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SF's Pavement to Parks Spots and Who Hangs at Them

Redefining the city’s relationship to its streets, San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program is encouraging residents to stop, sit and relax in the most unexpected of places

In 2005, San Francisco art and design collective Rebar stocked up on quarters and took over a single, metered downtown parking space for two hours. Instead of squeezing in a car or motorcycle, they rolled out sod, brought in a tree and a park bench and got ready for a couple hours of lounging. More than just an eye-catching stunt, it was a political and social statement about the short supply of public open space in the city's urban center. “Essentially 25 percent of the city's land area is taken up by our roadways, but in places like Barcelona or Paris, the public right of ways are incredible social spaces because they aren't dominated by private vehicles,” says John Bela of Rebar. “We wanted to rethink the streets as a space for play and fun rather than storing cars.”

Since then, Park(ing) Day has become a global movement, with thousands of people (in 140 cities in 21 countries) taking over small segments of city streets for one day each year. San Francisco has responded in admirable fashion. It has embraced the concept and expanded on it, making the transformation of city streets to public spaces part of official government business. Taking a cue from New York City's creation of pedestrian plazas on underused roadways, San Francisco's Pavement to Parks was initiated in 2009 as a collaborative effort between the Mayor's Office, the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department and the Municipal Transportation Agency. Read more...