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This little plaza went to Market

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nicholasn | Mar 01, 2010 03:45 PM

This little "parklet" stayed at Divisadero ... And this news might make some San Franciscans go "Wee wee wee," all the way home.

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom announced last week that the City by the Bay will create four new plazas and five "parklets" by summer, using contiguous parking spaces volunteered by corporations and neighborhood businesses. Each parklet will consist of a platform built flush with the sidewalk, with tables, chairs, umbrellas, potted flowers and shrubbery. The microparks  are meant to discourage a few more drivers — and thus, congestion and air pollution — also intended by a  bill proposed in the California State Senate to reduce "free parking" throughout the Golden State. More importantly, they'll provide a place to park your rump and nurse a coffee. (Several of the parklets will appear in front of cafes, which want you to hang out, of course.)

For the cost of just $7,000 a parklet (more for plazas), these innovative spaces are just about the only way San Francisco can continue greening its plethora of concrete amid a budget crunch. They follow on the heels of a pilot pedestrian plaza that opened in May on Market and 17th Street in the Castro. They're also inspired  by the city's popular PARK(ing) Day, during which people temporarily roll out lawns across a few metered spots to barbecue or even set up a swing.

These small plazas and parklets are part of a larger "urban acupuncture" effort — a term used by Newsom's greening director, Astrid Haryati, to describe pinpoint public improvements. Similar progress can be seen in cities up and down the West Coast: Folks in Portland are working to create "pocket parks" filled with quirky, provocative art (scroll down).  And in Seattle, one business owner recently transformed a dumpster-filled alley into a loiter-able, European-style space (the alley now sports a hanging sculpture made from 1,600 plastic bottles), the Seattle Times reports.

Basking in the sun (or fog) of an SF parklet, you might get a strong whiff of exhaust or feel the wind of a bus on your back: robust barriers or planters are all that will separate park-goers from the street. But as SF resident Bill Eadie told the San Francisco Chronicle, "That's part of the ambience — it doesn't have to be Yosemite."

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