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Livable Streets

Eyes on the Street: DIY Street Furniture Enlivens Potrero Hill Street

3:25 PM PST on January 23, 2009

Joel.jpgJoel Bleskacek sweeping the sidewalk in front of Ruby Wine

Potrero hill merchant Joel Bleskacek came up with a clever solution in 2003 to provide more seating for customers outside of his Ruby Wine Shop and former Scoops ice cream parlor on 18th Street. He built simple wooden benches edging the tree trunks in front of his businesses, allowing his customers to linger and enjoy the public realm.

Metal_bench.jpgMetal benches and new sidewalks in front of Chez Mama

"This is an improvement compared to what was there around the trees,"  said Bleskacek. "They used to be a receptacle for dog shit and garbage.  I was looking for something cost effective and simple--no redwood or anything--but something cosmetically better."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works told Streetsblog building owners are responsible for the upkeep of their own sidewalks and trees and the department looks favorably on innovative projects that contribute to the livability of neighborhoods.

Bleskacek, with his wife and two children, lives in the immediate
neighborhood and is active in the Potrero Hill Association of Merchants and Businesses

His idea quickly spread to neighboring building owners and merchants.  The owner of the buildings housing Chez Mama and Lingba not only installed iron benches around his trees, but refurbished the sidewalks and replaced drainage.

Blooms Saloon, Moshi Moshi Sushi, Farley's coffee and Chatz Coffee followed soon after, each adding their particular flavor to the street furniture. 

While Bleskacek couldn't point to any data that shows people are staying longer in his shop or spending more money, he said on sunny days the benches are well used and he's received plenty of comments from customers who enjoy them. 

Couple.jpgCouple in front of Farley's enjoying their java

Cactus_bench.jpgBench in front of Farley's

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