Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning


City and Regional Planning


College of Architecture and Environmental Design


Adrienne Greve

Advisor Department

City and Regional Planning

Advisor College

College of Architecture and Environmental Design


Faced with population increases but stagnant capital improvements and impacts from global warming, cities around the world are experimenting with smaller-scale and cheaper strategies in order to accommodate the new influx of residents. New York City has led the way in converting low-efficiency intersection space into public plazas with a limited range of permanently installed elements and San Francisco has pioneered the concept of the parklet, which converts two to four street parking spaces into a modular and flexible pedestrian space. I seek to answer two questions about these spaces: What are common factors influencing the viability and successful implementation of parklets and public plaza? And what are the social and environmental outcomes of constructing parklets and public plazas at a site-specific level and across larger urban scales? Previous research has examined the dynamics and components of public spaces in cities. This research builds upon previous research efforts. By answering these questions, cities and communities seeking to create more pedestrian-friendly and human-oriented space have insights into the components that make parklets and public plazas work and what impacts these developments can have throughout their built environment. I conducted theoretical research of scholarly works concerning urban ecology, resilience, and the social components of cities, and conducted structured observations of plazas and parklets and appropriate control sites in New York City and San Francisco. At a site-specific scale, these developments promote a diverse range of uses and can serve as localized nodes. Across larger scales, these developments can use design considerations to change the perception of an area or neighborhood and have the potential to create a linked system that provides widespread circulatory and ecological improvements. Creating programs that facilitate parklet installations and plaza conversions give cities and communities the most bang for their buck because they provide flexible spaces that do not involve major and expensive capital improvements. Parklets and public plazas are viable projects for providing green space and promoting pedestrian circulation within neighborhoods and communities.