One of San Francisco’s claims to fame is the “parklet” – a mini public park or, as some call it, a “sidewalk extension” – created by reclaiming two former metered parking spaces and turning them into a public space. This year marks the 5th anniversary of the official parklet program in San Francisco, so we’re taking you on a tour of a few of these fun and inspiring public spaces. San Francisco’s parklet program operates via sponsorship from a local business or partner, so each of the dozen parklets we visited has a special relationship with the neighborhood, the local economy, and the type of business sponsoring it. Businesses have also partnered with local designers, architects, builders, and landscapers to create these unique environments and designs.

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1. Cumaica

Cumaica Coffee hosts this unusual and eye-catching parklet on bustling Clement Street. Designed by Anzfer Farms, the space features a combination of one-of-a-kind handcrafted wooden sculptural furniture and lush plantings draping the sides. The location is a perfect representation of the urban challenges parklets can address – located on a bustling street filled with shops, dim sum takeout spots, coffeeshops and bakeries, the parklet provides sorely needed public seating and outdoor space where none existed.

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2. Cinderella

Cinderella Russian Bakery and Cafe hosts one of San Francisco’s newest parklets, designed by Gehl Studio. The parklet overflows with gorgeous plantings, succulents and flowers spilling out of wooden boxes stacked to create the edges of the space. There are also colorful chairs and tables arranged to create a garden cafe atmosphere.

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3. Devil’s Teeth

This modern, angular wooden parklet sits outside the Devil’s Teeth Baking Company in the Outer Sunset neighborhood. The parklet was designed by Shane Curnyn of Matarozzi Pelsinger. Families, dogs, local workers, kids, and surfers congregate here on sunny days to chat, sip coffee and chow baked treats.

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4. Mojo

Mojo Bicycle Shop and Cafe, on Divisadero Street, plays host to one of the first permanent parklets in the city. Designed by Riyad Ghannam of rg-architecture, the parklet features planters full of tall shrubs that shield visitors from traffic alongside brightly colored cafe furniture. The parklet is often full of customers and locals enjoying coffee, beer, talking bike repair, or enjoying food from one of Mojo’s regular food pop-ups.

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5. Four Barrel

Four Barrel Coffee on Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District hosts a unique metalwork parklet designed by Boor Bridges Architecture.  The parklet features spots to sit, stand, and hover while chatting or drinking coffee, with an extra large metalwork bike rack on the end.

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6. Outerlands

Sustainable New American restaurant Outerlands sponsors a parklet right off Judah Street, decked out in muted concrete and driftwood to blend in with the often foggy weather in the neighborhood. The parklet plays host to families, kids, locals, and visitors waiting to eat the tasty bread at Outerlands.

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7. The Mill

The Mill bakery and coffeeshop hosts a simple yet functional parklet on San Francisco’s Divisadero Street. Designed by Boor Bridges Architecture, the parklet features ample wooden seating and tables, plantings on either end, a brick floor, and a large bike rack. Visitors bring their dogs, their journals, and their homework to the tables to enjoy some fresh air.

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8. Deepistan

Hosted by resident Amandeep Jawa, this unusual take on the parklet design features a succulent topiary triceratops and gorgeous plantings. Designed by Jane Martin of Shift, this is the only public parklet hosted by an individual. Jawa jokingly refers to the parklet as “Deepistan National Park” and has even devoted a website to the space, its design, and how the public can interact with it.

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9. Seabreeze/Other Avenues

This Judah Street parklet is co-sponsored by Seabreeze Cafe and Other Avenues Food Co-op. The wooden parklet has a unique, flowing yet angular shape, with one end resembling the prow of a boat. Designed by local studio Interstice, the parklet also features seating, standing tables, plantings, and a large bike rack.

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10. Trouble Coffee

Trouble Coffee hosts one of the most unusual parklets in our lineup. Far out in Western San Francisco near the ocean, this unique driftwood styled parklet features an enourmous eucalyptus trunk as a form of bench seating. The parklet is accented by cute succulent plantings and decorative woodworking around the edges. This parklet is a community effort, with the building materials donated by local friends, customers, and businesses.

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11. Simple Pleasures

Local cafe Simple Pleasures is a neighborhood gathering spot day and night, just blocks from Ocean Beach. The new parklet, constructed mainly from wood, features multiple levels of seating and benches for visitors to enjoy chatting, coffee, lunch, or sunning on a nice day. Designed and built by Ron Stanford at Step 3 Studio, the plantings were done by Tina Calloway at Urban Farm Girls. 

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12. Ritual

Ritual Coffee hosts a fun parklet on Valencia Street. Shaped like a boat, and designed by Boor Bridges Architecture, this parklet features seaside plantings and seating inside the boat’s ribs. Seen from across the street, it looks like a shipwrecked on the sidewalk.

While San Francisco formalized the process of creating parklets through its innovative “Pavement to Parks” program, other cities such as LA, Philadelphia, and Seattle are also considering how they can participate in creating more public spaces in their neighborhoods with similar concepts. Don’t forget to check out Park(ING) Day in your city this Friday, September 18 and check out coverage here on Inhabitat to get inspired on how parklets could look in your neighborhood.