By John Bela.
In the winter of 2005, I, along with a few colleagues from the Bay Area urban design collective Rebar, liberated a parking space for human use. We transformed a single metered spot into a temporary public park and called it Park(ing).
My Rebar co-conspirators and I were prepared for the worst. People in crowded San Francisco tend to be touchy about parking.
Soon enough we did indeed hear from the city. But instead of the angry summons we expected, we had been invited to meet Marshall Foster, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s director of city greening, at a dark tavern near city hall. “How can we get you to do more of these?” Foster asked. We were floored.
Rebar started as a group of artists and urban interventionists. Our position outside the city-making technocracy allowed us the freedom to experiment with our chosen medium — public space — without the risks inherent in public bureaucracy. Now the bureaucracy was asking how to get in on the hack.
We masked our shock and suggested that the Newsom administration make Park(ing) an official city program: The city could create an avenue for businesses and residents to apply for a permit to convert underused street space into an amenity that served the community better.