Gallery: HOW TO: Turn a Parking Space into a PARK


You may have seen this blogging around recently, since the indomitable Rebar collective staged a brilliant urban intervention in San Francisco last month by rolling out some sod and building a mini park in a metered parking space. My friend Gregory Kellett, who assisted in the production of Rebar’s video documentary, sent along a link to their trailer, which is now available for viewing at the Rebar website and shouldn’t be missed.

With many thanks to Matt Passmore and his Rebar brothers, we share with you some simple instructions on building your very own temporary urban park in a parking space. Just be sure you pay the meter. There’s no such thing as free rent…

Turn a Parking Spot into a PARK(ing) Space!

Find a metered parking spot in an ideal sunny location for people to stop, rest, relax, and do nothing. Check to see if your city planning agency (or other open space advocacy group) has a map of areas underserved by public open space. Make contacts! You may be surprised how receptive people are to your PARK(ing) idea.

Other things to consider about the location are:

1. Type of metered space: is it a 2-hour spot or a 1/2 hour drop-off spot. We do not suggest “No-Stopping” zones, loading zones or commuter lanes.

2. People you are trying to serve: downtown office workers, tourists, the down and out, or the high-rollers. When will they be around to see and use the space?

3. Surveillance: are there nearby spots for you or your friends to take pictures or video of the installation?

4. Other environmental conditions: sun, shade, wind, weather, traffic, construction.

PART II – Building Materials

The fundamental elements of a good outdoor public space are seating, shade, a place to watch people and view scenery, and a sense of being in nature.

For Rebar’s first PARK(ing), we installed 200 sq. ft of lawn, a 24″ box/15′ tall tree, a park bench and an enclosing boundary. We also produced signs to indicate to the public that this space was created for their use and enjoyment and to invite them to feed the meter to keep the PARK open.

1. Groundcover: Even a small piece of lawn can transform the hard concrete or asphalt into a soft, green oasis. Sod is available at many garden centers for around $2.00 for a 1 ft x 5 ft roll. Be sure to place a tarp under the sod to prevent absorption of chemicals from the roadway into the sod’s matting. Other bits of nature that may work are moss, potted plants, sand, or anything that will feel good to bare feet.

2. Seating: The more seating you provide, the greater the chance of unplanned interaction among PARK(ing) visitors. Good used park benches can be obtained on the Internet or rented from a film/theatre prop rental
shop. Also, don’t be afraid to utilize “Big Box” retailers with liberal return policies – perhaps you can buy a bench for your PARK(ing) and return it for a full refund when you are finished.

3. Shade: Some nurseries will lease trees by the day or week. Check with your local nursery to find a sturdy tree with abundant foliage for shade. Bamboo or a large indoor plant may work in your climate. Choose a tree you
will be able to move and manage easily.

4. Enclosure: Plastic bollards linked with rope (AKA traffic tubes, available here for about $15/each) potted plants, or any self-supporting boundary is important to provide a sense of enclosure and safety for visitors to your PARK(ing) space.

5. Signs: indicating that this space has been transformed from a parking spot to a PARK(ing) space for public enjoyment and inviting visitors to feed the meter.

6. Spare change: Don’t forget to bring change to feed the meter to get things rolling before your visitors arrive.

7. Please make sure you have a plan to reuse, recycle, or donate the materials – such as the sod and tree – after your PARK(ing) project is complete!

PART III – Planning the Event

Things you should consider organizing in advance are:

1. Sourcing materials like tree, lawn and bench at least a week or two in advance;

2. Transportation for the materials to and from the site;

3. Friends or collaborators to arrive early at the site to hold a space and to help you setup and cleanup;

4. People to photograph/document the event;

5. A plan for dealing with police officers, traffic enforcement personnel, or people angry about you occupying a parking space. Keep in mind that you are acting in the public interest to add to the health, comfort, and vitality of your city. We recommend appealing to law enforcement’s sense of civic pride versus antagonizing them.

6. A place to donate the materials (sod and tree) when the project is over.

Arrive early to secure your ideal space. A couple of strategies for installing PARK(ing) in heavy traffic are to: (1) Obtain two or more spots. One spot to temporarily park your transport vehicle and one (or more) for PARK(ing); (2)
Alternatively, pull up alongside your spot. Turn on your blinkers, and place traffic safety cones or saw horses for safe unloading.

1. Begin feeding the meter.

2. Unload the turf or groundcover. Place the first turf roll against the curb, unroll, and proceed from there. Pruning clippers are handy to trim the turf for a perfect fit. Press the turf edges together snugly to create a seamless lawn.

3. Unload the tree. 24″ box trees are VERY heavy and will require 3-4 people to move safely and efficiently. Site the tree so that it will provide a bit of shade for the duration of your installation.

4. Place the seating, set up the boundary, then place your signs inviting the public enjoy the PARK you have just created for them.

5. Now sit back, relax and enjoy! People may be profoundly indifferent, nonchalant, curious or overwhelmingly excited by your PARK. You may wish to provide them with an explanatory flyer or an email, website or mailing
address to contact you for more information.

Don’t forget to feed the meter!

PART V – Clean-Up

1. Once the meter expires, the sun has gone behind a building, or you have been asked to leave by the police or traffic authorities, load your tree, roll up the turf, and pick up the bench. Carefully sweep up any dirt or debris, and then dismantle the boundary structure. If you are returning a tree to the nursery, take care not to damage it while loading.

2. Ideally you have lined up a place to donate any materials that you don’t plan to keep or reuse. Once you have dropped off all the materials, returned equipment, and cleaned up, take the time to thank all of your friends and collaborators.

PART VI – Getting the Word Out

If you take pictures or video of your PARK(ing), please send them to Rebar at: We will post pictures and stories about your PARK(ing) project on the Rebar site, and provide a link to your local organization/website.

We would also like to incorporate your video into a larger documentary project on the nascent PARK(ing) movement. Please email us for more information on the documentary.

Now get out there and start PARK(ing)!

Concept and materials copyright ? 2005 by Rebar.


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  1. sir jorge March 6, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    if they did that here in seattle, no one could work in downtown.

  2. Reclaim the Parkplatz &... September 30, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    […] citizens around the world reclaimed parking spots to turn them into green spaces! What started as a few grassy plots of sod occupying metered parking spots in San Francisco has blossomed into a world-wide event, and this […]

  3. rebel:art » Blog ... September 30, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    […] citizens around the world reclaimed parking spots to turn them into green spaces! What started as a few grassy plots of sod occupying metered parking spots in San Francisco has blossomed into a world-wide event, and this […]

  4. mikalacat » hope ... August 16, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    […] If you want to turn a public concrete space into a park, the folks at Rebar in San Francisco have a nifty little instruction article here. […]

  5. Inhabitat » Blog ... August 26, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    […] The Rebar Group, who you’ll doubtless remember from their PARK(ing) project, is proving that inspired action can be contagious. The collective of San Francisco greenthumb-artist-activists rolled out sod in a metered parking space last year and set off a viral wave of enthusiasm for disruptive urban art. Now they’re taking to the streets again, and this time, they want you to join them! […]

  6. Matthew Cornell August 20, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    In-freakin-credible! Beautiful idea, great instructions. Thank you!

  7. Inhabitat » Blog ... August 1, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    […] This project reminds us of Rebar’s PARK(ing), which turned metered parking spaces into temporary parks. Both concepts point out not only on our lack of interesting green space, but also our lack of time to enjoy them. We’re huge fans of urban intervention as a means of shaking up normalcy and calling for a change. […]

  8. Saska May 22, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    What a beautiful idea!
    I am collaborating with some fellow sculpture students, to replicate the project in Portland OR.
    on June 1st, 2006

  9. joel May 22, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    really nice idea, and the whole thing on returning the bench thing, maby it isnt very nice but oh well. instead of taking a bench what about some blankets and pillows, cheaper and less formal! turn it into a picnic! now thats an idea

  10. xtian April 29, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    Return the bench? Writing instructions to be cheap and stick it to the man while at the at the same time participating in an experiment in creative urban living. Is this trying a little too hard for every ounce of legitimacy? Its like dropping into the middle of an episode of the West Wing and Josh is talking about how they can rock the vote to the Mexican-American minority. Then Congressman Santos says, “But remember Josh, I am Mexican. We already have that vote.”

  11. eridun February 1, 2006 at 5:29 am

    I think this is an awesome idea! and that whole “returning the bench for a full refund” – it was the big stores idea, not a crime if they didn’t think about that first. Though I would actually just keep the thing – benches are cool and an easy platform to start creating on: paint brushes? ready! clay? ready! GO!

  12. Sarah January 20, 2006 at 12:32 am

    Well, I’ll grant you that it’s not necessarily the most honest move…you could always seize the DIY spirit (which is the spirit of the entire project otherwise) and build your own! Or take the one you buy and put it at your house. Who doesn’t need a park bench?

    And Dan, I am with you. Practicing parallel parking is better than practicing meditation, and a perfect parallel parking moment is absolutely transcendent.

  13. cdub January 20, 2006 at 12:27 am

    I like creative subversion, so I’m hesitant to be a wet blanket. But suggesting buying a bench and returning it for a full refund after using it is unethical. If you’re opposed to to “big box” retailers and their business practices, well enough: don’t patronize them. But condoning theft (it is theft, don’t kid yourself) in the context of an otherwise delightful and positive project is irritating.

  14. Dan Lurie January 20, 2006 at 12:24 am

    In San Francisco, parallel parking is not just a way of life, but a fine art form, to be honed and perfected until you can squeeze your car into a space 3 feet too small.

  15. George January 19, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    Those cars parked are very close together. How are they meant to get out given that it’s a 2 hour parking space? :)

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