Two miniparks to open in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto

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Maggie Soun/Staff

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Two parklets are on track to open in Berkeley in the near future and will be the first to do so after the City Council approved a pilot parklet program in July.

Parklets are miniature parks, first popularized in San Francisco, that are several parking spaces long and extend into the street, providing additional space for seating. Both Berkeley parklets are set to be built in front of the popular Gourmet Ghetto restaurants — one in front of the Cheese Board Collective and the other in front of Philz Coffee and Guerilla Cafe.

The first parklet, which is set to open this fall, will be funded by the Cheese Board Collective, while the North Shattuck Association is hosting a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise funds for the second location.

“A lot of (the members of the Cheese Board Collective) are contractors and artists — they have the manpower to do it themselves,” said Heather Hensley, executive director of the North Shattuck Association.

When the pilot parklet program was approved last year, the city specified the parklets would be constructed with the funding from private businesses or organizations. The North Shattuck Association provided around $5,000 in seed money for each of the parklets, according to Cathy Goldsmith, president of the association’s board of directors and a member of the Cheese Board Collective.

Hensley said these locations have had success in the past when temporary parklets were set up for festivals and special events.

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said a few other businesses have expressed interest in applying for a parklet permit but reconsidered after looking at the costs of installing a parklet.

“I have seen some that are just put together from salvaged materials, but if you want to get real fancy, a parklet can cost upwards of $100,000,” Capitelli said.

Hensley said the Berkeley parklets would be in the price range of $20,000 to $25,000. The crowd-sourcing campaign for the parklet in front of Philz Coffee and Guerilla Cafe has currently raised more than $1,800 of a $15,000 goal.

Goldsmith said Cheese Board wanted to move faster than the time it would take to crowd-source fund and to find talent to construct the parklet. She said Cheese Board hopes to have the parklet constructed in August.

Andrea Ali, an owner of Guerilla Cafe, said she thought the parklets would create a more community-oriented atmosphere. She was especially excited about having bike corrals to clear up what she characterized as congestion resulting from too many customers who have bikes but no place to put them.

In addition, Ian Moore, a local designer who plans to help work on the proposed parklet location in front of Philz Coffee and Guerilla Cafe, said adding bike corrals would encourage people to bike to the area instead of driving, thus reducing carbon emissions.

Capitelli and Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said the permit for the Cheese Board location has been approved, and the permit for the Philz Coffee and Guerilla Cafe location is under review.

The city approved the pilot parklet program for three years, and ultimately the program could bring up to 10 parklets to the city.

Nico Correia is the lead city reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @nicolocorreia.