Pavement or parklet? What streets are about

Coming to Pasadena? Parklet, here on Valencia Street in San Francisco
On Friday, the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association posted a picture of a patch of green with a bench and bike racks on its Facebook page. It added just a few words, "Parklet - Herb Garden - Bicycle Parking: 3 in 1."

By Sunday, 76 Facebook users had liked the entry, and about 20 had posted comments. Most responses were negative: extending the sidewalk into the street is too dangerous, it slows down traffic, it wastes money. Some readers bravely supported the idea. Others asked where the picture was taken.

The background for the debate: The Playhouse District Association has proposed "a necklace of parklets" along Colorado Boulevard between Oakland and Hudson avenues. It hopes that the pedestrian-friendly design will transform the character of the neighborhood from a former highway to a destination and that it will enhance the district's role as an arts and entertainment hub.

The PDA's proposal is expected to be picked up by the city soon. Support for it is already there. The Los Angeles Times recently quoted Mayor Bill Bogaard as saying, "Pasadena is pursuing a broader concept of what streets are about. They're not simply for moving cars as fast as you can. Streets are corridors of society and community."

As for the parklet pictured in the DPNA's post, it is located in San Francisco where, incidentally, the parklet trend began. As the story goes, one day back in 2005, the San Francisco design group ReBar rolled out a stretch of sod on a metered parking space — yes, it had paid for the spot — and adorned it with a tree in a pot. The 2-hour happening was so successful that the bay area city made more permanent parklets its own. New York City, Los Angeles, Oakland,  Philadelphia, Chicago and other places soon followed suit. In Pasadena, the debate is still on.

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To learn more about the history of parklets in general and in San Francisco specifically go to a Brief Parklet History or read Parklets offer a pause on busy Powell St. on SFGate.

Photo by Mark Hogan from San Francisco, USA (Freewheel Parklet  Uploaded by SaltyBoatr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons