The Parklet Puzzle
Exploring the Diversity and Inclusivity of Parklets // 2017
Parklets, or small public spaces alongside a sidewalk, usually replacing a parking space, are known as a successful form of tactical urbanism that have gained popularity worldwide. City infrastructure improvement projects, like parklets, are often a sign of economic growth. As revenue increases for cities, they can increase programs that promote city beautification. However, increased economic growth in cities can also be associated with gentrification, or neighborhood change. Existing communities often cannot adapt to neighborhood change for a variety of reasons that include cultural, economic, and social issues. Therefore, projects like parklets perpetuate gentrification concerns. On the other hand, parklets can be used to bring people together since they are open public spaces. But, there are still inclusivity concerns. Parklets are usually sponsored by a restaurant or business, therefore promoting consumerism. Although parklets are technically open to the public, those who do not participate in consumer activities often feel unwelcome. So, are parklets really public? I surveyed Valencia Street in San Francisco to take a closer look. During my survey, I sought to determine if parklets are indicators of gentrification, and if so, how can we change this image and use parklets to bring community members together.