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Parks to Pavement


I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

I just read a post on StreetsBlog about the implementation of a great idea in San Francisco; turn unused street space and extra parking spots into parks/parkletes.  Ted wrote a post a few weeks ago about the connection between tree-grates on our sidewalks and walkability; I want to add to that today and talk about how turning "pavement to parks" will make our sidewalks even more walkable.

StreetsBlog's post, People, Parkletes, and Pavement to Parks (plus Mojo Bicycle CafĂ©), is about San Francisco city planners' ideas to greenify, both in terms of green color and in terms of the green revolution, unused city land.  In San Francisco there are many awkward intersections throughout the city due to the merging of three streets or because of streetcars, which have left space unused.  That unused space is as good a space as any to add public benches, trees, or even grass.  I think that if sidewalks are greener, they will become much more walkable.

      Photo - Thanks to SF Parks to Pavement Org.

San Francisco, however, does not only want to greenify its unused "pavement," in addition, restaurant owners can apply for permits and buy the rights to parking spaces in front of their restaurants.  In essence, these restaurants are adding an additional patio, with more room for patrons but leaving the sidewalk clear and open for pedestrians.  Also, by planting flower pots and trees, they are beautifying the "pavement" as well.

     Photo - Thanks to SF Parks to Pavement Org.

I think this could work in Chicago for two reasons: 1) Daley loves the idea of beautifying the city, and 2) because of the private parking company.  If it were up to Mayor Daley, the entire city would be one fountain-filled garden.  Daley's ideas stem from his father's who thought that if we made the city prettier, more people will invest and more people will visit.  It is true that for the most part the streets of Chicago are designed well, but there are plenty of spots with empty, unused pavement (especially due to diagonal streets like Lincoln, Clark, and Milwaukee), that Daley and the Chicago Park District can spend the money to beautify.

Also, because of the private street parking company that we've all grown to despise, I believe that companies and restaurants will be able to rent the rights to the parking spaces outside of their storefronts to create a patio park/parklete.  (I'm not positive what the deal is with the city and the parking company, but if the parking company has the right to lease the land, then they'd be the "landlord.  However, if the city still owns the land and the private company is only the "property manager," then it's a different story.)  If the price is right, and I don't know exactly what that price would be, the private company would jump at this possibility.  Mostly because it would be a definite source of income, but also because it would decrease the number of available parking spots and raise the demand for more parking.

Overall, I like where San Francisco's head is at; they do a few things right on the West Coast.  I don't know if "pavement to parks" will ever happen here, but if San Francisco, and pretty soon other cities as well, can make it happen, it's more likely that Chicago will make it happen too.  To me, it seems like a win-win situation.  Restaurants will love the idea of an extra and pretty, patio, and pedestrians will like walking in the "jungle" instead of the concrete jungle.

Go Blackhawks!



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