SFPUC Unveils New Green Designs for Holloway, Plaza at Mission/Valencia

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SFPUC’s rendering of the plan for a new plaza at Mission and Valencia Streets, created by converting two traffic lanes.

The SF Public Utilities Commission unveiled final redesign concepts last week for two projects that would mean more space for pedestrians and stormwater-absorbing greenery. One project will bring traffic-calming bulb-outs and “rain gardens” to the eastern stretch of Holloway Avenue, a major east-west bike route in Ingleside. The other would convert two traffic lanes at Mission and Valencia Streets into a new plaza with green bulb-outs that would extend to the entrance of the Tiffany bike boulevard, altogether creating what planners call a “Green Gateway.”

Both projects appear to have garnered broad support among neighbors who participated in the design processes, though they each require the removal of a handful of car parking spaces — the usual point of contention in street redesigns. It’s a refreshing outcome compared to the battles over re-allocating car space typically seen in other city-led planning efforts.

“These projects are perfect examples of smart solutions to our city’s pedestrian safety problems,” said Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk SF, who applauded the projects for “connecting safety with sustainability.”

“These are excellent models for how we can support holistic changes to our public spaces that tackle multiple problems,” she said. “We often see that the most dangerous streets also lack green space — picture Sixth Street or Folsom. We’d like to see more projects like these prioritized on our most dangerous streets.”

“We need more efforts where we have community space,” said D9 Supervisor David Campos, who noted that the Mission and Valencia plaza could serve as a “centerpiece” for the neighborhood south of Cesar Chavez Street. “That neighborhood hasn’t been getting enough attention.”

Only minor tweaks to the Mission and Valencia plan have been made following the last community meeting. Changes include the removal of greenery along the curb that faces Mission to make room for a bus stop to be moved there from across the street. Only 10 parking spaces will be removed for the sidewalk expansions, with some replacement spots added by converting parallel parking spots on the east side of Valencia to back-in angled parking.

An SFPUC rendering of its plans for a “green street” on eastern Holloway Avenue.

The plans for a “green street” on Holloway, between Ashton and Lee Avenues, are also expected bring a much calmer, greener street to an otherwise grey neighborhood. Many corners will get green bulb-outs, and where they aren’t, curbs will be painted red to remove parking spots where cars block sightlines between pedestrians and drivers — an improvement known as “daylighting.” Water-permeable pavement will also be added underneath parking lanes, which has the added benefit of visually narrowing the roadway and helping calm traffic.

Although the SFPUC presented an alternative for Holloway that wouldn’t add any bulb-outs — only permeable pavement and rain gardens on the existing sidewalk space while preserving parking — attendees voted heavily in favor of the bulb-out option. Asked to rate each option using a five-star system, 41 attendees gave the bulb-outs five stars, compared to 14 for the option to preserve parking, according to the SFPUC.

The Holloway and Mission/Valencia projects are part of a spate of street overhauls initiated by the SFPUC as part of its Sewer System Improvement Program, intended to replace the city’s underground sewer system and install rain gardens to reduce the amount of stormwater that runs into the sewers. Since those efforts require digging up the streets, livability and safety redesigns are being rolled in with them, bringing similar improvements to the Wiggle, three alleyways in Chinatown, Sunset Boulevard, and western Cesar Chavez.

A construction timeline for the Mission and Valencia project has yet to be set, but the Holloway improvements are scheduled to be constructed from mid-2015 to mid-2016.

Valencia at the entrance to Tiffany Avenue.

The plan for a typical block of Holloway.