Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

Case Study: Pavement to Parks; San Francisco, USA

Location: San Francisco, California, USA
Population: 0.8 million
Metro: 4.5 million
Extent: 65 parklets installed citywide; 7 street plazas installed citywide
Size: 2–2.5 m x 10–12 m
Context: Mixed-use (Residential/Commercial)
Cost: Commercial and residential Construction 10,000–30,000 USD Fees 2,000 USD
Annual permit 250 USD
Funding: Private  Cost of construction and fees are covered by the applicant.)


San Francisco has been credited with the creation of the first parklet. Parklets were introduced with street plazas in 2009 as part of a collaborative effort between several municipal agencies, now called the Pavement to Parks (P2P) program.

Because of the involvement of local nonprofits and business owners, parklets are context-oriented street improvements.

The creation of parklets and similar small-scale open spaces has inspired a widespread effort across a number of cities in the United States and around the world. As of March 2015, more than 60 parklets have been installed by merchants, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, and other organizations throughout San Francisco.

Key Elements

Parklets are removable and do not impede curbside drainage.
Parklets are open to public; stewards may not use them exclusively nor for commercial purposes.
Parklets are universally accessible. They are all raised to curb height with no obstacles to wheelchair access.


  • Reimagine a street’s potential.
  • Foster neighborhood interaction.
  • Enhance pedestrian safety and activity.
  • Encourage non-motorized transportation.
  • Support local businesses.


San Francisco Planning Department, San Francisco Public Works, Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), Local Business Association, citizen associations, nonprofit organizations, and Community Benefit Districts.

Keys to Success

A strong steward or local partner, who oversees daily operations and maintenance, is crucial to long-term success.
Cities should cultivate a diverse set of project partners. These may be neighborhood organizations, service, or cultural institutions, or other nonprofits, in addition to merchants and commercial entities.

Activity throughout the day and week ensures a public space is well loved and used. Activity also encourages more social mixing with a greater sense of safety and comfort. Ideal sites are surrounded by uses that naturally generate pedestrian activity.

Regular programs with local cultural and institutional partners help build a positive place identity, local stewardship, and pride.


Lessons Learned

Start Small. Pop-up demonstrations and short-term pilots help open dialogue about larger and longer-term installations.

Follow-Up Is Key. After various pilot phases of a project, communicate lessons learned and next steps with city and public stakeholders. Document stakeholder roles, expectations, and design and operating parameters, as they evolve through different phases of a project and program.

Emphasize Equity. As the program grows, ensure that disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities are being served.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.