SF Better Streets: Public Engagement 2.0

13 Jul

As we noted a few months back, cities are rolling out more transparent platforms for public engagement and trying to demystify the complex and largely underwhelming processes that dictate local governance. In a move to make the inner-workings of the approvals process more accessible, San Francisco has launched sfbetterstreets. The program was developed to provide a comprehensive how-to guide that explains the city’s permitting system for different types of projects.

One idea is that the site will help turn great ideas for public spaces into reality; the logic being that innovation is stymied because people just don’t know how to navigate the bureaucracy. (We’re guessing most San Franciscans don’t know that they must obtain a permit from the Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation to hold a block party.) But while great ideas for public spaces may run rampant in the City by the Bay, this site tacitly acknowledges that it takes a lot to get things done.

A small planting project on a neighborhood street would probably be lovely, but a 12-step guide to building neighborhood support is probably a little much for your average resident. This is when yarn-bombing and guerrilla planning start looking like attractive alternatives.

Still, the site provides a valuable and worthwhile service for determined citizens, advocates, and community groups with grand (or not-so-grand) visions for their public spaces. And it gives the less ambitious or utterly clueless among us a greater appreciation of what it takes to get things done on the up-and-up.

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