Federation for
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Parklets - Claiming Back the Streets

The IFHP travel squad reports from San Francisco: San Francisco’s parklets transform underused space in the streets into public space available for all to enjoy.

The simple and low-cost design intervention has proven to be an innovative and practical concept for new urban parks. Since 2010, nearly 40 parklets have been installed in the streets of San Francisco and more are yet to come.

Private Initiative - Public Parks
Even though San Francisco’s Parklet Program is based on private initiatives, they intend to create small publicly accessible open spaces that add vitality to the public realm.  Merchants, community organizations, business owners, and residents can install a parklet in their neighborhood, but the open space has to be welcoming and inviting to all users. Adding beauty to the streets of San Francisco, the parklets reflect the diversity and creativity of the people and organizations who sponsor and design them.

Innovative Implementation
What is innovative about parklets is not so much the design as the implementation. Through prototyping and private-public partnerships, San Francisco has succeeded in providing an economical solution to the need for increased public space. Krista Canellakis, Mayors Innovation Fellow, explains how the government has borrowed strategies from the tech industry by asking “what is the minimum viable product for a project?” Paul Chasan, Urban Designer at San Francisco Planning Department, continues: “We got a few pilots sites, we then secured funding, we put the parklets on the ground and incrementally built up the program. That sort of testing and demonstrating project approach has been very successful.”

The Social Dimension
Parklets often serve as neighborhood anchors and destination points. They provide space for neighbors to gather and get to know one another. Collectively, parklets broaden the potential to engage in the public realm. “We have been successful in getting the public to understand that the investments in the public realm are going to be to their benefit. Doing something light and temporary to test it has been really effective,” Paul Chasan concludes.

Have a look at the photo gallery and get inspired by the various different parklets - San Francisco’s bottom-up approach to small public parks.


  • The Parklet Program is a component of the Pavement to Parks Program.
  • Parklets are funded and maintained by neighboring businesses, residents, and community organizations, but they are publicly accessible and open to all.
  • The world’s first formal public parklets were initially conceived and installed in San Francisco in 2010.
  • As of February 2013, thirty-eight parklets have been installed throughout San Francisco, and the program is being emulated in cities around the world.


Read the previous blogs on San Francisco
IFHP Travel Squad reports from San Francisco
San Francisco – green and growing
San Francisco at a glance with IFHP
Living Innovation Zones - a tool to improve public space
San Francisco innovating through data sharing
San Francisco - City of High and Low
San Francisco - City of Tranparency and Innovation