Not really sure what to make of this.
Six years ago, a posse of guerrilla designers fed a parking meter on a busy San Francisco street, unrolled sod in the parking space and plopped down a potted tree. The result was a tiny, fleeting swath of green that since has become known as a parklet.
Since then, parklets have gone legit in San Francisco, with at least eight permanent such spaces at last count.
Now, City Councilman Ed Gonzalez wants to bring the idea to Houston, accenting the 656-square-mile city with more green, about 100 square feet at a time. He has proposed changing city regulations to allow business owners to take over metered spaces in front of their stores and convert them to pocket parks with mini-lawns and flower beds.
“I don’t know of anyone who says we don’t need any more green space,” Gonzalez said, standing on a curb on Prairie Street downtown, looking at a vacant metered parking space and picturing it with benches and sod. “We’d be sitting there if it were there.”
Council approved sending Gonzalez’s idea to planning officials to come up with design guidelines, authorized areas, an application process and other details that turn an idea into an ordinance. City Council still would have to approve the resulting ordinance.
“I will confess to being somewhat skeptical about Houstonians being willing to give up parking places in front of their businesses, but I’m willing to bring something forward to the proper committee for discussion and do some research on this,” Mayor Annise Parker said at the budget meeting.
First, I just want to highlight that this would give businesses the option of creating a parklet if they want to. No one is being made to do anything if they don’t want to. Let’s all be clear on that.
As for whether any business will take advantage of this if given that opportunity, I couldn’t say. I’m still not sure what to make of this. I did a little googling around on parklets, so here’s the San Francisco Great Streets Project webpage, which has a lot of information including this:
The Great Streets Project conducted a before and after study of the first parklet built in San Francisco on Divisadero Street. Our research found that after the parklet was installed, pedestrian activity , pedestrian satisfaction, and the sense of community character in the area had increased. Read more about this study on our blog post, or download the Divisadero Parklet Report.
What it doesn’t say is that there was an increase in business for the sites that have them. Like I said, whether local businesses will take advantage of this or not is an open question. In the meantime, here are some pictures of parklets, a story from Long Beach about parklets showing up there, and a story from San Francisco about one neighborhood that thinks they have enough parklets already.