Parklets: Is it really that hard?

While I was reading “Life in the Slow Lane” article from Architectural Record I started thinking about the viability of this initiative and how the benefits might help the city to actually increase the number of this units around the city.

In the first place we have the POPOS (privately owned public open spaces) issue, where parklets are seen as a revenue generator veiled as a public good. That got me thinking about the Kelo v. City of New London case, where the ruling established that city’s takings of private property (public property in this case) to sell for private development qualified as a “public use” within the meanings of the takings clause when used for the public benefit; city’s economic development plan in the Kelo case. When it comes to parklets, we’re talking about public space, used by privates under permission of the local government, for private use, but for the benefit of the entire community, where your view changes from a line of cars to a vibrant and livable space that acts as a buffer between the sidewalk and the street.

Then we have the fact of the economic loss. Each parking equals a total $5,000 loss in revenues. That represents a total of $417 monthly loss. Isn’t it possible to charge the private user a fee that equals or barely exceeds the annual loss? I don’t know anything about the total sales a coffee shop or a restaurant might have in a month, but I’m sure that the economic benefit of using that space surpasses the monthly expenses described above.

Finally we have the anger of “parking consumers” because each day there are less parking spot in the city. People mad about it will always exist, but, what if part of the annual permitting revenues described above are allocated to some transit improvement policy that enhances the reliability of the transit system and promotes the use of it instead of driving your car to the area?

I know this is an ideal world where I live in, but if it is possible for me, a random guy, thinking for a few minutes about this. How better can it get if an actual policy maker, with greater access to information and political power actually decides to do something about it?


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