by Francesco Benvenuti
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They come in every color, shape and size. You never know when you’ll encounter one. And, like it or not, they are now a mainstay of day-to-day life for us lucky San Franciscans. I am referring to the parklets that have been popping up all over the city as a way to keep restaurants and bars in businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s hoping the current spike in COVID cases, combined with the latest city curfew, won’t curb our enthusiasm for this curbside phenomenon.
It’s entertaining to walk around the city and behold the creativity that business owners have brought to reinventing their outdoors within the template of a parking space or two. I’ve seen parklets adorned with beautiful artwork by local artists, a full-blown reproduction of a living room with fireplace, a cable car replica, and an outdoor sports-bar with flat screen TVs and gas lamps.
Did you know that parklets originated in San Francisco in 2005? The first parklet was, according to Wikipedia, “an unofficial activist project” created “by feeding a parking meter with coins, unrolling grass sod, and placing a potted tree on top.” A more intentional design, by Italian/Brazilian designer and London resident Suzi Bolognese, was installed here in 2010.
We watched parklets sprinkle lightly throughout town over the next decade, but it wasn’t until COVID that they really took root and flourished. Looks like they’re here to stay?
I recently photographed this scene in North Beach at the intersection near Tony’s Pizza and Original Joe’s. There was a fantastic Sunset fading behind Russian Hill, and I was lucky to be on this rooftop at the right time.
It looks so festive and inviting! I hope we can continue to enjoy parklets long after COVID is under control and a worry of the past.
Photo Credit: Francesco Benvenuti