January 4th, 2012

Our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, rarely elevates issues of design and architecture to the front page. But last week (December 29th), that’s where you could find Urban Design Critic John King’s Streetscapes column (photos above). Billed as “a mini tour of tiny parks” around the city, the article is more than just a guide – it even gives information on how to get your own parklet approved and built in San Francisco. Our friend Deep pioneered the first residential parklet on Valencia Street in the Mission District.

John King is probably best known for his book Cityscapes, a compact guide to 49 buildings in San Francisco, many of which are eclectic and unique and not to be found in standard tourist guides. King delights in the unexpected, which we think is a pretty good way to approach buildings, streets, people, food, and life in general.

You would expect to see coverage of this topic here in our newsletter, PUBLIC Opinion, where we have featured parklets in the past. But the fact that King is getting front-page attention is not only a tribute to his journalistic chops but also proof that the question of how to make our cities more livable and sustainable has become a mainstream issue. The Chronicle and the many activists, like Deep, that expose the broader public to these “pedestrian” issues deserve a thank you for educating us about issues relevant to a city’s modernity, civility, and sustainability. It got us thinking about this issue:

What is the greenest city in the US and what makes it so?
San Francisco, like many US cities, likes to toot its green horn and would love to be considered the most sustainable city in the US. We might be the recognized national leader in “parklets,” but parklets alone do not make a city green. What does make a city sustainable? How do we measure it? That’s a heated and somewhat elusive question, and there are lots of opinions. We’d like to hear yours.  A $100 merchandise credit will go to the best response.

P.S. Congratulations to Deep & Kimberly, who graced our catalog as a PUBLIC model, on their New Year’s Eve engagement. We wish them many years of happiness together on and off a bicycle.

P.P.S. John King has numerous excellent articles on urban design that are archived on SFGate.  He occasionally lectures around town and you can follow him on Twitter.