PARKing Day

Park(ing) Day

Sustainable Flatbush Park(ing) Day 2010If you search Google News for ‘parking day’ today, you’ll see 20,000 results that all refer to an event created by REBAR of San Francisco that has now spread worldwide.  REBAR is an art design and activism firm that, in 2005, created PARK(ing) Day – they “converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in an area of San Francisco this is underserved by public open space.” Today, the event has enthusiasts in cities all over the world – from Guatemala City to Caracas to Rio de Janiero, Cape Town, and Tehran.  What started as a simple expression of the need for urban open space has molded into something much bigger and deeper. Originally, parks would look much like any other park – grass, lawn chairs, and picnics.  But now, we’re seeing other social justice issues using PARK(ing) Day as a soapbox as well.  Recent year’s events have included a statement on bike vs. car space, an offering of free seeds, functional public art, non-profit services, and puppet shows.  It has become a physical manifestation of crowd-sourced notions of neighborhood need.

-Terra Curtis

Parklets: Reclaiming dead urban space

The City of San Francisco, California is in the process of implementing an innovative program called Pavement to Parks.  In several locations across the City, Planners have teamed up with local neighborhood groups and advocacy organizations to turn unused or under-used urban space into “green spaces”. At a major intersection in the Castro neighborhood, where trolley cars, transit buses, private traffic, and pedestrians all converge, the City closed off a portion of one of the streets, repainted the asphalt a rust color, installed some greenery and distributed tables and chairs.  On warm afternoons, the plaza is abuzz with people taking a quick break, meeting with friends, or just people-watching (it’s a great place for that).

The most recent manifestation of the program takes its inspiration from PARKing Day, an idea pioneered by the art and design collective REBAR, also based in San Francisco.  On PARKing Day, people across the City (and now across the world) feed a parking meter and use the parking space to make a small temporary park.  San Francisco has made the process more official by claiming two parking spaces in front of Mojo Bicycle Café on Divisadero Street and installing a deck at-grade with the sidewalk, complete with bike racks, benches, and greenery.

The next parklet will be in the Mission District, reclaiming three parking spaces in front of a few local eateries.  The Mission’s cafés tend to fill up with local Facebook, iPhone, Android, Twitter, and you-name-it app developers looking for a place to work and sip distinctive coffee.  Soon they’ll have yet another place to go: the street!