In the general “For Sale” section of Craigslist, wedged between an ad for garage door remotes and some contraption for icing sore knees, is an ad you could easily miss: “Parklet for sale — $12,000.”
The parklet in question sits in front of Fabric8, a gallery on 22nd Street near Valencia. Its rolling, shingled hill, small house and bean bag chairs are a public work of art by Erik Otto, entitled “The Peace Keeper.”
“It was always intended to be a year-long thing. It will be a year this Labor Day,” said Olivia Ongpin, Fabric8′s owner. “We wanted to make an art space, so the concept is a public art venue that has rotating art exhibits.”
Walk by Fabric8 on a sunny afternoon and chances are you will see a few people sitting in the parklet, strollers to one side, dog leashes in hand, chatting. Sometimes they are old friends, sometimes new.
“Our neighborhood is more of a neighborhood than anything. We have always been very conscious of that, making a parklet. We wanted to make it more kid-friendly, and kids hang out there,” said Ongpin.
“There are people that are so attached, so connected that it feels like it’s theirs and no longer mine,” said Otto, the parklet’s creator. “I think that is what is so awesome about this type of work if you can pull it off. The public can touch and interact with it. They can walk around it. It is not trying to sell you anything. That is something I personally want.”
Now the parklet is up for grabs to the highest bidder.
While the “For Sale” sign has been up for a couple of weeks and the Craigslist ad live for a few days, so far the gallery has had only one inquiry, from a technology start-up.
More than a year ago, when Ongpin first heard about the city’s Pavement to Parks program that allows businesses, nonprofits and community groups to use private funding to build public spaces in parking spaces, she was excited. She had worked with Otto before, and he seemed like the perfect fit for the project.
“I wanted to get more into outdoor and three-dimensional work. They hit me up and it was good timing,” Otto said.
He had spent four months in an artist’s residency at Recology San Francisco, the city’s garbage and recycling company, and salvaged everything but the screws for the parklet from the dump.
The design — a sloped hill (reminiscent of Dolores Park, according to Otto), a closed house that lights up like a beacon, and plush cushions that can be pulled out to sit on or not — was meant to offer a brief respite.
“I wanted to make a third space,” Otto said. “You could relax, stop and forget about the worries of the world for a brief moment, and have a lovely conversation or stare off into nothingness.”
As Otto built the parklet, the neighborhood chipped in, bringing succulents to fill the planters. The olive tree was a gift from a couple moving back to Germany. A symbol of peace, the tree is also a nod to the parklet’s name. Ongpin said the horseshoe on the house arrived one day through her mail slot.
The old television sets Fabric8 puts out for part of the day have offered baseball games, a Pac-Man game played through a video console and, most recently, the Olympics.
When asked about the 22nd Street parklet, Kay Cheng, an urban planner with the Parks to Pavement program, exclaimed, “It is totally awesome!”
“I like that it’s not just café seating,” Cheng said. “It engages the community a bit more. It starts to program the space — we want that more.”
Applications for new parklets are often from cafés that want to add seating.
Currently Pavement to Parks is not accepting new applications (though it will again in the near future) because the program is so popular that the staff has a backlog of applications to work through.
Putting the much-loved parklet up for sale gives the piece a chance at a second life.
“It would be a shame for this piece to disappear,” Otto said. “Maybe someone will give it a new home.”
After the sale, part of the proceeds will go to Otto and part to funding a new installation, which Ongpin estimates will be completed by the end of October. This one will be designed by artist Ursula X. Young; Ongpin said it could be described as “cityscape theater-esque.”