Across Seattle, drivers constantly prowl the streets in search of the ever-elusive parking space.
“It can be really difficult to find spots,” said Kristi Tollner, after finding a coveted spot on Capitol Hill’s Broadway. “It’s pretty brutal.”
Now, the city is planning to replace some of those parking spots with public parks -- permanent public spaces called "parklets." They’re about two spaces wide, set up on the side of the street and will be available for all kinds of uses.
“We’re basically creating a mini park, a place for seating, a place to have a cup of coffee or just hang out in a parking space,” said Jennifer Weiland of the Seattle Department of Transportation. “We don’t see it as taking parking spots, as much as creating fun public places for people to gather. They will enrich the neighborhoods.”
Weiland says only about eight parking spaces would be eliminated across Seattle, but what if one of those spots was right in front of your business? That notion has some saying nobody should be parking their butts in a parking spot.
“No way. Not around here,” said Ken Bauer, owner of Charlie’s Restaurant on Capitol Hill.
The parking around Charlie’s has been curbed by about 200 spots in recent years due to city projects. More spaces across the city have been lost to bike lanes. Extended hours for paid parking also has business people peeved. Bauer believes losing more spaces means losing more business.
“Seattle is still, contrary to what the ‘powers that be’ downtown may think, a driving town. We drive places. It’s how we get around,” said Bauer.
Park planners will meet with neighborhood groups that are interested in establishing parklets.
“This isn’t something we’re going to force on people,” said Weiland. “People will come to us and request them. If it isn’t a good fit for a community, it won’t go.”
Seattle's Department of Transportation plans to have three or four pilot projects in place by this summer. They are currently taking applications.
11th Avenue near Union Street on Capitol Hill is one of the areas under consideration. It’s a stretch frequented by the homeless and littered with garbage.
One neighbor wondered, “If they build a park here, would anybody even come?”