of them, so I wanted to give something that was of the street scale.”

The parklet’s design concept was based on Jawa’s personality and vision for a Valencia Street that’s more inviting for people to spend time on, said Martin.

Jawa, a member of the SF Bicycle Coalition Board of Directors and president of the League of Conservation voters, said his active involvement in sustainable streets advocacy was born out of his love for Valencia Street and San Francisco, something that happened almost as soon as he arrived here.

“I just felt so lucky to be here and fell in love with it, and I think if you’re in love with something, you want to be involved with it,” said Jawa.

“He’s a very social person, and he’s very much into the cultural scene on Valencia Street and a big supporter of pedestrian and bicycle advocacy,” said Martin. “I feel that as sort of an extension of his personality and the way it fits with that building, the design is to create a social space in the front of the house as opposed to the back of the house. So, it sort of inverts the typical public/private scenario.”

Most of the parklets that continue to pop up around the city have so far been largely motivated by the benefits they bring to businesses, although some come from non-profits. Restaurants and cafes usually take on construction and maintenance duties but benefit by attracting more customers to their storefront.

“You can see the profit motive – and god bless ’em, I’m glad those businesses are there,” said Jawa. “But I think if you talk to the business owners, they also get a greater sense of what Valencia could and should be like, and that’s why they’re on Valencia.”

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Andres Power of the SF Planning Department said the parklet program welcomes residential applications.

“The intent of the program is for parklets to be as widely used as possible,” he said. “The initial interest has primarily been from businesses, but the program is supportive of [residential parklets], and we’d like to see more of it.”

The requirements for residential parklets aren’t any stricter than for those fronting a business, said Power, granted they’re designed appropriately for the environmental context.

“In a residential area, cafe seating isn’t what you would necessarily want to see, but landscaping and beautification is,” he said. “As long as the design response is right, I think parklets can be a positive attribute to the neighborhood.”

Martin noted that while a business-fronting parklet only replaces “general street parking,” a residential one is “actually a more direct implication of the model because it means you yourself are giving up the parking because of the curb cut in front of the house.”

“For ‘Deep, that wasn’t difficult because he’s long since given up a car,” said Martin.

Indeed, with barely half of Mission District households using their required garages to store cars, the potential for more residential parklets seems enormous.

Still, Martin pointed out that they are a major expense for any property owner. Much of the funding for constructing parklets often comes from grants, and merchants typically expect to recoup their costs with the increase in customers, something residents can’t do.

But Jawa, a strong advocate of projects to widen sidewalks on Valencia, including the four blocks improved on the corridor last year, is certain the movement to continue pushing into the street will be successful.

“There are more parklets on Valencia than any place in the city. They’re just popping up like mad,” said Jawa. “But if you look at Valencia, it’s a great pedestrian street despite itself. People love walking and love biking there, but in terms of the street amenities, it’s kind of hostile to them. You can’t walk two people abreast.”

For now, as one more piece of the street is reclaimed outside Jawa’s door, he will have a little more room for the friends he invites over for sidewalk barbecues.

“I think all of these parklets speak to a greater vision for what Valencia should look like and what people want urban spaces to look like,” said Jawa.

“People want a certain kind of Valencia, and that’s not the Valencia that any of us have right now.”

Join ‘Deep and friends for the parklet’s grand opening and fundraiser benefiting Walk SF, Livable City, and the SF Bicycle Coalition this Sunday, June 26 from 2-6 pm at 937 Valencia Street (near 20th).

Photo: Aaron Bialick
  • Wow, Valencia Street gets better and better.  I’m curious in terms of dollars how much a private parklet might end up costing?

  • mikesonn

    I hope it is less, but probably the same, as a curb cut for a garage.

  • Greg Janess

    Cost info from the Parklet request form available here: http://sfpavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/images/Parklet_Permit_RFP_050411.pdf

    COSTS
    1. If you are awarded a permit, you will be responsible for the following fees which are based on cost recovery for time and materials only:
    ƒ $791 base fee for all applications; and
    ƒ $650 for up to two parking meter removals (required only if meters currently exist);
    and
    ƒ $191.50 to pay for inspection of your site before and after installation; and
    ƒ Only if your Parklet proposes the use of three parking stalls or more:• $285 Additional base fee for each parking stall used beyond the first two• $325 Additional fee for each additional meter removal beyond the first two(required only if meters currently exist)

    2. All yearly renewals will be charged $221.00

    You must also cover maintenance and pay for liability insurance:

    MAINTENANCEIf your project is selected, you will be required to provide daily maintenance of the Parklet. This maintenance includes watering any landscaping, hosing down the surface, and removing any graffiti. You will also be required to hose down the area underneath the Parklet at least once a week. The Department of Public Health may require pest abatement.LIABILITYApplicants must provide evidence of liability insurance for a minimum coverage of $1,000,000, naming the City and County of San Francisco as additional insured. The insurance coverage must be in force for the duration of the permit. Most businesses already carry this insurance. Please check in with your provider.

  • mikesonn

    Thanks Greg. The yearly renewal fee is interesting for a non-commercial spot. Do curb cuts pay yearly renewal fees?

  • icarus12

    The costs of liability insurance and yearly permit renewals will discourage many private homeowners from building parklets.

  • Anonymous

    These small parklets are a clear reminder of the incredible price we pay for ubiquitous parking and multi-lane roads.

  • Yes, thanks for the info!  And there would also be design and and installation costs, although if one had talented friends, perhaps it could be done inexpensively.  All in all, it’s actually less $ than I thought.  Maybe it’s possible that homeowner’s insurance would cover the insurance requirement? Although naming the City and County of SF on one’s plan would be a bit of a pain. (Does homeowner insurance cover the sidewalk in front of one’s house that a homeowner has a legal obligation to maintain?  Am wondering how a parklet would  be different?)

    All in all, it’s less cost than I imagined, but still an sizable investment.

  • That’s pretty awesome! However, it does look from that first photo like a motorcycle parking space is being partially compromised? It’s interesting- I’m fully in support of turning car parking spaces into parklets, but as an occasional Vespa rider, I generally feel like *more* motorcycle/scooter spaces are needed, not fewer. It might just be a restriping exercise, though…

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Deep, you rock!

  • PlebisPower

    Great design for a concept notable as much for decreasing the supply of curb parking as much as adding additional open space. Given the posted costs (thanks!), one has to wonder in the longer term about the shouldering off of support from the public to private entities. Then there’s the potential for using co-opted public space to host particular groups or to communicate specific messages – all issues that will be surely worked out over time. 
    Maybe the greatest contribution of the ‘parklet’ concept is that it makes explicit the opportunity cost of public curbside parking by showing another use for valuable public land. Just imagine if the process worked backwards, and advocates of free curbside parking had to justify why it’s more pleasing to look at oil-stained pavement and an ugly meter pole than a hand-crafted human space.  

  • Anonymous

    It depends on how loud the motorcycle/scooter is … if it’s louder than other cars, then they should be banned. If not, then I agree with you. It’s really been driving me nuts lately how these jerks on motorcycles with amplified mufflers can get away with literally blowing away everyone’s eardrums and utterly destroying the relative peace in our city. But that’s another story …

  • It seems like this model could be used for active garages too if they have low usage. I use my car twice a week. Imagine if every new curb cut in The City required a parklet instead of a defacto second space in front of it. Just a thought.

  • re: “jd_x” – I can assure you, my Vespa is pretty non-eardrum-affecting 🙂 More broadly, if motorcycle noise is an issue (and I’m certainly not contesting that), trying to deal with it through limiting parking spaces for all motorcycles/scooters is probably an ineffective way to go- better to focus on enforcement/fines for the offending vehicles.

  • Rbhauptman

    Love it but why is the opening on Gay Pride Sunday?

  • John

    Deep for Mayor!!!

  • This is brilliant. We are hoping to make one in our hood soon and now I am re-inspired. Beep beep for deep! ooor wait, that might be annoying for parklet visitors.

  • Dude!

    Kinda ugly! Whoop de do. I have a better idea: let’s rip up The asphalt of every other street and plant organic gardens. And ban rent.

  • Anonymous

    It’s also a clear reminder that there’s not enough street parking in this city. Guess what. People drive cars and need to park them somewhere! Get over it.

  • Anonymous

    Better and better??? not all of us feel this way. 

  • Anonymous

    This insanity has to stop.

  • Great! Thank for information, I’m looking for it for
    a long time,

  • mikesonn

    Ha, don’t have enough parking? Look to the curb cuts. And on that note, this appears to already be a curb cut so there isn’t a loss of a parking spot anyway.

  • Polycommbill

    Next thing on the agenda: make a commitment to drive less and try to own only one car in your household or none at all. Myself and friends are in our early 60’s and get by without cars. So can you. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have cars drive by these parklets; nice not to have exhaust in yours or your baby’s faces?

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile, back in reality land… People are still driving cars and looking for parking spots. The End.

  • mikesonn

    @redbeardsf:disqus Since you missed my last comment, this was already a curb cut. Settle down and step away from the steering wheel.

  • Anonymous

    @mikesonn:disqus OH! I see what you did there; insinuating that I own a car when I actually don’t (proud cyclist and occasional ZipCar driver). My point, which you seem to have missed is that it’s already pretty clear to anyone who has circled around, wasting gas, trying to find a parking spot that there are NOT enough parking spots in this god forsaken town. There doesn’t need to be a parklet in an existing curb cut to remind all us EVIL car drivers that we can’t park there. It’s already a pretty well known fact.

  • mikesonn

    I’m confused, you are complaining about this parklet taking away parking, but it doesn’t take away parking. Why not use the non-parking space for something other then pavement? Why are you complaining so much?

    Also, there is plenty of parking in this city, it just isn’t priced right. But that is a discussion for a different thread.

  • FTW

    u can ride a burro if you choose, but dont push your pseudo hippy save the earth bullshit on the rest of us…. typical liberal from san francisco…. thinks they must save the world from people… building a little fuckin planter box aint gonna make a bit of difference… except waste taxpayer money….  in honor of you… I think I will drive my Diesel up and down the street spewing black smoke in the face of babies…
     just to spite you…

  • someguy

    when I have time to drop by four barrel for some of their amazing coffee, I can no longer park in front of their business, but instead in front of one their neighbor’s spots.  I’m all for greening valencia street- the inconvenience of widening the sidewalks has proved to be a good thing.  I think taking away Public parking spaces to benefit private business owners is  a bad idea and as expensive as it is, will only be placed in front of high volume businesses, possibly changing the character of the neighborhood.  Keep in mind on my side of the block of Valencia between 16/17th there are a total of 10 available spaces, of which one is only for 15 minutes.  The remainder of the spaces are for trucks/loading and unloading.  The total number of spaces on the odd side of the street is 19.  If the funds from these converted public spaces were used to buy or build parking Buildings, then maybe I would be more for it.  Just to clarify, this parklet shown above is some fellow making a park out of his driveway- which is fine- he is willing to forgo having a driveway and no one else could park there anyways, having a parklet in front of your business is like buying a piece of a public roadway/parking space, not something I think business owners should be able to do. 

  • Anonymous

    Parking is much too cheap everywhere in town. Parking revenue should support traffic enforcement (we desperately need more parking enforcement officers) and a significant amount should go to Muni in mitigation of the transit delays caused by automobiles. Overnight street parking should be by permit only.

  • Parklet’s are a ridiculously unfair idea for the neighborhood. WHAT is the PUBLIC benefit to giving away public parking spaces to private businesses to make more money???  In fact the city is MAKING MONEY on these parking places every day in the form of rapacious meter costs and obscene fines. How is that City income being replaced by the private profits of coffee shops?  What is the PUBLIC benefit of fostering coffee consumption?  I know what the public cost of removing even more public parking is.  A half hour drive around the neighborhood at midnight trying to find parking.  When the PEOPLE of San Francisco decide they want to get rid of public roads and parking places, through an explicit vote for that policy, it will at least be legitimate public policy.  When the asses at the Planning Department decide they have the moral authority to make these decisions on their own, without a vote of the people, it is something much closer to facism.

  • Deep

    Daniel –

    You’ve made a lot of factually incorrect assertions in your argument:

    1) Public benefit: Since 25% of our public space in a city is given over to roads, taking some of that away from parking & making it more useful and interactive is directly making a public benefit, as long as it is more useful than room to place a single person’s car, some of the time. 

    2) Giving away money: There is no giving away of anything – for public parking spaces, the parklet owner has to pay for the City revenue loss.  In my case it is NOT a public space but rather my driveway – so I’m directly giving “my space” to the public. So in no way is the CIty giving way anything.

    3) Income for private businesses: Not all parklets are at coffee shops and ALL parklets have to be open to the public, regardless of whether they purchase anything or not.  In fact, in every parklet there is a sign stating this.  SO while they may benefit the businesses that pay for them, they are not designed to produce revenue. Furthermore, the parklet discussed in this article, is at my private residence, and I assure I’m not selling anything.

    4) Legitimate public policy: Every parklet has to be applied for by the owner so no one at the Planning Department imposes this policy anywhere.  Additionally, every parklet has to go through an open community review process & thus the people thoroughly get their say.

    Thus, pretty much everything in your comment is wildly incorrect, and that is before you even call it “fascism”, which is a truly obscene assertion.

    .ps
    As an aside, your “rapacious meter” costs and “obscene fines” are only a fraction of what it costs the City to maintain the vast car infrastructure it gives drivers for “free”.  So in fact, if there is an “obscenity” here it is the unfair sums the City spends (and does not recoup) supporting the needs of drivers at the expense of everyone else.