An estimated 25,000 people turned out for a beautiful albeit windy Sunday Streets in the Mission yesterday, tying the attendance record for the city’s “official block party.” For many a participant, experiencing car-free Valencia and 24th Streets didn’t just continue to beg the question “why not every week?” but rather, “why not all the time?”
“This is freedom. This is liberation,” Mayor Ed Lee told Streetsblog as he strolled down a car-free Valencia Street. “Everyone’s having a great time, and I’m out here seeing how people feel and maybe generating some ideas of how we can keep more of this going.”
Parents, kids, and the young at heart filled streets lined with music, dance, food, and neighbors relaxed in lawn chairs in places that would be dominated by cars on any other day. Merchants ventured out from their indoor retreats to mix with the outdoor street life as patrons filled their shops and restaurants.
Sunday Streets coordinator Susan King said some participants complained the liberated space was too little for the amount of people flocking to the event from all over the city.
“The pressure on the street and the space is a result of pent up need for more space,” said King. “It was a human-powered traffic jam, but everybody was stopping because there was so much to see and do.”
The huge demand points to a much-needed reassessment of how the city uses its most valuable commercial corridors, which are mostly dominated by private automobiles. As pedestrianized areas, Valencia and 24th Streets could be experienced in a completely different way.
“This public space and our ability to use it is of value,” said King. “So many people got out yesterday that wouldn’t have got out there or taken their kids for a bike ride unless there was a place like Sunday Streets for them to go.”
Judging by the huge demand from merchants and residents, Sunday Streets seems to be succeeding in its goals to get more and more people re-envisioning public space.
“Not only do we have very little opposition, but we have huge enthusiasm and huge support,” said King. “Merchant associations are saying, ‘More, more, more! What can we do? This is so great. We’re so excited’.”
The Mayor said in August he hopes to head-up the first Sunday Streets for Chinatown and North Beach, two dense neighborhoods also ripe for car-free streets.