Life is an experiment

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Restoring the public realm, one parklet at a time

Once upon a time, people filled the streets. Keeping one eye open for slow-moving horse-based vehicles, people young and old were free to walk, gather, sit, and play in the street. Of course, that changed in the 20th century when the streets become geared around automobile movement and away from people gathering. People were separated from their neighbors and forced off the streets and into their homes.

However, recently there has begun the first shoots of a return to better times. Small pockets of streets are returning to their old roles as congregating areas. Here in San Francisco, one of the most exciting new hopes is the "parklet" program. Parklets are sidewalk extensions that reappropriate parking spaces into public seating areas. In these spaces, people can sit, read, meet their neighbors and friends, and enjoy the world around them. Perhaps the most well-known example is outside Mojo Cafe on Divisadero Street, a 3-space wooden decking area with tables, chairs, and bicycle parking. It has been a huge success and the locals love their parklet.

Here in the Inner Sunset, myself and others have been working with local residents and businesses to install a parklet where it is almost certainly most needed: Outside the popular Arizmendi Bakery on 9th Avenue. Here, people frequently spill out from the bakery onto the sidewalk, blocking access for other pedestrians. So many people have said "We need gathering spaces in this neighborhood!", so some of us got together to make it happen.

Our aims with the Arizmendi parklet are to:-

1. Relieve congestion at this section of sidewalk.
2. Create the Inner Sunset's first outdoor public gathering space, a place where you don't need to be anybody's customer and which can be accessed any day and any hour.
3. Draw more foot traffic up 9th Avenue to less frequented businesses.
4. Add an attractive piece of street furniture to the Inner Sunset.
5. Encourage the development of community in the neighborhood.

Sign our Arizmendi Parklet petition and show your support!

Want to see the proposed design by local architect Jack Verdon? Voila!

Pretty nice, eh? Here's some more concept images...

I be diggin', you be diggin', we all be diggin'. And the SF Planning Department also be diggin', having recently approved our application. Victory! But we still need to demonstrate public support at a hearing later this month. We need YOU. If you support this parklet, please show it.

Sign our Arizmendi parklet Petition and take a moment to help us out. No money is needed, just a little of your time.

I'll update you on how things go at the public hearing also more about the parklet itself, including materials used, and so on.

Thank you for supporting us!



  1. Like it with more back rest...

  2. Bikes should be backed in to bike racks. The front wheel is not locked into the frame and the bike will fall over.


  3. Thanks for the suggestions amigos. The above rendering is an approximation and hopefully the finished design will implement your ideas - especially correctly interfacing with bicycles.

  4. I heard that the residents near the "parklet" and the neighboring businesses either were not told about the parklet application. They told me that it was done very secretively. Two of the businesses opposed the move, and nobody supporting it lives on the street. Is that true?

  5. Definitely digging it. Like the bike parking touch, very nice. Looking forward to sunny day treats, chilling out in the parklet.

  6. @Anonymous, I live immediately adjacent to the project, and I support it.

  7. Also needed are several places where people can tie up their dogs when they go into the store. The existing parking meter outside is in the perfect position.

  8. no no no , public parking not your bakery is needed .rent a biger store !

  9. i love the idea. suggestion: the seating have ventilation/weep holes to allow overnight foggy moisture to evaporate. does the design friendly to seniors and those with disabilities? is there a variety of heights for seating (short, medium, tall)? hate to say it, the seating invites skateboarders who will challenge the structures at night. still... i love the idea. i live across the street.

  10. I love the idea of a parklet, but this seems a little harsh and more like an platform that extends the seating for the bakery. I was expecting an expansion of nature (greenspace, lawn, plants) into the roadway, but this looks more like a metal barge floating up 9th.

  11. Many of our local shops and cafes thrive on business that does not come from locals, especially on the weekend. Their customers drive. How many locals are shopping and dining daily enough to keep them operating?

    Parking in our area is already tight. Storekeepers have already noted customers expressing frustration about not being able to shop or dine in this area due to lack of parking and now it will only get worse.

    What's worse, these designs are ugly, look hastily done and will add nothing to the area other than a bike lock and another hangout for the homelss who no doubt will take over as they do now, with the benches and tables in front of other stores.

    In addition, as a partially disabled local, there are times I have to drive to my beloved neighborhood and no, I can't take Muni, because it was Muni that ran me down as a pedestrian and caused my injuries.

    I recieved a $75 ticket recently, for having to park in the yellow zone to get my medicine at the pharmacy after circling the block several times in 20 minutes. What's worse as the parking gets tighter at 9th and Irving, shoppers with cars crowd into our neighborhood and take away our parking.

    To decrease the parking in a shopping/dining area already suffering from a poor economy and crippled by high taxes and store rents is insanity. One popular gift shop is already talking of leaving. Is having your coffee in front of the bakery worth the loss of other businesses, less access for the disabled and adding to the parking nightmare of your neighbors?

  12. Hmmm, I'm just remembering that I'd parked my convertible in that very spot once. Good thing I had the top up. It was covered with birdie-do and not so easy to clean off. I'm just saying...

    The concept of a parklet is a nice thought, but I have to agree with Feb 14 1:34 PM Anonymous. Besides, who's going to clean it, keep the homeless from making it their living room? Businesses need customers. Cars bring customers - and don't get me started about Muni.

  13. Those I have spoken with who live and have businesses in the neighborhood do not want this parklet.

  14. I continue to hear neighbors and business owners who are aghast at this idea. This ugly design adds nothing to the area, takes away much needed parking and will only increase street congestion.

    Arizmendi, if you force this through with political connections,there are many here among us who plan to call for a boycott of your place. You aren't the only show in town, as much as you might think so.

    I'd rather have Burger King back then this godforsaken ugly design blocking up the sidewalk and the parking

  15. you sound like a grumpy old man

  16. I agree with those against. I live within two blocks of Arizmendi. Parking in our neighborhood is a nightmare already with the museums and park so close. Traffic is horrendous on the weekends. I STRONGLY appose this project and will make sure that my voice is heard. If Arizmendi wants more outdoor space, then they should relocate to a site that provides it already (i.e. the old Bistro 9 site).

  17. Hi Adam!

    I'm an editor with a Canadian publication called "Geez Magazine" ( and I'd love to use part of your parklets blog in our upcoming edition.

    Please let me know if you're interested!


  18. Standing at higher pylons seems better than seats. Psychologically it's less of a commitment to stand, plus standing also discourages loitering. 22nd st has a good parklet that surprisingly hasn't been defaced or attracted bums.

  19. A change in the inner sunset? No doubt the crazies are already out in force against anything new. Arboretum fees not enough fun to protest anymore?

    The Parklet seems like a great idea to me. I live in the neighborhood. I used to live right next door and would have loved it then too. Hopefully this will stop people from double parking there all the time.

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