Monday, August 24, 2009

Laying Better Plans

The Planning Department's City Design Group has been working on its Mission Streetscape Plan for some time now. They've just released the presentation materials from the fourth Public Workshop and the concepts they outline are very encouraging!

I think the grid of the inner Mission District is one of the most pleasant environments for pedestrians in the city. Most intersections have four-way stops, the streets have wide sidewalks, low car traffic and are lined with trees and beautiful houses. But there's definitely room for improvement, especially along the streets that were handed over to cars during the 20th century (So. Van Ness, Guerrero, 16th and especially Potrero).

Check out the PDF, and continue after the jump for my first impression.

Gateway Plazas

Treat Plaza

From pages 15-16 of the PDF

I obviously think this one's a great idea. It's not as extensive as my idea, but that avoids some of the problems I acknowledged might stem from the lack of activity in that area - especially at night. The community garden element adds activity to the northern leg of the plaza, but it's not really the most open open space. The largest benefit of this or any rejiggering of the intersection is the loss of two of SF's longest pedestrian crossings. They will not be missed.

The document articulates plans for other gateway plazas at San Jose & Dolores, Mission & Valencia. There are two proposals for the Dolores plaza. Of those I far prefer the 'sidewalk park' option (page 20).


Great improvements for three alleys are depicted. All the proposals here are good for pedestrians, in my experience. If I could add one thing it would be plans to add more alleys in the still transitional Northeast Mission, or wherever possible.

Wide Streets, Narrow Sidewalks

The plan would add traffic calming elements to several streets, including Capp, 26th, Hampshire and 20th. I don't have a problem with any of those elements, but I would hope we can take the opportunity of a redesigned street to narrow the asphalt and widen the sidewalks. There's room on all streets to do this, particularly Capp.

The road diets proposed for Folsom and Bryant streets are good. In every case where it comes up I prefer a wider sidewalk and narrower road to a median, and that's true of these plans too. It seems clear that one major goal of these redesigns is to mitigate storm water runoff. That's a great thing for the city to consider, but I suggest there's room on these streets for more sidewalk space as well. I'd hope pedestrians get a couple feet on each side out of the space taken away from cars.


Potrero Avenue is one of the worst streets in the Mission, and it has the biggest potential/reality discrepancy of any street in the city, IMHO. This plan is less than bold on its improvements for Potrero. Instead of redesigning that nightmare to improve livability and traffic flow for all modes, the Mission Streetscape Plan offers only a landscaped median and curb bulbouts.

Bulbouts are great, and every corner should have them added as part of the ADA ramp reconstruction. But Potrero needs an awful lot more than bulbouts to become a place where people want to be - or feel safe.


Improvements for two of the Mission's most important streets - Mission and 16th - are not spelled out in this document. Instead, the Planning Department moves responsibility for those streets to the SFMTA under its ENTrips study. That's probably smart considering all the transit needs of those two streets. I'll have to be content to eagerly await any signs of progress there.


I forgot to mention - if you have opinions of your own then by all means leave them in the comments here, but it's not too late to get involved. From the City Design Group Mission Streetscape Plan's website:
send us your additional comments and feedback by email:

Thank you for participating!


Jarrett at said...

Great post, but doesn't Potrero also deserve BRT treatment? The 9 is a really important corridor, and it's only flowed as well as it has because there was so little development in that part of the Mission.

Does your feeling about medians change if Potrero had median BRT?

Seems to me you need to be thinking about the major transit corridors as you talk about these streets, no?

Pedestrianist said...

Ostensibly, Potrero has BRT according to the city :-)

A stretch of it was repainted a couple years ago with a bus only lane as part of the same SFMTA directive (voter mandated) that called for improvements on Geary, Van Ness, Third and into Chinatown.

The Potrero corridor does indeed deserve better transit service than the 9 currently provides - which is evident from the ridership of the 9-plex, the fourth highest in the city.

I think that more than BRT, Potrero needs a fully grade separated, high capacity transit solution. I rather like a reborn H-line subway. Expensive, yes, but it solves once and for all the problem of traffic choke points at C Chav/Potrero/101 and Mission/South Van Ness.

To speak more generally, my feeling about medians is better if the median is useful in someway, as BRT certainly is. But median-running BRT isn't really a median, it's a dedicated transit lane in the middle of the road.

My aversion to medians isn't dogmatic. I just don't like seeing some of the most precious space in a city where space is scarce roped off, when it could be used by people.