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City usability and the rise of the parklet

Posted by Nathan on December 1st, 2011

We have been in San Francisco for a fortnight now and one of the things that has drawn our attention as we are getting to know San Francisco better are the number of parklets dotting the streets. This is a project run by the city. A parklet is a small but usable piece of public space and usually replaces a parking spot.

Parklet on 4th Street, San Francisco

Parklet on 4th Street, San Francisco

Often the parklets have small gardens and seating, the provide a welcome respite from the endless grey sidewalks and roads. The addition of parklets provides the opportunity to pause and relax.

What we like most about these parklets is there lean approach to improving public spaces. They aren’t multi-year, multi-million dollar behemouths that take years of public consultation before they even start. They are making a small difference quickly and reversibly. In San Francisco they are part of a pilot program, if people don’t like them they won’t stay.

We came across our first parklet outside Peet’s coffee on 4th st. It’s amazing how the simple seat and garden transforms this chain coffee shop from something you walk past on the way somewhere else to a little green destination in the middle of the city.

Since discovering the parklet at Pete’s we have been seeking them out and Valencia St has a number all offering a different take on the idea. From a small seating area outside a bike shop to a topiary garden surrounding a driveway.

The parklets make the city space more usable, they are somewhere to wait, to pause and reflect. You no longer feel hussled through the street.

Parklet at night Valencia St, San Francisco

Parklet at night Valencia St, San Francisco

We think New Zealand should give parklets a go and we will be talking to Wellington City Council about the idea on our return.

Are you ready to give up a parking space to gain park space?

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  • Kingi Gilbert

    awesome post – i hope they make an appearance in NZ.Kingi in Honolulu