Always the third Friday in September, in an effort “to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat,” citizen groups reclaim metered parking spaces around the globe. Rather than intermittently hosting vehicles throughout the day, these spaces are briefly transformed into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public spaces – for people! This movement, known globally as PARK(ing) Day, is an open-source event that began with a single metered parking space in downtown San Francisco in 2005. This year, organized by the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the City of San Diego featured 10 PARK(ing) spaces. Scattered throughout downtown, from Little Italy to Gaslamp and out to East Village, these PARK(ing) spaces delivered on the day’s objectives, to promote: “creativity, civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, generosity and play.”
Pairing with the perfect partner, Donut Bar, the YPG’s Community Service Subcommittee was excited to participate in this annual event for the first time. Setting up just outside the doors of the infamous eatery, the committee, led by Sara Toma and James Alexander, took two ordinary metered parking spaces and reimagined them as one extraordinary PARK(ing) space. With only a short picket fence separating the installation from the street, passersby could use the space typically reserved for vehicles to: play larger than life versions of Jenga and Connect Four, hula hoop, color cityscapes from around the world, or just spend time with friends new and old while enjoying fresh warm apple cider from Donut Bar.
Each of the activities an opportunity for, what one PARK visitor, Abby, described as “single-serve friendship”, or brief unscripted social interaction. As people chatted, colored and played games new connections and ideas were being made and shared. Haley and her mother, Laura, were out for a cycle around downtown and were excited to stumble upon an SDAPA sponsored parklet. Interested in transportation planning, Haley was excited to speak with several PARK-goers about her future plans. While playing the world’s largest Connect Four, competitors agreed the scale of the game forced them to play with a new perspective. This pattern of micro-connections repeated many times throughout the day, and underscored PARK(ing) Day’s theme: cities are for people.
Although PARK(ing) Day only happens once a year, it is a great tool to promote the importance of public space. The YPG looks forward to continuing its participation in PARK(ing) Day, and would like to give a special thanks to Lise Koerschgen with the Downtown San Diego Partnership for coordinating this year’s event, Circulate San Diego for lending its array of giant games, as well as the many APA members who came out to show their support.
Editor’s Note: A special thanks to Melanie Tylke for her exceptional organizational skills and enthusiasm for this event, and to Lisa Maier for writing this article.