From day to night, Castro Village Vibrant – SF Planning Department’s vision for the Castro
The San Francisco Planning Department in partnership with the SFMTA, the Department of Public Works, and local neighborhood and merchant associations had their second public workshop regarding the redesign of Castro’s streetscape Wednesday night at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy auditorium. The space was larger than the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, which hosted the first workshop, and rightly so; the first meeting was busting at the seams and for the second meeting on Wednesday night, the room was packed.
Future Castro Street Sidewalks 3-D rendering
Nick Perry, Urban Planner with the SF Planning Department, laid out the basic plans for what the department is billing as “Castro Village Vibrant”: a thriving pedestrian village with easy access to local businesses during the day, and an active and safe nightlife after dark. The modifications to Castro’s streetscape based on the feedback received from the first workshop and the departments original design include:
- Widening sidewalks on Castro between Market and 19th
- Creating a crosswalk spanning Market Street near Jane Warner Plaza that is more direct
- Street lighting AND pedestrian lighting along Castro between Market and 19th
- Reserving space for the Rainbow Honor Walk on newly paved sidewalks
- New trees
Additional enhancements to the design include 4 options (based on the project’s budget) which include:
North of Market Corner Bulb-outs
Only one of the options will be chosen for the final plan due to budget constraints. Developers of the Market and Castro RC Gas Station site were in attendance and attendees suggested that they sponsor one of the four options, namely the Market and Castro intersection improvements in option 4. They cited the pedestrian improvements made at the new Whole Foods location paid for by the developers of that complex as an example. The developers took Nick Perry’s card and seemed interested in talking. If the developers are willing to make improvements laid out in option 4 then the planning department would still have money left in their budget to implement one of the 3 other options; a win for the Castro.
Fearmongering about double parking and the loss of parking was in no short supply.
Some attendees expressed deep concerns about getting around double-parked vehicles on Castro Street now that the lanes are to be narrowed. One of the biggest culprits of double-parking are trucks loading and unloading goods to local merchants. The Planning Department will be working with the merchants to come up with ideal times for time-limited loading zones along Castro Street to alleviate this risk.
The base plan includes a net-loss of one parking space without any of the four optional enhancements. This was achieved by shortening the parking stalls and turning some of them into compact spaces for the slew of Smart Cars, Fiats, and Mini Coopers that are popular in the neighborhood.
Still, some attendees fired shot after shot at Perry as if the Department was getting rid of all parking and that people would be stopping their cars regularly in the middle of Castro Street to backup traffic. Supervisor Wiener stepped in several times during the heated exchange to allow Perry to address these concerns without snarky comments being constantly overlaid by these curmudgeons.
Attendees also weighed in on the finer points of the streetscape redesign.
Trees will line Castro between Market and 19th with perennials throughout the mid block and evergreens near the block corners. The perennial selections are white bark birch, armstrong maple and the columnar ginkgo. The evergreen selections are the queen palm, the king palm, and the magnolia. The magnolia trees were the least popular as attendees cited their messiness and their tendency to grow large and dense and probably block the view of Castro’s beautiful architecture. People were also very concerned about who would be maintaining the trees and their effect on sidewalk health. As we’ve reported before, the City has made the maintenance of trees on the sidewalks the responsibility of the adjacent property owner.
18th Street Bus Bulb-Outs
The option which includes Muni bulbouts at Castro and 18th was popular amongst attendees except for the reconfiguration of the Muni stops on 18th Street. In the option, Muni eastbound would stop in front of Harvey’s Restaurant instead of the Bank of America and westbound would stop in front of K-Pop/Starbucks instead of on the side of Walgreens. In this option, attendees were concerned that Muni would backup traffic just before each intersection, with no room to pass. The SF Planning commission noted that keeping the bus stops where they are at the bulbouts would have the same effect except that traffic would back up into the intersection blocking even more traffic.
Scrambles, while deemed not feasible due to light-timing and backed-up traffic were still popular at 18th and Castro. Some people were very upset about the planning department’s inability to make the scramble option work; they wanted a better explanation as to why it wasn’t possible so Supervisor Scott Wiener agreed to get a memo out to the neighborhood associations to explain the details to residents.
One of the optional enhancements, the bulbout in front of Anchor Oyster and the HRC / Harvey Milk Camera Store, was not popular amongst attendees. The idea was that the bulbout would serve as a gathering spot for the community in honor of Harvey Milk’s old camera shop, but the consensus was that the store itself is more or less a consignment shop of HRC memorabilia than a place for the community to gather.
Additional enhancements may include “mica sparkles” for sidewalk fabulousness and Castro history facts embedded into the concrete.
Folks also asked about the abundance of newsracks in the Castro and if it was possible to remove some of them as they take up valuable sidewalk space and are usually epmty. Supervisor Wiener noted that agreements penned with Clear Channel and JC Decaux (agreements he noted he would have never supported) will allow for the removal of only a certain amount over a span of several years.
Trey Allen, avid bicyclist and community activist, cited a lack of bicycle infrastructure included on the base plans and sent a letter to Supervisor Scott Wiener calling for a solution.
Funding for the project comes from a 4+ million dollar bond augmented by a contribution from the SFMTA to cover the lions-share of the cost of the relocation of Muni overhead catenary wire system. The moving of the wires could extend the completion deadline, but the MTA already has a preliminary plan in place if moving the Muni poles to the edge of the extended sidewalk is included in the final plan.
The SF Planning Department still needs your help. Fill out their survey and either snail-mail it or send it in an email to Nick Perry by next Friday, April 12th. Submission instructions are located near the bottom of the form.
Another final public meeting is slated for late April 2013.
Presentation Documents (pdf):
Revised design with optional enhancements
Preliminary design upgrades
Workshop 1 survey results