San José’s SoFA Pocket Park Project: Reclaiming and Revitalizing Surface Parking Space for Urban Agriculture

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San José’s SoFA Pocket Park Project: Reclaiming and Revitalizing Surface Parking Space for Urban Agriculture


Many urban residents are disconnected from where their food comes from, the work involved in growing crops, and the process of delivering products to market. In many older urban cores, there is often scant green space—let alone publicly accessible, working gardens—to provide access to the freshest fruits and vegetables. This research 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. The park launched in summer of 2021 with community engagement efforts to promote the importance of urban agriculture as a component of fostering healthy communities while demonstrating how underutilized space can be reclaimed. The research team surveyed the community surrounding the pocket park and found one-third of survey respondents indicated their household income was less than $35,000, considered “'extremely low income'' in the city (based on the median household income for the City of San José, $109,593 for households. The team also developed a SoFA Pocket Park youth engagement program that engaged an estimated 25-30 K-12 students. This research demonstrates the capabilities of the SoFA Pocket Park to engage underserved populations and engage youth through temporary agricultural spaces.



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.

February 2022
Urban agriculture
Pocket park
Community engagement



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