Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Parking Day, Friday September 18th

In 2006, a planning/artist collective in San Francisco called Rebar Group created what they called "Parking Day," to demonstrate the high cost to placemaking from dedicating so much public space to the automobile, for car storage ("Drop a coin in the meter and enjoy the park," John King, San Francisco Chronicle, 2006).

Drop a coin in the meter and enjoy the park

Port-a-park: A temporary park was set up in a parking space on Mission Street by Rebar, an art collective.

This event has become a world-wide phenomenon, existing and expanding beyond that of Re:bar which disbanded a few years ago. 

The American Society of Landscape Architects stepped in to keep the momentum of Parking Day going after Rebar's dissolution, although it's not clear that it's at the top of their agenda, as their Parking Day webpage is out of date. But still presents some good resources. 

Parking Day is important in how it sparked a greater recognition of the importance of public space utilization and placemaking, not just for advocates but for planning and transportation departments, elected officials, trade professionals (architects and landscape architects), parks departments and other stakeholders.    

Despite the pandemic, even this year it will occur on Friday September 18th, the Third Friday in September.

Although separately the pandemic has sparked a number of independent initiatives by local governments aimed at increasing space dedicated to walking and biking:

-- "(More) People on streets and the coronavirus"
-- "From more space to socially distance to a systematic program for pedestrian districts (Park City (Utah) Main Street Car Free on Sundays)"

and cities continue to announce related initiatives such as street speed reductions ("D.C. cuts speed limit to 20 mph to curb pedestrian deaths," Washington Post).

While Parking Day is an ephemeral event and too often local groups fail to leverage the event as a way to spark deeper structural changes ("Walk to School Day and Park(ing) Day as missed opportunities for community organizing," 2013), in many communities it has led to the creation of more permanent "livable streets" initiatives including in-street permanent "parklet" ventures.

-- San Francisco Sustainable Mobility and Climate Action Strategy
-- "Long Beach joins the national 'parklets' trend: Three restaurants have won city approval to convert a few highly valued parking spaces into green space. In some cities, the parklets are open to the public, but these will be for patrons' use only," Los Angeles Times
-- "Sunset Triangle Plaza: LA's First Pedestrian Plaza Conversion is Now Open!," Inhabitant
-- Livable Streets Program, City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation
-- Groundplay SF public space research initiative, San Francisco
-- Reclaiming the Right of Way: A Toolkit for Creating and Implementing Parklets, UCLA

Sunset Triangle Plaza, Los Angeles, Rios-Clementi-Hale-Studios

It also helped to spawn the "tactical urbanism" movement, although there are antecedents, such as the City Repair organization in Portland and the various activities of Seattle's Department of Neighorhoods.

-- Tactical Urbanism Volume 1
-- Tactical Urbanism Volume 2
-- Better Block Foundation
-- City Repair,Portland (effort pre-dates Rebar Group, and probably influenced it)
-- City Repair's Placemaking Guidebook, second edition
-- Neighborista, a blog on creative tactical urbanism projects (defunct, archive)
-- Tactical Urbanism Public Space Stewardship Guide
-- Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to Materials and Design
-- "Seattle will let neighborhoods design their own crosswalks," Seattle Bike Blog

Note, that's "tactical urbanism" not "temporary urbanism" ("Building the arts and culture ecosystem in DC: Part One, sustained efforts vs. one-off or short term initiatives," 2015).  My criticism of temporary urbanism is ephemeral and doesn't build to greater achievements.  By contrast, tactical urbanism is about building a process that will lead to long term improvements.

Meet on Beach Open Streets event, Buena Park, California
Pedibikes, pedestrians and bikers move up and down Beach Boulevard during the Meet On Beach event in Buena Park on Sunday, November 17, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG).

A broader community-focused placemaking/sustainable mobility agenda

1. "Extending the "Signature Streets" concept to "Signature Streets and Spaces""

2.  Create neighborhood focused urban design and placemaking plans ("Planning urban design improvements at the neighborhood scale: Dupont Circle, DC").

3.  Create an annual program of Open Streets events ("Dare to be great (active transportation): Los Angeles edition," 2012) at the city wide and neighborhood scales.  Maybe incorporate neighborhood street festivals into the program.  And Parking Day.  And Jane's Walk.  Use these events to promote sustainable mobility more broadly.

The approach in LA County is county-wide, with events quarterly, throughout the county.

Last November, seven cities in nearby Orange County took up the idea, for a multi-city event--La Habra, Buena Park, Anaheim, Stanton, Garden Grove, Westminster, and Huntington Beach--called "Meet on Beach," connecting cities along Beach Boulevard, fronting the Pacific Ocean ("They met (and cycled, walked, bus-hopped) on O.C.’s Beach (Blvd.): For a day, parts of the 21-mile thoroughfare were pedestrian friendly," Orange County Register).

4.  Create a "city-wide" pedestrianized way that can be successful ("Why doesn't every big city in North America have its own Las Ramblas?"). 

For example, I've suggested that the one block Ellsworth Avenue in Montgomery County's Downtown Silver Spring could be significantly extended in both directions, but most significantly, to the Metrorail Station ("items 19-21 in this entry").

5.  Pedestrian more spaces where it can be successful ("Diversity Plaza, Queens, a pedestrian exclusive block").

6. Expand biking initiatives ("Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 1, leveraging Bike Month") including infrastructure, facilities ("Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 2, building a network of bike facilities at the regional scale") and support for making the transition to biking as transportation ("Revisiting assistance programs to get people biking: 18 programs").

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At 12:35 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Salt Lake City Downtown is doing the Park City thing, closing a block or more of streets in the Downtown core, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, through October 10th.

This week they're doing the 300 block of Main Street.

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