Home selected for Capitol Hill’s parklet experiment — one of first three in Seattle

The first parking space turned mini-park in Capitol Hill will be in front of the Montana bar on E Olive Way, the Seattle Department of Transportation announced.

Montana_parklet_looking north

View from Olive Way looking at Montana showing the parklet in the foreground and Montana patio in background. (Credit: Boxwood)

CHS reported on the city’s efforts to create new types of public space earlier this summer: Capitol Hill’s first parklet — trading parking for park space — coming in August

In addition to the parklet, Montana will also put in an adjoining sidewalk cafe where bar-goers will be allowed to drink outside (drinking is prohibited in parklets). If all goes according to plan, the parklet and patio will be open by the end of August.

Montana co-owner Kate Opatz said she approached the city about the parklet after hearing about the pilot program from the bar’s architect. Opatz said the response from nearby businesses was overwhelmingly positive.

“It was appealing because it’s another way to make the street really cool,” Opatz said. “We think it will be a real draw.”

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(Credit: Boxwood)

Since next door’s Crumble and Flake has no seating, the parklet could be a convenient place to take your coffee and pastry.

According to SDOT’s Jennifer Wieland, who heads up the parklet program from the city’s end, the 28-ft Montana parklet would remove “one and a half” parking spaces on E Olive Way. Technically parking spaces are 20-ft long, but the city stopped marking parallel spaces, so smart cars and other small vehicles could cram into the half-space.

Montana is completely responsible for the planning, construction, and maintenance of the parklet and patio. In all parklets, businesses sponsor the mini-park by asking the city for permission to change a right-of-way for a parking space (or other small public space) in front of its business.

Montana_cafe and parklet_looking east

(Credit: Boxwood)

The Montana parklet will feature a bike corral, canopy for the winter months, a stroller/wheelchair ramp, stools and counter space around the edge of the parklet’s railing. Optaz said the patio will have tables and chairs, some type of covering, and possibly a barbeque.

Wieland said Montana could have pursued a sidewalk patio without the parklet. However, the parklet allows the patio to double in width — without it, the patio would have to be three feet from the curb to allow enough space for opening car doors.

The Montana parklet is one of three that are a part of a pilot program the city is rolling out this summer. A 60-foot parklet will be located in Belltown in front of City Hostel Seattle at 2nd and Battery St. Another 20 ft. parklet will be in Chinatown/ID in front of Fuji Bakery and Subsand at 6th and S King St.

Later Wednesday, SDOT is expected to release an environmental impact report on the parklet program, which Wieland said found no significant environmental issues. There will be a 2-week public comment period on the both the environmental report and the specific parklet projects.

The individual parklets do not have to go before an official design review or public meeting. Wieland said SDOT will likely hold a public meeting after the pilot project is completed to decide whether parklets should be expanded.

52 thoughts on “Home selected for Capitol Hill’s parklet experiment — one of first three in Seattle

  1. That’s cool, but I can’t read on that diagram how much walking space this will leave to get up E. Olive Way. The design and high traffic right there would make it extremely dangerous to walk around this park on the street, and it looks like we pedestrians are being asked to walk one by one through a tiny gap.

    • I agree: Great! While they’re at it, I wouldn’t mind another one of those parking structures like the have in front of the Melrose Market or Café Presse. I feel more comfortable leaving single occupancy vehicle locked to a protected parking structure.

  2. I agree that that is an awfully busy, high-traffic area for a “parklet” to be placed. Plus there is the added prospect to sucking up exhaust fumes with your drink.

  3. Uh Yeah….a Parklette? It’s pretty easy to access public parks in Seattle and they’re not even being used enough. I’m all for taking cars off the roads but these are just going to create more parking nightmares. How can you add more businesses to an over gentrified over populated neighborhood and then take away parking? Are the new “Rangers” “Park Cops” going to be patrolling these areas too? Was this McGinn’s idea…it was wasn’t it….

  4. I also agree with the previous comments that the location is terrible for a parklet. While the concept is not bad, those involved have to look at the larger picture. For example, parking spaces in Capitol Hill are so limited, which makes visiting some of these businesses like Crumble and Flake or Montana already so frustrating. Really, before the city designs parklets, we need to fix the parking issue – limited spaces, paying for parking, short time limits. We need to make housing and having small businesses here on the Hill more affordable. Parklets and outdoor spaces need to be created in smart spaces not coveted parking spaces or uncomfortable sidewalks that reek of urine. And quite frankly considering Seattle’s weather, more creative indoors spaces (New York is great at these) would be more welcome.

  5. I think this is an excellent idea. The 1 or 2 former parking spaces this occupies is negligible compared to the public utility this parklet will provide. Local establishments having more outdoor seating is never a bad thing.

    To those complaining about parking on the hill, maybe you should try public transportation or bicycling?

    • Maybe I SHOULD try two bus transfers and 1.5 hours of commute time to get to Capitol Hill to share it with those that live there! Makes sense, since by car it only takes me 15 minutes and no transfers!

      • With parking being such a problem, we should just meter all the street parking in the neighborhood. That would free up some space, wouldn’t it?

        • It IS metered. And all the neighborhood parking is 2 hour zoned, People seem to forget that people actually live here, and all those new condos they build? Well they don’t build parking for them.

    • First of all, public transit does go to half the city, and biking isn’t always an option due to distances. Secondly, 1 or 2 spaces is NOT negligible when there are already far too few and there are already 3 parks in the area. This isn’t even a park, all this is is an extension to their outdoor seating. It is a bar/table with benches on a raised platform and a ramp to it. It is no more a “place to gather” than the Montana already is.

      I’m not saying that these are a bad idea everywhere, but putting it in a place with high traffic, lots of pedestrians, and lots of parking issues, with actual parks nearby just seems like a bad idea.

  6. Perhaps the City needs to read its own information about sidewalk obstacles and how undesireable, inconvenient, and potentially dangerous they are:
    http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pedestrian_masterplan/pedestrian_toolbox/mas_blocked.htm
    It always seems that the more people need to use a sidewalk, the less space is available for pedestrian traffic. Perhaps the Hill could look to The Ave to see how bad it can really get, and not create similar problems by sanctioning construction on pedestrian throughways.

  7. Traditionally we didn’t rely on parks or back yards for green space. We had parks of course. We built wide sidewalks with places to sit, eat or even play all along. Park avenue in New York was exactly what it’s name would imply a park avenue. Parks were placed in busy areas surrounded by a mixture of uses. That’s pretty much the only way a park can be successful. Even cal Anderson is only a good park for 18 hours a day because there’s no 24 hour activity. My vision for the future is that these parklettes will reclaim the right of way for humans (which is who it should belong too) and we will once again have streets that act as an extension of our home instead of a place for people who could care less about the community to park there car for 90 minutes and leave. For those of you complaining about not being able to park in front of crumble and flake, support density. The more crowded an area is the more demand there will be for business to expand or for similar businesses to start.

    • As someone who has lived in Manhattan, San Francisco and Osaka Japan, I am all for density. But smart density. Unlike cities like Manhattan or Paris or Tokyo, our city doesn’t have phenomenal efficient and quick public transportation, so until we do, cars will be important, especially for those who don’t live on the Hill, for those on tight schedules, for those with 2 baby strollers. Nobody wants to spend 1.5 hours on the bus with transfers to get to one business. You want to be able to move about quickly so until we have some sort of better transportation system that connects all the major neighborhoods quickly, then parking spaces and cars are important – just as important for the survival of small businesses to bring about foot traffic and volume of customers not just in their own neighborhood but beyond. And there are ample “parks” in Seattle that are never crowded – Volunteer Park, Seward Park, Jefferson Park, etc. I feel like Seattle is lacking smart urban designers and planners.

      • Perhaps we should take a similar stance on public transport then: make it faster and more efficient by having dedicated mass transport areas instead of sharing it with cars. That bus will take a lot less time if it doesn’t have to wait in traffic.

  8. Bike, walk, public transit, car pool… So many options to get maneuver throughout our city! I love the parklet idea and that this will benefit both of these terrific neighborhood locations. Can’t wait.

  9. There is already not parking on that side. However there is a bus stop. If I’m correct, this is the spot directly in front of Clever Dunne’s. I’m not getting how this is going to work.

    • This is directly in front of Montana — on west side of street. In the diagram, the bottom line represents curb of E Olive Way.

  10. Shoot! Never mind, I read that wrong. It will take away 1 or 2 parking spots in front of Montana. I suppose its work trying. However, Lots of people smoke outside Montana on the weekends, so I can’t see it being all that pleasant between the smoke and bus/car exhaust.

  11. The parklet looks great! Kind of weird that it’ll be okay to drink inside the space on the sidewalk but not inside the space on the street, though.

  12. Can’t we give it a try rather than kick, scream and complain? Parklet’s are successful in other cities, let us test them and see how they are used and maintained. If they’re a failure, scoop them up and restore the precious parking spot(s). Sheesh.

      • Definitely! That’s the point of an “experiment”. :-)

        It’s fun to have lots of different types of parks and alternate uses for space, to encourage new types of activities. Capitol Hill isn’t a great neighborhood because of parking and cars – it’s a great neighborhood because we do artsy fun stuff, try new things, and have lots of people walking around socializing and enjoying it all.

        I would like to invite all of you parking-needers and car-lovers to motor your unadaptable selves over to Bellevue, land of parking and expansive roadways, and soak up the “culture” there.

  13. will the parklets have hours? I mean being next to the bars you should be able to use them into the wee hours of the morning, but then again, with a covered space in the winter, it wont be long before this space becomes like Summit Slope park does in the cold months and has its own permanent residents.

  14. I am all for density, however, people that don’t live on the hill are starting to lose opportunities to see all that we have to offer because all the parking lots are becoming apartments with no parking stalls for visitors. This parklet isn’t that bad if it only takes away 1.5 parking spots but if they continue to create more, it may be a problem. Moreover, they are putting them in areas where major traffic is running. I really don’t need to sip my latte and inhale fumes. My friends don’t want to visit me to hang out over here because by they time they see me, they have been looking for a parking place for 45 minutes and are grumpier than hell. (Usually after 7pm and even earlier if it is a weekend) Furthermore, all the cool places are being torn down because they want to create more apartments such as B&O, Cafe Septieme, Bauhaus, etc. If I wanted this place to be like Belltown, I would LIVE there. This place is being drained of its charm. As for the comment about using the transportation versus owning a car, it would be nice if the bus on my route didn’t stop running at 10pm. Lucky for me, I am able bodied and can walk and someone walking with me. However, I am a woman and if I had groceries or was carrying something heavy, it would be kind of dangerous. I was stopped by 3 people on some type of substance strung out by the convention center and another 2 when I hit Bellevue Avenue and Olive. This is not NYC or San Francisco, we don’t have the infrastructure or the police power. We can barely keep Cal Anderson safe.

  15. As someone who lives on Capitol Hill, doesn’t own a car (I walk/bus), and frequents these businesses, I’m excited to see these go up. It kinda feels like I’m in the minority here!

    • A waste of money? Whose? The merchants pay for design, materials, construction, and maintenance. Not to mention application and permitting fees.

      “Why is the city so keen on eliminating parking spaces? Merchants want them and they serve a real purpose.”

      If you’ve been following the stories here and elsewhere or read the city’s website, you know that the pilot program only exists because of interest by merchants, that particular parklets only exist because adjacent businesses applied for the chance to build them, and that the city has been in contact both with neighboring businesses and neighborhood business associations in CH, Belltown, and the ID.

      Sorry, but this just isn’t a case of anyone “taking” parking from kicking and screaming merchants. Quite the opposite.

  16. Really they talk about what great extra seating this will be for Crumble and Flake and Montana so it just seems like a bending of the rules so those businesses will have more space for their customers–not really like a public park. Will people really be able to hang out there without a purchase? If so, what’s to keep it from constantly being occupied by groups of street kids or chronic drunks/druggies? I think it will end up inconveniencing many and benefiting only a few.

    • “Will people really be able to hang out there without a purchase?”

      Of course. There will be large “Public Parklet” signs displayed at each entrance.

      “If so, what’s to keep it from constantly being occupied by groups of street kids or chronic drunks/druggies?”

      Other cities with just as many or more problems with vagrancy and undesirable street behavior have reported few problems with parklets. They’ve been wildly successful in San Francisco, for example.

      “I think it will end up inconveniencing many and benefiting only a few.”

      You think that based on what? It doesn’t take much daily parklet use to outnumber the people who benefit from 1.5 parking spots over the same period. And unlike a car, a parklet is free to use and available for everyone to enjoy.

      • Please tell us how the parklets in San Francisco have been “wildly successful.” I’m skeptical of your statement.

        • I can only speak anecdotally–but having visited San Francisco and seen the parklets in front of both bars and cafes they appear to be well maintained by the business that financially support them, primarily used by customers and area residents vs. transients and actively used and appreciated.

          They’ve been running the program for nearly five years (I think?) and have continued with it–which seems to imply on some level that it’s been successful. Especially since San Francisco isn’t generally victim to molasses slow public process in the same way Seattle is.

          Wildly successful? Perhaps not, but it’s not like they don’t also have a number of issues related to geographic constraints to parking and transit that are comparable to ours.

          • Well said, Ellen. Although I certainly stand by “wildly successful.”

            San Francisco launched its first parklet as part of an actual program in 2010, already has nearly 40 built, has at least 12 more underway and *60* more applications in-hand. They have mobile parklets on wheels and parklets that stretch for blocks. They’ve sparked a new national and even international trend, with cities around the country and world emulating their program.

            I don’t know how that qualifies as anything but wildly successful.

            Through it all they’ve removed just a single parklet that was poorly managed and subject to undesirable activities. But of course, that’s one of the beauties of parklets: they’re not permament, can come down in a manner of days, and removal—like everything else—is paid for by the private sponsor.

            The San Francisco Chronicle itself recently called the city’s parklets “wildly popular.”

  17. I have only one word to describe this parklet idea: STUPID!!

    This “experiment” will fail, I am quite certain.

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  19. I want to be supportive of this, but I am not seeing the placement of it as a pleasant area to sit and relax. I lived on the Hill for 20 years (around the corner from this site) and went most of it without a car, so I get the walk/bus/bike ideal, but I do think the lack of parking is an issue. I also think that sitting right “in the road” if you will, is not going to be pleasant when traffic is bad.

    I can not seem to get 100% behind this idea, as much as I would like to.

  20. Ok, time to bring up ancient Rome and what they might say about moving around in a large city.

    If the tycoon has an appointment, he rides there in a big litter,
    the crowd parting before him. There’s plenty of room inside:
    he can read, or take notes, or snooze as he jogs along—
    those drawn blinds are most soporific. Even so
    he outstrips us: however fast we pedestrians may hurry
    crowds surge ahead, those behind us buffet my rib-cage,
    poles poke into me; one lout swings a crossbeam
    down on my skull, another scores with a barrel.
    My legs are mud-encrusted, from all sides big feet kick me,
    a hobnailed soldier’s boot lands squarely on my toes . . .
    (Juvenal, Satire 3.241–248) – See more at: http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/the-seven-plagues-of-the-ancient-roman-city-dweller/#sthash.A0EB8c85.dpuf

  21. Great just what cap hill needs, less parking. I like the idea of small parks, but lets put them in places that aren’t already scarce, maybe some of the disgusting ally ways could use a spruce up tiny park. Quit making parking a living hell on the hill. Raising meter fees, building parks on them? What’s next, no parking on the hill?

  22. I live on this block and I am shaking my head. This is a horrible idea and the city should not allow it. Both the parking spaces and the sidewalks are essential for not only the people who come from everywhere to patronize these businesses but also for the people who actually live here. And, who really wants to be hanging out in the parklet when there is a serious accident, which there very often are around this area. The streets and sidewalks are for transit, not loitering. Losing one more parking space on Capitol Hill is one too many.

    • If there is less parking, the people who come to this neighborhood will find another way to get there instead of a car, which is GOOD for the residents. Less exhaust, less traffic. And the streets and sidewalk in many cities aren’t for “transit”, they’re for people. Not every single street in Seattle needs to be designed primarily for cars.

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