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Parklets and Swales and Plazas…Oh My!

Have you ever wanted to close a street for a block party but just weren’t sure how to do it? Have you ever participated in PARK(ing) Day and wished it could last longer than an afternoon? Or have you ever wondered whether you could turn the planting strip in front of your house into a rain garden?

Well, you’re in luck! SDOT has a new Public Space Management Program, and the program’s mission is to “promote and regulate a vibrant, safe, accessible, and attractive shared right-of-way.” That means that we’re working hard to make it easier for you to activate the public rights-of-way, taking advantage of the many creative ideas that exist and still ensuring that people can get where they need to go when they need to get there.

Earlier today, SDOT presented the Parkletrecommendations of the 34-person Public Space Management Task Force to the City Council. The task force included City staff as well as members of the public, representing different neighborhoods and interests. Over the course of just a few months, the task force has helped SDOT define the work plan for this new program, and the group explored a wide range of initiatives—from parklets to street furniture to A-frame signs to play equipment—for activating and enhancing the public realm.

Through its work, the task force narrowed the City’s focus to 22 program areas, identified tools needed to ensure that we’re successful, and prioritized the program areas as outlined below:

  • Urgent (highest priority for action and should begin immediately):  alley activation, business and neighborhood amenities, coordinated street furniture, enforcement, green infrastructure, parklets, public loos and drinking fountains
  • Important (second priority, beginning sooner rather than later):  A-frame signs, buskers and performance space, festival streets, newspaper boxes, pavement to parks, play equipment, pole banners, public plazas, shared spaces, vending of merchandise
  • Stable (limited intervention needed due to recent program or policy changes but should be monitored):  farmers’ markets, gardening, mobile food vending, sidewalk cafés, street closures

We’ve built a detailed work plan for the next five years, and we’re already taking the next steps to develop these program areas. We’ll be working with other City departments and agencies, community organizations and neighborhood groups, and other public and private partners to make a big impact with these 22 program areas as quickly as possible.

Want to learn more? Take a look at the materials from this morning’s Council briefing, and keep an eye out for more information coming soon. To get on our mailing list for upcoming announcements, email jennifer.wieland@seattle.gov.

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