Not in My Back Alley

Parklet Scourge: Won't Somebody Think of the Children?

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.

Comments (10)

The homeless and junkies are the reasons why the benches in the Castro by the Muni station had to be ripped out. It is also why there are so many problems at Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro. If you build it they will come.

Yes, because removing the benches totally solved the homelessness.

That really wasn’t the point of my statement.

Minna St (near 6th) is just horrible with crackhead blight. 

Open defecation and urination are the least of your worries, if you are ever there.

San Francisco can never be a world-class city if it continues to openly embrace this kind of societal malaise by turning a blind eye to the needs of its city’s tax-paying residents.

40% of the homeless come from other cities. We’ve successfully created a powerful homeless magnet.

define world class city

let’s start with - a world class city is a city not covered in human excrement

hey I hear ya, I’ve cleaned up many a junkie’s liquid poo in front of my place.

still, to you guys it seems world class city=homogeniety=boring.

Police say it’s up to the neighbors there to reclaim the park from the gang-bangers, drug pushers and junkies in the park (i.e., SF law enforcement won’t do anything here, but they do want to thank the SF residents for funding their new place in Tahoe and addition on their Orinda house).

When I moved to San Francisco the first time in 1989, Sixth Street between Market and Folsom was just plain scary.  You locked your car doors when you went through that section! (funny though that I rode my bike through it and had no worries).  When I moved back to San Francisco in the early 2000s, the Sixth Street corridor was much improved than from the early 90s.  Today, Sixth Street is in better shape than places like Ellis and Turk and Golden Gate streets in the Tenderloin.  Present day Sixth Street is astronomically improved from what it was like in the early 1990s!  But still too many junkies and tweakers and other screwed up persons.  The persons living in the area around Sixth Street could not IN NO WAY not missed the junkies and other druggies around the Sixth Street area when they were looking at the housing around there.  YET THEY STILL CHOSE TO LIVE THERE.