The urban greening report from San Francisco continues! Last weekend on our walks around the Mission, we learned about two initiatives that are transforming the city’s streets and sidwalk. First, on Alabama Street at 24th in the Mission district, after eating terrific pan dulce at the La Victoria bakery, we admired a sidewalk-greening project in which residents have removed some cement on the mostly paved-over sidewalk area to create little urban gardens. A sign explained that fully paved sidewalks lead to poor drainage, while open spaces within the sidewalk are both pleasant and practical, absorbing rainwater.
Amidst this urban gardening project was a large palm tree, which obviously predated the recent planting. Among the old leaves forming its trunk, we were surprised to find a number of apples. Was this part of the garden project, or a separate goofy intervention? Hard to say, but it’s fun to look at.
Another recent phenomenon in San Francisco is the “Parklet,” a kind of mini-park made possible by Pavement to Parks. This collaboration of several city agencies is an experiment in creating more public space in a densely-built city. It grants permits to non-profits and business to take over bits of pavement, parking areas and/or sidewalks to create public hang-out areas. Here’s the first one I saw, organized by Fabric 8 art space on 22nd near Valencia:
Eric Otto’s “The Peace Keeper,” the current installation at the Fabric 8 parklet. Photo courtesy of Fabric 8.
As the Pavement to Parks website explains, “San Francisco’s streets and public rights-of-way make up fully 25% of the city’s land area, more space even than is found in all of the city’s parks. Many of our streets are excessively wide and contain large zones of wasted space, especially at intersections.” What better way to create park space in a city with no more space than by reclaiming some of this excess pavement?
Since 2010, over twenty of these parklets and interstitial parks have been installed. As you can see on this handy, illustrated Google Map of all the parks, the projects range from eye-popping, creative installations like the one above, in which neighbors gather on beanbag chairs to watch the game on an old TV (plugged via extension cord into an outlet in the gallery)…
…to fairly straightforward grabs at extra outdoor seating by restaurants,which are nevertheless appreciated by all (here, at 22nd Street – photo courtesy Pavement to Parks)…
…to larger spaces that are actually rather park-like, minus the grass, created by reclaiming larger areas (here, Guerrero Park at Guerrero and San Jose – photo courtesy Pavement to Parks).
It’s too bad I didn’t get to visit more parklets on my trip, but we can enjoy browsing vicariously on the handy map. I’ll be very curious to see how this experiment develops and what longer-term plans the city develops to turn pavement into green space! If you know of similar initiatives in other cities, do let me know so I can report on them in the future.