Parklet Resource GuideA resource guide to parklets, people spots, street seats, and curbside cafes
A primary consideration in designing parklets is to minimize permanent physical impacts on their location. Typically they are designed to be relatively easily installed and removed as may be required by the City, and the process must be planned and timed in a way that doesn’t interfere with traffic flow.
All parklets must comply with local regulations and design criteria and possess all required permits, meet ADA requirements, maintain roadway drainage, allow for access to any below-ground utilities, be properly insured, have community support and possess a maintenance plan. Parklets are normally required to have a local steward, usually a nearby business or group of businesses who accept the responsibility of keeping the parklet clean and landscaping and street furniture maintained.
The best designed parklets take into consideration all amenities that would benefit the immediate surroundings, such as benches, lighting structures, planters, landscaping and vegetation that screen the seating area from traffic while still providing vistas across the street. If bicycle racks can be incorporated into the parklet design, it can increase the number of potential patrons at local businesses and encourage more people to travel by bicycle.
When researching the possibility of establishing a parklet in your locality, keep the following issues in mind.
Key Points For Researching Parklets
- When searching for local information or seeking out parklet ideas, be aware that public parklets are sometimes referred to as Walklets, Pedestrian Plazas, Curbside Seating, Street Seats (NYC and Portland), and People Spots (Chicago).
- Aside from the Department of Transportation, other common city departments that control Parklet 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.
- Parklets are public spaces. A privatized sidewalk seating area is often referred to as a Curbside Café, Sidewalk Café or Streatery, and operates as an extension of a retail establishment such as a coffee shop or deli. Permits and regulations for such private seating areas differ from those of Parklets and are usually governed by a Planning Department or Department of Public Works.
- Parklets are expected to be regularly maintained, handicap accessible with a safe transition from curb to deck, offer comfortable seating, contain landscaped planters, and have perimeters that create a comfortable buffer to the street.
- Parklets must be easily and quickly moved for city maintenance, elevated for street cleaning purposes and drainage, and in some locations deconstructed and stored seasonally for snow removal.
- Public use and misuse, weather, and seasonally deconstructing a Parklet can have significant effect on the lifespan. It is not uncommon for a wood Parklet to last just 2 years in cold climates.
- Parklets are not permitted to block fire hydrants, manhole covers, storm drains, city utilities, or street signs, must sit at least one parking space in from a street corner, cannot be next to a bus stop, and the speed limit cannot exceed 25 mph.
- Parklets are commonly restricted to the width and length of a parking space which is 6′ x 20′. A 4′ setback defined by a wheel stop is commonly required at both ends, meaning the actual decking space for a single parking space would be roughly 16′ and 32′ for two spaces.
- 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%.
- 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.
Additional Resources and Facts
Does your city have a Parklet Program? 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 comprehensive brochures about the proposal, application and approval process, fees, and design and maintenance requirements in their specific localities. You will find that criteria outlined by Parklet Programs differs by city, so try to obtain local information.
We often find that the culture of a city also results in unique parklet features and regulations. For example L.A. has introduced “active parklets” which include outdoor gyms; San Francisco has built mobile parklets like the Parkmobile and has implemented parklet corridors that stretch for blocks; Seattle is known for its “Streateries” which act as extended sidewalk cafes, allowing both food and beverage table service; and some cities allow parklets on nearly all streets, while New York generally limits them to one-way streets and other streets with lower speed limits and less traffic.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NATCO) is a non-profit association that represents large cities on transportation issues. They created a comprehensive Parklet Guide containing a detailed list of critical, recommended, and optional elements that a Parklet should have, as well as a helpful list of Member Cities.
Pavement to Parks
Pavement to Parks is another source of excellent information, based out of San Francisco where parklets originated. The organization maintains a list of Parklet Programs By City which could be useful depending on your location.
Many cities have published quite detailed information about their parklet programs including site and design considerations, planning requirements and suggested parklet designs. The following links lead to sites and downloads we have found most useful and informative.