Street Parks Guidelines

Getting Started
These guidelines are designed to provide you with assistance and resources.  Building a street park is a community process - you can't do it alone!  Build support in your community for the project by talking to your neighbors, neighborhood association or by forming a community group or project committee. 

After reading the guidelines, complete and submit an application.  When your application is received, we'll contact you to schedule a site visit. After the site visit, get at least five neighbors together and schedule an organizing seminar with SFPA staff. We'll answer your questions, help fill out paperwork, prepare budgets and get your project rolling.

Please contact us - we are here to help, every step of the way.

Guidelines

Site Type:    Sidewalk landscaping      Steps      Triangle/Traffic Circle      Median
Planting
Maintenance
Working around street trees

Safety

Site Type
Not all street parks are the same - special considerations or permits may apply to your site:

Sidewalk landscaping To remove part of the sidewalk and create a garden by your home or business you must first:

  • submit a sidewalk landscape permit application
  • a site design plan, and - select a design template (coming soon)
  • a permit fee.

Example: Our partner Plant*SF specializes in permeable sidewalk landscaping - see www.plantsf.org for more.

Steps
There are many public steps throughout San Francisco. To plant a garden near public steps fill out the Street Parks Application
To make improvements to the steps, a major encroachment permitis required before you begin work the public steps in your neighborhood.

Example: Our partners at the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps completed a steps improvement project - see www.tiledsteps.org for more.

Triangle/Traffic Circle
A triangle is a small area, ususally at the start of a retaining wall that divides traffic. A traffic circle is a roudabout or circular intersection that allows for continous traffic movement. These spaces may be turned into public gardens.

After receiving your completed Street Parks applicationthe site will be evaluated by the City for safety – not all locations are best suited for public gardens.

Median
A median is a portion of the road that separates traffic in opposite directions, it also provides pedestrians with a safe place when crossing the street. These spaces may be turned into public gardens.

After receiving your completed Street Parks applicationthe site will be evaluated by the City for safety – not all locations are best suited for public gardens.

Example: The San Jose/Guerrero completed a median greening project - see www.sanjoseguerrero.com for more.

Other Not all street parks are the same.  If you don’t know what type of site your street park is, please describe your site in detail on the Street Parks Application- we'll meet with you on-site to determine the next steps.

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Planting
If you are beginning a new garden choose your plants and their locations carefully. Remember that people walking and cycling, children playing, cars and trucks and underground utilities such as cable and telephone lines share your streets and sidewalks.

Great demands are placed on the City water supply during the warm summer months; therefore, we encourage waterwise gardening. By conserving water, you can ensure that fresh water will continue to flow well into the future. Read more about water conservation tips LINKfrom the Public Utilities Commission.

Please keep in mind:

-Visibility is of utmost importance. Tall plants can obscure the presence of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Plants can be kept in check by pruning or preferably, by using plants that will mature to this height. See our recommended plant list [coming soon) for pictures and details on plants well-suited for street parks.

-Use plants that are low maintenance and adapted to, or tolerant of, dry conditions. This will reduce the amount of maintenance and watering your garden will need. The Street Parks program has a recommended plant list of low maintenance, drought resistant plants that are well suited for San Francisco (coming soon).

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Maintenance
Street Parks need to be weeded, watered and mulched, just as home gardens do. To help make maintenance of your Street Park an easier task, consider some of the following suggestions:

-Use mulch to reduce the drying effects of evaporation. Free mulch is available for use in street parks. Contact DPW to schedule a pick up.
-Keep the garden clean, tidy and weeded. Weeds compete for soil nutrients and can contribute negatively to the health of your ornamental plants.
-Garden trimmings can be added to your home compost or set out at the curbside in your green bin. If your site has an excessive amount of green waste or debris the City will assist you in removal, please call 311 to schedule a pick up of your green waste.
-The use of pesticides to solve plant problems is discouraged.
-You may choose to add your favorite plants to your garden to provide color and interest throughout the year. Keep their maintenance requirements in mind.
-If your garden needs help, please contact SFPT to schedule a volunteer workday. We’ll work with DPW to bring volunteers, tools and enthusiasm to your project.

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WORKING AROUND STREET TREES
Some street trees belong to the City of San Francisco and are under the care of the Bureau of Urban Forestry. Before doing any work on a street tree please view the map of City-maintained trees.You may not at any time work on a City-maintained tree, please call 311 to report a City-maintained tree that needs work.  For privately-maintained trees, contact the adjacent property owner for permission.

When gardening around street trees, please be aware of the following:

-Take care not to cut any roots or branches
-Before pruning, read the guidelines for pruning young street trees from the Bureau of Urban Forestry.
-Keep soil or compost from contacting the bark. The root collar and trunk are made up of cells that are not specialized to resist constant soil moisture. Placing mulch or soil against the root collar and trunk can interfere with the tree’s life-sustaining processes and could ultimately affect its health.
-Do not place more than 4” of soil or compost directly above tree roots. Excessive mulch retains surface water which promotes shallow rooting of trees. Deep rooted trees will survive drought stress more readily and are less susceptible to wind damage.
-Soil or compost used around tree roots should be of a sandy texture (at least 50% sand by volume) to encourage good drainage.
-Do not nail or tie signs, trellises or other fixtures to a street tree.
-Any questions or concerns regarding street trees should be directed to the City by calling 311.

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Safety
Since many Street Parks are next to or in the middle of the street, gardeners should pay special attention to passing bicycles and vehicles when working in their gardens. Some things to consider are:

-Make yourself visible! Wear a safety vest or other bright clothing when gardening in your street garden. The Street Parks program will provide you with a safety vest if you would like one. Call 311 to request safety vests.
-Always be alert to approaching vehicles especially when working in traffic circles.
-Do your street gardening when traffic is quiet rather than at peak traffic hours. Your experience will be safer and more enjoyable.
-Garden only during daylight hours and when the weather provides clear visibility.
-Make sure that children are closely supervised if they are helping in your street garden. It is not recommended that children help with traffic circle gardens.
-Keep tools off the street.
-Don’t leave hoses unattended as they can be a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists.
-Keep an eye on your personal belongings!

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Download the Street Parks application here.