Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Spokane City Council signs off on "parklets"

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 10:28 AM

click to enlarge artsculture2-1-abd5cffd00d672c4.jpg

Parklets — small parks about the size of two parking spaces — could be coming to downtown Spokane and throughout the rest of the city.

Last night, Spokane City Council passed a resolution requesting Mayor David Condon’s administration work with the Downtown Spokane Partnership, downtown’s business association, to implement a 60-day parklet demonstration.

The idea was spearheaded by a nonprofit organization Yes (You Express Studio). The group’s president José Barajas told the council that parklets, which were championed in San Francisco, will include seating, bike racks and vegetation.

“But one thing that it does is that is serves as a platform or as a stage for cultural events: music, dance, performance,” he told the council. “It not only does that, but it encourages people walk and to shop and to stay downtown.”

Barajas said that his group surveyed downtown businesses to see what they thought about the concept. While most thought it was a good idea, he said some were concerned about losing parking. He said his group could install a parklet in two hours and disassemble it an hour.

“One thing to know is this is all privately funded,” he said, noting that Yes will cover all the insurance and maintenance on the first parklet, which could be installed between Stevens and Washington streets. Yes will also monitor who uses it.

Responding to a question from Councilman Mike Allen, Barajas said that there is no incident of a car running into a parklet in cities where they’ve been installed and they’ve exceeded Seattle’s safety standards. Barajas was also asked by Councilman Mike Fagan about how parklets would be affected by Spokane’s sit-lie ordinance, said that the parklet would be watched by Yes and nearby businesses to prevent any vandalism or unsavory activity.

Barajas said he hopes parklets will eventually spread throughout downtown and across the city after the pilot project.

“I’m very fond of this idea because I love Spokane,” said Barajas. “I think it’s a hidden gem.”

The five people who spoke during the public comment period all seemed to like the idea. Even civic gadfly George McGrath, who is typically opposed to almost everything the council does, noted that the parklet “looks good.” But lefty activist Alfredo Llamedo told the council that he would use the parklet to challenge the city’s sit-lie ordinance.

“I intend to get every homeless person I can find to sit in this structure,” he told the council.

“We’ll sleep in them; we’ll camp in them,” he said. “This will be fun.”

The resolution passed 5-1 (Council President Ben Stuckart was absent), with Fagan voting no. 
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