Sept. 13, 2010
Parking spaces are precious commodities in downtown San Francisco and San Jose, but this Friday dozens of groups will be using these spots not to park but as parks.
In an effort to take back green space in downtown areas, hundreds of cities across the globe will play host to what has become a large annual art installation where artists and citizens use metered parking spaces to set up small, often movable parks for people to enjoy–as long as the meter runs.
Hard to visualize?
Imagine a park the size of a traditional metered space, and now transplant that park into the financial district of San Francisco. The result is a splash of green in a gray, impersonal section of the city.
The idea, says Elizabeth Beaubois of Greenbelt Alliance South Bay, is that “people are more important than cars,” and that city planners have not paid enough attention to making cities livable, breathable, beautiful spaces.
So in 2005, REBAR, a design and art collective based in San Francisco, decided to make a park small enough to fit into a parking space, and set it up, enjoy it, and break it down within the two hours that a car would usually take up that space. Legally, as long as the meter was fed, the space was theirs to do with as they pleased.
The installation was a success, and the word got out, going viral within a few short years. Last year, there were over 700 “PARKS” in 140 cities in 70 countries in event that has been termed Park(ing) Day.
Not all of the “parks” set up during Park(ing) Day are green spaces, however, as city-dwellers have used the spirit of the event to speak out for other resources they feel are lacking within their communities, things like free clinics, political seminars, and educational services.
If you can, take the time on Friday, September 17, to take a trip downtown during meter hours and see what a taken-back park(ing) space looks like. (There’s even a Google map.) Maybe take some quarters with you, to help sustain the green and the giving, in hopes that planners and government will take heed to what the people of San Francisco and San Jose want and need their city streets to be.