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As Parklets Bloom, SF Stays True to its Roots

As the number of completed parklets in San Francisco nears three dozen, after debuting only two years ago, "the latest trend in urban placemaking" has entered the planning mainstream without losing its grassroots origins.
July 16, 2012, 5am PDT | Andrew Gorden
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John King of the San Francisco Chronicle revisits the city's startlingly successful parklet program, "where parking spaces are reborn as miniature public plazas," and describes how designs, and the program's popularity, have evolved over the past two years.

While "[s]ome early parklets were criticized for being little more than glorified cafe seating," newer designs range from one on California Street containing "LED lighting at night, while one on Mission Street in the Excelsior is adorned with painted wooden cutouts done by high school students," says King. "Planners now are pondering how to change parklets from isolated spaces - urbane nooks and crannies, so to speak - into something more systematic. Several could be concentrated on a single block, for instance, or a half dozen could map a path through a neighborhood."

With 31 such interventions either completed or under construction, and another 33 in the planning pipeline, parklets could bring about something more than just pretty spaces - they provide an opportunity to increase public participation in local communities. In San Francisco, parklets are often funded by local business and crowdsourcing (costing around $25,000), and constructed by neighborhood volunteers. According to King, "...the parklet emerging on Post Street shows the importance of having local residents bring a space to life, rather than simply providing input to city planners."

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Published on Monday, July 9, 2012 in San Francisco Chronicle
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