As odd as it may sound, in a city as dense and as small (geographically speaking) in San Francisco, but there are a few acres, collectively, of available land for open space development contained within what is known as “unaccepted,” “rejected” or “paper” streets. These are roads, which the City has not “accepted” and, therefore, will not maintain. That is not to say they do not hold claim to them, so we cannot simply annex them or squat on them, but they do offer some potential.
I have blogged about a couple of my “green space” projects in the past, which are located on the right-of-way of unaccepted streets, which totaled 148 of the 1,017 miles of city streets by the last count. Some of these miles are actual roads, or rather segments thereof, and are located all over the City. You can view a map of these streets at: https://archive.org/details/unaccepted-streets/mode/1up?view=theater.
The potential to transform these roads into parks, gardens, and other types of public spaces are enormous. However, the work depends on the communities pulling together and creating something wonderful. The City itself does not actively try to change the condition of these streets, but they will provide review and approval if a viable option is proposed. For example, green and other open spaces are an excellent option for this untapped resource, but, typically, you cannot build anything permanent on the sites, such as concrete walls, slabs, etc. since often there are underground utilities in these spaces, which will need to be maintained and may be dug up in the future.
As we see more and more multi-unit buildings going up everywhere, with smaller living spaces, and as space becomes ever scarcer, it is a great time to access this land resource and convert, convert, convert; into parks, gardens, art spaces, and so on before the land is used for something else and gets paved over. And even though the process is not easy and time-consuming, the sense of pride and reward, once the projects are complete, is enormous. It is also a chance to make a difference and make our City a much more livable, attractive, and equitable place to live. And we can accomplish this through community grants. We do not have to spend our funds.
In 1901 Teddy Roosevelt, right after he became president, charted out large swaths of land on a map of the US and, using his newly vested authority, established 150 national forests, 51 federal reserves, four national game preserves, five national parks, and 18 national monuments covering 230 million acres of public land across the country. He seized on this opportunity quickly so that the land would not be developed and parceled off. Out efforts described above to convert a section of roadway, median, empty lot, etc., into a garden or park is not as monumental as what Teddy Roosevelt accomplished. Still, then again, we do not have the authority he did.
If you have any questions about converting “pavement into gardens,” please feel free to contact us for assistance pro bono.