Guerilla urbanism coming to Downtown

by Walter Pierce

Get ready for the parklet.

A parklet in San Francisco where the concept emerged

Get ready for the parklet. Don't look for it in a paper dictionary, and Spell Check will flag it, but the relatively new concept is coming to some parking spaces in Downtown Lafayette soon.

The Downtown Development Authority is planning to spring a parklet - a temporary pop-up space occupying street-side parking spaces featuring chairs or benches, umbrellas, perhaps a potted plant or two where residents, shoppers and area workers can pass a few casual moments chatting, catching up on emailĀ  or just enjoying the city around them - on the area sometime in mid May.

Wikipedia, which is the final authority on virtually everything, says of parklets: "Parklets are designed to provide a public place for passersby to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the city around them, in places where either current urban parks are lacking or where the existing sidewalk width is not large enough to accommodate vibrant street life activities. Parklets can be designed to be either permanent fixtures, or can be designed to be temporary/seasonal in places where snow removal is a concern. Seasonal parklets are found in New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago."

But here's the catch: the DDA folks are mum on their specific plans. As one source puts it to The IND: "Location is top secret, since it's not exactly allowed. We don't want to let anyone tell us no before we even get started. See the point is to break the rules to show how the rules aren't best serving the people. We can challenge the status quo by actually demonstrating a different way."

Our DDA source tells us they haven't vetted the idea with the bureaucrats at Lafayette Consolidated Government and know they could be asked to remove the parklet almost as soon as it's erected. LCG, after all, could cite a loss of parking-meter revenue for ordering the parklet's removal.

We hope that's not the case. The idea is pretty cool.

The parklet concept comes to our fair city from trendy places like San Francisco, believed to be where the idea was created, and is part of a larger concept called Tactical Urbanism. Locally the parklet appearance will coincide with a speaking engagement on May 20 (5:30 p.m.) at the Lafayette Science Museum by Jason Roberts, who is described as "one of the inventors of Better Block." We have no idea what that means but likely has something to do with urban planning and whatnot.

A crowd-funding campaign is under way in an effort to raise $1,200 for the materials that will go into Downtown Lafayette's parklet. Contributions can be made here at a website called Civicside. Below is a video that kind of explains what's going on.