Article 1: Pavement to Parks


Pavement to Parks.

ParkletMatic in the Mission district of San Francisco.

1) Introduction.

The ParkletMatic project was born in 2005 as a response to the lack of public space for pedestrians in the city of San Francisco (California) and with the intention of transforming the dialogue on the area of ​​public space and its role in the life and the vitality of the city.

This project facilitates the transformation of utilitarian spaces that were being underutilized to make them publicly accessible open spaces that can be enjoyed by all citizens. It provides a way for merchants, community organizations, business owners, residents and communities of artists for they can take individual actions in the development of public space of the city.

The parklets are designed as an improvement of the urban landscape, providing an economical solution to the need for more open public space for pedestrians, offering services such as seating, planting, bicycle parking, art, trade.

The first parklets of the world were designed and installed in San Francisco in 2005; from January 2013, thirty-eight parklets have been installed throughout San Francisco, and the program is being applied in cities around the world .


2) Description of the context.


The estimated population in 2005 in the city of San Francisco was 780,000 inhabitants, in 2010 the estimated population was 816,000 inhabitants and currently has approximately 830,000 inhabitants. With more than 6,000 people per square kilometer, this Californian city is the second most densely populated among the U.S. cities. San Francisco is the traditional focal point of the Bay Area of San Francisco.

In San Francisco we find the Mission District, which covers 320 hectares and is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, borders the U.S. Route 101 east, which forms the border between the area of ​​that district, known as “Inner Mission” (Mission Central), and its eastern neighborhood, Potrero Hill, while Sanchez Street separates the neighborhoods from Eureka Valley Noe Valley and west.

In 2005 the estimated population in the neighborhood was 35,135 inhabitants, with a large percentage of elderly and immigrants, so the neighborhood was suffering depopulation and aging population, in 2008 the estimated population was 47,234 inhabitants and 2010 the population was 57,300 inhabitants.

The morphology of the district corresponds to a grid composed of rectangular blocks of 80×160 m. The streets are wide, with a large space for the traffic and do not have green areas, paths and green public spaces for pedestrians.

Although the situation in the city was strategic as it was in the center of the city, people did not frequent this neighborhood because their public spaces did not raise any interest rate. Usually, the architecture of the neighborhood has about three or four stories high.


Population Groups Involved: characteristics.


In general, the population of San Francisco and specifically this district has a diverse racial and ethnic composition. Currently the Asian population of the city is growing steadily (13% in the field of study), but he number of African residents continues to fall (4% in the field of study). The number of Hispanic residents is also increasing (41%), while the number of Native American Indian population is declining (1%). They require integration into the culture of the area and the means to display their culture and enrich the cultural aspect of the neighborhood.


The population of the district was constantly aging, in 2005 70% of the population was between the 35-70 years and the average age was 45 years. In 2010 reduced the percentage of population aged 35-70 years, being 40% and the average age in the neighborhood was 38 years. They require spaces, activities and public areas to stay.

Children and teenagers.

In 2005 children and adolescents (0-17 years) comprised 5% of the population of the neighborhood while in 2010 comprise 13% of the population. They require play areas, socialization and greater range of cultural activities.


In 2005 this sector of the population (18-34 years) comprised 25% of the population, while in 2010, comprising 47% of the population. They require a wider range of cultural activities and entertainment areas.

Existing Social Issues and Controversies.

Lack of neighborhood identity.

This neighborhood hadn’t its own urban identity, because it hadn’t the necessary meeting spaces, citizens were faced with a generic space that does not allow changes or a civic involvement that could generate an identity of community and neighborhood .

Lack of Urban Quality.

The area didn’t have a high urban quality, as it is designed for vehicle traffic, we find some oversized streets to vehicular traffic, but not designed for pedestrian traffic, not disposing of pedestrian zones stay, green areas or pedestrian paths.

Strategic location.

The neighborhood is located in a strategic point in the city, has excellent communications with the rest of the city, both in terms of public transport and private transport level but despite this, people didn’t go to the neighborhood.

Shops, restaurants and cafes.

In the absence of interesting neighborhood urban elements, the influx of pedestrians was very low, so that was not consolidated a fabric of commerces, restaurants and cafes.

Empty Houses.

Due to unattractive urban neighborhood that had, in 2005 42% of homes in the neighborhood were empty. In 2010, only 7% of homes are empty.

Social Value.

It is a fact the many social groups and cultures that exist in the neighborhood, so it is an element of great potential that was not being developed and integrated into the culture of the neighborhood.

Agents Involved.


To the City Council of San Francisco, the main interest was the economic revival of the area. In the absence of other proposals and initiatives the City Council supported the proposal of parklets. The parklets improve the urban landscape and provide an economical solution to the need for public space for pedestrians, as well as provide a way for merchants, organizations, neighbors and other groups to take individual actions in the development of public space in the city, whereby a proposal is provided with a great potential to economically revitalize the district.


For citizens the proposal is a great improvement in public space and improved quality of life and urban quality. With this proposal, they can generate their own self-managed spaces, giving with it a new identity to the neighborhood, which is personalized by its citizens.



For associations present in the field, it was very interesting to revive the area through these proposals, which generate a custom new public space. Thanks to this initiative, they could be involved in the city through the parklets to be known and promote their activities.



For traders in the area, the proposal of parklets allows them to extend their businesses outside of public roads, creating a retail storefront with greater visibility and therefore increase their sales.

Owners of restaurants and cafes. ECONOMIC INTEREST.

For owners of restaurants and cafes, this proposal allows them to expand the space available and can serve more customers at the same time and have a space to the outside, which can be a new source of attracting customers because of the good climate that exists in the city of San Francisco.



For collective of artists, this proposal allows them to present their work to other citizens and to make the public space with their own criteria, creating a new concept of space-parklet as museum. With this series of proposals can advertise their work to other citizens and to increase their sales.


3) Chronological description of strategies implemented.

Order of Events.

2005 – A group of young founders urban design group Rebar converted different points of street parking in small parks for a day, if you wanted to rent 1m2 of grass, you had to throw a few coins and then place chairs or some activity. It was an example of how to occupy the underutilized public spaces of San Francisco. This initiative was known as Park(ing) day.

Councilor urban image of the City of San Francisco made ​​contact with the group to consider how to promote this set of proposals.

2006-2010 – Several parklets were constructed throughout the city, the best known interventions are Commons, Showplace Triangle and Guerrero Park, which had a big hit in the community (according to surveys conducted by the City Council of San Francisco, after the completion of these projects, the increased pedestrian traffic in this part of the city up to 29%.).

2012 – The City of San Francisco sets the guidelines for the approval and installation of temporary sidewalk extensions (parklets) for general public use from an appropriate location within the public rights of way. DPW Order No: 180921

2013 – It begins to spread the movement to the world, now being present in more than 150 cities on 6 continents.



Re-imagining the potential of city streets.

The public road space accounts for about 25% of the surface of the city. The parklets promote easy and low cost interventions to improve these areas through projects that energize and reinvent public spaces. They are used to meet the demand of having more open spaces to the public

Encourage pedestrian activity.

The parklets provide space for pedestrians to sit and relax, while improving the ability to walk.

Encourage non-motorized transport.

The parklets encourage journeys on foot, providing various facilities for pedestrians as street furniture, landscaping and public art. They often offer parking spaces for bicycles and also encourage bicycle commuting.

Encourage interaction with the neighborhood.

The parklets provide a public place for neighbors to meet and get to know each other. In some cases, residents have participated in the design, financing and construction of parklets.

Local business support.

The parklets draw attention to businesses and provide additional seats that can be used by customers. A parklet also beautifies the street and creates a new image of the neighborhood.


Intervention phases.

Given the various interventions of groups, the City Council decided to develop guidelines for the application and processing of draft parklets:

A) Pre-design: site selection and public outreach.

Applicants request the City Council’s initial proposal to apply for a license and they shall notify the adjacent property owners and businesses. In the event that the proposal is selected, and that other agents do not present arguments, the technical team will check that meets the requirements of legality established by the City Council (accessibility, stability of the construction, …)


B) Review of initial proposal.

The team of urban planning (SF MTA) will study the location (which is an active place and well used), satisfying the conditions of design and construction guidelines, which has the support of the community and the quality of design and programming.


C) Development of design.

In case nobody had registered protests in the location, the application of a contact parklet urban planning (SF) that will work with the collective and collaborative designer is assigned to ensure that the final design is appropriate. It should give a final proposal will be approved if required by three committees (Urban Planning, MTA, DPW), in the event that the final proposal is approved, stakeholders must pay the cost of the permit, which varies depending on the number of revisions the proposal made ​​by the various committees, ranges from $ 1,500 to $ 2,000 (from 1100 to 1500 euros).


D) Manufacture and installation.

At this stage, the applicant will conduct a recruitment company that will run the final draft accordance with the deadlines imposed by the Department of City Planning.


E) Post-construction.

The Department of Planning, SF and DPW will continue to review the parklets to verify that the requirements of public access and maintenance agreement are met. Failure to comply may result in the cancellation of the permit parklet. Once granted, permits are reviewed annually for renewal. Citizens may request to participate in evaluations and studies Parklet Program.


Successes and Failures.

The involvement of the different actors in the process has been very helpful for those agents who had financial interests in this process (restaurants, cafes, shops), as these projects represent an investment that brings them long-term economic benefits, but on the other side we are facing other agents with no financial interest, whether cultural or social (associations, neighborhood communities, communities of artists) for which the situation has not been as helpful as these areas represents them an investment in improved space public that improves their quality of life that they will not recover economically.

In this situation, different agents are in unequal conditions when occupying these spaces and apply for these licenses, so that the current model tends to a neighborhood where charged an excessive prominence commercial and bussiness sector compared to other sectors because of the lack of urban planning that regulate that unequal economic conditions.

The urban space is constructed with an intention or purpose, but must be the citizen who discover its meaning by living. An urban space does not work when building with a claim or purpose designed to attract consumers. We can not deny that the areas of trade and commerce are an essential activity to generate animation, diversity and safety in urban space. But we should always know the urban logic to not convert to public space on a place available to citizens, not only for commerce and business.

Furthermore, the creation of these new public spaces generated significant advantages as we have seen, but nevertheless, were placed in reserved parking spaces and no answer was given to the lack of parking that was generated.

4) Conclusion: why evidence is a case and what we learn.

The objective of the project was to enable citizens to transform the image of the city to generate wealth and specifically this neighborhood that was undergoing a process of degeneration. This intervention has been able to value the idea of public space for all agents. It has been created an attached flexible public space that serves the interests of all citizens

Cultural sustainability.

Neighbors bring their knowledge of the various projects and introduce changes and ideas for developing them.

Collective participation is a fact based, as cultural associations and neighborhood associations are contacted to determine the use of each intervention.

With the different projects that have been conducted on the streets has sought to end the image of a generic and unchangeable city which unresponsive to citizens.

With this project, the city takes on a particular image, which is being showing the rest of the world and has transcended internationally.

Environmental sustainability.

It was possible to improve environmental sustainability from different aspects:

Increased complexity of public space by the introduction of cultural space uses and associations, so that a space is generated with a high density of information.

As for mobility, enhances the quality of urban space. Also, many interventions incorporate bicycle parking.

Improving urban morphology by creating green spaces and estanciales areas.

The concept of sustainability involves performances by low cost and the use of recycled materials in some cases.

Economic sustainability.

One goal of the program is creating jobs in the neighborhood, which is achieved in two ways. On the one hand jobs for the construction and management of parklets and in turn are generated, these interventions have the effect for agents with economic interests increase the number of customers and the need to generate new jobs.

To carry out these proposals, it was necessary that the City Council of San Francisco managed the process and created the rules to regulate this process.

Most interventions are low cost and reusable, in some cases recycled materials were used.

Social sustainability.

Most projects are based on citizen participation, being the result of the dialogue between the various actors, also in the management of different interventions are performed by each agent

It is created a network of public spaces connected with different uses, responding to the needs of the neighbors, which are linked with each other and provide a flexible alternative to the current public space.


Parklet manual made ​​by the City Council of san francisco


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