Parklet Map: 11/2011
Since early 2010, 21 Parklets and the Powell Street Promenade have sprouted up across San Francisco, a few “parkmobiles” are making the rounds, and seeds have been planted for more to grow. Speaking of which, proposals for new parklets are due by December 5, the process, application, and guidelines for which (click image to enlarge) are online.

Soon To Be Sitting Pretty In A Series Of New Plazas And Parklets [SocketSite]
Powell Street Promenade Making Progress [SocketSite]
Bringing New Life And Portable “Parkmobile” Gardens To The YBCBD [SocketSite]
Map of San Francisco Parklets [Google]
Request for proposals for temporary Parklets [sfgreatstreets.org]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Ted

    While I appreciate the good intention of these Parkmobiles, they are seriously hideous eyesores. I don’t think they were well-executed, and, sadly, they are a complete waste of money.

  2. Posted by wc1

    ^ agree.
    They also become free sq footage for businesses, even though ‘technically’ they are public space (See Castro location of Squat and Gobble and Polk St Crepe House as examples).

  3. Posted by curmudgeon

    ^ I believe the first comments was about parkmobiles, not parklets.
    Parklets I’ve found to be, in most cases, great. I think the “privatizing public space” issue interesting and could require more policy.
    I’m a little distressed by how Squat and Gobble has gotten all uppity about the program when they were told they couldn’t directly serve diners in their parklet (not sure if it has been the case with others).
    I do think it is important to provide very strong visual cues that the space is completely open to the public, and not simply an extension of a private business. It’s something that I think should be evaluated over time, and perhaps changes to the program should be made. The existing signage requirements are important, but perhaps the space should also be required to have a different design than the adjacent business, so it is clearly differentiate. (Squat and Gobble looks very much like it is simply an extension). I dunno..just a thought, but I expect over time these issues will continue to crop up.
    But, overall, I would much rather have 10 people able to sit down in an attractive public space than provide parking for one car. It’s a tradeoff, but generally seems like a good one.

  4. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “I do think it is important to provide very strong visual cues that the space is completely open to the public…”
    I agree. I’ll bet if you polled passers-by most think that the parklet was seating area for the adjacent cafe and not public space.
    There’s definitely a benefit to the adjacent business and I think that the business “pays back” in the form of maintaining the parklet. That’s not a precisely balanced contract between the public and the business but it might work out OK.
    One issue that might come up “down the road” is when streets are reconfigured by removing parking to make space for new lanes (bikes or cars). Usually parking removal is controversial all on its own. Parklet removal will make things even more interesting.

  5. Posted by BobN

    For want of a few thousand dollars of maintenance ten years back, the lawn at Alamo Square continues its slow demise into a weed-choked dust bowl.
    Cost of replacement sometime down the road: $3,000,000 to $6,000,000 (if the lawn work associated with the playground update is any indication).
    Heads should roll (and be buried under the rootballs of new trees, so that they can finally be of some use)

  6. Posted by Paytosit

    While I’m all for the greening of our neighborhoods…I just read Muni intends or proposes to place a proposition on the ballot that would make private merchants who provide free parking pay a $1000 dollar annual fee per space to Muni.
    Regarding the parklet, I assume the merchant is requesting the parklet. So one would think it’s a benefit to the merchant…like providing free parking. Therefore charging a $1000 dollar annual fee seems only fair if this Muni proposal passes…..customers should have the pleasure of paying to sit…..
    San Francisco…the city that knows how!!!

  7. Posted by lol

    I love these parklets. Despite the reclaiming of public space from empty cars to actual human beings, a great thing I have noticed is new community habits I have noticed. One is Quetzal. It’s a meeting place for a number of some elderly, as well as other groups of friends (even a few trannies, this is Polk street after all) who meet up there either mornings or late afternoon when it is sunny enough. I am there a few hours a month depending on what I have to do in the area and am amazed at how people have appropriated themselves this space. I also like how the staff doesn’t pressure you to purchase there but yet makes sure the furniture and fixtures are in clean decent shape.
    Another really great one is the one on 22nd across from Revolution.
    Not all are offered by businesses. One on Valencia has been set up by a home owner on both sides of his garage driveway with plants and a seating/hanging out area.
    Love them. Keep them coming.

  8. Posted by tNOB

    I am still perplexed on how this is organized. The City is on the wrong side of the cash flow. Businesses should pay the City for a permit to build and maintain these “parklets” themselves. This is done in many other cities in the world to great success.

  9. Posted by Alai

    I think it’s reasonable to have the merchants pay an annual fee (do they now?). It should be whatever the cost of a parking space is– if it’s metered, it should be the average annual income from a metered spot. If it’s a parking permit area, it should be the cost of a permit.

  10. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “Cost of replacement [of the Alamo Square lawn] sometime down the road: $3,000,000 to $6,000,000…”
    Holy frijole! I should bid on this contract and then sub it out to a landscaper for ~ $50,000.

  11. Posted by lyqwyd

    Pretty much every question above is answered in the linked PDF, here is a summary:
    The applicant must pay a permit fee to DPW (minimum of $982.50), pay for the design, and pay for the installation, pay for maintenance, and pay an annual renewal fee ($221).
    some key sections from the linked PDF regarding some of the above:
    “If the applicant is a restaurant or cafe that currently has table service, please contact us … We will work with you to develop an agreement that details the specifics of the no table service provision.”
    “we strongly encourage benches and small permanent seats. If you choose to use tables and chairs, the furniture you use must be different than the furniture that you may currently use on the sidewalk as part of your Café Tables & Chairs Permit or inside your business, if applicable.”
    “You will also be responsible for all costs associated with designing and installing the Parklet.”
    “You will be required to sign a maintenance agreement to keep all plants in good health and the Parklet free of debris and grime. You must maintain the surface of the Parklet daily and rinse out the area beneath the Parklet at least once a week.”
    Also, there are already public spaces (the sidewalk) that businesses can use for private use (AKA put our tables for sole use by the restaurant and sometimes fence off areas). Many restaurants already do this. Seems perfectly reasonable that if we are going to take pedestrian space and use it for seating that we should also allow auto space to be used for the same purpose.

  12. Posted by curmudgeon

    Lyqwyd…thanks for actually reading the document and finding my issue answered. I’m thinking that condition about street furniture may be new in this round, because I would swear that Squat and Gobble uses the exact same street furniture in the parklet as they do for their sidewalk. I’ll have to take a look the next time I walk by.

  13. Posted by lyqwyd

    My pleasure! I think you are right curmudgeon, I don’t think there was a requirement about the type of tables/ chairs in earlier versions of the parklets program.

  14. Posted by JIPB

    I like the parklets, and recently enjoyed a coffee sitting in one on Valencia Street.
    My concern is that it is only a matter of time before a car plows into one of them and hurts people. There was not much in the way of protection from an errant vehicle, and the cars were driving very close to where I was sitting and moving fast.

  15. Posted by Kathleen

    SF need more green open spaces throughout the city. Not just in parking spaces.
    Oh lets go sit out and smell the traffic fumes..

  16. Posted by curmudgeon

    JIPB….the plowing into issue is pretty much a non-issue, at least when the parklet is mid-block. A car would need to drift over from the travel lane, which is pretty unlikely. The parklet is pretty protected by other parking spaces (particularly if they’re occupied). It’s a bit more of an issue when the parklet is at the end of block. I’ll let Lyqwyd let us know if there are any special design standards for that condition. :-)

  17. Posted by missiondweller

    Squat & Gobble is clearly violating the provisons. Their table and chairs match the side walk furnature and even have light extending from their business to the parklet to clearly indicate its is an extension of the business. Every time I drive by it gauls me that public space has been taken for private benefit.
    I’m also concerned about the placement of these being political favors granted to businesses that support the district supervisor.
    “If you choose to use tables and chairs, the furniture you use must be different than the furniture that you may currently use on the sidewalk as part of your Café Tables & Chairs”

  18. Posted by MM2

    I’ve worked with the city on these parklets. What a scam!
    Our real parks don’t have enough money to do simple things like keep the bathrooms open or do park things like replant or fertilize or maintain what’s already in the parks. There’s no money to keep the rec centers open, yet, somehow we have money for silly little projects that make people imagine they’re greening the city.
    These parklets cost the city at least $35,000 each, plus fees from the merchants who must promise to keep them clean. Ostensibly, each parklet is a temporary site. Each is supposed to last six months, then move to benefit another merchant depending on whether other merchants want them and their condition. So far they’ve stayed in their original places.
    That $600,000+ would have kept several gardeners on staff, bought a lot of trees, and left some helpful after-school programs in place. Nope, we’d rather have another place to drink our coffee.

  19. Posted by SocketSite

    UPDATE: Discussion surrounding the proposed elimination of parking along Polk Street has been moved to: Polk Street Showdown: Bike Lanes Versus Parking & Local Opposition.

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