ABC7’s I-Team released the results of their investigation into Tutubi Plaza, a “parklet” in SOMA that has become popular with neighbors, if not people with homes nearby. Located on what used to be Russ Street between Minna and Natoma, the small, art-adorned plaza has come to provide a relatively calm oasis for the unique, colorful street life that’s centered on 6th Street. The ribbon was cut on the project back in 2011 as part of the Planning Department’s Pavement to Parks program*, with the Department of Public Works helping install work by artist Jovi Schnell who was selected by the Arts Commission. Google Street View has images from before the plaza’s installation.
Now concerned citizens, some of whom initially supported the project, want the plaza torn out because one of the few public spaces in the area has become popular with people looking for a place to sit or lie, including drug users and sex workers. Sort of like every other public space for blocks around! Nevermind that the housing affordability crisis might be increasing the number of homeless people throughout the region (and traumatizing them in the process), or that that an influx of policing concentrated on Mid-Market is pushing criminalized populations into residential neighborhoods, or that if you want to “clean up” a corner you’re supposed to propose a high-rise development and hire an infamous political consultant.
To be fair, the parklet clearly hasn’t worked out as well as intended, but there are ways to discourage abusive and illegal behavior that would have less impact than tearing out $100,000 worth of work. Besides, having lived at the corner of 9th and Tehama, you can be assured that the presence or absence of street furniture like concrete benches matters little to someone desperate looking for a quiet alley in which to take refuge. Beat cops, on the other hand? Well, the ones stationed at 16th and Mission seem to have done a good job of redirecting that corner’s problems towards Capp and Shotwell!
Update: Gina Simi, Communications Director at the Planning Department, writes in to correct the record, noting that the agency had no role in the Tutubi Plaza project and to clarify the definition of “parklet.”
The Planning Department, in particular the Pavement to Parks program, does not have a role in this issue or this project. Tutubi Plaza is part of the South of Market Alleyways Improvements Project through the Department of Public Works, along with the SF Arts Commission and Redevelopment Agency.
Pavement to Parks is a collaborative effort led by the Planning Department in collaboration with DPW, the MTA and the Mayor’s Office that looks to make better use of underutilized space by the installation of temporary interventions on SF streets. These temporary projects allow the City to test new ideas in the public realm and to create partnerships with local communities and help them shape their own environment.
Specifically, “parklets” are exclusively platforms in the parking lane and are funded and maintained by sponsor businesses, residents, and community organizations. Materials and designs are meant to be easily removable should design changes be desired during the timeframe of the installation.
While I can see how the connection could be made, I wanted to clarify that this is not a project through our department or programs and respectfully request that you correct the information in the article and remove the web link to our program to avoid any further confusion or misinformation.