The giant Scrabble game on Fourth Avenue was called an "intensely popular" stop for pedestrians on Park(ing) Day.
The giant Scrabble game on Fourth Avenue was called an “intensely popular” stop for pedestrians on Park(ing) Day.

Pedestrians played games, enjoyed lunch and sunned themselves Friday as they took advantage of temporary open spaces in downtown San Diego in celebration of global Park(ing) Day.

More than a dozen businesses converted metered parking spots in front of their shops into mini parks with tables, chairs, artificial turf and game areas. Streets included Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth and 10th avenues.

The purpose of the event, which included blocking off Fourth Avenue between Market and Island, was to “build awareness about how we use public spaces downtown,” said Alex Ward of the Gaslamp Quarter Association.

As population rises downtown, Ward said, “We have to ask ourselves: Where are these people going to go outside to enjoy themselves? If we can organize ourselves and just do this for a day, imagine the ground swell and things we could do permanently.”

While people listened to music, they wrote messages in chalk on the street, played bean bag toss and competed in a giant Scrabble game. Others ate and enjoyed the return to more typical San Diego weather.

In North Park, City Council President Todd Gloria took part in the opening of a parklet or “temporary pedestrian plaza” at Mama’s Bakery and Lebanese Deli near Live Wire on Alabama Street. Owners of both businesses joined to build and maintain the outdoor dining area that will take up two parking spots for at least a year.

This is the second parklet in North Park. The first is in front of Caffe Calabria on 30th Street.

“Disrict 3 is all about experimenting and checking out new things,” Gloria said. “We are taking back our public spaces, and I think it will be a huge hit with the neighborhood.”

Sam Chammas, owner of Live Wire, called the parklet “the front porch of the whole neighborhood.”

Gloria pointed to similar efforts to claim more land for people: Plaza Panama, the waterfront park at the County Administration Center and next phase of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan set to open next month, which will give pedestrians more space on Harbor Drive.