Tiffany Street Neighbors Make a Party of Ripping Up Concrete

diggging_1.jpgA new wider tree well get’s a new tree from Friends of the Urban Forest. Photos: Matthew Roth.

Starting last week along Tiffany Street near 29th Street, contractors started cutting up sidewalks, jackhammering them and taking the crumbled pieces of concrete away in trucks. By the end of the week, what looked like an ugly construction zone began to get the personal touch of residents hoeing and digging in the dirt underneath the concrete, preparing it for a block party planting day this last Saturday, when the street was closed to cars and neighbors came together to work and throw a street party.

24 property owners on Tiffany Street and 29th Street banded together to transform their long block from a concrete jungle into something a little closer to a real jungle, using a $24,000 Community Challenge Grant and enlisting the support of Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) along the way.

Rita Roti, a resident on Tiffany Street for over 13 years, had had enough with the lack of greenery and started organizing the neighbors she knew around the concept of the concrete planter boxes.

"There’s just so much concrete everywhere, I’ve always wanted to change it," said Roti. She said as a result of the organizing around the planters, her neighbors had met with California Pacific Medical Center on Valencia and Cesar Chavez to discuss the plans for reconstruction there and now they were talking about adding additional traffic calming at the corner of Tiffany Street and 29th Street. This stretch of Tiffany is already a virtual bicycle boulevard because of traffic calming and a bicycle cut-through at the north end, where if meets Valencia.

"It used to be 4,000 cars a day before the traffic calming," said Roti, and many of them were flying down the street at dangerous speeds.

bbq.jpgThe block party on Saturday to celebrate after working on the new gardens.

John Oram, who lives across the street from Roti, said people on the started adding palms and succulents in pots in front of their houses, a trend which led to others trying to keep up with their neighbors in greening. With the formal removal of concrete, the process had accelerated.

"I’ve had more people, I can’t even count how many, ask me what’s going
on," he said. "You can tell people walking by, they are impressed, but
also a little bit jealous."

Most of the grant FUF secured from the PUC has gone into the removal of the sidewalk pieces and the purchase of the many plants and trees going in on the street. Each property owner also contributed to the project to pay for the permits and some of the concrete removal.

Naomi LeBeau, project manager from FUF, said the phone is ringing off the hook for similar projects around the city. "It is hot, there’s a lot of people who are really interested in this
stuff right now. Putting in these
gardens is like turning a light on on your street."

In addition to the community work days, FUF organized two volunteer work parties of 30 people each through Sales Force, which LeBeau said had a strong volunteer program.

Roti and Oram said the planting was only the first step and the neighbors were now organized to further improve the street. They envisioned the push for the traffic calming project at 29th and Tiffany, saying they wanted to see a three-way stop added and bulb-outs to narrow a very wide intersection. They also wanted larger signage at traffic levels letting cars know they were entering a street that was closed at the north end by traffic calming to avoid the very frequent occurrence of hapless drivers going all the way to the end before realizing they had to turn around.

Oram noted the sense of camaraderie amongst the neighbors because of the work they were doing and the pride they were taking in their street.

"You can tell there is something going on," he said. "It’s nice to be able to have kids run around on the street."

pavers.jpgResidents standing over the permeable paving stones they just added to the sidewalk.
jumping_castle.jpgWho doesn’t love a jumping castle and new trees?
ballon_boy.jpgAnd the obligatory cute kid with a balloon shot!
  • Nick

    Tiffany’s such a nice street to ride though. The coffee shop at the corner is a nice pplace to rest as well.

    Most people are so resistant to change. How in the world did they ever get their neighbors to initially agree to close off the north end of the street to cars?

    Further, Tiffany should be used as a model street that entire city neighborhoods are built after.

  • gibraltar

    Oh no! Where will people park their cars now?

  • 5678

    not to hate on trees, but i feel like the extra visual protection they give from the street is gonna lead to a bunch of muggings. I almost got jumped on that street, i had to bolt down to valencia as fast as i could

  • friscolex

    I remember the speeding-cars days and am now thrilled treasure this block as an integral part of my current bike commute.

    Having participated in my neighborhood tree planting last year, I know how awesome it is to collaborate with FUF. True community building.

    The plantings look great so far and when they settle in and grow a bit, even better.

    Good job, guys!

  • we had a similar thing on our block off of Irving Street. It made a big difference. Especially nice is how all the native plants break up the wide sidewalks ,so when it rains we don’t have giant puddles to navigate around – the runoff keeps the plants watered. Plus other people in the neighborhood are doing similar things and everyone really liked the results.

  • Nick

    Greg, do you live on that bloack of 8th Ave? If so, have you heard any rumors of 8th and Irving getting a Stop sign?

  • Jeremy

    I bike down Tiffany while they were working/partying, and it was a cool scene. Tiffany is a great connector between the Valencia and San Jose bike lanes. My only request would be to cut little bike routes through the speed humps, like they have on Octavia: http://bit.ly/awTxfX

  • 0101!

    @Jeremy, why should bicycles be exempt to traffic calming implimentations? Plus, those humps are really fun to ride over.

  • Well done San Franciscans – living in Ireland, I appreciate what you’re doing… Keep watering, keep feeding, keep planting…. xo xo

  • J

    Re: Jeremy/101 Traffic Calming for bikes
    The bikes are sometimes more hazardous than the cars on Tiffany Ave.
    I like bikes, but there seems to be a mentality that bikers don’t have to take any care while riding.

    The gardens are nice. I hope more streets start planting.

  • eireland

    I wholeheartedly agree. I am an extremely cautious and sober driver at all times and I always slow at intersections in anticipation of pedestrians and cyclists who do not seem to want to take any responsibility for their own or others safety. The problem is getting very serious. Traffic signals apply to all of us and we can all coexist, but not if pedestrians and cyclists think they don’t have to heed traffic controls. I wonder how many of the cyclists who choose to ride recklessly without helmets have no medical insurance and will wind someday wind up in a vegetable patch being cared for on Medi-cal at taxpayers expense. How about taking responsibility, cyclists?

  • James

    Helmets aren’t likely to do much to protect those who ride recklessly. They’re just not made to protect from vehicle collisions. The good news is that as the average person feels more comfortable riding out there, the daredevil risk-taking types will become a smaller and smaller percentage.

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