City Moving Forward With Plan to Widen Castro’s Sidewalks

Typical Castro sidewalk sans citizen's and delivery trucks.

Typical Castro sidewalk sans citizen’s and delivery trucks.

The Castro’s sidewalks are crammed. Pedestrians, bikes, late night revelers, double wide strollers, dog walkers and their charges, skateboards, garbage cans, piled cardboard, all jostling for room in an ever shrinking finite space. To help alleviate the bottlenecking SF Planning Department has developed plans to widen the sidewalks and install other improvements from 17th Street to 19th Street along the main drag of the neighborhood.

Sidewalks on Castro, currently a narrow 12 feet wide, could reach widths up to 22 feet, according to Nick Perry, project manager for the Planning Department. This new ‘real estate’ would be created by narrowing traffic lanes. According to those involved in the redesign the hope is that would calm motor traffic and  that it may reduce the rampant double parking that plagues the three MUNI lines currently using that route.

How the redesign may look once completed. Castro a haven for all pedestrians.

How the redesign may look once completed. Castro a haven for all pedestrians.

The project got a major boost after Sup. Scott Wiener announced that $4 million would be set aside for it’s completion from Prop B bond funds. Wiener wrote in the Bay Area Reporter early this month, “While the Castro has wonderful parks at its edges, the neighborhood has remarkably little usable public space. Harvey Milk Plaza is poorly designed and doesn’t honor its namesake with a wonderful and safe public gathering space. Jane Warner Plaza is terrific but small. While the Castro is one of the most pedestrian-focused neighborhoods in the city, Castro Street’s sidewalks are embarrassingly narrow.”

The Planning Department will begin developing street designs through public workshops starting in January 2013. The Merchants of Upper Market Castro (MUMC) ever johnny on the spot have long sought this change. In 2008 they started the Neighborhood Beautification and Safety Plan which is the brain child of Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD)-the folks who installed and then removed the benches at Harvey Milk Plaza recently. This plan outlines what they hope are all the ingredients SF Planning Dept. will need to make the Castro more user friendly.

This project has been fast tracked due to the extensive work already done by CBD, MUMC, working in conjunction with Mr. Perry, the watchful eye of Sup. Wiener and the gathered input from local residents. Double parking along Castro for deliveries during business hours is already extreme and problematic. Also unclear is how less drive space equals less traffic congestion or how narrowing the lanes will effect our neighborhoods burgeoning bicyclists who share these already dangerous roads.

When the Valencia Street corridor sidewalks were redesigned and upgraded the neighborhood drew a collective sigh of relief as the once shoulder to shoulder pedestrian experience transformed into a walker’s paradise. Increased foot traffic translated into more business for local merchants and helped raise that community in the eyes of both City residents and visitors. The Castro could easily see a similar financial boost from the redesign and enjoy an even greater popularity with tourists and locals.

Waiyde Palmer

Waiyde Palmer loves San Francisco, social activism and punk rock(ers). His work has appeared in Handbook Magazine. SF Bay Times, The Advocate, Diseased Pariah News and American Music Press . He also has an extensive and repeatedly redacted FBI file.

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6 Responses

  1. Jon says:

    You’re misrepresenting the plan a little here. There will be no parking removed, the space for wider sidewalks will be found by narrowing the current extremely wide traffic lane to a more normal size. Right now the traffic lane is so wide that most people treat it as two lanes, which encourages double parking as people think that other vehicles have another lane to get round them.

    As a cyclist who lives on the 400 block of Castro St I’m very much in favor of narrowing the traffic lanes. Reducing the width of the street will calm traffic and make the street safer and more pleasant for cyclists and pedestrians, and reducing double parking will reduce the numbers of times I get forced out into traffic to get around an illegally stopped vehicle. Muni should also benefit from the reduction in double parking.

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    • Roy says:

      That’s good to know, Jon, thank you.

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      • Waiyde says:

        Yes. Thanks Jon. I misread the CBD plan-you’re quite right-no parking will be removed. However making two narrow lanes won’t discourage double parking in an area where it’s been going on for decades. Double parking is endemic of living in our high density City from the Polk to North Beach and the danger to cyclists and slow down of MUNI lines will continue.

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        • Jon says:

          I’m also not 100% convinced that narrowing the lanes will reduce double parking, but I don’t see how it will make the situation any worse. As you say double parking goes on all over the city regardless of how wide traffic lanes are.

          I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the effect will be, I’ll just be glad to have wider sidewalks. After midnight it’s often impossible to get past the crowds spilling out of 440 and QBar without walking out into the traffic lane, which is really annoying if you’re just nipping out to Walgreens.

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    • Ramón says:

      Thanks. I hope UPS, FedEx, DHL etc., get the memo about double-parking.

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  2. I-Am Love says:

    Too bad you wont be able to sit/lie around or be naked.

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