Member-Driven Parks Program Sparks Bay Area Public Space Renovation

San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks Program was initiated in 2010 with a number of experimental projects that demonstrated new ways of creating public space in our neighborhoods.  The Program is coordinated by the San Francisco Planning Department in collaboration with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco Public Works.  IFPTE Local 21 members - urban planners, designers, landscape architects, project and traffic engineers – are involved every step of the way in the advancement and administration of the program, which has been replicated all over the county.

Pavement to Parks projects include “pedestrian plazas,” created by closing redundant areas of street intersections; and “parklets,” which convert two or three curbside parking spaces to expand the sidewalk and provide seating, greenery, bicycle facilities, and public art.  The projects have proven overwhelmingly popular, with over fifty community-generated, grassroots parklet projects emerging in over twenty different neighborhoods across the City.  Six pedestrian plazas have been created, with requests for more in other neighborhoods.  Pavement to Parks has also led the early incubation of urban prototyping, including mobile “street stages,” bicycle corrals, and even a mobile parklet!  This summer, Pavement to Parks is launching the “Urban Prototyping Exchange,” a platform for connecting prototype innovators with communities who are interested in implementing prototype ideas in their own neighborhoods.

To see an example of the project's work in the community, watch the video below “Parklets Build Community”


One key participant in the Pavement to Parks and Public Life program, Robin Abad, Local 21 member of the City and County of San Francisco Planners Chapter, works for the City Design Group at the City’s Planning Department.
Aside from his job responsibilities, Abad’s personal reasons for getting involved in the parklets project go back to his student days at USC Los Angeles, where he received a Masters in Landscape Architecture, and headed up a number of research projects in parks landscaping. For his graduate thesis, he interviewed 60 people involved in the Pavements to Parks project since its inception in 2010.
“This is a good example of the innovation of a union workforce,” he said, noting that the team consists of a number of public servants, many in Local 21, ranging from urban planners to civil engineers. He emphasized that the L21 members’ participation, while low-key and behind-the-scenes, is key to urban development, much in line with their work as public sector employees.    
Looking to the future, Pavement to Parks is focusing on projects that increase pedestrian safety, equity of open space across the City, and enhanced community engagement by emphasizing partnerships in higher-need and higher-risk communities.  Recent collaborations with art, technology, youth, and educational institutions highlight an expanded frontier for exploring the delivery of meaningful places to diverse neighborhoods.  The program has won numerous awards and highlights the exceptional contribution of IFPTE members through civil service and to their communities.