Tiny Parks Sprout In Parking Spots

For one day each year, residents transform parking spaces across San Francisco into miniature parks.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Friday was parking day in San Francisco. An art collective started the event five years ago to draw attention to urban land use issues. What happens is the group reclaims metered parking spaces and puts down grass, trees, and even benches on to what normally is just asphalt.

Cyrus Farivar reports from San Francisco on an unusual installation.

Mr. CYRUS FARIVAR: On any given day, San Francisco's Second Street doesn't look or sound much different than any other moderately busy street in the South of Market neighborhood. Most people just walk right past the usual parking meters. But on Friday, J.J. Toothman stopped dead in his tracks on his way to the office.

Mr. J.J. TOOTHMAN: I work about a block and a half that way. And, you know, just ran into the curiosity of miniature golf on the side of the road. You know, who can deny that?

Mr. FARIVAR: Yes, miniature golf on a busy street. This was just one of 30-odd parking day installations around San Francisco. There were similar setups in other global cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Auckland, Seoul and Warsaw.

This one, built by BLANKET Collaborative, a group of architects and designers, here had three holes of miniature golf built on to a self-contained platform. The whole thing fit precisely into one standard parking space. At various points, Douglas Rooney, one of the organizers, had to feed the meter.

Mr. DOUGLAS ROONEY (Member, BLANKET Collaborative): We figure it's our obligation for taking the space today. It's going to be about $40 for the day.

Mr. FARIVAR: Without missing a beat, Toothman grabbed a neon green golf ball, a club and tee'd up, scanning for the hole on the other side of the parking spot with traffic whizzing by him just a few feet away.

Mr. TOOTHMAN: So where's the - oh it's way over there? All right. Here we go.

Mr. FARIVAR: In this case though, instead of Astroturf, the green was made of a hodgepodge of carpet samples. Toothman scanned down the 20 or so feet. He'd have to bank it off the corner angle to make the hole around a blind corner. But his shot wasn't bad.

Mr. TOOTHMAN: So about 18 inches from the hole. I got the putter out.

Mr. TOOTHMAN: That's a two?

Mr. FARIVAR: For the record, par on this hole was two. But his last two holes weren't nearly as good.

Mr. TOOTHMAN: I probably went six over for three holes and that kind of illustrates why I don't play golf.

Mr. FARIVAR: Still though, he seemed to enjoy his few minutes of shooting three holes of golf on Second Street.

Mr. TOOTHMAN: It's a nice way to spend a Friday morning.

Mr. FARIVAR: At the end of the day, the architects packed up the course, returning this parking space to its natural state, just another meter marking about 150 square feet of street.

For NPR News, I'm Cyrus Farivar in San Francisco.

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