OAKLAND -- Starting this summer, street parking in Oakland will be for more than just cars.
Several curbside parking spaces are slated to be transformed into mini-plazas where people can park themselves alongside gas guzzlers of all stripes. Parklets, as they are called, started in San Francisco two years ago and are spreading quickly to the delight of pedestrian and bicycle advocates. San Francisco now has about 25 parklets on the ground, 30 in the pipeline and 48 on a waiting list, said Paul Chasan, an urban designer in the city's Planning Department. Parklets have already spread to New York, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Long Beach, and are on tap in Portland, Seattle, Boston and Los Angeles.
"People really respond warmly to them," Chasan said. "It's a way to create open space in neighborhoods that don't have them."
Oakland's first taste of parklets came last September on PARK(ing) Day -- another San Francisco creation -- where several groups, with city permission, took over curbside parking spaces. One Uptown space was transformed into a mini-golf hole. Another had a campfire with s'mores.
The city's first permanent parklets will be far more practical -- most typically have seats, tables and bicycle parking.
Under an Oakland pilot program, championed by the advocacy group Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, seven privately funded parklets are planned for this year with locations including Lakeshore Avenue near Arizmendi, Piedmont
The parklets are almost all sponsored by neighboring businesses, which must pay to build, insure and maintain them. But the mini-parks must be open to the public, not just patrons of the sponsoring businesses.
Chris Hillyard, co-owner of Farley's East on Grand Avenue near Broadway, said the parklet his coffee shop is sponsoring on two parking spaces will have tables, but won't be designed to feel like an extension of the shop. "It's an opportunity to provide public space and bring attention to the entire block," he said.
Parklets essentially extend sidewalks into the street. They are created by building a sidewalk-level platform in one or two curbside parking spaces and then adorning with plants and seats, protective barriers, and occasionally, some architectural flourishes.
One San Francisco parklet incorporates a eucalyptus trunk for seating and another had mounds of shingles, beanbag seats and what looks like a giant birdhouse shed.
"They give property owners an opportunity to expand and beautify the public realm, and it provides an enhancement to the public," said Andrea Gaffney, a UC Berkeley landscape architecture lecturer, who is designing the parklet at 40th near Webster.
Parklets cost about $10,000 per parking spot, with the biggest construction expense being the platform that must be light enough to be moved and heavy enough not to get stolen.
Oakland received seven applicants last fall when it initiated its three-year pilot program. One key for the city is that it not lose any parking meter revenue. Six of the parklets would be at non-metered parking spaces, or spaces where parking wasn't allowed. The city is adding two metered spaces to replace the ones that will be lost outside Farley's.
Initially, Oakland hoped the parklet groups could get started with construction this spring. But complications from the end of state-sponsored redevelopment earlier this year, which resulted in the departure of the city planner working on the project, has pushed back final city approvals.
Several of the parklet groups, including Farley's and Actual Cafe at San Pablo and Alcatraz, say they're ready to build as soon as they get the green light from the city and expect to have theirs built this summer. Other groups, including one led by Manifesto Bicycles and Subrosa Coffee at 40th Street, are still raising money for the project or designing their parklets.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.