How to Build a Parklet
So you want to build a parklet. Great! But it’s important to remember the program is currently in the “pilot” phase. The City will evaluate the pilot program and decide late this year whether to transition into a permanent program in early 2014. The information in this section is provided for those interested in beginning to plan a parklet, but is subject to change if the program becomes permanent.
The makings of a good site
Not all potential parklet sites are created equally. The best sites are on streets that already see lots of people walking and biking and that feature attractions like restaurants, cafes, and shops that draw people to the area. Locations with strong community support in neighborhoods lacking public open space are ideal.
Streets with lots of pedestrians and cyclists and a mix of attractions are great for parklets.
photo by: San Francisco Planning Department
Parklets can only be built in lanes that are always used for parking—if the parking lane converts to a bus lane at certain times of the day, it’s a “no go” for a parklet. Parklets are best on streets with speed limits at or under 30 miles per hour, and parklets can’t block public utilities, fire hydrants, bus stops, or driveways (unless the parklet sponsor provides written permission from the driveway owner). In such a hilly city, it’s best to look for streets with a grade less than 5 percent. So the Counterbalance on Queen Anne is out!
In short, you’re probably in good shape if you don’t build on a steep hill, don’t choose a highway, and don’t block anything that looks important: driveways, utilities, public transit, or the fire department.
Steep hills like the Counterbalance are tough for parklets.
photo by: glabah, http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/1fbbf1/
Designing your parklet
SDOT is developing guidelines to help ensure all parklets are safe, accessible, and attractive. To make your parklet a great public amenity, you wil need a professional design featuring high-quality materials and elements like benches or small seats and landscaping. You should think about what people will do in your parklet and the kinds of activities you want to promote. Locally-sourced or reclaimed materials are encouraged. If you are interested in exploring a possible parklet, contact SDOT to request draft design guidelines. Some of the basics are outlined below.
Sample parklet concept design rendering from San Francisco.
image by: Perkins + Will
- A registered engineer, architect, or landscape architect must stamp or otherwise certify your design.
- Parklets must be at least as long as a single parking space (20 feet), and can be no wider than 6 feet, measured from the curb. Exceptions may be made on very wide streets or on streets with back-in angle parking. There is no set limit on parklet length.
The parklet must be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A wheel stop is one type of buffer than can be used. photo by: Kay Cheng, San Francisco Planning Department
- The platform must not impact drainage flow.
- A buffer or barrier is required 4 feet from both ends of the parklet.
- Edging—whether planters, a railing, or cabling—is required.
- All materials must be high quality, durable, and beautiful.
- Furniture must be distinct from any other used by a sponsoring business.
- All parklets must feature SDOT-provided signs indicating the space is public.
Fees and other costs
You will be responsible for all parklet costs, including design, permitting, and construction costs as well as materials. The costs for design and construction will vary depending on your parklet, but reports from other cities are that parklets can easily cost $15,000. Final permitting fees will be determined if a permanent program is approved, but it’s reasonable to expect to pay between $750 and $1,200 in review, permitting, and inspection fees to get your parklet from concept design through construction. As with all SDOT permits, you will be required to carry $1 million in liability insurance, and to name the City as an additional insured. Annual permit renewals cost $140.
Sponsors of the pilot parklets are required to post a notice of the proposed parklet in their business window for 14 days, and must mail a notice to all addresses within 200 feet of the proposed parklet site. You should assume that the public notice would be a feature of a permanent program as well, and you may need to demonstrate support from your immediate neighbors and from any relevant neighborhood or business groups. Letters of support may be required as part of your initial application.
Design review and the permitting process
Again, this process may change following the pilot program, but you’ll mostly likely need to provide SDOT with a site plan featuring the elements listed below:
- A North arrow
- Name and location of adjoining streets and alleys
- Width of adjacent sidewalks
- Any driveways
- Location and distance of existing street furniture like tree pits, utility poles, utility access spots, sign posts, and parking pay stations
The City would first review your proposed location to determine its feasibility. If SDOT deems the site acceptable, program staff would then conduct a preliminary design review and make a public notification before undertaking permit review and considering final approval.
Sample site plan from a San Francisco parklet.
image by: Oziio Ideas + Design
Once you’re the proud sponsor of a beautiful parklet you’ll have regular duties as parklet caretaker to keep the space in tiptop shape. You’ll be expected to keep the parklet rubbish-free and maintain its surfaces daily. Any furniture not affixed to the parklet base must be taken indoors or chained down every night. You’ll also have to sweep up the area around the parklet daily, and give the area beneath the platform a good hosing weekly. Graffiti removal is your responsibility, and you’ll be expected to keep any plants lush and healthy. Failure to keep up with these obligations could result in SDOT revoking your permit.
Parklet maintenance is the responsibility of the permit holder.
photo by: Green Futures Lab