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What's New in City Design

Streamlined Permitting for PopUp Installations



Streamlined application process for short-term, low costimprovements in public rights-of-way. These installations may be demonstrations to test future, permanent solutions.


Benefits & Problems Addressed

Less red tape: By automating administrative and legal requirements that are similar across projects, cities and citizens face less cost and time. 

Increased number of improvement projects: Ease of process can increase the number of applications for improvements. Because the public carries out fact finding, support, and in some cases, matching resources, this reduces resource pressures for cities & towns.

Targeted improvements: Because the public is involved, they have an eye for small, helpful interventions such as adding green space, fixing flooding "hot spots," improving bus stops, and more. 

Ability to test: Streamlined permitting helps communities test new (and potentially controversial) public space redesigns to work out  details before permanent investment.


Tips & Techniques

Inter-Departmental & Legal: Engage the Office of the City & County Attorney at the front end to negotiate a process that is legally fair and sound, but that also facilitates community objectives. In addition, bring in all involved Departments for ideas, planning, funding and support.  This can include Public Arts, Business Improvement Districts, the tech community and local small businesses.

Pilot projects first: Consider a pilot or prototype project first to establish criteria, cost-share, partnership requirements, legal and regulatory barriers. A pilot also helps establish a study and data collection framework to reduce risk and measure success.

Mapping: Map areas ripe for improvement and pre-permitting. Criteria may include zoning opportunities, underused properties or rights-of-way with advantages. Sites that need to be excluded (e.g., contaminated sites) should also be highlighted on a map.

Insurance: Streamlining insurance is as important as untangling legal and regulatory barriers. Establish project design principles that build safety and buffers in at the drawing board stage. 

On-Going Maintenance: Determine maintenance at the front end for a permanent project.  This may include annual permitting or maintenance agreements with established organizations. 

Engagement: One common success factor is described as "whimsy," which draws people in and helps make technical aspects of the project more approachable to all. The inviting nature of a popup also delivers a community benefit.

Hot Buttons: Push-back from community & shopkeeper buy-in prior to events, liability and insurance requirements,  failed expectations if there is no funding for a permanent project.


Examples & Resources

People St. Los Angeles pre-permits bike corrals, parklets and plazas

Pop-Up Demonstration Tool Kit, AARP  (2016)

Placemaking Hub is a  one-stop shop for public realm enhancement tools in Minneapolis MN

image: Los Angeles

parklets, parklet, plazas, tactical urbanism, pilots, pilot, improvements, rights of way