The Sky Didn’t Fall: Block of Mason Street Now Permanently Closed to Cars

Photo: Tony Wessling

Putting another nail in the coffin of falsely-predicted traffic jams, a block of Mason Street has been permanently closed to motorists for the construction of a plaza as part of the expansion of the North Beach Public Library.

North Beach resident Tony Wessling sent in the above photo, noting that “the predictions of Traffigeddon have not materialized, and the speed of traffic heading up and down Mason above Columbus has slowed considerably.”

That confirms the conclusions found in a trial plaza study three years ago aimed at assuaging fears voiced by an opposition group formed under the banner “Save Mason Street” (whose website no longer exists). When the Board of Supervisors approved the enrivonmental impact report for the library expansion project in June of last year, Ed Reiskin, head of the Department of Public Works at the time, said the trial “not only helped to validate the analysis of the traffic impact, but really supported the notion that there was significant positive impact for the public for the increased open space.”

The plaza is expected to be completed in the first half of 2014, said DPW spokesperson Mindy Linetzky, although she noted that “the Recreation and Parks Department may be making additional improvements to the Mason Street section as well as the surrounding Joe Di Maggio Playground that could run after this date.”

  • voltairesmistress

    I am sure the plaza will work beautifully and be a boon to residents and users of the library.  Of course, traffic won’t jam, but let’s not kid ourselves — neighborhood traffic patterns will change a bit as drivers jog around the plaza to get to Trader Joe’s and the Wharf.

  • mikesonn

    So when will the city start charging 10 cents per grocery store parking space?

  • voltairesmistress

    Mike, good point(!) 😉  I think the city would have to pass legislation that allowed for a commercial parking tax on private lots attached to businesses.  Currently, I think the parking garage tax is levied on garages that operate solely as such for all users, not on lots used exclusively by a business’s customers.

    It would be businesses to decide whether to cover its increased parking tax costs by charging customers to use the parking lot, or to charge all customers a higher price on products and services.  Though it’s still a hypothetical situation (as no such tax exists), I think businesses might actually please customers by explaining that they were keeping store item prices lower for all by charging only car-driving customers for the parking tax-related costs.  I don’t know, though, what consumer behavior and attitudes would be.  Probably it’s just a matter of adjusting consumer expectations . . .

  • Sprague

    Wonderful headline, Aaron.  Just like the 17th Street Plaza enhanced the Castro, this new plaza will also enhance North Beach.  There are dozens of opportunities for wonderful new neighborhood parks in San Francisco that would involve the repurposing of street space to people space – no off-street land is needed.  Such a renaissance has occurred in European cities with traffic calmed or traffic-free plazas replacing formerly ugly asphalt expanses.

  • Guest

    People always predict jams that don’t materialize. It is a clear argument for giving bikes and pedestrians more space.

  • HoJo

    Some establishments do charge for parking, e.g. valet parking for restaurants – that’s hardly new. But unless such charges bring in enough extra business to justfiy it, then it’s hard to see why any business would adopt that.

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