What a day. I never had so much fun as an in-the-moment filmmaker. I shot for almost eight hours straight and by the end was exhausted and nearly dehydrated. But as I saw the energy and the diversity of the spots – and the underlying message in Rebar’s mission – I knew I had to churn out a film fast. Thirty-six hours later the above film debuted on-line. It was easily our most popular film for the next two years until Bogota’s Ciclovia Streetfilm surpassed it.
Posts from the Park(ing) Day Category
When Park(ing) Day started in San Francisco seven years ago, setting up camp on a sliver of street space normally reserved for storing cars was a somewhat radical idea. But these days, evidence of the movement’s continuing success can be seen year-round with more than 35 (and counting) semi-permanent, city-sanctioned parklets around the city.
Park(ing) Day returns again tomorrow, and dozens of parking spaces around the city will be reclaimed as public gathering spots. San Franciscans have embraced the event over the years, and the city’s parklet program is wildly popular among merchants, who clamor for a permit to bring a vibrant public gathering space in front of their store. It seems a world away from the first time Rebar, an art collective, decided to introduce Park(ing) Day by plugging a parking meter for a place to lay down some few rugs, plots of sod, chairs and art pieces.
“What has been really gratifying is that Park(ing) Day, which began as a guerilla art project, has been adopted by cities and integrated into their official planning strategies,” said Blaine Merker, a principal at Rebar. “A relatively modest art intervention has changed the way cities conceive, organize and use public space.”
By now, parklets are a uniquely ubiquitous institution in San Francisco. The SF Planning Department’s Pavement to Parks program continues to grant permits through a streamlined permit application process, resulting in dozens of uniquely designed spaces popping up around the city. The city also installed a “mega parklet” promenade along three blocks of Powell Street, San Francisco’s most crowded pedestrian thoroughfare. A multi-agency website launched in May, sfbetterstreets.org, even lays out a simple guide for merchants (and residents) to apply for parklets, among other street improvements.
People all over San Francisco reclaimed metered parking spaces normally reserved for private automobiles today, and transformed them into living spaces for people to mark PARK(ing) Day, one of the most celebrated livable streets events that began here six years ago, and sparked a worldwide movement.
“It’s exciting to see how in just a very few years the idea of PARK(ing) Day has gone from a very subversive, radical proposition to something that’s routine and mainstream,” said Andy Thornley, policy director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, as he unlocked his bike in front of SPUR‘s temporary park.
Indeed, some of the businesses that have set up temporary parks for PARK(ing) Day over the years now have permanent parklets as part of San Francisco’s revolutionary Pavement to Parks and parklet program. What was invented by the renowned artist and design collective Rebar in 2005 is now a San Francisco institution.
Outside the SPUR Urban Center on Mission Street, a line began forming around noon, under sunny skies, for chicken mole, part of a traveling food installation put together by artists Sergio De La Torre and Chris Treggiari. The entire installation — food, tables, chairs, grill — was transported via one cargo bike from 17th and Folsom to Mission and 3rd. There were plans to serve 100 people.
The number of PARK(ing) Day installations in San Francisco featured on the PARK(ing) Day website has grown in the past 24 hours, as more people have registered their event on the above map. Where are you celebrating PARK(ing) Day today? Please send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org, Tweet them to us or add them to our Flickr pool.
Dozens of installations are planned all over the Bay Area tomorrow to mark PARK(ing) Day, the annual worldwide event to reclaim metered curbside parking spaces normally used by cars and transform them into temporary “PARKS” for people.
Last year, from Iran to Venezuela to South Korea, people in more than 180 cities across the globe created more than 800 temporary “PARKS” as part of the annual celebration that was invented in San Francisco in 2005 by the renowned art and design collective, Rebar.
“Urban inhabitants worldwide recognize the need for new approaches to making cities,” said Rebar principal Matthew Passmore. “The planning strategies that have led to traffic congestion, pollution and poor health in cities everywhere do not reflect contemporary values, nor are they sustainable. PARK(ing) Day raises these issues and demonstrates that even temporary projects can improve the character and quality of the city.”
In San Francisco, the PARK(ing) Day movement inspired the city’s popular parklets, which have also caught on in other cities such as New York, where they’re known was “pop-up cafes.”
The Streetfilm by John Hamilton, above, is from PARK(ing) Day 2009, and one of my favorites.
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.
An enthusiastic audience of supporters who lamented the lack of public space in their neighborhoods attended a San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW) hearing at City Hall this morning on proposed parklets in front Ritual Coffee Roasters on Valencia Street and farm:table coffee on Post Street. Supporters of the parklets testified that converting a few parking spots into vibrant spaces for people will enliven their streets and benefit their neighborhoods.
Eileen Hassi, the owner of Ritual, told the hearing officer that she has been trying to establish a park in front of her business at 1026 Valencia Street since it first opened in 2005. She said Ritual has been a strong supporter and participant in PARK(ing) Day and that the only complaints she’s heard from neighbors are that there are too many people on the sidewalks and that bicycles often clutter the area.
“Personally, I think these are good problems to have and the parklet is a great solution to both of these problems,” said Hassi, who added that many neighbors who aren’t Ritual customers have enjoyed the transformation of the parking spaces on PARK(ing) Day and would benefit from a permanent parklet because it would be public space. In addition, on-street bicycle parking would be added.
“I’m not a customer but they have been an excellent neighbor,” said Amandeep Jawa, a resident in the neighborhood and livable streets advocate. “Fundamentally, the problem on Valencia is not successful businesses. The problem on Valencia is that we have very narrow sidewalks and Valencia Street is a pedestrian street in spite of itself.”
From the Mission to SoMa to Hayes Valley to the Richmond District, people all over San Francisco reclaimed space otherwise reserved for private automobile storage today, transforming them into spaces for people for (PARK)ing Day, a livable streets holiday of sorts celebrated worldwide. The gray weather and humid, misty air didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.
“It’s even misting in the Mission but that’s not slowing things down for PARK(ing) Day,” said Andy Thornley, the program manager for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The SFBC erected its bright orange tent and laid out a patch of grass, flowers and two purple lawn chairs next to the on-street bike parking corral in front of Boogaloos Cafe on Valencia Street.
“We’re really celebrating the city’s first wave of on-street biking corrals. A year ago we were out on Valencia with temporary bike parking and we were telling people, imagine how great this would be. Here we are a year later and you don’t have to imagine. You can see what on-street bike parking looks like and by golly, we need it,” said Thornley.
SFBC volunteers were handing out material to bicyclists who were encouraged to urge merchants to request on-street bicycle parking as a way to boost business.
Valencia Street was rich with PARK(ing) Day sites from block to block.
Tomorrow, at locations all over the Bay Area, people will reclaim the curb for PARK(ing) Day and re-imagine slices of the urban landscape usually reserved for automobile parking. It will also mark a milestone for San Francisco’s groundbreaking Pavement to Parks program, as the interagency effort to transform parking spaces into parklets shifts focus to empower residents.
Andres Power, the project manager for Pavement to Parks, said he will no longer be involved in building parklets, except for the four remaining projects in Noe Valley and North Beach, but has worked with other city departments to develop a permit process that will allow anyone to apply and do it on their own.
Initially, he’s sending out a request for proposals [pdf] that contains all the information, including the design and placement guidelines, and a flier residents can pass out to businesses.
“The intent, at this point, is to select at least 20 or so projects, depending on how many responses we get,” said Power, who has already received about 100 emails from people who want parklets in their neighborhoods.
The pilot parklets at Cafe Revolution in the Mission and Mojo Bicycle Cafe on Divisadero have been wildly successful. Last year, a number of parklets were created for PARK(ing) Day to demonstrate how converting space for autos can enliven a street and business, providing a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the city, especially in neighborhoods cursed with narrow sidewalks.
As San Francisco moves closer to a decision on a new sit-lie ordinance that proponents say would facilitate the SFPD's clearing of unsavory elements off of sidewalks in neighborhoods like the Haight, resistance is building, and several organizers have called for a day of sidewalk action on Saturday March 27, from 10 am to 5 pm. I sat down recently with Nate Miller, one of the people who decided that they weren’t going to watch the City succumb to yet another pandering campaign of fear mongering without standing up to say no.
The sit-lie campaign has been orchestrated from behind the scenes for the past few months, trying to appear as a spontaneous grassroots effort by residents of the Haight-Ashbury. But as Miller tells it, there is strong evidence of coordination between “grassroots activists,” the Chronicle’s resident suburban attack dog C.W. Nevius, Mayor Newsom and Chief of Police Gascon. Together, they are using the decades-long presence of impoverished and annoying “gutter punks” on Haight Street to push a law criminalizing anyone who is sitting or lying on a sidewalk anywhere in San Francisco. Gabriel Haaland wrote an intelligent editorial in last week's Bay Guardian calling for a new approach to actual conflicts (greatly exaggerated in this case), rather than expanding the definition of so-called criminal behavior.
Here’s Nate in his own words: