City Officials Unveil a People-Friendly Street in Fisherman’s Wharf

Photos: Aaron Bialick

Two blocks of Jefferson Street in Fisherman’s Wharf have been revamped to prioritize walking and biking after the project was expedited with support from political leaders.

Car traffic on Jefferson between Hyde and Jones Streets has been tamed, with formerly one-way traffic now running two-way. Sidewalks were expanded with new planters and seating, on-street parking was removed, and the asphalt roadway was replaced with a surface designed for slower speeds. Altogether, the street has been re-designed to send the message that people come first, not cars.

“It’s very refreshing,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “There are places to sit, places to walk, and it’s safer for everybody. It’s going to bring more people down here.”

City officials and community leaders at a ribbon-cutting ceremony today touted the revamp — the first phase of streetscape plans for Jefferson — as an example of how well city agencies can coordinate when politicians put their support behind a project. City leaders largely credited the mayor for expediting the Jefferson improvements to finish in time for the America’s Cup races this summer.

“The mayor’s leadership is the only reason, to some degree, that we’re actually here today, opening up a brand new street,” said David Berbey, president of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District.

Officials also gave much credit to Neil Hrushowy, the Planning Department’s project leader, for his efforts at community outreach and spearheading the often difficult process of creating a design that accommodated demands from various interests. One change that was made to address merchants’ concerns was the addition of curbs, since the original proposal called for a pedestrianized, curbless street where drivers were expected to share space with pedestrians.

City officials make the new street opening official.

An early champion for improvements on Jefferson was Rodney Fong, president of both the Wax Museum and the SF Planning Commission. Six years ago, when he was also president of the Fisherman’s Wharf CBD, he spearheaded a survey asking visitors what they liked and disliked about the area. “The number one thing they liked the least was overcrowding,” Fong told Streetsblog.

Fong noted that removing the street’s parking made a lot of sense, since new signs should help guide drivers toward the thousands of underutilized spaces in nearby parking garages.

“From the whole premise of making these streets have pedestrian priority and bike priority,” he said, “it became obvious that we needed to widen these sidewalks and not remove the cars, but discourage them and give them a chance to get into the garages rather than circle around for parking, which created backups.”

“The public really told us what to do, which so far, seems to be working.”

A press release from the Department Public Works said that bans on vehicle traffic will be instituted regularly on westbound Jefferson between Powell and Mason Streets “in order to ease congestion and minimize through traffic.” Those blocks “will be limited to streetcars and bicycles only during peak high-traffic periods: between noon and 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays in June, July and August.”

The northernmost block of Hyde Street was also converted for two-way traffic.

The mayor doesn't miss a photo op.