North Park’s first ‘parklet’ completed; residents celebrate usable public space
By Manny Lopez | SDUN Reporter
San Diego’s first curbside “parklet” was inaugurated on the 3900 block of 30th Street with a public ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the occasion Friday, Aug. 23. The parklet sits directly in front of Caffé Calabria at 3933 30th Ave.
Designed by obrARCHITECTURE of North Park, the new parklet provides a public, social resting spot for passersby to enjoy the urban environment. At 28 feet long and six feet wide, the structure rests in two former parking spaces and straddles the curb, offering a shaded seating and green space. The construction utilized reclaimed materials.
“I love it. We’re the lucky recipients,” said Arne Holt, Caffé Calabria owner. The coffee roaster and restaurant is footing the roughly $40,000 construction bill. “I heard people talking about it and … said I wanted to [help],” Holt said.
The term “parklet” originated in San Francisco, where the first small, urban park was built in 2010. Since then, neighborhoods in cities across the country have embraced the idea, spreading to Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Portland, Ore.
They serve as an extension of the sidewalk and are typically built in areas that lack adequate open park space or where the width of the sidewalk does not accommodate vibrant street activity. Although parklets are privately funded, they are a neighborhood amenity for all to enjoy.
“This is an example of what the city can do. We’ve come together with the private, non-profit and public sectors to do some good and deliver results for the community,” said Council President Todd Gloria at the ceremony.
“I think this is a great day to do that, because obviously we’ve had some questions about whether or not we’re making forward progress in the city,” he said. “This is an excellent example of whether we’re doing that, and we’ll certainly be doing more in the weeks and months to come.”
North Park Main Street Executive Director Angela Landsberg said the idea was widely embraced by staff in the city’s Development Services Department, as well as Mayor Bob Filner’s office. Landsberg worked directly with Holt and Filner in proposing the parklet, and Landsberg said more are being planned throughout North Park. She is currently looking for partners to sponsor additional construction.
“We’re trying to create more sustainability, more walkability and more bike friendliness in North Park,” she said. “Parklets are a great way to do that.”
Joining Landsberg, Gloria and Holt at the ribbon cutting were North Park Main Street Assistant Director Kevin Clark, San Diego Planning Director Bill Fulton, Linda Perine of Filner’s office and Christopher Bittner of obrARCHITECTURE.
Among the first to officially enjoy San Diego’s first parklet was Jesse Sykes of North Park, who was meeting a friend for coffee and was unaware of the grand opening celebration. Sykes said he and his wife had seen the construction being done, but had no idea what it was.
“It’s great. I love being out here and it’s nice being a little further out in the street and having a full view of things,” Sykes said. “I like the partnership idea between small businesses and the city to create public space that’s useable. We need more of that.”
Rose Farris of North Park said that as a student of environmental policy, she became excited when she heard that the first parklet was coming to her neighborhood.
“I was already a fan of Caffé Calabria. I walk this street all the time and I got to see the different stages of it being built, and now it’s here,” Farris said. “I really like that they did wood with brick and that it has different levels. It fits well with the block and it looks nice with the plant life.”
In describing his feelings about the project, Holt, who has owned Caffé Calabria for the past 13 years, said that once construction was completed, he sat on the parklet for four hours, finding the area much more tranquil than before.
“The whole vibe for me just changed,” he said. “What a difference two parking spaces can make.”