Thursday, May 17, 2012

Capitol Hill Urban Activists Turn Four Parking Spaces into a Temporary Park

Posted by on Thu, May 17, 2012 at 4:49 PM

A couple months ago, Seth Geiser and Kirk Hovenkotter contributed an idea to an essay contest The Stranger sponsored.

Their idea? Rather than sit through "mind-numbing" meetings or wait for "complicated, costly, tedious" permits, neighbors should get together and start reshaping their streets on their own. "Put out some benches and a swing, now you’ve got a pocket park. Sure, safety and access need to be considered, but the truth is that most of our streets are overdesigned for their current auto use, and neighborhood residents should be allowed to find daily enjoyment in that underutilized space," they wrote.

Last week, their idea came to fruition. Calling themselves Renegade Planners Collective, they transformed a triangle of land between Denny, Olive, and Summit usually reserved for cars into a spot for people instead. There's a full report from Geiser and a photo after the jump.


On May 10th, the three of us transformed a piece of Summit Ave into a park. For four hours, we were able to reclaim a street that is currently used as free parking for four cars. With donated street furniture and abandoned ‘no parking’ signs, we converted the space into a community gathering spot for less than $20.

As an initial test-run during the Capitol Hill Art Walk last week, the street reclamation went way better than we’d hoped. In exchange for four parking spots, 50+ people were able to hang out and enjoy the space. Apart from a stink-eye from a guy who wanted to make a right-turn off of Denny and a guy who yelled ‘Nerds!’ at us going down Olive, the park was really well-received by people who passed by with very little disruption to traffic.

Now that we know it can be done easily and without hassle, we’re planning to transform the street again next month. We want this to be something that grows with each iteration and becomes a collaborative community effort.

The public space of Seattle is scarce and should be used for more than just the storage of vehicles. It can be used to make our city more livable and our lives more enjoyable. With limited city budgets, temporary, low-cost actions by neighborhood residents can work to make Seattle a more livable city. We ought to lay claim to our public space.

Additional information will be up at


Comments (30) RSS

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These people are fucking morons. Parking spots are infinitely more valuable than parks on Capitol Hill.

Way to "reclaim" useful land for a park 0.3 miles from one of the best parks in Seattle to the east, 0.1 and 0.2 miles from parks to the north (about 2 blocks), 0.4 miles from the closest park to the south, and 0.5 miles from the closest park to the west.

Seriously don't these kids have better things to do with their time. I mean, Diablo 3 just came out. Go do something useful.

PS: If I saw anyone illegally blocking off parking spaces, I'd call the cops, and they'd kick you out, because it's illegal. Way to respect your own neighborhood.
Posted by Swearengen on May 17, 2012 at 4:56 PM · Report this
tainte 2
abandoned signs eh? they look stolen to me. and give me a fucking break...if city streets are "overdesigned" for their current use then why the fuck can't two cars fit on a city street at one time?

Posted by tainte on May 17, 2012 at 5:01 PM · Report this
"With limited city budgets, temporary, low-cost actions by neighborhood residents can work to make Seattle a more livable city"

How does this make Seattle more "livable?" As #1 pointed out, you can barely swing your arms without hitting a park on Capitol Hill - it's not like they're adding something that's missing from the neighborhood.
Posted by doceb on May 17, 2012 at 5:12 PM · Report this
Knat 4
You've "reclaimed" a couple parking spots so that people can stand around on hot asphalt? What a fantastic fucking idea... I'm sure the guy that depends on that spot to park his car after a long day at work was thrilled to see what you'd done.
Posted by Knat on May 17, 2012 at 5:19 PM · Report this
Kinison 5
Looks like people too fucking lazy to walk a few blocks to a park.
Posted by Kinison on May 17, 2012 at 5:38 PM · Report this
This is really great - I've had this same idea about this exact section of street.
Posted by EricButler on May 17, 2012 at 5:43 PM · Report this
NaFun 7
Would have been even better if Coffee Messiah was still there across the street. *sniff*
Posted by NaFun on May 17, 2012 at 5:46 PM · Report this
Zebes 8
How very very precious. Let's put them on a billboard: "Why are our cities full of parking spaces and not parks?"
Posted by Zebes on May 17, 2012 at 6:18 PM · Report this
Chef Thunder 9
Yeah way better to park cars then something fun and interesting for a few hours. F^€k you people for trying to do something different. I hope you get arrested, tasered, pepper sprayed and fed to fire ants.

Oh wait the opposite of that.

So the cars didn't have access for a few hours, get a grip.

Keep Capitol Hill weird.
Posted by Chef Thunder on May 17, 2012 at 6:24 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 10
I am completely in favor of it and hope for more. However, the organizers are in for an umhappy experience once the city officially notices.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on May 17, 2012 at 7:00 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 11
P.s. to all you parking-spot crybabies: you lost something like 0.02% of the available parking spots on the hill. Go cry to yo' mamas, you pansies.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on May 17, 2012 at 7:03 PM · Report this
Geraldo Riviera 12
And to the urban activists: keep fucking that chicken.
Posted by Geraldo Riviera on May 17, 2012 at 7:57 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 13
I dunno. When the SPD decides they don't like to sit through "mind-numbing" meetings or wait for "complicated, costly, tedious" permits, and just go ahead and beat the Mexican piss out of somebody, that's considered bad. Shooting up an abortion clinic is also, you know, direct action. Doing what you think is right and not waiting for society to approve. All that process. All those meetings. Rules. Paperwork.

When you know you're right and everybody else is wrong, who needs process? Just do it. Like the commercial.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on May 17, 2012 at 8:21 PM · Report this
LEE. 14
I knew my easing off The War On Fun was a bad call.
Posted by LEE. on May 17, 2012 at 8:29 PM · Report this
Irena 15
Oh, *cringe*

When skateboarders take over a parking lot to grind curbs, or kids pull out a couple of nets and play street hockey, they don't call themselves "urban activists" and bust out a facebook page to congratulate themselves.

This is so pretentious it hurts.
Posted by Irena on May 17, 2012 at 9:10 PM · Report this
LEE. 16

that's like, athletic, so it doesn't count. those kids are jocks.
Posted by LEE. on May 17, 2012 at 9:23 PM · Report this
Pridge Wessea 17
@15,16 - And those kids are actually using the street as opposed to pretending its something else.
Posted by Pridge Wessea on May 17, 2012 at 10:11 PM · Report this
Um, Park(ing) Day anyone?

People have been proving this concept for years, in many cities, including Seattle. Forgetting whether it is a good idea, or makes sense when so close to so many actual and wonderful parks, the giant pat on their own backs seems unwarranted.
Posted by Been done on May 17, 2012 at 11:34 PM · Report this
doloresdaphne 19
The presence of car parks in a city is for the most part, a symptom of the city's failure.

With the exception of delivery vehicle & public and community service vehicles, most automobiles in major cities are there because the lack of inner city housing/good public transport/amenity in walking distance has made driving in rather than walking/ cycling / PT commuting in more desirable.

Congestion, lack of parking, and all out inconvenience for drivers, coupled with excellent alternatives = the solution.
Posted by doloresdaphne on May 18, 2012 at 3:30 AM · Report this
this was a good idea. fuck your cars.
Posted by Agrippa on May 18, 2012 at 5:33 AM · Report this
doloresdaphne 21
what @20 said.
Posted by doloresdaphne on May 18, 2012 at 6:32 AM · Report this
emor 22
Why didn't they do this in a neighborhood that needs more parks? Why didn't they provide more amenities than a couple benches? Also this has been done before, better. I'm not impressed.
Posted by emor on May 18, 2012 at 6:55 AM · Report this
@22, I think in the earlier post on this here they've said it's more or less because they live right there and this section of street struck them as uniquely suited to it. They're young men with costly degrees to pay off - the one with fewer degrees has a job with the City of Redmond (imagine the commute from Capitol Hill - augh), and the one with more degrees is still looking for work after a City of Seattle internship ended; these days the ground is thick with underemployed planning degree holders so an eye-catching, harmless way to distinguish themselves is a good thing, even if the effect is somewhat akin to straining mightily at what turns out to be a fart.
Posted by gloomy gus on May 18, 2012 at 7:17 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 24
It looks like poorly thought out performance art. I'm rather bored with it.

But if you want to impress us...go do that on I-5 at around 4:30pm this afternoon.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on May 18, 2012 at 7:25 AM · Report this
@18 Exactly. This is not a revelation.
Posted by Sometimes That's Enough on May 18, 2012 at 7:46 AM · Report this
Baby Blue 26
Capitol Hill doesn't need more parks. What a completely absurd statement. If the city would let the folks put in pay parking lots on all of those stalled development spaces, that'd be lovely though. Since Group Health's parking garage isn't open 24 hours (despite it being the only Group Health 24 hour urgent care center in Seattle) and almost all of the parking in the general vicinty is zone parking, it would be nice to be able to, you know, find a place to park when you're sick and/or injured and trying to go see a doc.
Posted by Baby Blue on May 18, 2012 at 9:40 AM · Report this
Jenny from the Block 27
How is this new? Don't we do this every year on Park[ing] Day?
Posted by Jenny from the Block on May 18, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Report this
Ok, it may be silly, but they're right in that that part of the street is even more silly. I've passed by it many times wondering why it was even there. It really is, for the most part, just four parking spots. I don't see why their use of it is any more stupid than what it's already being used for.
Posted by hereiswheremynamegoes on May 23, 2012 at 10:37 AM · Report this
what a fun, creative way to get arrested.
Posted by grr on June 14, 2012 at 7:30 PM · Report this
typical hippy bullshit
Posted by dong chowder on October 19, 2012 at 9:25 AM · Report this

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