A brief guide to the typical steps involved in bringing your vision for a parklet into reality.
Your first step in the planning process is to seek all relevant local information. Try searching ‘CITY_NAME Parklet Program’ in your web browser. In a number of municipalities, public authorities such as the Department of Transportation have introduced ‘Parklet Programs’ and have produced comprehensive brochures detailing the application and approval process, fees, site and design considerations and ongoing maintenance requirements for their specific localities. But you’ll find that the approval process and criteria differs city by city, so always try to obtain local information.
Apart from the Department of Transportation, other common city departments that control parklet or street seating programs are the Bureau of Planning, Office of Strategic Planning, Department of Public Works, Office of Planning, and Bureau of Transportation. If you are struggling to find information about parklets in your area, we suggest starting with any one of these local departments.
When searching for local information, be aware that public parklets are sometimes referred to as Walklets, Pedestrian Plazas, Curbside Seating, Street Seats (NYC and Portland), and People Spots (Chicago).
StreetDeck parklet with laser cut steel panels and "Busy' chairs.
Once you have gained local support for your proposed parklet and checked with local authorities that a parklet would be permitted in your locality in principle, you need to pay special attention to any regulations specifying where they can be positioned and what factors might influence the outcome of your permit application.
Proximity to existing city utilities, bus zones, handicap parking zones, intersections and street corners, nearby driveways and mature trees is all taken into account, as well as the slope and crown of the street, speed limit, one vs two way traffic, accessibility by disabled persons, water drainage, space for safety buffer zones, future streetscape projects anticipated by the city, and finally the opinions of those who believe they would be impacted both negatively and positively by your proposed parklet.
Key Considerations in Initial Planning
Parklets are generally public spaces and the public has a voice. Part of your application process will entail gaining public approval for your proposal.
All parklets require permits from relevant authorities. Be aware that many cities only accept new applications during a specific period each year and because parklets impact public spaces, the application and approval process will generally be quite lengthy.
Parklets must comply with all local regulations and design criteria, meet ADA requirements, maintain roadway drainage, allow for access to any below-ground utilities, be properly insured, and have community support.
As the owner of a parklet, apart from the initial cost of the permits, application fees and the parklet itself, you’ll need to accept the ongoing responsibility for keeping the parklet clean and maintained in good order. If you live in a location with snow clearing in winter, you’ll also be expected to bear the cost and responsibility of disassembling, storing and reassembling your parklet seasonally.
Due to the numerous benefits parklets bring to the public, some cities such as New York offer a significant reimbursement for eligible purchases related to materials, fabrication and installation of parklets. Inquire about this at your local city department that governs parklets.
Parklets are generally permitted on streets with a running slope of 5% or less. The primary reason is to ensure safe access for wheelchair users along the length of the deck. The maximum allowed slope across the width is typically 2%.
Parklets must be handicap accessible with a safe transition ramp from curb to parklet deck, and a sufficient radius allocated for wheelchairs to pivot and maneuver comfortably to exit the parklet.
Parklets are expected to have perimeters of a specific height and strength that create a safe buffer to the street and passing traffic.
Parklets must be easily and quickly movable for city maintenance, elevated for street drainage, and in some locations, able to be deconstructed and stored seasonally to provide access for snow clearing.
Parklets are not permitted to block fire hydrants, manhole covers, storm drains, city utilities, or street signs, and cannot be next to a bus stop.If your parklet site currently has parking meters, part of your application process will be to request their removal.
Parklets are commonly restricted to the width and length of a parking space which is typically 8′ x 20′. A 4′ setback defined by a wheel stop is required at both ends, and quite often the outer edge must have a 2′ clear zone from adjacent traffic, meaning the actual decking size for a single parking space would be roughly 6′ x 12′ and 6′ x 24′ for two spaces.
Parklets must sit at least one parking space in from a street corner or intersection to avoid them being positioned in blind spots to vehicular traffic.
Most cities will not permit parklets to be on streets where the speed limit exceeds 25 mph and in some cases where traffic is not limited to one direction.
If the city anticipates future streetscape changes due to population growth or necessary improvements in the area of your proposed parklet, your application could be affected.