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Capitol Hill’s first parklet — trading parking for park space — coming in August

Wieland offered these images of San Francisco parklets as good examples of what to expect in Seattle's pilot program. (Images: City of San Francisco)

Wieland offered these images of San Francisco parklets as good examples of what to expect in Seattle’s pilot program. (Images: City of San Francisco)

While its exact location is being kept under wraps for now, CHS has learned that Capitol Hill’s first parking spaces turned mini-park spaces will be on E Olive Way. The mini-park is part of a new initiative by the city to create small privately funded open spaces in the midst of Seattle’s busy streets.

They’re called parklets. The city is rolling out a pilot program for the new public spaces this summer, with the parklet on E Olive Way, as well as one in Belltown and one in Chinatown/ID.

The basic idea is a business will sponsor a parklet 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 to an open public space. While they can’t offer service in the space and turn it into a de facto extension of a cafe or restaurant, businesses pay for everything, including upkeep.

The Seattle Department of Transportation’s Jennifer Wieland, who’s heading up the program from the city’s end, said parklets will minimally include seats and tables, surrounded by some plants and an enclosure. A Capitol Hill business owner familiar with the program says plans also include added bike parking to offset the loss of parking for cars.


“We want to leave a lot of flexibility to the sponsors on the design side so the sponsor can add to the creativity of how they get used,” she said. Basic sidewalk rules still apply, so no booze on parklets even if they’re located outside a bar.

Parklets will not be subject to a public design review process, but there will be public notices posted in a 200-foot radius ahead of their installation. Two weeks prior to parklet construction, the city will take public input.

Wieland said the exact location of the E Olive Way parklet will be released in a few weeks, along with a SDOT website offering more information on the project for other businesses interested in creating these spaces and for neighbors and customers to learn more. She said the Capitol Hill parklet’s sponsor is working with the city to make final design tweaks and collecting input from nearby businesses.

Wieland told CHS that the parklets would be designed for year-round use in Seattle, so expect them to be equipped with umbrellas or canopies.

If the three pilot parklets take off, Wieland said the city hopes to formalize the process for starting a parklet by 2014. In San Francisco, for instance, the city takes applications from businesses once a year.

“This is not the city going out and saying that we should do a parklet,” she said. “The business community is coming out and saying we want this.”

On Capitol Hill, it seems, it might be a matter of how you ask the question — and where you ask it. CHS reported earlier this year to survey results showing business concerns about potential loss of parking along North Broadway from a planned streetcar extension.

8456346165_3b9fd6965d_bLate last year Wieland became SDOT’s Program Development Lead for the Public Space Management Program. The cumbersome title belies the coolness of the job, which is to take a comprehensive look at creative right-of-way uses — food trucks, sidewalk cafes, street festivals, and parklets.

Wieland has a few other intriguing projects on her plate, too. “Alley activation” and “public loos” among the “urgent” issues for the program to tackle, according to a Monday CityCcouncil briefing on the Public Space Management Program. Nord and Canton Alleys near Pioneer Square are being activated now, and the city hopes to expand to similar sites soon.

Have a good idea for a Capitol Hill alley? Wieland wants to hear about it. “I would certainly be open to hearing from folks in Capitol Hill that are interested in alley activation generally and/or have a specific project in mind,” she said.

We’ll be hearing from Wieland and that certain E Olive Way business about Capitol Hill’s first parklet, soon.

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41 thoughts on “Capitol Hill’s first parklet — trading parking for park space — coming in August

  1. I think this is really a stupid idea. The spaces will be used mainly by the homeless and street kids. Who will be responsible for taking care of the plants and the inevitable graffiti? What will the nearby business owners think about the loss of parking? Eventually, some drunk driver will plow into one of these and injure/kill people….will they seem like such a great idea then?

    Hopefully, few businesses will get on-board with this foolish plan.

    • Seen and used several in San Francisco. None of them appeared to have issues with homeless, graffiti, or crime. They were all in places where there are enough people to keep them continuously occupied. Here, it sounds like they’re going to be funded AND maintained by private enterprise (you clearly read the article in its entirety). The only thing we’re losing is a government-subsidized parking space. Sounds like a win win to me! As for losing parking, I sure bet businesses, the very people asking for and funding the parklet, don’t mind.

      And eventually, some drunk driver will plow into another car. Or a cyclist. Or a bus. Or a truck. Or a pedestrian. Or a building. Or a business. Or a park located next to the street. And in most of these cases, people are injured and killed every day and we still think driving is an excellent idea. So I fail to see why that’s a valid reason to say “no, we shouldn’t do this”.

    • If we never did anything with public spaces or sidewalks on the Hill (like p-patches, or parklets) because we were resigned to the idea that anything not enclosed within a building or behind a fence or wall is going to be “overrun by street kids” or “covered in graffiti”, then what kind of city streets are we going to have? It’s precisely when people give up on their public spaces that those areas become uglier and more unwelcoming. You HAVE to have parks, outdoor seating for restaurants, things that bring regular city dwellers out onto the streets, or unfriendly, dead sidewalks are precisely what you get.

  2. I think it’s nice to have the added outdoor space during the warmer months. Having seen them in Chicago and Vancouver, they’re a decent addition to streets where they are placed. People actually get out and use the space.

    Potential for graffiti, yes. But we shouldn’t stop creating things because of it. People care for plants in other cities, why would folks in Seattle be different? Do drunk drivers frequently plow into parking spaces today? No they don’t.

  3. Are you fucking kidding? We have a billion parks in this damn city and NO parking hardly anywhere on the hill. If people want to hang in a park so bad, tell them to get off their ass and walk to one that we’re already paying to maintain.

    • Sam, I agree completely. We are lucky on Capitol Hill to have quite a few “real parks,” large and small….Volunteer, Cal Anderson, Louisa Boren, Summit Slope, Thomas Street, upcoming Broadway Hill…just to name a few. Why would anyone want to hang out at a parklet, adjacent to noisy/smelly traffic flow and with very little greenery, when they could walk a short distance to a real park?

      I’m confident that this lousy idea will not catch on among more than a few business owners, who have to pay for the parklets and to maintain them. Why? Because there is nothing in it for them, and because they will get the wrath of nearby business owners for taking away needed parking.

  4. This has all been discussed on here and other places before. The loss of parking is negligible, and the parklets will provide an increase in bike parking allowing more use per hour. It sounds like you’re the lazy one who would rather drive than walk.

    They are not maintained by the city, but by the local business that sponsors them. They will be responsible for cleaning and maintenance, and because it is in front of their business will probably do a good job and be well rewarded for it with increased revenue.

    Part of the design is that the parklet must have a barrier to protect people on it from cars.

  5. As a person who lives part-time in San Francisco where parklets are ubiquitious, I can attest to the fact that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Even on Haight Street, with its dense homeless population, these spaces rarely ever become occupied by loiterers who have to be asked to move on. They make for a much more urban, colorful, community-oriented, safe-feeling environment, more like traditional plazas in European cities. It’s about time Seattle caught up with this trend! Bravo.

      • People don’t take public transportation not because they aren’t “encouraged” to, but because it has been cut back so much that you can’t get to half the city by bus. And even when they do go there it ends up taking two or three times longer and costs more than you would spend on gas. I know cars have other upkeep costs, but for many the ability to actually get to places and in a reasonable time is a good trade off.

      • you’re not entitled to cheap and plentiful street parking. This is a city, and we’re talking about one of the densest parts of it, so deal with it.

        If you can’t get to a place you want to go to a lot within a reasonable amount of time via two feet, a bicycle, or a bus, you’re really going to start hating this city as it continues growing.

      • No one is saying that people are “entitled” to parking….that’s not the point. But be real…cars are a fact of life on Capitol Hill and other neighborhoods, and that’s not going to change anytime soon… they need to be accommodated in a reasonable manner, including making sure there is adequate and reasonably-priced street parking available in commercial districts. Any business owner will say the same thing, as it’s important for their customers and their business longevity.

        You can stick to the pipe dream of everyone walking, biking, etc…if you want…but why not a bit of compromise?

  6. While I am not happy about the loss of parking, I’m excited about this! It’s going to make the streets much more of a nice place to hang out. Will change the atmosphere for the better!

    When is someone going to bite the bullet and put in another parking garage? There needs to be one further East on Pike/Pine and one further North on Broadway. I live 10 blocks away from the central locations I like to visit and I ALWAYS walk to them when the weather is nice. But don’t label me as lazy because I’d like to drive my car closer to where I’m going so that I’m not frozen and soaked when I get there.

  7. I noted that all of the photos have people eating and drinking, and looking happy. What’s so wrong with allowing businesses to serve or customers to take food/drink and sit in the new parklet?

    In any case, I hope this pilot expands rapidly.

      • I really think that 10th ave between Pine and Union (or madison) would be a great pedestrian street if it were cleaned up and improved. The street is basically just a parking lot and has no real traffic, at night it is used as a pedestrian street anyway. There are also several large developments that are happening on that street.

        I have heard people talk about making Pine a ped steet between Broadway and 12th. I like this idea too, i just think it would have a huge effect on traffic in the area.

      • Pine would be a terrible place to put a pedestrian street. The fire station is on pine and 90% of the time they use pine to get downtown because it’s faster than pike which turns into a one way around 8th. Turn pike into a pedestrian street, there are more businesses there anyways.

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  9. It’s not that it’s not an interesting idea, and it’s great if you’re one of the cool people and this can be your hang out, but it’s more of the propaganda about how one should live in Seattle. It’s just a version of some lifestyle that the City and the Progressives claim is how everyone should live. It’s not real, it’s not organic, it’s phoney.

    The other interesting part is it’s mostly transplants that hawk this crap too, they leave the places that ended up having to eke what living spaces out of the cityscape that they could – because their cities were too damned crowded. Here, we’re not crowded quite yet, but on our way, and everyone acts like it is such a privilege to live like a bunch of sardines in little crackerbox units and to be so poor that they cannot afford a car to get around.

    And save the baloney about how you’re saving the planet and you love public transportation. Fact is, either you cannot afford a car, you’re too deluded or too stuck on yourself to deal with the other fact, that your allegedly small carbon footprint isn’t doing jack towards “saving the planet”, or, you’re a lemming following the other car haters, or just plain naive and hence you buy into this kind of corniness.

    Another disingenuous and fake lifestyle brought to you by the people that have either pissed away all the tax dollars, or their friends who told them it was a good idea to park it with them and theirs – who have done a brilliant job of selling the rest of the world on why they should settle for less, and less, and less.

    • As a matter of fact, I DO prefer to ride my bike or take the bus over driving. Like most cyclists and bus riders I DO have a car. Oh, and not that it matters, but I am a native Seattleite. I thought we got over blaming “transplants” for everything back in the mid ’90s…

      I like to see city planners trying things to make Seattle more liveable. This may or may not succeed, but hey lets try it and find out!

    • Over 60% of Seattle is zoned single family with plenty of easy, free parking. Capitol Hill is a relatively small, dense part of the city. One of the things about this city that is great is that you have plenty of options for how you want to live. Nobody is forcing you out of your car.

    • I can’t afford a car—–>my “lifestyle” is disingenuous and fake.

      You seem really cool, can I buy you a drink sometime?

      • One of the points is, don’t pretend that the crumbs being offered and accepted have such moral high ground and are such an advance and advantage for the multitudes.

      • Ann there are actually people who prefer not to drive. I’m one of them. Until recently seattle did absolutely nothing for us. Look at downtown, those streets are designed for people to drive their SUV in from issaquah park for a few hours and leave. There’s no consideration for the 70,000+ that actually live in these downtown neighborhoods, a majority of which don’t even own a car. Actually more than 70%of seattle is zoned single family and a minute percentage of the infrastructure is geared toward the growing number and percentage of carless. It’s time to start changing that. We need less single family and less space designated to the automobile. Ann I’m also really tired of people acting like out of Townes shouldn’t have a say. I wasn’t born here but my mother was, I’m guessing the opposite is true for you. I know so many people who moved here between the 60’s and 90’s and had kids. Them and their children bothe act like they should be the last people to ever move to or be born in Seattle. Thank god the people moving here now have a different attitude.

      • And there are actually people that like to not have their time wasted and be treated like they are outcasts in the bargain. The typical car-less person takes a sanctimonious pose and looks down on people with cars and in the climate that this is all taking place in, acts like they hold some moral high ground.

        Then in the bargain there is this artificial parity that is being foisted on everyone, that all modes of travel are equal, so if motor vehicles have to be marginalized and demonized, that’s okay because some walker that’s going to take three hours to get somewhere that takes 20 minutes in a car, that’s okay because, back to that exceptional moral status granted to the walker, that’s okay – they’re the more worthy person of the two.

        As for your transplant-itis – let’s face it – people come here b/c there is something here that is better than the place they come from. So they’re opportunists on that mark alone. But, the majority of the clamoring of change is coming from people that left big cities and then they come to Seattle and complain and yap about how they want all the accoutrements of the place they left.

        Finally, this topic is in large part about a bullshit City government that casts about the world going, “what are they doing in some other city; we need to do that here!” Without any evidence that their latest planning geegaw serves the greater good, enriches the lives of many people.

        No, the City government is great at pissing away money on fads, pissing away money on faux competitions between cities, and great at layering on the benefits for the consultants they hire and the in crowd that they surround themselves with – those that agree with them.

        In addition, this constant proposing and planning and projects started literally, every week, it is a very real stress on the public.

        We’re put into a constant state of alert, cannot rely on any kind of settled life – our existence in Seattle is being churned pretty much constantly now.

        We shouldn’t discount or underestimate the real stress that is being layered onto our lives by the City. Think of it – your life and literal pathways are being disrupted by the City. For example, your commerce is being mediated – plastic bags no, don’t by processed food, shop at farmers market, patronize food trucks, stores should be comprised of certain types of operational values.

        Your associations are being dictated – don’t drive here, walk there, you need to bike, get on public transit, you need more public transit.

        Not to mention the ongoing psychological warfare – constant messaging about what is good what is bad – constant fake forums – you’re told “we want to hear from you” when the reality is, “not really, we’ve made all the decisions, here is what we are doing – but here is what you should think we are doing, not what we are doing, but what you should think we are doing.

        Our daily lives are being upended with no settled sense of life here in town. Within days some new initiative is being touted and another previously settled part of the city is under threat or planned for extinction or radical change.

        I don’t buy either that there is always “change” and what the City is doing is this natural change. We get older, our fortunes may go up or down, there may be more or fewer of us, we may have more or less, we may change our tastes, people and relationships enter or exit our lives, that’s normal change. This other thing – it’s change for not a lot of good reasons – neither compelling or necessary. It’s more like “we (City) can so we are”.

        According to this article the City can maintain a person whose job is going out and dreaming up “changes” that can be made and then figuring out ways to implement them.

        Can you imagine? The City has enough money that it can literally dedicate and pay a person to inventory your neighborhood and then throw planning spaghetti at the urban wall and see which piece of planning pasta sticks, and then go out and “make it so”?

        So imagine one of these basically authoritarian persons attached to each neighborhood, poking around the alleyways of your neighborhood even, going “hmmmm, what opportunities are there to try out something new?”. And then they have the money behind them to process you in order to ostensibly make you a believer or at least a compliant appendage to the change they will make to your heretofore settled neighborhood and existence.

        Yeah, great life what is being wrought at City Hall.

        The FYI – my grandparents came here in the mid-thirties, to Washington in the 1880’s; my parents and I were both born here, six children, my children, and my four grandchildren, all born in Seattle. We haven’t city-hopped like about half the people in town now.

  10. i think the more pertinent question to ask is not “does it work in SF?”, but “is it worth it in Capitol Hill?”. i agree, public places to sit are great in a dense neighborhood. that’s why i like the many parks in our neighborhood (as Sam pointed out). but, do i want to sit less than two feet away from a busy road, inhaling exhaust? would i feel guilty about eating something i purchased from a business that is not sponsoring the park? do i want to be fenced in by car-proof barriers? why don’t i just walk less than a block over to the Summit Slope Park?

    let’s not turn this into the tired argument of parking vs. public transportation. that’s not really the issue. getting rid of a giant parking lot to build Summit Slope was worth it to me. i can’t speak to whether these parklets are worth it or not, since i’ve never been in one, but i still can’t help but feel this is just a “let’s do what SF is doing” kind of thing.

  11. All these same arguments were raised last year when Portland put a couple of these in. None of it ever came to fruition. The only people who seem to still complain about it are those who want to have something to complain about in the first place and point it out as a sign that the entire city is going downhill due to those &^!#@(*!%@ Liberals.

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  13. I’m going to ruin the day of all the snivelling doomsayers: EVERY place that parklets have been placed have seen an explosion of parklets in that town. San Francisco had a couple at the beginning over 3 years ago and then parklet construction exploded to where there will be close to 50 parklets installed in San Francisco within the end of 2013. The same thing has happened in Chicago and Philadelphia and Vancouver and Boston and other places: first a “trial” of a couple and then the construction of parklets in those towns has taken off! So ALL of YOU snivelling doomsayers whining about “loss of parking” and “fumes from cars” and “drunk plowing into parklet” are going to have seizures when parklets start to bloom like spring flowers all over Seattle!

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  16. Parklets have to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard of, especially for Seattle. It’s bad enough there are those that want to force the generic-a-fication of Seattle, but to go for something like parklets? Please. And how does bike parking make up for loss of vehicle parking? What if someone is disabled and lives above a business? They have to hoof it blocks and blocks with their cane, walker or wheelchair? Replacing the trees that have been killed and dug up over the last ten years or so by SDOT would be better. Much better. Seattle needs parking and to replace the parking it has lost over the last two mayoral administrations. The bicyclists may be trying to take over the city but they are not bringing in any revenue. Parking, fees and taxes bring in revenue to a city that needs money. Venues need patrons that can drive in from outlying areas and have a place to park when they get here. Restaurants and retail need customers that can come into the city. And shoppers need a way to carry their purchases home. Public transit is not shopper friendly. Not to mention all the medical facilities and people who use them. Without the viaduct to take the traffic away from the city, having closed streets is impractical. City streets are going to be flooded with the 147,000 vehicles a day that won’t be taking the viaduct. And from I-5 during construction (and accidents). More –parks– makes more sense. More parks, greenery, good lighting, enough garbage collection of street cans and recycle cans instead of letting them overflow all over the sidewalk and the street in the tourist corridor, and benches scattered around the city for people to sit and rest, people watch and to eat their food truck noms. Not parklets.