Trading parking for public space, parklets coming to Capitol Hill — if you want them


Parklette, New York, originally uploaded by wkgold.

By next spring, some E Pike parking spaces might be generating a lot more than $2 per hour.

“These are public space — anybody can bring food, etc from anyplace. No waiter comes out, serves you. These are not sidewalk cafes,” said Brian de Place, head of “Right of Way Management” for the Seattle Department of Transportation.

What these are, are parklets.

Fixed, structured and curb-side, parklets are a hot new urbanist feature. Vancouver has them. Of course, SF, too — more than 30 of the parklets now exist across the city. They displace street parking in favor of a place for people to sit, hang out — and, hopefully, participate in some lucrative local commerce.


“We are intertested in allowing and permitting these should we find specific communities and business areas want them,” de Place tells CHS about efforts in the city to create these kinds of spaces by spring 2013.

In many ways, the parklet is the legitimate cousin of efforts like the annual Park(ing) Day that encourages utilization of a handful of street parking spots around the city as temporary parking spots and guerilla efforts like the Renegade Planners Collective. The RPC, by the way, will be active Thursday at Denny and Olive with the Four Car Park project.


Parklette, originally uploaded by Larry Hofstetter.

One area CHS has heard about parklet interest is E Pike. The Pike/Pine nightlife zone has been looked at as a pedestrian laboratory before — remember Sally Clark’s plan to create a nighttime pedestrian zone in the area? But one likely neighborhood candidate, Big Mario’s Dave Meinert, says he’s not pushing for a parklet right now. Still, the street could be ideal — if you can get over the whole giving up a parking space thing.

The math may favor the parklet. Consider the $24 a day in paid parking revenue a single spot may generate for the city. Let’s say three of those go to create a parklet. Then subtract from those 70 bucks the cost of the paid parking system and the parking police required to enforce the program. The amount of business a parklet needs to help generate to achieve parity is likely modest. Meanwhile, there are added benefits for a community that wants a pedestrian-focused and traffic-calming environment.

But first, the community has to ask for it. de Place says the permits will be driven by local businesses and will utilize existing application and review processes. The spaces must comply with safety regulations including precautions to make the seating areas safe from passing traffic. “If we allow them, we want to make sure they’re successful,” de Place said.

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36 thoughts on “Trading parking for public space, parklets coming to Capitol Hill — if you want them

  1. Too much parking! I was just saying the other day, why doesn’t Capital Hill just get rid of all its parking spaces so it doesn’t hae to worry about pesky things like visitors and shoppers and such?

  2. The city cannot even afford to repaint the pedestrian crossing at Pike and 11th (I’ve asked) but they can afford time to consider these things.

    Can we please get some common sense at City Hall ?

  3. Huh? I doubt this will cost a lot of money. I can understand complaining about the cost of the street car (I support the street car), but this will cost almost nothing to the city.

  4. Finally a great idea from the City! And one that the City won’t have to spend $$ on as the adjacent business will fund it directly. I’ve seen these all over the world, am impressed Seattle is only a few years behnd on this as opposed to the decades late to an urbanist idea we usually are.

  5. Gee, weren’t we just reading about how these same nitwits were ripping out the benches and tables from our parks due to the homeless? So they’re go to relocate them to the street?

    I’d rather sit in a nice park than on the street. How about we clean up the park so we can enjoy what we have instead of taking away a few more chuncks of our precious little bit of parking.

  6. This is a lousy idea. It’s not a great experience to sit in an area with noisy cars/trucks going by within a few feet, especially in an area like Pike/Pine which is trashy to begin with. If you want to sit outside in a pleasant urban environment, just walk one block north to Cal Anderson Park.

    And of course the obvious point that they will be underutilized for months out of the year. And what about the chairs/tables?…if they are not bolted down in place, they will be quickly vandalized or stolen.

  7. Don’t get your parties in a wad. This is way more libertarian than democrat. Read the article, the businesses are the ones sponsoring each spot.

    It also sounds like a good location to combine with on street bike parking.

  8. this is a GREAT f-ing fabulous idea!
    the streets are SO DAMN CLEAN in this area I think they should put mattresses in so we can all just sleep outside in the WONDERFUL seattle winter weather. its not like they are covered in cigarette butts and vomit- because our city does such a GREAT job of keeping it clean. and we all know there are NO homeless or crazy people in the area that will camp out in these spots or BOTHER anyone- because of the CONSTANT police foot patrols up and down the street. and of course there is already so much FREE PARKING EVERYWHERE in this area that it wont impact businesses AT all. it will only make HUGE AMOUNTS OF $ for everyone! I am SO GLAD our city has employees that sit around coming up with these MARVELOUS IDEAS just because SF and Portland does it. I want to pay WAY more taxes and special fees to pay them for more AWESOME ideas. this will only encourage people from the world to come visit capitol hill and spend MORE MONEY here. I cannot WAIT to sit in the warm winter rain on impeccably clean pike street and watch all the wonderful shiny people walk by with rainbows and smiley faces and sparkles while the contrivances whiz by on sunshine power and love. ;-)

  9. I’ve been wondering when Seattle was finally going to play catch up on the parklet trend – which has been implement successfully in other cities like SF, Vancouver and NYC.

    For those complaining about having to pay for this, you are seriously misinformed (or more likely, just emotionally reacting without bothering to learn the details). The cost for building and maintaining parklets is entirely borne by the private property owners requesting a parklet space. If say, for example, Caffe Vita wanted a parklet in front of their store, in addition to the fee they’d pay the City for the space, Caffe Vita would also be responsible for designing & constructing the parklet, as well as for maintaining it. It is an entirely privately funded program. The City provides the pair of parking spaces for a fee, and the private sector builds it out. That’s why in other cities with parklet programs you see such a creatively wide range of different parklets. Each one is individual and idiosyncratic.

    Also, from what I’ve seen, most of the parklets function as outdoor cafe-style seating with the twist that any member of the public can use the space. (in other words, they can’t be restricted just for customers of the establishment that built the parklet)

    Finally, for the complainers that they won’t be used in the Seattle mizzle – I have news for you. There are parklets in Vancouver, BC. Where it rains. A LOT.

  10. Ever tried to park on Capitol Hill? It’s a nightmare. If they want to drive commerce, perhaps they should consider adding some real parking options – especially if they plan to take away even more street parking.

    It’s a cool idea, but it isn’t going to increase local revenue unless the issue of parking is addressed first.

  11. To those complaining:

    1. You seem to have missed the part about how this is community/business-sponsored. It’s not like these would be imposed at random, and if a business seems to think it’s a good idea to have one in front of their shop who are we to disagree that it makes financial sense?

    2. In many cases these are completely portable, so they needn’t stay in place all year long. If there’s just not enough demand during the rainy months they can most likely be converted back to parking during that time.

    3. Just because these don’t appeal to you doesn’t mean they won’t appeal to other people. There are always plenty of people sitting at the few tables I see on Pike/Pine sidewalks, and these would be considerably nicer, both in quality and in that they’d actually be separate from the sidewalk.

    4. Removing 1-3 parking spots in several parts of the hill would have an insignificant effect on the amount of parking available. Besides that, the vast majority of business for these places, particularly on Pike/Pine, tend to be locals. And as we increase the density of the area that only becomes more true. It’s only sensible that as more people are actually able to LIVE on Capitol Hill rather than just VISIT it we would dedicate more of our limited public space toward amenities for those who actually live here. And make no mistake, this is a tiny, tiny amount of public space we’re talking about.

  12. Here, here. Every time anyone complains about taking away a parking stall or two in order to develop a public space/community amenity/etc., I can’t but help roll my eyes. Everywhere you go in this country, the most economically vibrant commercial corrdiors are the densest, most pedestrian active areas which also tend to be horrible places to try to find a parking space – and its doesn’t seem to negatively affect the business in those areas.

  13. Seriously Ive lived off pike for over 13 years and I am so sick of how disgustingly filthy it is on pike and pine street. There are cigarette butts, vomit, garbage and broken glass on the sidewalk.
    do any of you people [including our city employees]that think this is a great idea actually ever walked down this street?
    this would be a much better idea if someone gave a crap about keeping it clean 1st before this marvelous idea of having people sit on the side of the street. these areas will rapidly become covered in filth and graffiti. this city cannot keep the street clean 1st.
    streets in NY and Vancouver are not as disgustingly filthy as ours in this area. I wont even go into the street people and drug dealing. they need to walk before they can run. clean this area up and then maybe think about doing something like this.

  14. I agree that Pike-Pine is a mess. The hipsters who live/work in that area look the other way and act like there is no problem, because “our neighborhood is SO cool!”, but what you say is the truth. It’s as if no one gives a damn about their immediate environment.

  15. Sure, I like these. Sure, I want to appeal to the walkability of my neighborhood. Sure, if a business wants it, I am in no position to balk at what they think is good for revenue.

    But, I don’t want these just to keep up with the Joneses. So what if *other* cities have them? We’re not other cities. We’re Capitol effing Hill!

    I would hope this can at least wait until there is a way for people to get to Capitol Hill easily? (You know, the people who come here explicitly to spend their money in our shops.)