CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter/ A parklet in Toronto
I was shocked, shocked to see a parklet pop up on Elm Street in Toronto. I have seen parakeets damn autocorrect Parklets in Florence and Philadelphia but Toronto? Where taking out a parking space requires a constitutional amendment? Surely not.
But here it is, taking up what looks like two spaces. How could this happen? Apparently they are now legal and of course there are pages in the bylaws on how to get a parquet parklet approved…
Under Article V (Encroachments in Streets) of Chapter 743, private sector parklets are prohibited encroachments that can only be approved by an appeal to Community Council. If approved, the applicant must enter into an encroachment agreement with the City. If the parklet is associated with an abutting commercial use, then this agreement must be registered on-title to the property.
Of course, there is a whole page of rules, and "Parklets associated with outdoor cafés and eating areas are limited to the period between 1 May and 31 September," but it’s a start.
And here it is, a sort of rolling bench made out of wood, designed and built by the Department of Architectural Science at Ryerson University. (disclosure: I teach sustainable design across the street at the Ryerson School of Interior Design. But they don’t talk to each other much.) It is not the only one and not the first, but they don’t let me out much, it is the first I have seen.
© Rebar/ Tony’s Pizza in San Francisco, an early Parklet
The Parklet has a fascinating history; it started with Park(ing) day in San Francisco in 2005 as a sort of guerrilla urban intervention where parking spaces were occupied and used for anything but parking. In 2012 I wrote:
It was such a good idea that people (including San Francisco urban planners) wondered why it shouldn’t happen year round; there are 30,000 parking spaces in the city where public space is used to put cars. Why not let people have a few of them? Thus the Parklet was born.
Of course, being Toronto, the parklet is protected by orange cones which I hope are temporary, although I am surprised that they don’t have to hire paid duty police like they do on construction sites, just to be sure.
But it is all very exciting, the next thing you know the City will do progressive stuff like bike lanes on Jarvis Street oh they did that never mind.
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