There is an obscure rule in San Francisco, under the government "open space" act that allows parking spaces to be used for things other than parking. You can pay for two hours at a meter in the middle of the Financial District at high noon, and that parking space is your open space to do what you see fit. You can put $3 in the meter, roll out some sod, sit in a lounge chair and read a book, or hold a lunchtime dance party and you will be perfectly street legal.
The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Rebar began to use this law as a way to create an open source model to alter the character of the city. Their hope in creating Parking Day is to cultivate your sense of civic pride, and to consider the role of you-the citizen-in-conceiving, building and improving your local urban environment.
Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals (operating independently of Rebar but following an established set of guidelines) creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world. Last year there were close to 1000 temporary "parks" created in 162 cities on six continents.
Organizers try to identify specific community needs and values and use the event to draw attention to issues that are important to their local public-everything from acts of generosity and kindness, to political issues such as water rights, labor equity, health care and marriage equality. All of these interventions, irrespective of where they fall on the political spectrum, support the original vision of PARK(ing) Day: To challenge existing notions of public urban space and empower people to help redefine space to suit specific community needs.
Over the last few years, participants have built temporary free health clinics, planted temporary urban farms, held croquet tournaments, created a public back porch, made a bike-powered smoothie stand, held political seminars, built art installations, opened free bike repair shops and even held a wedding ceremony! All of these occurred in a most immediate urban context – the metered parking space.
In addition to being quite a bit of fun, PARK(ing) Day has effectively re-valued the metered parking space as an important part of the commons – a site for generosity, cultural expression, socializing and play.
So go outside today and drop a quarter in a meter and let PARK(ing) Day inspire you to participate in the civic processes that, although temporary, can permanently alter the urban landscape.
To check out the list of PARKing) Day parks you can visit in SF and other cities around the world, click here.
To check out Rebars Park(ing) day manual, click here.