RGJ: Reno’s second urban parklet open for sittin’, eatin’, drinkin’, chillin’

Reno’s urban cool factor went up this week when a second parklet opened on Roff Way behind Arlington Towers near Our Bar and the Reno Collective. The first one opened at Craft Wine & Beer, on Martin Street, with a parklet that extends sidewalk seating into side-street parking spaces. The Roff Way parklet covers two parking spots.

A parklet is a removable extension of the sidewalk that covers a parallel parking space, provides seating for pedestrians and allows people to relax on the street. The parklet in front of Craft Wine & Beer allows drinking alcohol while the parklet on Roff Way does not. The City of Reno created a six-month program to learn how many parklets should be permitted, during what season, for how long, how much they should cost and what they should look like.

All parklets must be permitted as a special event and are the responsibility of the business owner to manage and pay for with the city providing the same special event approval they do for more than 250 other events every year. The goal is to create architecturally interesting structures that add value to the neighborhoods. Parklets require letters of support from surrounding businesses and neighbors before the permit receives approval from the city. While blocking parking spots, they cannot obstruct drivers’ view of the road.

The parklets follow city park rules, making them open to the public, not just people visiting the particular business, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Businesses must build parklets that meet safety requirements and engineering standards as well as insure them as a special event. They must also remove and store all furniture, other than permanent elements, at night to avoid theft, homeless camping and weather damage that turns into blight.

“If it becomes a blight on the city, the permit can be revoked,” said Alexis Hill, special events program manager for the City.

Hill and her team researched other cities, such as Las Vegas, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle to discover best practices for creating parklets. San Francisco suffered setbacks and restarted their program in 2013 after lenient regulations created controversial parklets that attracted homeless people and fell into disrepair when businesses changed hands. Now, San Francisco has 50 parklets with more on the way. Parklet opinions range from being called art to “no big deal” or a waste of parking spaces, according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We learned location criteria and also streamlined the process for people applying for the parklet (permit),” Hill said.

Oakland suffered years of setbacks because the city was overwhelmed with other permitting, processes and work with little staff to handle the new, undefined system. Hill said Reno has a dedicated staff member and enough hours to handle the new requests. Part of the trial period will help the City determine what department will handle parklet requests in the future. They also want to hear from the community about the idea, the designs and future of parklets.

Originally Posted on RGJ, mhigdon@rgj.com12:19 p.m. PDT October 24, 2015