Food takes to the streets, literally, on PARKing Day

At the Cheese Board Collective the outside eating possibilities were expanded.

Today, some choice parking spots around Berkeley were commandeered and given over to less auto-oriented pursuits: sitting, eating, lounging and drinking being the main ones.

At the Cheese Board Pizza Collective in the Gourmet Ghetto two parking spaces sported several chairs, an umbrella and a few large yucca plants on a bed of bright green astro-turf. And downtown, outside Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food restaurant, people were enjoying lunch and afternoon drinks on Shattuck Avenue — literally — although with the luxury of a rug underfoot.

The reason? Today is international PARK(ing) Day — a day when parking spaces are turned into parklets, or eating areas, or anything which puts the focus on humans rather than cars.

The notion was conceived by Rebar, a San Francisco-based design studio which describe the PARKing Day as “an annual, world-wide event that inspires city dwellers everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks for the public good.”

Carrie Harvilla (left) of the EBBC had a spot on the reclaimed parking space outside Amanda's.

Today’s Berkeley iniatives were organized by the East Bay Bike Coalition in conjunction with the businesses who wanted to give the concept a shot. Amanda’s for example, reserved the parking space in front of their restaurant early this morning and spent the day feeding the meter (the rugs come up at 6pm).

Carry Harvilla from the EBBC was on hand to explain to curious passers-by what was going on. “We had a lot of Berkeley High students at lunchtime,” she said. “They thought it was so cool.”

At the Cheese Board, whose customers are used to eating at outside tables and on the median right smack in the middle of Shattuck Avenue, some customers were unaware that anything was different. Lounging on a chaise munching on a pizza, one customer said he thought this was just the usual offering. “I’m just having my lunch.” His friend Meg May from Oakland added: “I  like the astro turf.”

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  • Hope this was just for one day. It is so hard to park in Berkeley now. Perhaps everyone too old to risk injury by riding a bike could get free parking.

    Also, I hope people sitting in the street are safe.

  • Mathew Parker

    When is this any different for the Cheeseboard? Their customers litter the sidewalks and medians like the Andromeda Strain hit everyday?

  • It was different because there was more space to accommodate the large number of pedestrians who are always there.

    “It is so hard to park in Berkeley now. Perhaps everyone too old to risk injury by riding a bike could get free parking.”

    Elementary economics: if you give away a scarce and valuable resource for free, you will create a shortage. That is why there were shortages of virtually all consumer goods in the old Soviet economy. And that is why we have a shortage of parking: we generally give it away for free or for a very low subsidized price, rather than charging the market price. Read Donald Shoup: The High Cost of Free Parking.

  • EBGuy

    Just as long as they don’t try to make parklets like they have in Ess Eff. Imagine, people instead of cars… oh the humanity!

  • pham

    I drove to the Cheeseboard, and yes, I had to park (a little) further away, but as EBGuy says, more room for the pedestrians. I’m a sucker for acts of guerrilla street theater, like the parklets, and the “sign cozies”.

  • Thomas Lord

    I don’t get the half-way measures. If you’re going to, sans-permit, take spaces like that — why not take the whole street (presumably making ample provisions for emergency passage of urgent traffic).

  • Perhaps everyone too old to risk injury by riding a bike could get free parking.

    Here we see the problem of American perceptions that cycling is a demanding physical sport, and not everyday transport.

    And aside from health benefits, there is also the safety aspect. Anyone too old to operate a bicycle probably shouldn’t be in control of a 2 ton automobile either.

  • Alan Tobey

    Time to make Cheeseboard Park permanent — by reducing a traffic lane and expanding the median on both sides.

    If this stretch of Shattuck were really still a through road, two lanes might still make sense. But it now primarily serves the gourmet ghetto DESTINATION, where traffic should slow to make way for pedestrians.

    And if the city won’t consider that, well we do know how to create “people’s parks” in this town . . . (Free the Pizzas! Free the Park! Enjoy the median even after dark!)