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SF Transbay District Plan Offers Lofty Vision for Growth and Livable Streets
Posted By Matthew Roth On November 20, 2009 @ 2:42 pm In Planning Department,SFMTA,Transbay Terminal | 4 Comments
The Planning Department's Joshua Switzky, one of the lead authors, said like any draft plan this one will fluctuate based on the public and the Planning Commission's feedback, but the principles espoused in it should remain intact.
"The plan that we put out is clearly the one we think is the best plan. Depending on what the Commission wants to do, we will potentially make changes. It's kind of really open to the process," said Switzky.
Switzky pointed to several key recommendations, ones that could prove contentious several years down the line when more detailed proposals are hammered out. One is assuring the quality of pedestrian accessibility with the objective in the plan to maintain, on average, 21-foot sidewalks, 15 feet for circulation and 6 feet of curbside amenities, such as bike racks, benches, street trees, or news boxes.
"That will mean different things on different streets," said Switzky. "On some streets, the only way to achieve that will be to eliminate on-street parking. Sometimes it might mean eliminating a travel lane." Sometimes, he said, it could be a combination of both. "The future of this area is probably a lot less on-street parking than there is today."
Rather than include specific measurements for every sidewalk in the plan, which Switzky said they had at one point considered, for the sake of buy-in from the many agencies cooperating to produce the draft, the Planning Department deferred to general policy objectives. Switzky also noted that nothing specific would happen for several years until after an environmental review is complete and that significant changes would require an economic rebound and renewed investment in the city.
Rincon Hill Neighborhood Association , gave the the Planning Department high praise for its inclusiveness, transparency, and community outreach. He was particularly happy that the Transbay plan incorporated so many elements meant to improve pedestrian safety.
"The Plan's emphasis on creating a pedestrian-oriented Transit Center District is very encouraging. Attention will be paid to making the area safe for people of all ages and mobility challenges to get around on foot," said Whitacker. "The Association will be vigilant about trying mitigate 'dangerous by design' elements that detract from the pedestrian experience along our residential core on Harrison Street."
Manish Champsee, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco, also praised the plan. "The thing that I really like about this plan is that it considers the pedestrian first. Usually when there is a plan to greatly increase the usage of a particular area, the first thought is to create more auto capacity to deal with extra traffic in the area," said Champsee. "This plan takes a completely different approach: it says there will be lots more people in this area, lets increase the sidewalk space to accommodate them. A stark difference."
Another plan objective likely to inspire debate is the proposal to reduce maximum parking allowances in the plan area by half. Currently, said Switzky, commercial space in the downtown core allows 7 percent of gross floor area to be parking, which works out to about one parking space for every 5,000 square feet of office space, or one car for every 20 workers. If the plan's objectives are adopted, the limit of one car for every 40 workers in the plan area would put San Francisco close to the limits set in Manhattan, the strictest anywhere in the country (In Manhattan below 60th Street, commercial developments have to cap the total new parking spaces to 100, no matter the size of the building).
The final plan objectives guaranteed to bring about disagreement are travel demand management proposals, including congestion pricing and other restrictions on personal automobiles into the plan area. In addition to pricing private driving into the downtown, the plan proposes mandating mode-split targets by requiring commercial property owners and managers to keep records of how their employees traveled to work. If the split didn't meet overall travel targets, property owners and businesses would have to provide incentives to employees to reduce overall driving into the area.
Whitaker looked at the long view of the neighborhood. "I
believe it is a good reflection of San Francisco's aspirations
to continue to be a jobs center, the hub for regional transit, and a
model for sustainable urban planning, [while] minimizing air
pollution and other negative impacts on our environment," he said.
Pedestrians and the Public Realm
"To create a public realm worthy of a great city, as well as accommodate the increased number of pedestrians and transit users, the balance of space must shift more toward people on the street. Unavoidably, this step involves certain tradeoffs between pedestrian improvements and space for automobiles.... Giving priority to pedestrians and the Transit Center District’s place in the city means difficult choices in view of space limitations in the rights-of-way."
Encourage Transit and Limit Automobile Congestion
"Data compiled from the 2000 Census by the Metropolitan Transportation
Commission (MTC) for the broader downtown, encompassing the entire C-3
zone and adjacent areas showed that 49
percent of workers took transit, 41 percent of commuters came by auto
(including 29 percent who drove alone to work) and about 10 percent took other
means (primarily walking and bicycling).... Moreover, vehicle occupancy
trends (i.e. number of people per vehicle) also appear counter to the
intentions of the Downtown Plan.... Evidence reviewed in the 2004 Downtown
Monitoring Report indicate that vehicle occupancy on both major bridges
into the City have declined since 1985."
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URL to article: http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/11/20/sf-transbay-district-plan-offers-lofty-vision-for-growth-and-livable-streets/
URLs in this post:
 Transbay Transit District Draft Plan: http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/planning/City_Design_Group/CDG_transit_center.htm
 Image: http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/upload1/transbayskylineviewAFTERtwinpeaksoct09cropsmall.jpg
 Rincon Hill Neighborhood Association: http://www.rinconhillneighbors.com/
 Image: http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/upload1/Livingstreetschematic.png
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