Street Seats

Street Seats on Alberta

I met Rebecca Hamilton five years ago through a friend at my old office, the TENpod Burnside coworking space. Rebecca was excited about the new parklets that had been popping up in San Francisco, and wanted to see what it would take to get something similar built in Portland. She asked me if I could help visualize a proposed installation site, and I said "definitely yes".


Over the next three months, we hosted a design charrette, created a web site, talked with neighborhood groups, lined up partners, and applied for a PDC grant to build parklets at three locations in North Portland. We didn’t get the grant, but we did stir up a lot of interest!  On the next Parking Day, we saw lots of improvised parklets around town, including two that we built ourselves using material borrowed from The Rebuilding Center.

This is what a movement looks like. When a good idea gets loose, people want to be involved. Rebecca and I have been invited to speak at Portland State University (PSU) on three separate occasions. Each time we played the role of parklet evangelists, showing lots of pictures of what's been designed or built in Portland and beyond. So it came as no surprise to me when I read this month that a group of PSU architecture students is crowd-funding a beautiful parket project to be constructed next to a food cart pod on SW 4th Ave.

In 2012, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) unveiled Street Seats, a program that allows business and non-profit groups to carve out a little extra space on their street to be inhabited by people instead of parked cars. Portland now has a dozen of these parklets and PBOT expects to approve up to ten more this year. Applications are due February 20th, 2015. If you are at all interested in this idea, I encourage you to check out the Street Seats slide presentation. It’s inspiring to see how far we’ve come in just a few years!


Joshua Cohen is a Principal at Fat Pencil Studio