To outsider eyes, Houston can look like a confusing mishmash of unplanned sprawl. But for Houstonians, that decentralized mindset is not just a way of life, but a strength. Take the Art Car Parade, for example. The real beauty of art cars isn’t the annual event, but seeing one drive down the street any other day of the year. Some of Houston’s most unique characteristics come not from central planning, but an amalgamated effort of individual citizens. If given the ability and incentive, ordinary Houstonians can create amazing things. That is the potential we see in City Councilman Ed Gonzalez’s parklets proposal (“Going green a parking spot at a time,” Page A1, July 7).
Under this plan, businesses can apply to adopt on-street parking spots and turn them into parks, outdoor seating or some other storefront extension. This means more greenspace and pedestrian friendly areas at no cost to the city. And if the parklets don’t work out, they can just be turned back into parking. The parklets can even be created on a temporary basis for times of high pedestrian traffic – imagine holiday-themed parklets during December.
Of course, one can question whether a small park is worth the lost on-street parking spot, especially given that the most walkable areas also appear to have the worst parking crunches – lower Westheimer, for example. But because the parklet process must be initiated with neighborhood approval, it seems unlikely that parklets will replace anything but superfluous parking.
For naysayers who think that parklets aren’t a worthwhile endeavor, we encourage patience. Gonzalez isn’t proposing any massive overhaul, nor forcing parklets where they aren’t wanted. This will be a trial run to see how a parklet policy could work.
In the end, parklets are a way to let businesses take responsibility for their own slice of Houston.