The San Diego Young Planners Group (YPG) took back the streets on September 21st by co-hosting a “parklet” in celebration of Park(ing) Day with Harris & Associates. On this day, two on-street parking spaces immediately in front of Donut Bar in downtown San Diego were transformed into an accessible, public space where passerby’s were able to sit down, relax, and enjoy their donuts and coffee without fear of vehicle interference. For one day, what was once space for only two vehicles to sit idle, became a blossoming park where people could meet, mingle, and tell us how they were “Shaping San Diego.”

Park(ing) Day started as an event where citizen activists could transform a parking space into a public park by feeding a parking meter for a day while enjoying the space. From these origin’s, Park(ing) Day has evolved into a global event where students, planners, environmentalists, and every day citizens could create a space to call attention to the importance of public space and the amount of land we require for automobile usage. In San Diego, the Downtown San Diego Partnership works directly with the City of San Diego to waive parking meter fees in predetermined places to allow “parklets” to be created and hosted by local businesses and activists.

As an homage to the American Planning Association (APA) California Chapter Conference occurring soon after Park(ing) Day (October 7-10 in San Diego), YPG built upon theme of “Shaping our Future” to engage individuals through the parklet theme: “Shaping San Diego.” The parklet included informational materials related to recycling and ways to get involved in local planning processes, a “How Do You Shape San Diego” vision board, and, of course, and Instagram backdrop to help get our parklet #trending.

As the center of the parklet, the vision board provided an opportunity for YPG to engage with individuals from all walks of life. The board included the overarching statement: “How Do You Shape San Diego,” and parklet-goers were invited to write on the board how they, as individuals, were making strides to shape their communities. While many people imagined that shaping their communities required having a political presence, or “knowing someone,” YPG members were able to have intimate discussions about how they are making an impact at a very local level. This provided us with an amazing outpouring of kindness and generosity through individuals sharing with use the intimate details of their endeavors to improve the quality of life for their family, neighborhood, and even random strangers. Written in permanent marker, our vision board included responses such as: teaching local kids to play baseball, taking reusable bags to the grocery store, and being nice to others.

YPG’s partnership with Harris & Associates was key to the success of this event. Each group played in integral part in developing the ideas and vision for the parklet, as well as providing the manpower to build the parklet and keep it active throughout the day. Thanks also to the generous coffee donation from Donut Bar (as well as free donuts for volunteers), the parklet was well received by many people from many walks of life, even those passing by, staring at the parklet, and asking “um…what is this?” And to think, the day was almost ruined when we arrived in the morning to find a Prius parked in our yet-to-be-constructed parklet!

Don’t worry if you missed us at Park(ing) Day this year. We will plan on co-hosting another parklet during Park(ing) Day 2019! Be on the lookout for pertinent information and updates regarding this come next September — and rest assured, there will be more Instagram opportunities at YPG events in the future as well.

This article was authored by Ricky Williams, YPG Member and Community Service Chair, Transportation and Environmental Planner at Ascent Environmental, Inc.