Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Street Closing Fever

It seems like converting streets into pedestrian plazas and parks is the hot new thing in SF. Ever since Streetsblog reported the potential closures in the Castro and North Beach, residents of other neighborhoods have gotten the bug to identify streets in their parts of town that could use the same treatment.

The other day I nominated the two blocks of Treat Ave on either side of 16th for plaza/park conversion.

Yesterday, local hipster blog Burrito Justice posted a proposal to close the last block of Valencia Street, between Mission and C. Chav. (discovered via MissionMission). BJ's plan would be part of an ongoing plan to rebuild St. Luke's hospital.

While both Mission District street closures have some drawbacks that would need to be addressed (emergency vehicle access in St. Luke's case) I believe both streets are underused as vehicle rights of way, and both are in park-poor areas of town with high population density. Both should be seriously considered.

Which street in your hood would make more sense as a park or pedestrian plaza?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Which Street Would You Close?

Since the city is installing a fast-tracked trial closure of half a block of 17th Street at Market, I can't help but wonder what other cut-off chunks of auto territory would benefit from being turned into mini-parks or pedestrian plazas.

Some folks in North Beach, including poet and City Lights bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti, want to turn a block of Vallejo Street into a pedestrian "piazza."

What do you think? Which section of street would you like to close?

In my neighborhood, I'd love to see the two blocks of Treat Avenue on either side of 16th Street become plazas or parks. The intersection of 16th, Harrison and Treat makes for two of the longest pedestrian crossings I've seen in SF, and devotes a massive amount of space to asphalt that hardly anybody ever drives on anyway.

That space could be converted into green space, which is sorely lacking in the neighborhood. If the city could purchase some of the adjacent parking lots, the park would have a respectable amount of space. Here's an arial view of what could be:

By closing all the gaps in the sidewalk created by Treat Ave, pedestrian safety is improved along 15th, 16th, 17th, and Harrison Streets, while still allowing bikes and pedestrians to cross through the park. The traffic patterns at the site currently prevent very many cars from using these two blocks, and the resulting empty expanse has blight ed the area and attracts prostitution.

Looking North from 16th Street

Challenges to the success of this idea include bringing more people to the area late at night, which would be necessary to prevent the park from becoming dangerous or overrun by prostitution. The surrounding blocks are mostly industrial or office buildings, so there is not a natural population in the area at night. There are, however, several residential developments within a two-block radius, and new development of some of the vacant or underused properties adjacent to the new park could brighten the neighborhood and potentially help pay for the park's construction.

Looking South from 16th Street

In addition, there are a few garage doors on the Southern block and one on the Northern. These driveways are rarely used, however, and cooperation of those propety owners is not out of the question.

The creation of a Treat Avenue park or plaza would take underused asphalt away from cars and allow the neighborhood to enjoy it. Space, especially green space, is sorely needed for the residents of the Northeast Mission. In addition to providing more high-quality public space, the park would improve pedestrian safety at this busy intersection. The challenges that need to be resolved are dwarfed by the benefit this park would provide, and the city should seriously begin studying how to make this a reality.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New York-style Pedestrian Plaza Coming to Market Street

Streetsblog SF reports that the Castro will be home to San Francisco's first JSK-style pedestrian space. 17th stree will be closed to cars from Market/Castro east for half a block, as depicted below.

The old-timey F-Market streetcars that stop there will continue to do so, as you can see, but planters and street furniture will prevent cars from accesing the space. This project is being planned as a temporary, trial project, and city officials will study the results closely. No word yet on when we can expect to see this with our own eyes.

News of this project may help folks in North beach who want to close a section of Vallejo street to create a similar pedestrian 'piazza' next to Cafe Trieste. That project is waiting for funding, but Streetsblog commenters aren't the only ones speculating that it could benefit from a trial program similar to the Castro's.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

From the dreamy Steven T. Jones at the Bay Guardian:
Rob, despite what you and others (even within the bike community) have said, it wasn't completely irrational to put forward the notion that the Bike Plan should have been exempt from detailed, two-year environmental review. There's no doubt that facilitating safe bicycling improves the environment, and there's nothing in CEQA that gives priority to automobiles. A judge didn't agree that the EIR could be waived, deciding to broaden the reach of CEQA to include bike plans for the first time, but the EIR has now supported the city's original assumption. After all these long and expensive legal and bureaucratic delays, we're essentially where we were three years ago, albeit with environmental documents that should allow us to move faster than we were able to then. All your lawsuit accomplished, Rob, was to delay the plan and force taxpayers to spend millions of dollars more on it than they otherwise would have.

Monday, March 23, 2009


From Streetsblog LA:

Please note that I cannot endorse illegal actions, even super awesome ones like this.

Progress on Translink

Rachel Gordon, possibly the best reporter left at the Comical Chronicle, reports today that BART has finally set the date when it will begin accepting Translink cards at its fare gates. That date is early June, according to Gordon, although it's not 100% clear to me whether this represents the start of a testing phase or the full implementation. In either case, the first people to use Translink will be 1,000 regular users of BART's own EZ Rider card.

I've had a Translink card for over a year and highly recommend it. I don't put my Fast Pass on it because I'm hesitant to give up the reliability of that paper copy, but it's been worth its weight in exact change several times. I've used it to catch an all-nighter bus across the bay after BART has gone to sleep (why the Bay Area's most under-funded transit agency is the only one crossing the water at 2am - and why it was the first to implement Translink - is a great question) and I've also used it to pay for friends when we catch a bus on a whim.

Translink really allows for greater flexibility in my transit usage, and I hope BART's rollout is successful.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I realize I haven't been posting much recently. I just returned from two weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It's a beautiful city, with too many cars but a large population that gets by on their workhorse subway and the occasional cab ride.

But the world is still turning up here, and I plan to keep up the posts now that I'm back.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

Free parking is not free for BART,
BART director Tom Radulovich tells Streetsblog SF.
Not the opportunity cost of the land, not the cost of operating the parking facilities. BART has been really dumb about how we use the land around our stations in the past and now we have to decide what BART stations are going to be when they grow up

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Charleston Reports Improvement After Restoring Two-Way Traffic

The Charleston Post and Courier reports that the quality of life on a couple of streets that were converted from one-way expressways to two-way streets has improved.
[Mayor Joe] Riley said he doesn't feel any sense of delay driving down Beaufain or Wentworth streets these days —streets the city changed to two-way traffic a few years ago. "Actually, it (going a little slower) is more pleasant because you don't have to worry about someone passing you and them mentally thinking they are on some big arterial highway," he said. -The Post and Courier
The city of Charleston is expanding on that success by moving forward to convert two busier streets to two-way traffic this fall.
During the past 15 years, City Hall has favored those who live and work on a street over those who simply drive along it. -The Post and Courier
The SFMTA should take note. The Northeast corner of San Francisco lives and work under the burden of one-way streets that are the most dangerous in the city. In my opinion there isn't a single one that couldn't benefit from a yellow stripe down the middle.