When the plaza at 17th and Market Streets opened up last May, city officials promised more Pavement to Parks projects in short order. Yesterday, there was physical evidence at the sites of two new planned plazas that the city is making good on its commitment.
Crews put up barricades yesterday at the intersection of San Jose Avenue and Guerrero Street and at the intersection of 16th Street and 8th Street in Lower Potrero, the first step in construction of the two new plazas at those locations. The Lower Potrero plaza is on target to open in time for Labor Day weekend, and the San Jose/Guerrero plaza will open by Labor Day weekend or a couple of days after.
Both plazas have enjoyed strong support from neighbors, businesses and politicians. "I personally am very excited and I think the city is very excited, all the way up to the mayor," said Andres Power of the Planning Department. "He’s been briefed and is excited to see these spaces open up."
Neighbors have been especially vocal in their support, said Power. "There was an email campaign right before the ISCOTT hearing," the committee where street closures are approved, "and we received, maybe, I would say, a good 50-60 emails from people in the neighborhood urging the approval of the closure permit. It’s definitely going to be a project that’s well received in the neighborhood."
In a sign of strong institutional support, the St. Luke’s campus of the California Pacific Medical Center, which is located just over a block from the San Jose/Guerrero plaza site, donated $15,000 to the plaza for materials. Those materials will include five-foot-tall barriers planted with tall bamboo to shield the plaza from traffic, compared to the four-foot-tall bollards at the first Pavement to Parks plaza on 17th Street. "The height is going to be a very strong visual barrier between the roadway and the plaza space," said Power.
The lighting at the San Jose/Guerrero plaza has already been upgraded from a yellow sodium roadway light to an LED light, which gives off a more pedestrian-friendly white light, and is more energy efficient.
At the Lower Potrero plaza site, the major institutional presence, the California College of the Arts, is also very excited about the plaza, and has plans to use it for outdoor classroom space. Some space in the plaza will also be reserved for students to exhibit their sculpture work on a rotating basis. Axis Cafe and Wolfe Cafe, which both front onto the site, have also been strongly supportive throughout the process.
Though the plazas won’t be open for another two weeks, both sites are officially car-free as of yesterday. One passerby at the Lower Potrero location already appreciated the change. "They should do something here," he said. "Cars drive through there too fast."