Great Streets Project Hires Director, Hits the Streets Running

Market_rail.jpgFlickr photo: JaimeAndreu
Yesterday marked an important day for livable streets in San Francisco. In coordination with the Castro Street CBD, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and the Mayor's Office of Greening, the nascent Great Streets Project (GSP) co-hosted a roundtable discussion about how to start and manage successful public spaces, with particular emphasis on the proposed street closure and public plaza at 17th Street and Market Street. 

Only weeks after hiring Kit Hodge to direct the GSP, this event marked the first step toward building a constituency that clamors for turning over more street space to people and improving the quality of the public realm.  According to Hodge, agency heads sat down with community organizers and all discussed ways to improve streets, to effectively manage new public spaces, and to locate areas throughout San Francisco that are ripe for transformation.

Hodge explained the GSP as "a catalytic and short-term effort to enhance the livable streets projects in San Francisco and institutionalize them in city government."  She said she will create an online database of best practice examples and tools intended for professional planners, engineers and agency personnel so they can easily reference the work of their counterparts in other cities.

Currently, the GSP is a collaboration between the SFBC, Project for Public Spaces (PPS), and the Livable Streets Initiative (produced by Streetsblog SF's parent company, The Open Planning Project), and Hodge expects many more groups to sign on in short order. 

"I have tremendous respect for the many groups that have been working on this for many years, but we want to broaden the conversation by talking to other organizations that don't focus on transportation issues," said Hodge.

The GSP will focus on three principles that have proved successful in cities such as New York:

  • Bring experts from around the country and around the world to demonstrate best practice examples and offer instructive advice to San Franciscans
  • Help organize communities around trial projects on the ground that test livable streets ideas.  GSP will use independent analysis to determine the effectiveness of the projects and encourage wide public feedback
  • Reach out to more stakeholders and broaden the tent of people involved, particularly those who are not already part of the conversation, including the business community, neighborhood leaders and under-served communities.

Kit_hodge_small.jpgGreat Streets Project's Kit Hodge
Hodge indicated that she will spend considerable time working to bring stakeholders and policymakers to the table to focus on transforming and revitalizing Market Street.  The GSP is also working to bring Enrique Peñalosa to San Francisco this summer to discuss the successes he had as former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, such as the popularizing of ciclovias, the progenitor of our own Sunday Streets.

Hodge is no stranger to organizing in communities to fight for better public space and better streets.  She was the co-founder of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign five years ago while working for Transportation Alternatives, then moved to Chicago and worked with the Metropolitan Planning Council to create a Placemaking Guide intended to facilitate the improvement of neighborhoods. She also worked to develop a regional congestion pricing model, helped with implementation of the Chicago Central Area Plan, and the use of Parking Improvement Districts (think Don Shoup) in transit rich areas.

Hodge subsequently started and ran The Neighbors Project, a non-profit organization working in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City to improve neighborhoods and enhance communication between the multiple generations that create the fabric of a community.

Hodge lives in the Lower Haight and is the vice president of her neighborhood group, the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, where she is leading a traffic calming project that will expand and improve pedestrian and bicycle space.

We wish Kit and the GSP great success and look forward to covering their work on the blog.