San Francisco’s Parklet Program, part of the larger Pavement to Parks Program, repurposes underutilized street space into neighborhood amenities. By converting one or two parking spots into public space, parklets extend the sidewalk and provide enhancements like seating, landscaping, bike parking, and art. Since the initial parklet’s creation in 2010, San Francisco has installed 38 parklets across the city.
In a city where 25% of the land area is public right-of-way, the Parklet Program allows the community to participate in the beautification of the public realm. The City issues Requests for Parklet Proposals, and store owners, community organizations, business improvement districts and non-profit institutions may apply to sponsor a parklet. Sponsors must conduct outreach, design the parklet, fund its construction, undertake maintenance, and supply liability insurance. Materials and designs should be temporary and easily removable, and the sponsor must renew the parklet’s permit annually. For the City, privately-sponsored and -funded parklets represent an economical and easily-implementable means of expanding and energizing public space.
In the application, sponsors must provide photographs of existing conditions, a project narrative describing their vision, and documentation of thorough community outreach. Applicants are evaluated on the following criteria:
- An active and well-used location that meets specified parklet design and construction guidelines and does not conflict with planned city streetscape projects
- Strong and documented community support
- Quality of the initial design proposal
- Creative programming (e.g., concepts of how the parklet will be used and by whom)
Selected parklets must pass the public notification process and then enter an iterative design process between the sponsor, design partner, and City staff. Designs must be inclusive, accessible, safe, and aesthetically-pleasing. Parklets are intended to be vibrant public spaces, free of logos or advertising, and open to all members of the public. Parklets generally replace one or two parallel parking spaces, or three perpendicular or diagonal parking spaces. They must be located at least one parking space away from corners, on streets with speed limits of 25 mph or less, and are best suited on streets with slopes below 5 percent. Parklets may not interfere with utility access, disabled parking, bus zones, or curbside drainage. Every parklet must meet construction standards of both the San Francisco Building Code and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines.
A mix of permanent and temporary seating is encouraged, as well as bicycle parking and landscaping using native plants. The City encourages parklet sponsors to incorporate high-quality, durable, aesthetically-pleasing materials, using locally-sourced, recycled, or reclaimed materials where possible, and low-emission, sustainable woods and paints. Parklet construction materials need to stand up to impacts, resist scratches, and not degrade under constant UV and moisture exposure. Features should include wheel stops, reflective elements at corners (such as flexible reflective bollards), street markings, and a buffer from automobile traffic.
The Parklet Program is the result of interagency coordination spearheaded by the Planning Department. SF Planning facilitates the application, design and permitting processes to ensure that parklets enhance the public realm. The Municipal Transportation Agency evaluates parklets for compatibility with traffic, transit, pedestrian and bicycle circulation, and also assists those providing bike parking. Finally, the Department of Public Works assesses each parklet against the city’s code and technical standards, inspecting plans for safety and accessibility before issuing a construction permit. DPW also confirms that parklets meet maintenance and upkeep requirements and remain open to the public.
San Francisco’s Parklet Program has been replicated in cities across the world seeking to increase public space. The Parklet Program reimagines the potential of city streets, providing pedestrian amenities and encouraging non-motorized transportation while supporting local businesses and enhancing public space.