Shiny, bright red containers filled with lush greenery and curling ferns have started popping up in downtown San Francisco. Conger Moss Guillard Landscape Architects (CMG) designed the conceptual “Parkmobiles” as a part of the Yerba Buena Street Life Plan, recently unveiled by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at a public event. The plan aims to improve the district’s streets, alleys, and public spaces over the next ten years by implementing over thirty new public space projects.
CMG Landscape Architects designed Yerba Buena’s new Parkmobiles: tiny portable gardens housed in dumpster-style containers. The mini-gardens are just one part of the Street Life Plan’s strategy to address the need for improved public spaces. The six rotating Parkmobiles are a complement to the existing San Francisco “parklet” program, but instead of reclaiming parking spaces to create seating areas, the parking spaces will be “borrowed” temporarily. The Street Life Plan found that Yerba Buena community members would like to develop a sense of place and utilize neglected public spaces – Parkmobiles are one way to make a monotonous streetscape more unique.
CMG’s project was inspired by a city permitting process that allows dumpsters to temporarily occupy a parking spot. Intended for construction debris bins, the Yerba Buena Parkmobiles are large sturdy boxes that can be easily towed away and moved to a new location. Project creators envisioned Parkmobiles as a challenge to the idea that the densely built-up downtown area has no room for gardens. The mobile gardens will also contribute to making the streetscape more spontaneous – bright green vegetation peeking out from the sturdy red containers could have a renewing effect on a deserted alleyway or barren concrete corner.
As part of the larger renewal plan, Parkmobiles reflect a commitment to sustainability through thoughtful use of resources. Sturdy movable dumpsters, hardy drought-resistant plant species, reduced impacts on stormwater drainage and innovative ways to re-use space, while promoting the walkability and bikeability of theYerba Buena neighborhood help make it more environmentally sustainable.
While the Parkmobiles have only been adding a green flourish to the neighborhood for a few weeks, the project has already generated attention from national organizations and garnered CMG accolades within the architecture and urbanism community. This attention could generate ongoing support for other planned public space improvements in store, since Parkmobiles are just one part of the Yerba Buena Street Life Plan. The plan details concepts for greening alleyways, creating more outdoor seating, pedestrian walkways in alleys, and building covered outdoor spaces.