Monday, September 22, 2008

Park(ing) Day in San Francisco

This past Friday was national Park(ing) Day, which is an annual, national event centered in San Francisco where artists, land use designers, activists, and citizens collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into "PARK(ing)" spaces, ie. temporary public parks. REBAR, an interdisciplinary collaborative group of artists, designers, and activists in San Francisco has been organizing Park(ing) Day since 2005 and now collaborates with The Trust for Public Land to create this day long event.

The idea of Park(ing) Day comes from a desire to encourage more public land and works through a "loop hole" in the law regarding metered parking spaces. In November 2005, REBAR rolled out grass sod across a downtown San Francisco, metered parking spot and placed a bench for sitting a a tree for shade on the grass, creating a temporary public park. There is not stipulation in the law that specifies what the object must be that "rents" the metered parking spot for the hour, thus allowing sod and parking benches to take up these parking spaces as long as the meter is filled. The artists/activists of REBAR wanted to comment on dichotomy between the amount of outdoor space dedicated to the private vehicle (70%) and the amount of space dedicated to public park spaces (only a fraction of that) in densely populated, downtown areas. Since Park(ing) Day 2005, the event as grown not only in the city of San Francisco to include close to 50 registered park(ing) spaces but across the country to close to 100 cities.

McCall Design Group, the architecture firm where my friend Emily works, designed one of these parking spaces specifically considering water conservation, by using permeable surface materials (substitutes for asphalt) that would allow water to be recycled back into the watershed system. Their parking space specifically exhibited the various permeable surface materials possible, including bricks that hold gravel so as to stop the gravel from leaving your driveway, as well as several types of plants whose roots halt erosion but don't require being watered as they are native plants, thus decreasing the amount of water we use. A lot of other exciting projects took place as well as a "Jay and Michael's Wedding Day" park at Scott and Waller in celebration of the legalization of gay marriage.

In addition, my dad sent me an Economist article yesterday about San Francisco's new plan for managing public parking spaces, which will include sensors to determine where free spots are open as well as the ability to pay meters by credit card and spots whose cost varies with the hour depending for the depand for parking at that time. The idea behind this program is to ease the move of traffic in congested areas by decreasing the number of people havig to circle to find parking rather than simply looking in a database, which will decrease the carbon dioxide emissions in two ways: one, by decresing the amount of time to find a parking spot, and two by decreasing conjestion caused by people looking for parking.

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