City planners often get very little public recognition for the work they do, and can sometimes take the heat on a project if it doesn’t prove politically popular. In the case of San Francisco’s revolutionary Pavement to Parks program, the early resistance to reclaiming public space from cars to create convivial spaces for people has gradually subsided and parklets are now in heavy demand. None of it would have been possible without the hard work and determination of Andres Power, an urban designer for the San Francisco Planning Department.
As the manager of the P2P program, Power has spent tireless hours managing the city’s initial plaza and parklet projects and moving them through the vast city bureaucracy. He deals regularly with merchants, neighbors and community groups. He’s worn a hardhat on many a Saturday and is the guy who gets called at midnight if something goes wrong. Power’s unwavering dedication, even in the face of fierce opposition, has made him one of the unsung heroes of San Francisco’s livable streets movement.
Along with some of his colleagues at the Planning Department, Power is working from within to change the dysfunctional and old-school culture of city government with an eye to then transform our streets. The Pavement to Parks program is now catching the attention of cities all over the U.S. Last week, San Francisco issued a new request for parklet proposals, which means they’ll be spreading to even more neighborhoods.
Power was born in San Francisco and grew up in the East Bay city of Albany. I sat down with him recently to find out more about his interest in urban planning, and his involvement in the Pavement to Parks program.
Bryan Goebel: What sparked your interest in city planning?
Andres Power: I’ve always loved cities. Being in a place that’s dynamic and changing and exciting has always been something that has intrigued me. I’ve tried to think back and to figure out what my motivators were and I think I just landed in the right place, to be honest. I had some great professors in undergrad at Brown University that really were forward and progressive thinking and inspired me. Then, after undergraduate, I went and worked in New York at the Department of Housing and Preservation doing economic development for the city and it was just an amazing place to be. It was so crazy and frantic, such a huge and complicated bureaucracy, but still, individual people could make amazing changes.