The Wall Street Journal covers PARK(ing) Day:

Submitted by Charles Frost on Fri, 09/21/2007 - 20:29.

Why Protesters Are Playing
Ping-Pong in Your Parking Space


September 21, 2007; Page W7


From Miami to
Munich, hundreds of urban planners and environmental activists plan today to set up tiny "parks" in metered parking spaces -- installing everything from lawn chairs and palm trees to beauty salons and self-service lemonade stands.


It's an effort to raise awareness about the lack of open public space in urban areas, and to draw attention to the gas wasted and pollution created by drivers circling the block for low-cost curbside parking spaces. Park(ing) Day organizers are bracing for angry merchants, frustrated drivers -- and in some cities, parking tickets.


On Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles, two blocks from the giant Baldwin Hills mall, a land-conservation group expects to help set up an outdoor-fitness center with jump ropes and an obstacle course. At what San Francisco's traffic department rated one of the most dangerous intersections in the city, a neighborhood organization plans to turn four metered parking spaces into a produce stand and health clinic for migrant workers, with a nurse to check blood pressure and give referrals. On New York's Upper West Side, in a parking spot near
Lincoln Center, a local artist plans a teepee village to honor his Mexican Kickapoo heritage.


Art Collective's Idea


Park(ing) Day was started two years ago by a
San Francisco art collective. It rolled out a fake lawn and set up benches in a parking spot in the financial district, which the group felt was underserved by public outdoor space. Last year, word spread, and 47 "parks" popped up in 13 cities world-wide, including London, Rio de Janeiro and
Melbourne, Australia, as well as 34 in the San Francisco Bay Area. This
year Park(ing) Day will test drivers' patience for the first time in cities including Boston, Washington and car-crazy
Los Angeles, where valets charge heavily and spots are scarce.


"People need more places to sit down and relax without buying anything," says John Bela, a landscape architect in
San Francisco and a founder of Park(ing) Day.


Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning who spoke at a panel discussion about Park(ing) Day earlier this week, says too many drivers are shunning higher-priced garages and burning excess fuel while circling around to find a less costly parking spot. Mr. Shoup and his students at
University of
California at Los Angeles determined that the average cruising time for a space in L.A.'s
Westwood Village is 3.3 minutes, or half a mile. By that measure, Mr. Shoup estimates that cars in the 15-block district annually travel 950,000 miles, burn 47,000 gallons of fuel and emit 730 tons of carbon dioxide just looking for a parking spot.


Paris put the kibosh on Park(ing) Day this year because it's currently hosting the Rugby World Cup, organizers say many cities have been supportive, even if some of them have laws against occupying spaces without a vehicle. (Last year's smaller number of protests provoked little official action.)


Some cities, like
New York, are giving out special permits for the park-creators, and others are just looking the other way. The national, nonprofit Trust for
Public Land has obtained permits for several "parks" in


But other protesters may not have received permission. Feeding the meter to stay in the same space all day is illegal in many cities, even for cars. And in
New York, anyone trying to reserve a parking space for any amount of time with something other than a vehicle is subject to a $65 fine.


Some would-be park designers have chickened out. Tom McKewan, a 50-year-old mechanical engineer and father of two, had been planning to turn a parking space in
San Francisco's West Portal district into a mini all-dirt softball field to promote girls' sports. ("Does anyone know how to lay out dirt in a parking space and then clean it up?" he emailed other Park[ing] Day participants earlier this month.) But last week, he nixed the idea, fearing the wrath of his neighbors.


"Parking is so limited anyway -- I would be lynched by the merchants and parkers if I occupied a space," says Mr. McKewan.


Last year, also in
San Francisco, Josh Switzky had to move his hanging-garden installation three times. Around 11 a.m., not long after the 32-year-old city planner had set up his parking space in the financial district with a patio table, an 8-foot-tall wooden trellis to enclose it from traffic and hanging plastic pots filled with ivy, a screaming man emerged from a store shouting, "'You can't do that here! You're not a car!'" Mr. Switzky recalls. "So we moved."


Down the block a couple of hours later, Mr. Switzky says police pulled over and asked the protesters if they were feeding the meter, warning them to leave when their time was up. Mr. Switzky and his friend picked up their garden and moved it again to the next spot over. At 3 p.m., when the spot became a tow-away lane, they packed up for good.


Write to Hannah Karp at hannah [dot] karp [at] dowjones [dot] com