Until recent years most Americans had grown inured to the proposition that automobiles would take more and more of our community real estate. Not only were broad highways considered necessary, they were even considered attractive and public funds were lavished on them.
During that period streetlights were installed to light the roadway rather than lighting the sidewalks where pedestrians struggled in the semi-darkness and businesses provided whatever ambient light was needed to create safe passage.
In recent decades cities have begun to adjust lighting to focus on sidewalks- providing pedestrian safety and thereby reducing crime. But- have we thought more carefully about the amount of community space given over to cars including too wide highways, parking garages, and all those pockets of macadam surrounding our beloved parking spots-especially those in front of our favorite coffee shop or convenience store?
Last week (“Enjoy friends, local residents at a parklet near you”), Oaklanders involved with the Grand Lake Neighbors and the Lakeshore Business Improvement District joined the movement to transform unused street space into neighborhood gathering spots for International Park(ing) Day, a project that started in San Francisco and spread around the world. Just go to youtube.com and plunk in parklets or parking day for a sampling.
Over the last year some of us from the Grand Lake area have begun to think about building a street deck/parklet on Lakeshore near Arizmendi where you often find shoppers perched on the curbs of the Avenue munching their pizzas or slurping creamy yogurt. We started visiting some of the new parklets in San Francisco as an alternative to curb sitting. What we saw excited us into contemplating building our own.
Next, Grand Lake architect David Bolanos drew up a design for the deck parklet and Ken Katz, author of the Splashpad Newsletter, Joanne Karchmer of Council Member Kernighan’s office, and some folks from Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, most notably Ruth Miller, and me, representing the Lakeshore Business Improvement District, started scheming on raising awareness and funds for the project.
We stalled for a few months but the concept was revitalized when Sara Erickson of Sansome Pacific Properties, the company which brought in Trader Joes and Walgreens, got involved. Erickson set up a blog (510parklet.wordpress.com) for the project and recruited volunteers to put up the temporary parklets.
Local Grand Lake Beautification leader, Eric Hughes-he and his son personally clean graffiti in public areas-loaned their own plants and furniture to the temporary project and with his dog, Katy, served as ambassadors promoting the concept on Saturday.
If you check out the video and photos of our temporary installations for September 17th, you will notice the beauty, grace, and creativity of the Garden Hortica street deck in front of the Footlocker store.
Jeffrey Lim and David Le, owners of the fabulous garden and meeting spot at the foot of 7thStreet near downtown Oakland, completely designed and built this beautiful installation as an example of what could be done to promote community gardening and gathering on a small scale right alongside of prosperous businesses bustling with customers.
Jeffrey Lim, the design part of the team, says, “We wanted to show how you could incorporate garden elements and art with branding to enhance Lakeshore’s image while inviting everyone to share it.” He asked strolling shoppers and neighbors to sign the painted floor if they supported the concept and was overwhelmed with the response.
And as it turned out, Saturday finally ushered in our long-awaited Bay Area summer while visitors to Lakeshore were pleasantly surprised to find these little oases of relaxation. They happily signed onto the project and Erickson is working on installing the signed flooring and planters near Trader Joes-coming soon!.
While musicians played, kids painted pictures and blew bubbles on Lakeshore, over on Grand, Ken Katz lounged by his own miniature golf parklet in the “living room” set up by Urban Furniture, and munched on goodies from the newly opened Boniere Bakery.
With encouragement from WOBO, the Actual Café, and other entrepreneurial Oaklanders, the City has decided to put together a protocol to help neighborhoods and businesses obtain permitting assistance to set up permanent parklets.
We in the Lakeshore Avenue area hope to be one of the first neighborhoods to begin building a relaxing, attractive spot for visitors to come, meet, eat, shop, and play music together along our street.
If you love this idea, please volunteer to help raise funds, promote, design, and build this project. You can contact us at 510parklet.wordpress.com, GrandLakeNeighbors.org, or go to the Lakeshore Business Improvement District’s Facebook page to join in the fun.