Parking downtown is often frustrating, but one driver looking for parking near the bar Penelope on 12th Street must have been especially confused Friday, when he found the last spot on the block taken—not by another car, but by a couch and a makeshift coffee table, on top of a bright green swath of Astroturf.
With the help of Penelope and five other local businesses, cycling advocates celebrated PARK(ing) Day on Friday by converting parking spaces like the one on 12th Street into tiny parks—all while feeding the meter, of course. The temporary green spaces, or “parklets,” which sprang up on streets in Oakland and other cities around the world, were meant to show what cities might look like with more space for people and less for cars.
Organized by cycling advocacy groups Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Oakland’s parklets dotted the city with bits of green space—at least technically. Each parklet was built on a foundation of artificial green turf, but most included real potted plants, as well as some kind of furniture to entice visitors to linger.
Ruth Miller, a policy fellow at Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, called the green spaces “a demonstration project.” Noting that when a parking space holds a car it often serves only one person, Miller added that “that eight by ten-foot space—that’s ten people that could sit there.”
Some, however, don’t see eye to eye with Miller. Back at Penelope on 12th Street, the driver, surprised to see a couch in his way, managed to shove the bar’s parklet to the side and park in the space while no one was looking (the parklet was put back in place by late afternoon).
But for the most part, traffic flowed as normal. At Bay Area Bikes on Webster Street, co-owner Glenda Barnhart said her parklet “has been kind of fun for the neighbors.” Was anyone bothered by a relative lack of parking? Said Barnhart: “By one less parking space? No.”