Thursday, December 29, 2011

Parklets: Institutionalizing the smoking section

Photo © Søren Schaumberg Jensen/REBAR

For coffeehouses and restaurants, the sidewalk used to be for smokers, who were accommodated with a few plastic chairs next to the traffic noise, the carbon monoxide, and the diesel fumes. Now those small business owners are benefiting from the parklet craze, which originated in the city's anti-car bike movement that sees anything---like taking away scarce parking spaces---that makes it more difficult and expensive to drive in San Francisco as a Good Thing.

John King likes parklets ("Parklets: a little tour of a major trend"), but he also likes highrises, the traffic-clogged Octavia Boulevard, and the ridiculous Congregation Beth Shalom synagogue at Clement and Park Presidio.

In a sidebar, King lists city fees of "$982.50---plus $650 more if parking meters are taken out of commission---and a $221 annual fee." According to the MTA's Transportation Fact Sheet (at the MTA website, click on "reports"), the annual revenue for the city per parking meter is $1,435. The average parklet takes away at least two metered parking spaces, which means a permanent loss of $2,870 a year for the city for each parklet. Some parklets, like the one at Cafe Mojo on Divisadero, take away three parking meters for a loss of $4,305 a year.

The parklet movement now has a city department, Pavement to Parks, dedicated to taking away street space from motor vehicles, also known in SF as "death monsters." Originally conceived to use "excess roadway" and to "reclaim public space," the idea quickly morphed into an anti-parking program, as if the streets of the city are better used for anything but traffic.

Naturally, Steve Jones, bicycle correspondent for the Bay Guardian, voice of the city's PC trendies, likes parklets.

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