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Potential for Leftover Spaces to Become More Public Places

How can we better use space in cities? Allison Arieff takes a shot at answering this question and brings up some very interesting concepts. One of them is from a project called Local Code, an effort of UC-Berkeley professor Nicholas de Monchaux and some of his students to use mapping to identify unused pavement space in major urban areas. Arieff explains:

Local Code (video here) proposes a systemic re-greening of leftover pavement space on a large scale. Culled from a database maintained by the [San Francisco] Department of Public Works, the many sites for Local Code have been deemed “unaccepted streets,” that is, sites in the San Francisco grid that occupy the position of streets but are not maintained by the municipality, or necessarily even passable to traffic. Seen separately and individually, these are litter-filled, residual spaces — and there are 1,625 of them, mostly around highways and industrial sites. But seen as a whole, they have a combined surface area of more than half of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, for example.

“When we examined all the leftover spaces in San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Minneapolis — we found the same thing to be true in every city,” de Monchaux says. “You had a whole archipelago of city-owned lots lying fallow. In New York they add up to the size of Central Park and Prospect Park together. It’s a massive untapped resource that’s impossible to visualize without these contemporary tools.”

The great video below shows the mapping of the spaces in San Francisco, an analysis that shows these areas have high asthma rates, stormwater and other issues, and a concept to make better use of one place.

This type of thinking is needed, especially in built-out cities. While the question would remain about how to maintain and program some of these new quasi-parks, the potential for more public space is clearly there.

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One Response

  1. Thanks for bringing the Local Code project to our attention.

    By the way, some of the unused spaces identified in San Francisco have undergone community greening via the San Francisco Parks Trust and SF Dept. of Public Works Street Parks program – http://www.sfpt.org/OurPrograms/CommunityGreening/tabid/86/Default.aspx.

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