Everything You Needed to Know About Parklets

This fall SDOT will convert parking spaces in three neighborhoods to miniparks. Parklets could spread throughout the city by next year.

By Karen Taylor Quinn September 17, 2013 Published in the October 2013 issue of Seattle Met

This fall supersmall parks will start popping up on streets (yes, streets) on Capitol Hill and in Belltown and the International District. And if they’re well received, these so-called parklets could be headed straight for your hood as early as next year. Here’s everything you need to know.

Artist’s concept of City Hostel Seattle’s ­parklet in Belltown


What is a parklet?
It’s an on-street parking space converted into a public gathering area, with all funding and planning provided by private sponsorship. The term parklet, indicating an on-street park that occupies between one and three parking spaces, originated in San Francisco, where the world’s first micropark program launched in 2010. The parklet concept has since spread to LA, Vancouver, and Philly. 


Does private sponsorship mean the parks are private?
No. Local businesses fund the construction, materials, and design (at a price tag of $10,000 to $15,000 each), but parklets will be free and open to the public 24/7. The three pilot parklets—in Capitol Hill, Belltown, and the ID—will help the Seattle Department of Transportation determine whether it’s viable to implement the program citywide.  


What if I don’t want a parklet in my ’hood?
You’ll probably have options. Sponsors of the pilot parklets had to demonstrate community support before building, with special consideration given to businesses and residents within 200 feet of the projects. 


How Little Is Little?
Let’s assume the average parking space is 20 feet by nine feet. And let’s assume the average parklet is two parking spaces. In that case, you could fit more than 2,311 parklets in Gas Works Park.

If SDOT goes ahead with the parklet program, it suggests that applicants for future parklets look for streets with a permanent parking lane and a speed limit of no faster than 30 miles per hour.


Parks vs. Parking Spaces
Some San Franciscans flipped at the idea of converting parking spaces to park space, which raises the question: When it comes to doling out land for parking spaces versus parks and other public spaces, how do Seattle and San Fran stack up?




Number of public spaces


Sq mi of parks 5.3 9.7
Number of parking spaces


Approx. 500,000
Sq mi of parking spaces* 1.8 3.2

*Assuming 180 square feet for a parking space


Creative Funding
Not every private entity that wants to install a parklet has $15,000 sitting around. One group in San Francisco took to Kickstarter to raise the funds—with impressive results.

Funding periodFeb 21, 2012–April 2, 2012
Goal: $14,500
Pledged: $15,327
Backers: 186

Reasons to Cheer
The possibilities for parklets are essentially endless, despite their small size. One San Francisco parklet features a triceratops made of succulents. One in LA has swings and exercise bikes.

Reasons to Jeer 
Like any public space, they could attract trouble.A San Francisco parklet closed temporarily because vagrants were sleeping and smoking in it. Maintenance of Seattle’s parklets will be up to the owners, not SDOT. 

Visit the Pilot Parklets

2327 Second Ave
Owned by City Hostel Seattle
Features Flexible seating, retractable canopies, and a theater area

Capitol Hill
1506 E Olive Way
Owned by Montana Bar
Features Partially covered seating, planter boxes, and adjacent bike parking

International District
421 Sixth Ave S
Owned by Chinatown–ID Business Improvement Area
Features Cafe-style tables and chairs 

Published: October 2013

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