Reclaiming Urban Spaces: SoFA Pocket Park

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MTI collaborates with local community outreach groups to assess the success of SoFA Pocket Park, which was formerly an empty 7,000-square foot parking lot
February 23, 2022
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San José, CA

Many urban residents are disconnected from the origins of their food, a fact exacerbated by the lack of green space in the hearts of many California cities. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, San Jose’s SoFA Pocket Park Project: Reclaiming and Revitalizing Surface Parking Space for Urban Agriculture, shows the impact of the transformation of 540 South First Street in downtown San Jose, California—previously a 7,000-square foot, underutilized parking lot—into a vibrant, art-filled urban agriculture-focused community space called SoFA Pocket Park. 

MTI collaborated with CommUniverCity, faculty and students in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning at San José State University, and the non-profit Veggielution to launch the park in the summer of 2021. Community engagement efforts accompanied the launch to promote the importance of urban agriculture as a component of fostering healthy communities. 

Key findings from this research show that:

  • Approximately 70% of the total 215 survey respondents from the community surrounding the park indicated their household income was less than $35,000.
  • For surveyed households earning less than $50,000, 29% said they were not always able to get enough fresh produce due to cost or inaccessibility (compared with 86% of respondents from more affluent neighborhoods outside the study area).
  • 86% of respondents said that they would visit the park “often” if it routinely offered fresh fruits and vegetables at low cost or free, grown locally or in the garden.
  • 91% of respondents said that the park will “positively” or “very positively” influence the surrounding neighborhoods.

“Our team developed a SoFA Pocket Park youth program that engaged an estimated 25-30 K-12 students. More programs and events, such as farmers and makers markets, can engage kids and the community at large in art, agriculture, and just create beautiful safe spaces to learn and connect,” commented the report’s authors.  

This research demonstrates the capabilities of the SoFA Pocket Park to reclaim urban areas, including the frequent surplus of parking, and revitalize them into vibrant urban spaces. These areas also empower programs that engage underserved populations and youth through temporary agricultural spaces to connect and inspire communities. 

  

ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE
At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. Founded in 1991, MTI is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Richard M. Kos is an MTI Research Associate, a certified Urban Planner; Lecturer, Graduate Advisor, and Practitioner in Residence in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at San José State University. Richard has collaborated with over 350 graduate students in service-learning projects since starting with the department in 2007. Irma Garcia serves as MTI’s Communications and Operations Manager where she manages the institute’s internal and external communications, events, and workforce development programs and partnerships. Irma holds an MA and BA in English and Comparative Literature from San José State University.

 

Media Contact:

Irma Garcia, 

MTI Communications and Operations Manager

O: 408-924-7560

E: Irma.garcia@sjsu.edu

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