Parklets roll out on parking spaces all over Oakland

Oaklanders dragged furniture and plants into the street on Friday, transforming parking spots into miniature parks—or “parklets”—for International PARK(ing) Day.

There were reports of parklets popping up across the globe, from an outdoor parklet theater in New York City to a series of parklets in the Southbank area of London. There was even a parklet in Ahmedabad, India, the nation’s seventh largest city.

During the day, a wide range of parklet attractions were available to visitors in downtown Oakland—Farley’s East coffee shop on Grand Avenue featured yoga and martial arts demonstrations in its commandeered parking space, while PGA Design, a landscape architecture firm, created “S’More Park,” giving customers and passers-by a place to roast marshmallows over a propane stove on the side of 17th Street.

“It brings some fun to the city where everybody gets into the routine of everyday life,” said PGA Design project manager Justine Hirsch.

Oaklandish, on Broadway and 14th, was offering tacos in parking spaces in front of the shop, and passers-by could get a bicycle-powered smoothie—mixed in a pedal-driven blender—at the TransForm parklet on 14th Street.

TransForm Deputy Director Jeff Hobson hopped on the bicycle to give a demonstration; as he pedaled the blender blades whirred audibly. “At 12:30 there will be smoothies out here,” he said. “Bicycle-powered smoothies.”

Marquee Lofts, it’s a Grind coffee shop and the East Bay Meditation Center also rolled out parklets on Friday in downtown Oakland.

Further north, on Piedmont Avenue, Shimizu Sushi was host to a woodchip-covered parking space with benches and board games. Cole Coffee, on College, put down artificial turf and set out tables and chairs so customers could enjoy their drinks in the road—literally.

Actual Cafe, on San Pablo Avenue at Alcatraz, featured a live deejay during their regular Friday happy hour. Customers were invited to sit on the wooden patio built for PARK(ing) Day, which owner Sal Bednarz said he hopes to make a permanent fixture once Oakland city officials begin issuing permits for parklets. The city is expected to request proposals for eight pilot parklets within the next couple weeks.

PARK(ing) Day activities are continuing through the weekend at Actual Cafe and nearby businesses. The Actual Cafe parklet will remain in place through Sunday. On Saturday afternoon, A PLACE for Sustainable Living will take over all the parking spots on 64th Street between San Pablo and Marshall for a parklet block party with live music.

For the neighborhood around Actual Cafe, PARK(ing) Day was an opportunity to add some permanent greenery to San Pablo Avenue. Three businesses—Kinks Beauty Supply, The Essence of Beauty, and James and the Giant Cupcake—now have new planter boxes and benches in front of their shops. These outdoor pieces were built cooperatively by Actual Cafe, A PLACE for Sustainable Living and the Golden Gate Community Alliance.

“With not a lot of money and not a lot of time, you can put together something beautiful and really change your environment,” said Bednarz.

The Lake Merritt neighborhood will also host four parklets on Saturday, taking advantage of foot traffic from the popular Lake Merritt farmer’s market. Three neighborhood shops on Lakeshore Avenue—Garden Hortica, Arizmendi Bakery and Noah’s Bagels—will turn parking spaces into parklets, as will Urban Furniture on Grand Avenue.

“We want to get people thinking about utilizing asphalt and converting it to spaces that can be used by people,” said Ken Katz, a member of the Grand Lake Neighbors association. “Parklets can make a big difference.”

Friday was Oakland’s second annual PARK(ing) Day sponsored by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO), the pedestrian and cyclist advocacy group. But some businesses like PGA Design have been independently putting up parklets since 2008.

To read more about International PARK(ing) Day and the permanent parklet campaign, see this recent story from OaklandNorth.net.

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