With 38 Parklets having been built across San Francisco, some of which are better than others, and a new Parklet Manual outlining the policies, procedures and guidelines for creating a parklet now online, the City is calling for proposals for new Parklets to rise.
Which raises our question, which of San Francisco’s existing Parklets deserve accolades and emulation and which deserve to be razed?
Mojo Parklet Opens Up, Divsiadero Street Improvements “Unveiled” [SocketSite]
Parklet Or Piglet? [SocketSite]
San Francisco Parklet Manual []

68 thoughts on “A Call For New Parklets And Chance To Praise (Or Dish)”
  1. Most people (visitors and residents alike) don’t realize these are public; the public signs are not large enough and many appear to be the domain of the restaurant adjacent. Haven’t seen one I don’t like — and it’s the v beginning of rethinking our streets as something more than SUV lanes. Many more please.

  2. There are some real crappy ones near the Valencia Corridor. There are also some very well designed and constructed ones.
    But, Invented, enough with the hyperbole at calling our streets “SUV lanes”. Ok, we get you hate cars and of course, by your definition, all cars are SUVs.
    Tired, tired rhetoric.

  3. LIke most of the schemes hatched out of the planning department — you know, when they try to get all ninja with their vast expertise in spontaneity and sound judgement — these things simply *DON”T AGE WELL*
    Like the freeway overpasses, and the stucco sprayed 4 x 8 plywood housing with mandated “contextual” bay windows, and the bike lanes down the middle of one-way cross town arteries, and “industrial preservation zones” in neighborhoods already 25 years past being industrial, and the mandated tree types that end up breaking the sidewalks, or the intersection of Market and Octavia street… like that Santa Cruz surfer who smokes too much weed and drinks too much brandy… they D.A.W. (dont age well) DAW DAW DAW DAW DAW People.

  4. Love almost all of them, but hate the one in front of the bbq place on Castro (between 18th and 19th). It’s not a very sunny area anyway, so it’s not ideal from the get go, but it’s poorly designed and not inviting as a place to linger.
    I don’t really think we need more signage,existing seems adequate to me. But we do need to be vigilant that restaurants and cafes don’t privatize them.

  5. I’ve not really studied these parklets at any length or depth so I probably shouldn’t comment, but I will. I’m not a fan. The image of those children accompanying this post terrifies me. The idea of putting social hangout areas this close to the street seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I also don’t think the loss of parking justifies whatever urban goals this is trying to accomplish. The sponsors of these parklets should be on the hook financially if they become a blight or otherwise abandoned,which I suspect most will over time.

  6. eddy – If you’re concerned that a car might smash through a parklet and hurt the people within then there’s another solution: address the source of the danger directly. In this case it would be people driving too fast and/or without enough attention on a city street.
    Fixes could include better enforcement and street design changes to discourage speeding.
    City streets should be safe places. Even without parklets there’s vulnerable people all over them. If streets aren’t safe then find out the cause of the danger and fix that. Don’t ban vulnerable people. They’re what make a city.

  7. Eddy, I believe the sponsors ARE on the hook. The parklets are put in by private sponsors through application, and they also promise to maintain them. They are built to be temporary (easily removable), and I believe the sponsors required to remove them should should they decide NOT to maintain them any longer, although I admit I don’t know the mechanism for enforcement. But the reality is that any parklet would take all of a couple of hours and a big truck to remove.

  8. I’m a huge fan of parklets, and use them frequently. There are problems however, such as some owners wanting to assert control over them when used as dining space for their little restaurant. Also some of the public has no idea they are allowed on them. I had to convince some friends from NY that you could in fact relax on them even though they occasionally appear to be part of a restaurant. Specifically there was one on Jones that had a particularly overzealous owner.

  9. I forgot to mention that the lead photo of the three girls having fun is awesome. I wanted to read the caption to see who was responsible for that great shot but the caption is too small to read.
    I tried downloading the new parklet manual, but it looks as if their website has been Farked Socked. My browser just hangs.

  10. The one in front of Pizza Delfina on California St looks like a concrete bunker and is used for nothing but extra seating for the restaurant. Not sure how that is a public benefit.

  11. Well, these parklets are in areas that aim for a less car-centric model. This would be the occasion to add a few well placed street bumps to slow down traffic to 10 or 15MPH.

  12. eddy is concerned about public/social use so close to the street– how does he feel about sidewalks? A parklet is basically just a wider sidewalk, furthermore with a physical barrier like a fence or railing separating it from the street. Surely this is *safer* than just a sidewalk with a curb!

  13. Too many drivers have tunnel vision, having expectations on how they can use the road. Parked cars are part of this “safety buffer” that drivers will include into their behavior.
    This gives all of us drivers a false sense of security (what if someone runs from between 2 parked cars when you’re zooming at 30MPH?) and removing parked cars to create parklets should be accompanied with the forced slowdown of cars. That’s my point of view as a cyclist, pedestrian and car driver. But car-centrists would not like it.
    I hope no accident will ever happen, but if it happens, there will be an all-out feud between these 2 cultures.

  14. Hands down the worst parklet in the city or anywhere is the parklet outside Niles Cafe on 544 Jones Street. Sorry I do not have a picture of it but if you google it, you will see how run down the space looks. Looks like it was built cheaply and something you will see in an outdoor prison yard. If Vallejo allowed parklets, I’m sure they can do better than what’s currently sitting over there. The wood floors are broken, the metal railing is coming apart and they only put chairs out for their smoking customers. Chairs are the ones you would find at Home Depot in the sales isle.
    Worst off they allow drinking and smoking of their hookah till 4am nightly. Great job to the city who allows this and us neighbors who try to sleep no later past midnight hears yelling and partying till wee hours of the night.

  15. The worst parklet I must look at almost daily is the one in front of Martin Macks on haight near Clayton.
    They should rip that design out and simply copy the one at Haight Street Produce halfway down the block.

  16. Ha, yes Niles cafe, thats the one I was referring to also. I haven’t been there since last summer, but at that point they were quite protective of it. I tried eating there after ordering at Kare-Ken and received some interesting words from them.

  17. The parklet in this shot is in the outer sunset in front of Devil’s Teeth Bakery (Great sticky buns, monkey bread, breakfast sandwiches and Beignets) . It is a great example of how to do a parklet right, the landscaping echos the neighborhoods sand dune past, and it has become a significant community spot in a neighborhood that severely lacks sidewalk gathering spots.
    Another excellent example and only a few blocks away is the parklet in front of Trouble Coffee on Judah between 45th and 46th. They created a wonderful bench out of a massive Eucalyptus branch, and the structure is defined by salvaged wood that plays nicely into the blocks newer tenants (Trouble, Outer Lands and General Store)

  18. Given that a parklet takes up exactly the area of two parking spaces, usually in the middle of the block, the perception from a driver’s POV is that it blends with the parking. It’s not like it’s hanging out further into traffic. The parking lane still works as a buffer, and the parklet is integrated into that. If a driver can avoid sideswiping all those cars, the parklet is safe too.

  19. “The one in front of Pizza Delfina on California St looks like a concrete bunker and is used for nothing but extra seating for the restaurant. Not sure how that is a public benefit.”
    I had no idea that one was public. I have sat at a few others just drinking coffee and the restaurant owner has asked me to move so customers can sit. It is definitley not clear that this is public space.

  20. These are definitely public spaces, so you can’t be asked to move. Furthermore, restaurants aren’t allowed to serve food or drinks there (but people can bring to-go orders outside).
    Most are well done, but yes, some are quite terrible. As with any outdoor space, I think greater concern should be addressed with sun-angles, otherwise they’re often deserted.
    Lastly, this gosh-darn manual is freaking huge! I can’t believe that any member of the public would actually read each page. At least someone wasted their time to add 1920’s pop-art to it.

  21. Simply state to ANY business owner with a parklet in front that the parklet is PUBLIC space and anyone is allowed to use it, whether or not they purchase food from that business.
    If they don’t like what you said, just sit there while they call the police.
    That should shut them up.

  22. I think they are a great idea. Commercial streets don’t need street parking spaces- it disrupts the flow of traffic and creates danger to bicyclists and pedestrians. Turn all of the spaces into parklets and either build parking garages every 2 blocks or force all parking onto side streets and nearby residential areas.

  23. I love the parklets around the city, I would say 90-95% are in the good to great spaces. But I like the one in front of Delfina, so I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    Parklet’s are one of the few planning success stories we have in SF, they are cheap, and greatly improve the utility of the streets they are on. The idea is spreading around the world… I hope we can come up with more ideas like this in the future.

  24. @ sf: How in dog’s name do you “force” all commercial street parking onto side streets and nearby residential areas?
    So, let me get this correct: most of these side streets are empty all the time.

  25. “I forgot to mention that the lead photo of the three girls having fun is awesome.”
    MOD: I beg to differ. I would not be happy if I was sitting at the parklet having a conversation with friends and these or similar kids (regardless of how perfectly adorable some may find them) started running around and making noise. I think that should be reserved for a real park or a backyard if they have one…

  26. Willow – sorry if I was not clear. I was commenting on the aesthetics of that photo, not whether I’d want to be immersed that situation. Given the choice of being among screeching and yelling rowdy children or not I’d go for the latter. Especially if concentrating on something or enduring a pounding hangover. Or both. But I do tolerate children anyways. We were all once kids so it is only fair to cut them some slack.

  27. it might be more difficult for hardware companies to operate in a highrise because there is physical equipment that needs to moved around or replaced all the time.

  28. Wow, Willow, you sure sound like a cranky old hag. As many have already pointed out, the parklets are/should be for everyone because they are public space, plain and simple. Even to imply that they are limited to anyone is absurd. As a father of two, I have to say your attitude is disheartening. I do my *best* to keep my children under control but as MOD said, they are children and can’t be teathered or leashed like dogs. I raised my children for 5 years in the City and comments like yours only further my opinion, almost universally accepted, that SF is a very unfriendly city towards children. Shame on you – they are people too.

  29. I think it’s funny that SF should discover something that has been around forever — restaurant seating space out front — and trumpet it as a bold new invention.
    I think the whole “public space” concern is a bit silly (though if they’ve agreed to it they should be held to it). In the future, I would be happy to give the sponsoring businesses exclusive rights to the space (as in the above examples)– presumably in exchange for a higher fee, perhaps based on the parking meter rate. The city, the business, and the public all benefit, so it’s a win-win.

  30. I wish the city would just sell the parklets in kits.
    Provide 10 or so designs to choose from that could all be incorporated into any space.
    As much as I like the idea of unique spaces, a lot of the time they can end up looking terrible and thrown together.

  31. Sadly, I think Willow was serious in his/her stupid little comments about kids. Yes, Shame on him/her.
    As a gay man, I totally love being around my straight and gay friends kids. They are a source of much joy and fun.
    I think Noe is pretty damn kid friendly and hope it remains so.

  32. Ha, Alai. Second time in the same day someone has voiced a solution that I agree with. :
    “I’ll stick by my suggestion of allowing cafe owners to use the parking space for tables so long as they pay the going market rate which I think is $18/day. Let the market decide how best to use these pieces of public property.”
    And good grief, enough with picking on Willow for expressing an opinion. You cannot blame kids for being kids and it really comes down to the parents who should take responsibility if they really get out of hand. The worst case I’ve seen recently was a mom who let her 4-5yr old kids run wild in Walgreens while she shopped. They were using the bottom rack of snack chips as punching bags, obviously enjoying the tactile feedback. One really cannot blame little kids for that behavior though I do feel sorry for whomever ended opening up those bags of Dorito crumbs.

  33. I’ll nominate the parklet in front of Farley’s on 18th @ Texas as a successful implementation, really well done. And while I don’t like Farley’s (obnoxious slacker-hipster joint but – get this – with very mediocre coffee) I like to grab coffee from Front Cafe on Mississippi and bring it to this parklet. And to Farley’s credit, nobody has ever so much as given me a dirty look.
    Lots of dogs and kids around, but no bums – Pot Hill at its finest.

  34. People are entitled to hold ridiculous opinions but when they air them in public forums, they should be be prepared to be ridiculed. How should we designate these spaces from his/her point of view? Public, but not really. Just curious, would dogs be allowed?

  35. i would be very happy with screaming kids over the large groups of drunken 20 somethings all over the city every weekend and thursday night.

  36. redseca is right, the Haight Martin Macks parklet is so bad, nobody uses it. I shake my head in disgust at this giveaway to a not-so-good neighbor every time I pass. I do think of these parklets as giveaways to adjacent businesses.

  37. Oh OK, I get the game now. And I would prefer both screaming kids AND drunken 20-somethings over the hordes of obnoxious double-wide Giants fans who congest the Embarcadero and South Beach every game day. Who’s next?

  38. I find it quite telling that people would compare drunken hords and screaming packs of children with those pictured above. I believe they might be *skipping*, god forbid. Where are the parents?

  39. BD: My experience particularly in SF has been that parents have not been able, or even interested in controlling their kids. Again, as I stated in my original post, if I was sitting at a parklet with a friend and some children came around and started jumping around and making noise it would grow tired real quickly…Same goes for drunken Giant fans too. As someone else mentioned this is a public space…

  40. I have a child. See my child? Look at my child. LOOK AT MY CHILD!! LISTEN TO MY CHILD!! That is my child!!
    This grump is very content with not having to wake up to screaming brats every day. The bags under your eyes and hair loss is very telling, young parents.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  41. But Willow, aka grumpy, cranky old hag: You didn’t mention Giant’s fans in your initial comment..I mean complaint.
    You mentioned kids and showed your complete lack of tolerance for small human beings.
    Trying to squeeze out of your little hole now?

  42. “Lastly, this gosh-darn manual is freaking huge! I can’t believe that any member of the public would actually read each page…”
    I’m heartened to know that my property taxes are going towards critical city projects! FFS these are simple little parklets. Next thing they will create a separate department to design, build and monitor. Can’t this city do anything with a shred of efficiency?
    Bureaucracy aside, I like most parklets I have seen. It’s unfortunate that the parklet on 22nd st near revolution cafe has become homeless heaven though, as it gets great sunlight. The one around the corner on Valencia is nicer/less riff raff, but has the over zealous restaurant owners hovering. They put their condiments on the tables, and hope to dissuade others from using them. I’ll freely use it for lunch sandwiches from nearby Lucca’s and have yet to be confronted by anyone from the restaurants nearby (but rest assured, I’ll ream them a new one if they dare suggest those tables are only for their customers!). Every restaurant owner clearly knows these are public parks, and they shouldn’t take advantage of people who are not aware of this.

  43. Serious kid-haters sf and willow chill out! Usually, it’s rude, inconsiderate PARENTS who are the problem. If you have that much of a problem with kids, you should move to Rossmoor. Part of the benefit of being in a city is people of all ages mixing together in the public space.
    Another gay man here who loves being around his friends’ kids.

  44. HI Patrick, another gay man! Thanks for your comments and yea, I feel the same way.
    The intolerant kid haters probably should move out.

  45. +1 on the 25th Street parklets, especially the one with the paint in front of Artsake. They deserve major props for keeping the paint jars full and providing brushes. The kids love it.

  46. BT – How does a parklet block traffic lanes? I thought that they’re only sited where street parking once was.
    So to summarize this thread so far:
    – parklets are public
    – children and drunks are part of the public
    – we should be considerate when sharing space with others
    – kids aren’t responsible for their behavior, their parents are
    – but you loud drunks have no excuse
    – gay men who like kids tend to brag about that
    – most parklets are successful though a few are stinkers
    – aren’t those three little hellions the cutest ?
    I finally succeeded in downloading the manual. That lead photo is credited to Wells Campbell Photography. Well done indeed.

  47. To get back to the subject at hand, I nominate the parklet at the corner of Filbert and Fillmore. The one that is made of a Citroen truck cut in half, and filled in with a beautiful wood seating area. Always used by people of ALL ages and particularly loved by my well-behaved grandsons.

  48. How do they block traffic lanes? When people can’t park legitimately, they park illegitimately (double park, park in the center of the street (a la Valencia) etc). Show me a San Francisco street with all existing lanes always open and with flowing traffic. Many of them are already obstacle courses. Parklets are one more obstacle.

  49. I and many others I have talked to are deeply concerned that there is currently not a reasonable balance between the competing interests of merchants who want more seating for potential patrons and long-time residents who have less and less available parking when they return home after work.
    Most apartments/houses on and around my neighborhood do NOT have garages and residents with cars are forced to find public parking that is becoming more scarce by the day. We are already engaged in a daily fight to find parking as the neighborhood becomes less of a family-oriented community and more of a destination for nightlife.
    While I am not against the idea of parklets altogether, I am against the abuse of this program by merchants who are using what is otherwise a good public program to benefit their bottom-line.
    I have been actively engaged with the planning department and am pushing to impose limits on how many parklets neighborhoods can sustain. If limits are not taken into account, every cafe, bar and restaurant will apply for one and use this program to effectively bypass the existing outdoor seating permit process. Like everything there needs to be a balance of competing interests.
    I have asked for and will continue to push for a set criteria for how many of these spaces can occupy a fixed area.

  50. Good points CH. I would agree.
    I also do not like some of the parklets I see on Valencia St. with tables and chairs in the parklets, complete with utensils and napkins from the adjoining restaurant. They are implying to the public that this is a private space ONLY for patrons, and it is NOT.
    This needs to be addressed as well.

  51. My main concern with parklets is the permitting process. Currently, the parklet permit is equivalent to a “chair and table” permit that a restaurant would get to put seating on the sidewalk outside their business — seating that is used exclusively for the business and removed at the end of the day and replaced at opening. Equating a parklet to this is madness. The parklet is 24 hours a day, and while the business applying for one is required to maintain it, they are not the people who have to deal with the increased pedestrian traffic, late night loitering, noise, whatever, during off hours — the residents nearby DO. BUT, there is no notification required when applying for a permit. If it is approved by planning, it goes in, and neighbors may only learn of it when the construction starts. The whole process needs to be much more open and accommodating of ALL people affected, good or bad.

  52. Biggest ugh, after its name, is Squat and Gobble’s appropriation of public space on 16th and Market. The lights strung to tie the parklet to the restaurant imply or just plain state that the space belongs to them. I hate the name “parklet”, hate the idea of giving away public property to private biz, and hate how most of them look.

  53. @neighbor
    The reason the seating is removed is that it would become homeless occupied during hours that it’s not monitored. There are also plenty of parks that close to the public at night, so there’s nothing particularly unusual about parklets doing the same.
    The spaces are public, not given away to private interests. The spaces are paid for by those installing them, so it’s not unreasonable for them to make some use of the space. Now if a restaurant, or any party, were to claim it as a private space that it illegal and should be enforced.
    There are 38 parklets after 3-4 years of the program existing, meaning about 76 total parking spots removed. I don’t think the parklet program is a particularly high risk threat to parking spaces.
    Not to mention that the spaces get far more use now, as most of the parklets see dozens, if not hundreds, of people a day, vs somewhere around 10-20 people using a parking spot. This is a much higher value than using the spot for a car.
    Lastly, there are dozens of other programs that have a much higher impact on parking, and San Francisco’s net parking is increasing annually.

  54. “But Willow, aka grumpy, cranky old hag: You didn’t mention Giant’s fans in your initial comment..I mean complaint.”
    Futurist: I’ll extend you the courtesy that you are not extending me but just this once…
    Re-read the thread carefully again along with what was posted and when. I responded to a comment made by MOD. If was very specific to the picture that accompanied the post. There was no mention at that point of drunken Giants fans so why would I include it in my initial comment? Another poster later in the discussion mentioned the drunken Giants fans and hence I referenced it in my subsequent post. Fairly straightforward…

  55. The parklets will remain a great idea until people are injured or killed while sitting in one. Then they will all be shut down, pending a massive redesign to introduce safer barriers. Of course there is risk everywhere in the streets (and life), but here you’re pretty much sitting in the road just inches away from cars, trucks and Muni buses going by.
    For example, take a look at the parklet in front of Tony’s on Stockton, or in front of Greco on Columbus – both have Muni buses navigating a narrow lane just inches away. It is harrowing to think of what could (and inevitably will) happen.

  56. @lyqwyd: So you agree with me that the permit for a parklet should NOT be equivalent to a chairs and table permit? A parklet cannot be put away at night, and so would become the homeless magnet that you say the chairs and tables would, right? That a parklet and chairs and tables are NOT the same thing? Good, glad we agree.
    My point is, I own property and I want to be notified in writing when a parklet is proposed in my immediate area. I got a letter that says my neighbor is remodeling. I got a letter that AT&T is putting an antenna on my neighbor’s roof. I want a letter that says a parklet is being proposed for my block. The only reason I don’t get noticed is because parklets are being advocated for by the planning department despite and in opposition to the wants and needs of residents and property owners.

  57. @David So because car drivers are endangering other people’s lives, we should regulate and control the victims of car violence? That is a bizarre point of view to take. I think that since it is automobile drivers who are menacing others, then they should be the ones are regulated, controlled, slowed down and inconvenienced, at least until they stop running over other peaceful law-abiding users of public space.

  58. BTW, I am protesting a parklet being proposed on Divisadero and DPW has called for a public hearing! It would also be great for those of you in favor of greater oversight and posted notification procedures either attend and speak or write a letter to Planning (see below)!
    Any interested person may attend the Department of Public Works hearing on this matter at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 400 at 9:00 AM , Wednesday, March 13.
    Persons unable to attend the public hearing may submit written comments regarding “DPW Order No: 181056” (aka FOUR BARREL COFFEE AT 736 DIVISADERO STREET) to:
    Bureau of Street-Use & Mapping
    875 Stevenson Street # 460
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    Attention: Nick Elsner
    comments will be brought to the attention of the hearing officer and made a part of the official public

  59. 736 Divisadero seems like an ideal place for a parklet. Get a coffee, have a seat in the sunshine to enjoy it.
    Why would anyone oppose that?

  60. Because there’s already two parklets within less than a block of either direction. One of which is less than half-block (30-yeads) away. Not to mention, the sponsors also have a large backyard patio they are building out. I am asking the planning department to be more discriminating in where they approve parklets to prevent over-saturation and extend the idea to undeserved neighborhoods that could actually benefit from it. How about Hunter’s Point/3rd Street? Geneva Area? Oh, that’s right…because business interests haven’t exploited the area as yet…You see it’s not about the public, or were these are best placed. It’s about who can pay for them.

  61. I saw a really ridiculous parklet at the corner of Fillmore and Greenwich just outside a corner coffee shop. It’s made of an old VW wagon which folds out into some weird bench-type deck thing. Can’t really explain it.
    But really? Who thought THAT was a good idea? A big hunk of metal and wood is supposed to somehow be better than a flat concrete parking spot? How about some green? How about a few tables and chairs?
    Seriously, sometimes artists should be forbidden from doing public “works” projects…

  62. Could be this one?
    Except it’s at Filbert X Fillmore and that the bus is an old Citroen van. This type was ubiquitous in France in the 70s, used as a meatwagon for prisoners, for mobile egg/milk/produce stores in remote villages or more famously to pick-up laggards in the tour de France.

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