Eyes on the Street: Castro Plaza Slightly More Permanent

castro_additions_1_small.jpgThe new concrete structures meant to frame the plaza. Seating will be added on the inside where the water mark is in the photo. Photos: Matthew Roth
The pioneer Pavement to Parks plaza at Castro Street, 17th Street, and Market Street is about to celebrate its first birthday with a makeover that will bring it a step or two closer to permanence, though planners say this is an iterative step toward a permanent plaza and not the final design.

Andres Power, the project manager from the San Francisco Planning Department, was out getting his hands dirty over the weekend and explained to Streetsblog that this was the next step to the successful trial, one that is supposed to last until the city raises more significant money and designs a permanent plaza in the location. Power said one of the comments they heard the most from the community was the need to have larger, more permanent-feeling features that could frame the plaza and help block wind.

"A lot of people wanted more beefy structures to provide a stronger physical presence. We've listened to that and we've come up with this idea here," said Power. "The idea was to have a framing of fixed seating, inside of the planter walls at seating height and outside of the edge at leaning height."

Power said the concrete form work was completed last Wednesday and the soil and trees were delivered on Friday from Flora Grubb Nursery in the Bayview. Flora Grubb sold the two types of trees to the city at a deep discount, a Mediterranean Fan Palm and several brachychiton populneus trees, or bottle trees, which don't need much water and do well in wind.

Asked why he was moving dirt at the plaza on his day off, Power said, "I'm out here because I believe in the cause."

He said all the work that weekend was volunteer energy from Friends of the Urban Forest and the San Francisco Great Streets Project.

The next steps for the plaza will be the installation of levels at the eastern end of 17th Street to secure large planting pots. Sculptor Paul Cesewski, who did a lot of metal work for the Flora Grub Nursery facility, is fabricating a decorative metal gate that will mark the entrance of the plaza at Castro Street and will be the emergency access point. All of the metal for the gate was donated Port of San Francisco and includes old rail lines and other pieces of steel that had been reclaimed from their facilities.

The city hopes to complete the plaza construction for a ribbon cutting on May 22nd in celebration of Harvey Milk Day. This coming Saturday starting at 9 am. volunteers will finish up the planting with succulents and ground cover; Power encouraged all interested in helping to show up and lend a hand.

castro_additions_5_small.jpgPlanning's Andres Power watering the new Mediterranean Palm Tree.
castro_additions_3_small.jpgOne of the three concrete structures and a volunteer.
castro_additions_4_small.jpgThe brachychiton populneus trees.