September 20th, 2013 was the 8th anniversary of the now international event known as PARK(ing) DAY. Started in San Francisco, the day is a celebration of the creative community thinking outside the box, or in this case, inside the common parking space. To quote the official website, PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers & citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks.
In July, I received an email from Elyse Lowe, Executive Director of MOVE San Diego after social media / event / Urbanist antagonizer Howard Blackson told her I would love to help…so, with that sort of recommendation, how could I say no?
After a series of organizational emails & a cold pint at Dick’s Last Resort, it was agreed upon that MOVE San Diego, DBRDS, The Grand Pacific, Dick’s Last Resort & Acqua Al 2 would collaborate to set up a super spread for 300 block of 5th Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter. In a real team effort, MOVE provided critical connections, chairs, games, flowers, and an overall leadership in the collaboration. DBRDS provided graphic design & printing of the flyers & event display boards & set up, The Grand Pacific team provided 50’+ of astro-turf as well as the quarters to get us through the day, while Dick’s & Acqua Al 2 provided furniture, planter boxes & hoola-hoops.
Being the early bird of the bunch, I set out at 6:30am to get the desired location right in front of Dick’s Last Resort, rolling out the fake grass to start with. At this time of the morning there was not a single car on the street & the only activity was an elderly gentleman walking his dog across the street. As he watched me with curiosity as I rolled out section after section of fake grass, I can only imagine how it looked to him to see a guy, at 6:30am, rolling fake grass into 5th Avenue…I am sure he was puzzled. At 7am, a truck came down 5th, parked towards the end of the next block, and promptly began rolling out a single sheet of 330′ fake turf in about 30 seconds. While insanely jealous of the ease of their delivery, I was not deterred by the much smaller space we were setting up. Turns out that this space was created by the San Diego Downtown Partnership…good on them for participating.
As the morning progressed, I was joined firstly by young Eduardo from MOVE San Diego followed by Craig shortly after & as we all grabbed pieces of furniture from our various offices the space really started to come together. Craig suggested we bring out our design progress sketches for a concept to re-plan the Gaslamp Quarter’s traffic management layout, & so we did, drawing board & all. With flyers in hand, thought-provoking graphic boards & a bean bag toss, we were ready for a positive day working from our newly acquired street side office.
At 11:45am, Elyse came to grab me announcing that the San Diego Interim Mayor Todd Gloria was just about to give a press conference at the adjacent parklet. We wandered up to say hi & were graciously met by Mayor Todd & his team. In addition, we were introduced to the new San Diego City Planner Bill Fulton as he too was going to give a short speech to the press. As though the day wasn’t exciting enough, one of my favorite photographer friends, Jon Tiffin turned up with his monster of a camera after finishing a shoot at the San Diego Children’s Museum, and just began taking hundreds of photos of the Mayor as he spoke & generally doing his ‘photographer thing’. Once everyone had spoken, Elyse grabbed Mayor Todd & informed him that he simply must come down & see our space, to which he promptly agreed & without a moment’s hesitation he was at our space, playing bean bag toss & having a good laugh.
We requested an official photo, which we did, and with one last request the Mayor obliged Jon by posing for a casual sidewalk shot…a really fantastic photo if you ask me.
Photo © Jon Tiffin Photography
More than content with the happenings so far, we sat down at a table in the street provided by Dick’s Last Resort, of course which was followed by a wrapping of a ‘crab bib’, only to get a tap on the shoulder. As I turned around, looking highly professional with the plastic crab bib (proudly provided by the ‘Dicks’ staff), I was surprised to see Brad Richter & Lucy Contreras with two new staff members from Civic San Diego. Lucy said that they wanted to see the “sketches we had laid out” & so I proceeded to give them a 20 minute presentation on our ideas of the potential density, traffic management, social & community ownership of the Gaslamp Quarter…I am sure I came across as possibly a little too passionate & with more than enough to say about how much potential Gaslamp has.
All in all, this informal set up intended to spark some dialogue & promote community interaction was a huge success for everyone involved. DBRDS was proud to get out & support the Gaslamp Quarter, to meet fellow business owners & members of the community. We enjoyed chatting with everyone who stopped by & presenting our ideas about the district…hopefully we inspired others to get involved. To quote Interim Mayor Todd Gloria during his speech “PARK(ing) DAY proves that small ideas can have huge results”…the simple idea to reclaim a common parking space can completely rethink how a people interact, it can entice them to stop & chat when normally they would not, it promotes community…we love it.
To sign off, here are some final shots of the day…