Putting the Park into Parking

SDOT unveils micropark program.

By Josh Feit September 18, 2013

At the beginning of the summer, I hyperventilated about the urbanist To-Do list that the Seattle Department of Transportation released—a Green Metropolis checklist of ways to activate public rights-of-way, such as finding public uses for alleys (besides the obvious), dedicating more space to bike racks, farmers' markets, gardening, street vending, sidewalk cafes, and play equipment for kids, plus turning some parking spaces into micro-parks, or parklets. 

There was no money for the program, but SDOT is unveiling a beta version of the parklet idea this afternoon on Olive Way in Capitol Hill, where a parking space in front of the Montana Bar has been transformed (see above) by a parklet frame, deck, ramp, stairs, and planters into a groovy hangout spot; Joni Mitchell would be proud.

The Montana bar paid about $40,000 for the revamp—one of three trial parklets that are going up to promote a potential citywide program. (The other two pilots, reportedly much cheaper—around $5,000— are in Chinatown and Belltown).

If the program is greenlighted, there will be a citywide call for applications; sponsors can pay $1,000 for a permit and $140 for annual renewals based on the pilot costs, and then pay for their own design and construction work. They would also be responsible for daily upkeep.  Answers to FAQ here, but anyone, not just a private business, can apply to convert the public right-of-way into a micro-park.

The program was inspired by the agitprop PARK(ing) Day movement, which started in San Francisco in 2005, where activists, including here in Seattle, convert parking spaces into "pop-up parks" for a day.

Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan notes: "We would want to ensure, with a permanent program, that there is not an over-saturation of parklets in any one neighborhood and that we’re balancing various needs within the right-of-way. While the right-of-way is public, its primary function is to provide mobility and access.  So parklets aren’t going to be appropriate on every single block of the city."

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