Public Parklets Make Use of Urban Sidewalks


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powell-street-promenade

By Debra Atlas

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco is famous for many things, not the least of which is being the #1 Green City in the United States. Now the Pavement to Parks program is transforming parking space into public “parklets,”which are mini parks along pedestrian ways constructed from salvaged materials.

In the 1950s, San Francisco city streets were widened to accommodate increased vehicle traffic, forcing the sidewalks down to a mere nine feet wide. Today, streets and right-of-ways make up 25 percent of San Francisco’s total land area. That’s more land than all of the city’s parks combined!

Since the first Park(ing) Day in 2009, San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program began creating green space carved out of excess public roadways for city dwellers and visitors to enjoy.

“It’s about transforming a sea of asphalt,” says Andres Power, an urban designer at the San Francisco Planning Department.

Launched by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, the initiative created 12 low-cost “parklets” throughout the city. These unexpected oases use an array of resources that would otherwise have wound up in landfills, including:

  • Salvaged storm-felled trees;
  • Stainless steel air ducting;
  • Dumpsters; and
  • Old surplus granite countertops.

The stainless steel air ducting was transformed into giant planters for an array of fruit trees, which are also part of an initiative to create edible landscapes in the city. The dumpsters became planters for a colorful vista of South African plants. Finally, the old surplus granite countertops were fashioned into benches. Parklet designs are meant to be both temporary and easily movable, and include seating, landscaping, and asphalt treatment.

The initiative first created Castro Commons, the Showplace Triangle and Guerrero Park. Not only were these well received by the public, but also the collision rate for the 11 blocks where the San Jose Avenue/Guerrero Street parklet is located decreased by 53 percent since 2004.

These parklets create a space where pedestrians and bikers can relax, play, and enjoy themselves. Beautifying the streets for the people is a trend that will hopefully continue and grow.

Check out more articles by Debra Atlas.

© 2011 SCGH, LLC. 

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