Since beginning to allow local businesses and community groups to create “parklets” in 2009, San Francisco has pioneered these streetside public spaces in what the city initially called the ”temporary urbanism program.” SF agencies developed a program that allows businesses, nonprofits and property owners to apply for permits to convert adjacent on-street parking into public spaces that are open and accessible, though also removable.
The San Francisco Examiner and Planetizen recently reported on the removal of a parklet that had been criticized as “a haven for homelessness and illegal activity” in the Haight-Ashbury district. Observers have interpreted this episode as reflecting the “growing pains” of this conversion of on-street parking into public spaces. With about 40 parklets now scattered around the city (see photos above), and many more requests all the time, Planning Department officials are said to have learned from this incident and others around the City.
Oversight and guidelines now require detailed descriptions of the design and purpose of parklets as part of the application process. A comprehensive packet released late last year by the Planning Department began to codify the city’s policies on this innovative experiment in the creation of small, incremental, locally created public spaces. Other cities around the country have begun to follow suit in efforts to encourage more vibrant public spaces for pedestrians and local businesses.