Berkeley’s first 2 parklets to open this fall

An artist's conception of the new parklet in front of Philz Coffee and Guerilla Cafe. Photo courtesy of the North Shattuck Association.

An artist’s rendering of the new parklet that will be in front of Philz Coffee and Guerilla Café. Photo: North Shattuck Association

Sometime in the early fall, coffee-sippers and pizza-eaters may find themselves sitting outside at one of Berkeley’s two new parklets.

If all things go to plan, the first one is set to open in front of the Cheese Board Collective at 1520 Shattuck Ave. in the city’s Gourmet Ghetto, according to the North Shattuck Association’s Executive Director Heather Hensley. A second parklet will open in front of Philz Coffee at 1600 Shattuck, and at Guerilla Café (1620 Shattuck) soon after. They will be maintained by the adjacent businesses but will be open to non-customers too.

No bigger than a few parking spaces, these miniature urban parks are extensions of the existing sidewalk and provide additional seating and green space for pedestrians.

The Philz and Guerilla parklet will include seating for up to 25 people as well as a standing bar. Photo courtesy of the North Shattuck Association.

The Philz and Guerilla parklet will include seating for up to 25 people, as well as a standing bar. Photo : North Shattuck Association

Local designer Ian Moore is collaborating with the North Shattuck Association on the Philz and Guerilla location. He believes the new parklets will generate even more appeal for the Gourmet Ghetto, which is already a popular commercial district.

“Parklets help people fall in love with a place they already like,” Moore said. “They create an opportunity to spontaneously meet, hang out, learn more about your neighbors.”

Moore designed the space with this idea in mind. There will be both movable and fixed seating­­ for 25 people, as well as a standing bar. The structure itself will be made of reclaimed wood and steel and feature several planters and a shade canopy. Next to the parklet will be 12 bike parking stalls.

While this may seem like a modest addition to the district, it has taken years to realize, Hensley said. Until recently, the city had no official permit process for parklets, so members of the North Shattuck Association worked closely with Eric Angstadt, the city’s planning director, and city councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguín to develop a parklets pilot program, which was approved last July.

But the obstacles didn’t stop at permits. Some community members wondered how the city would replace revenue lost from the parking spaces supplanted by the parklets. Hensley said that a recent reconfiguration of parking at Shattuck Avenue and Rose Street added 10 new spaces to the site, which gave them some breathing room for the projects. Emunah Hauser, who is running publicity for the project’s fundraising campaign, added that the increased seating space and bike parking should draw even more people to the area.

“There’s this paranoia about parking spaces, and it always works from an assumption that people who walk and bike aren’t customers, but you can get a lot more people coming through a certain area when you don’t have one person taking up a parking space for an hour,” Hauser said.

Parklets create a reason for people to stay in the area longer, go to more shops and get hungry enough to eat at a local café or restaurant, according to Hensley and Hauser.

People routinely eat on the Shattuck Avenue median near the Cheese Board. Photo: Jason

People routinely eat on the Shattuck Avenue median near the Cheese Board. New parklets might change that. Photo: Jason

In the case of the Cheese Board Collective’s parklet, additional seating might also make for a safer option. The popular pizzeria and bakery regularly host throngs of people, and chairs quickly get snatched up. For some customers, Shattuck’s grassy median is a convenient — although illegal —alternative. But sitting there puts them dangerously close to street traffic. The added space provided by the parklet might curb this habit, Hensley said.

Funding will be the last challenge for planners. Although small, the parklets are not cheap. Hensley puts their cost at $20,000-$25,000 a unit. The Cheese Board Collective is footing its parklet’s bill, but the one in front of Philz and Guerilla will be crowdfunded, which Hensley said will reinforce a sense of public ownership.

“We probably could have gone to some funders and tried to get some sponsorship from a bank, but that isn’t what was about, we wanted to have it be multiple small donations, and have a lot of people feel like they owned it. It’s sort of a way of building community,” she said.

A Kickstarter campaign started last Friday has raised over $500 so far, and planners hope to boost that number to $15,000 by the end of July. If they can raise the money by that time, they should be able to break ground on the project by late summer and complete the parklet by fall, according to Hensley.

Their efforts won’t stop there. Hensley says a third parklet is in the works for a space on Shattuck in front of Saul’s Deli at 1475 Shattuck and that the North Shattuck Association is helping other groups around the city start their own parklet projects.

While Berkeley has a long way to go before it can match San Francisco’s flourishing parklet scene, continued efforts from groups like Hensley’s are pushing in that direction.

Drew Jaffe is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. He grew up in the East Bay and now attends Occidental College in Los Angeles. He can be reached at djaffe@oxy.edu

Related articles:
Berkeley parklets stir up excitment, apprehension (07.08.2014)
Berkeley officials get closer to public “parklet” policy (06.10.13)
North Berkeley merchants want parklets for the people
 (08.31.12)
Trees and seating focus for Solano Avenue improvements (08.16.12)
Cheese Board Collective: 40 years in the Gourmet Ghetto (07.08.11)
Food takes to the streets, literally, on Park(ing) Day (09.17.10)
Keba Konte, Guerilla Café (04.09.10)

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  • Free Loveman

    I love it!

    Who wants to meet up outside Cafe Gratitude for a drum circle and poetry reading?

  • lukebc

    How do YOU post from under that rock YOU’re stuck under?? San Francisco has about 50 parklets and the “homeless problem” with the parklets are the LEAST of the problems. THE MAIN problem with parklets is that they are too popular and people end up spilling over and blocking the sidewalk. KEEP UP.

  • Completely_Love

    In contemporary usage, the word hobo is not used, period, except to refer to the hobos of the 1930s and before. Or by an occasional Berkeleyside commenter looking for another derogatory term for the homeless.

  • Seriously Cartilaginous

    Okay, but you have to sign up for the Landmark workshop.

  • Ha!

    Very funny name.

  • guestilion

    That might not be as much of an issue as you’d think…

  • bgirl

    I grew up in the
    neighborhood from 1959-2014.

    The two blocks, where the meridian is located, should be made into a pedestrian zone. The “Parklet”is a lame compromise , despite being well intentioned.

    The homeless /mental health problem should not be allowed to curtail public space. The non- treatment/benign -neglect -policy towards the homeless is a scandal and a shameful reflection on our town.

    Berkeley looks more and more like India!! But that is Its a separate problem.

  • Louis14

    I’ve always been amazed to see people eating their fresh and healthy food while sitting in the median breathing car exhaust!