For the first time in a long time, I woke up with that little-kid, Christmas morning feeling. It was Stockton’s first PARK(ing) Day, and I couldn’t wait for the downtown community to wake up and see what awaited them.

I first heard about PARK(ing) Day when I was working for a hotel on 7th and Mission in San Francisco, which is technically in SOMA, but it felt a lot more like the Tenderloin. It was considered an undesirable area of the city, mostly because it was industrial, had its fair share of abandoned buildings, and lacked any public space. Our neighbors at Rebar, a design firm and founders of PARK(ing) Day, told us about the event and asked if we wanted to participate. They said PARK(ing) Day was a way to show what’s possible when public space takes the place of parking space. All we needed to do was pay the meter in front of our hotel and use the space to create something interesting.

Spotted on PARK(ing) Day in Stockton

On the day of the event, we set out a rug, a few chairs, and a coffee table. We also wheeled out the hotel’s photo booth. People that worked in the area stopped in for a chat and those that couldn’t stop at least greeted us with a smile. Hotel employees came out on their break and talked about things besides laundry and obnoxious guests. Many people from the neighborhood appreciated the photo booth—some of them hadn’t seen a picture of themselves in years.

PARK(ing) Day was originally designed to help people rethink the meaning of public space. The reason why I find it to be so valuable, and why I love the fact that it’s now taking place in Stockton, is because it’s an easy way to give people in our community—from the office worker to the senior citizen—a place to stop and talk to one another. Sometimes, you have to fight for your community. You have to play the long game and work through the system and know the right people and pay the right dues to see what you want come to fruition. And sometimes, with a few parking spaces and some amazing people, you can make the change you want to see overnight… even if that magic exists just for a day. Just like Christmas.

parking-day.jpg Garrett Daniells’ Des(s)ert: Cornucopia, 2017 taking up all of the parking space.

Cover image by Garrett Daniells