McCoppin Street Residents to Get Overdue Public Spaces

A preliminary vision for the "McCoppin Hub" at McCoppin and Valencia Streets. Image: Boor Bridges Architecture

Residents just north of the Mission District who have lived in the shadow of the Central Freeway are beginning to see a glimmer of light. The city appears poised to move ahead with plans to bring street improvements and green space to the area, including a public plaza at the end of McCoppin Street that abuts the Octavia freeway onramp.

The neighborhood has long been stifled by a lack of inviting places to gather as well as traffic noise and danger from the domineering freeway.

“Our neighborhood is not cohesive,” said Lynn Valente, resident of McCoppin Street, which lies just south of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, and runs for a few short blocks from Otis to Valencia Streets before it stops at the wall of the freeway ramp. “It has a lot to do with the freeway,” she said.

The long-awaited improvements were planned after Caltrans rebuilt the damaged stretch of freeway through the neighborhood in 2005.

The Central Freeway over Duboce Street looking toward Valencia Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

“We had hoped to mitigate some of the things about having the overpass,” said Alison Miller, also a McCoppin resident. “The city said they were going to build all this stuff – a skate park, greening. But look around, you can clearly see we have no greening projects, and it’s been all these years.”

The reason for the delay, according to the Department of Public Works (DPW) website, was a lack of funding from the city’s sale of empty land parcels along Octavia Boulevard where the freeway used to extend. The economic downturn, the DPW says, has made those parcels difficult to sell.

“It’s been six years, and they’re still only just now getting some of the parcels sold,” said Miller.

The South of Market (SoMa) West Improvement Projects, which would include greening, traffic calming, a public plaza, a mini dog park, and a skateboard park, could finally bring some inviting destinations and a stronger sense of community to the area.

“The goal is to enhance the urban fabric, calm traffic, and improve transportation safety,” the DPW said on its website.

The centerpiece of the improvements, unofficially being called the McCoppin Hub, would transform a leftover stub of asphalt at the end of McCoppin Street into an attractive civic space.

Neighbors met with Boor Bridges Architects two weeks ago in the latest planning meeting for the hub. Architect Seth Boor said he hopes to tailor its design to the wishes of residents, who would like it to attract a variety of community activities and serve as a gateway to the community and the Valencia corridor.

“People have said that they want this to be a space that’s worthy of pausing and slowing down and appreciating,” said Boor.

McCoppin Street (2003) looking towards Valencia Street from Market Street, where it intersected before the freeway was rebuilt to touch down there. The "McCoppin Hub" is now the space next to the U-Haul building. Flickr photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/geekstinkbreath/2142927541/sizes/z/in/photostream/##geekstinkbreath##
The McCoppin Hub today, looking east across Valencia Street. The freeway ramp runs perpendicular to the street behind the camera. Photo: Aaron Bialick
"Off the Grid" food trucks activate the space every Saturday. Photo: Boor Bridges Architecture
A preliminary design for the park with the food trucks present. Image: Boor Bridges Architecture

The design residents seem to favor would include a “meandering path” and triangular spaces with grass and planters to sit on. Two lanes of open grass would flank the park, providing space for activities like farmer’s markets and the food trucks that have been activating the space every Saturday since last fall.

The hub also serves as a bicycle and pedestrian shortcut connecting Valencia to the intersection of Market and Octavia. Neighbors said they would like to enhance that use with possible bicycle amenities like racks and the city’s first public air pumps similar to those found in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“I really like this as a place for all of us,” said one resident at the planning meeting. “There’s nothing excluding seniors or toddlers or people walking their dogs.”

Other improvements will add greening, traffic calming, and bike lanes along the rest of McCoppin Street and the alleyways adjoining it. A block down Valencia, parking lots underneath the freeway will also be replaced with a skateboard park next spring, as well as a mini dog park once the funding for that is secured.

Work on the improvements on McCoppin Street is set to begin this fall, and construction on the Hub is expected next summer.

McCoppin streetscape improvements coming this fall. (The flower garden design included for the Hub to the left is outdated.) Click to Enlarge. Image: SF Department of Public Works

Tomorrow, we’ll look back at the history of the neighborhood, including photos of the 19th century streetcar hub the project is being named after.

  • Sasha

    I don’t see the bike route preserved in these drawings. Currently, that block of McCoppin connects Valencia with Octavia Boulevard via a bike path that runs between the freeway offramp and the buildings next to it. Does anyone know if this connection will be preserved?

  • Yes, the proposed design incorporates the short bikeway (SF Bike Plan Project 2-13) that runs along the north edge of the McCoppin Hub site, connecting the soon-to-come bike lanes on McCoppin east of Valencia (SF Bike Plan Project 2-14) with Market St and Octavia Boulevard (up the “chute”). With all the various activities and activation planned for this space, biking to and through the Hub is going to be important, and we’re working with the Mayor’s Office and partners to get it right . . .

  • Anonymous

    According to the 5-year repaving plan (http://38.106.4.205/index.aspx?page=370) (that’s a sfdpw server) repaving this stretch of valencia from mccoppin to duboce is scheduled for 2011 – so I would assume will be bundled with this project. Anyone know for sure?

  • Anonymous

    Keeping a nice double-lane for bikes on the north side of this proposed greenspace would be good, and have a better traffic light to accommodate the new mix. The Saturday food van experiment was successful for the patrons, but was a bit of a barrier to transiting cyclists.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a complete barrier for cars. Sometimes closing the road is a worthy tradeoff. 

  • Anonymous

    @murphstahoe – yep. A double-lane for two directions of bike traffic along the northern edge of the McCoppin back lane to the Octavia crossing would be no impediment to making the rest of that area better for people, and still keep cars out.

    IMHO, the only real reason bikes currently cross that space diagonally to that Octavia crossing is because the turning lane and traffic light are inadequate for a bike at a complete stop, confronting oncoming vehicle traffic pouring west and south, and cars behind.

    The Octavia crossing is necessary for cyclists, because for all its faults, it’s actually safer than the Valencia at Market crossing, which also goes the wrong way for anybody heading uphill.

  • JasonD

    At a Planning meeting last night (10/26/11) with the community, Seth Boor revealed revisions to the preferred conceptual design. It includes a wider bikeway (now 10- instead of 9-feet wide) and an improved sidewalk for pedestrian passage along the north side. It’s going to be a really nice plaza. It’s distinct from a park inasmuch as it will be an urban, constructed, paved space, like Mint Plaza. With programming along the lines of Off the Grid, it could be very active (in a good way). I think the flow of bikes (and peds) to Market/Octavia is crucial to activating the space.
    I’d like to see significant-size, drought-tolerant evergreen trees planted against the wall of the freeway to screen wind and to mix the freeway noise with the sound of rustling leaves. Something like the tall lemon gums on Mission’s median south of Division would be beautiful. The Pyrus calleryana (dinky deciduous water-loving ornamental pears) in place are disappointing.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds good. And I would agree that prioritizing the pedestrian and cyclist focus will make this plan successful.

    I would say they should make sure to use native trees though: they require less care, watering, etc and attract native birds and insects. Not that there are a ton of native birds and insects in that area … but this will work towards improving that.

  • Dougansf

    The decorative pavers in the drawing above we’re supposed to be included in the Elgin Park and Pearl st. Re-do. Neither pearl or Elgin Park have them. Have the pavers been removed from the plan?

  • Maruna

    It has been really stressful commuting through the McCoppin Hub while it is under construction. The path is single lane and chalk full of transients, dogs, broken glass, mattresses, shopping carts, etc. As others have mentioned, trying to take a left from Valencia on to Market is nearly impossible and very dangerous, underscoring the importance of the connector from Valencia to Market via the McCoppin Hub. I’m glad to see that bike and pedestrian safety in this corridor will remain a priority. However, I don’t think improvements should stop there. Between the new hub, proposed skate park and dog park, this entire area will draw bigger crowds – many of which will come on foot or bicycle (or skateboard). I would like to see improvements made to 13th street to accommodate this influx of people. 13th is a direct path from Caltrain to the Mission, Castro and the Duboce Bikeway/ Wiggle (in addition to the new parks at McCoppin/Valencia), yet there is no safe passage without going in to the Mission or through Soma to get on to Market. Ideally, I would like to see wider sidewalks on 13th, a bike lane and some serious ‘traffic calming’. As it stands, cars getting on and off the freeway use 13th as a central speedway, making it quite dangerous for this area growing in popularity. I’ve reached out the city and SFBC a few times on this issue to no avail. Curious to know if this is an issue for anyone else and how we might get our voices heard.