parklets for Sacramento!

3876 Noriega St (from San Francisco Planning Department)
3876 Noriega St (from San Francisco Planning Department)

SABA (Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates) and Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District are partnering to create demonstration parklets in Sacramento.  This is exciting! SABA has a couple of posts on their Facebook page, and I’m sure there will be a lot more discussion.

A parklet is a small space serving as an extension of the sidewalk to provide amenities and green space for people using the street (Wikipedia). They can remove the tension between street furniture and sidewalk life on the one hand, and sidewalks as a transportation route. Though Sacramento has wide sidewalks in some areas, it also has narrow sidewalks in a number of areas that are highly popular. As an example, 16th Street between P Street and O Street, right next to where I live, has a narrow zip-zag sidewalk, fenced cafe seating for restaurants, and a lot of people and a lot of bikes. There is a tension here, between cafe seating, bike parking, and the sidewalk’s function. A parklet would allow more street life without taking away from any of the other functions.

Parklets are often sponsored by the adjacent business, but since they are in the public right of way, they are open to all users at all times. Cafe seating is different in that the business has a permit for the exclusive use of that area, so it is often open only to customers and only when the business is open. Cafe seating and parklets are actually a great complement to each other, creating vibrant street life that neither alone could.

San Francisco has an official Pavement to Parks parklet page, with details about the spectacularly popular program and a series of photos. The photo with this post is one of my favorites. San Francisco Great Streets Project has a series of pages on parklets, with before and after photos, though it is not up to date.

additional street changes

Note: I’ve updated this post to add some detail to the descriptions and photos to illustrate the treatments. I will be adding separate detailed posts on some of these treatments.

Following on my earlier posts about changing streets in downtown/midtown Sacramento, here are additional street changes that might be used in some places:

  • r2-1_20Reduce speed limit: Reduce speed limits throughout downtown/midtown to 20 mph. Of course simply reducing speed limits does not ensure that actual speeds go down, unless other measures are taken. The removal of three-lane and one-way streets will help a great deal, since these are the streets that most encourage speeding. Other changes suggested below will also slow traffic. I think, however, that the primary change will be a change in attitude, in cultural values. Once a place becomes more livable, people will focus more on being there instead of going through there to somewhere else. I see the whole pace of life in downtown/midtown as being slower, living at the pace of a walker, or even the pace of a casual conversation, rather than at the unnatural pace of a motor vehicle.

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