Coming Soon: Mini Plazas at Persia Triangle and Better Plaza Management

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A temporary sidewalk extension painted during a Sunday Streets event at Persia Triangle. Photo: SF Planning Department/Flickr

Update: According to the Planning Department, the San Francisco Plaza Program will only apply to permanently plazas installed with concrete features, not semi-permanent Pavement to Parks plazs.

City agencies are set to launch a program to manage San Francisco’s plazas, establishing a long-term system to coordinate maintenance and activities in public spaces. As we wrote last June, the handful of Pavement to Parks plazas created with temporary materials have gone to seed without designated caretakers, and the program appeared at risk of faltering. Update: But those plazas would not be eligible for the new program until they’re made physically permanent with concrete features.

Meanwhile, the latest Pavement to Parks project is moving forward at Persia Triangle in the Excelsior, which is set to get a few temporary sidewalk extensions with street furniture this spring. The curb expansions would be made permanent a year later.

The San Francisco Plaza Program, led by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, is expected to assign caretakers to program activities for permanent plazas and keep them in good condition, bringing a similar level of attention to what parklets receive from adjacent businesses. The city will select non-profit groups to maintain plazas, as the SF Examiner explained today:

The program is intended for public spaces of at least 2,000 square feet and outside of Recreation and Park Department jurisdiction. Some existing spaces — Mendell Plaza in the Bayview district, which [Supervisor Malia] Cohen represents, and a space at McCoppin and Valencia streets — meet that criteria and new sites could also emerge as part of construction development and urban planning.

“As the City population continues to grow, the transformation of underutilized public plazas will be instrumental in providing social, economic, and ecological benefits in neighborhoods citywide,” says a city description of the program. Activities envisioned for these spaces include art and music events, farmers markets, movie nights, food events and retail. If the program is approved, The City would select plazas on a case-by-case basis and nonprofits would bid for space by submitting proposals on how they plan to manage the events and generate revenue.

Legislation creating the program [PDF] has been introduced by Cohen and Mayor Ed Lee, and is headed to the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee in the coming weeks. The program is expected to be in full operation this year, according to the Examiner.

In other plaza news, the Excelsior’s Persia Triangle is poised to receive painted sidewalk extensions this spring, the first physical changes to come out of a plan for sidewalk expansions developed by the Planning Department and the community over the past year. The plan calls for permanent, concrete curb extensions to replace the temporary materials a year later, along with art installations, street furniture, more visible crosswalk markings, and programmed events.

On its website, the Excelsior Action Group, which has named the project “Excelsior Love,” noted that “the area, although ripe with the possibility of attractive and accessible public space and improved pedestrian safety, is unsafe for pedestrians, under-used, and unattractive.” The project will bring ”many benefits to the Excelsior community,” the group wrote:

It will provide increased attractive, accessible public space for gathering, meeting, events, and community building.  The project will also calm traffic through the intersection, hence improving pedestrian safety.  It will help to beautify the neighborhood, generate more foot traffic in the area, and provide economic benefits to the surrounding commercial corridor.  Also, the design and implementation of the project will help to strengthen partnerships between city agencies, community based organizations, and the community at large.  In addition, it will provide opportunities for intergenerational team building experiences.  The most important outcome of this project is increasing community pride and engagement.  From start to finish, this project is driven by community involvement, from its design to installation to use and maintenance.

The sidewalk expansions would replace parking spaces on three corners of the easternmost block of Ocean Avenue, where it intersects with Persia Avenue and Mission Street. At Ocean and Alemany Boulevard, the concrete street improvements next year will add a bulb-out and turn a slip lane for cars into pedestrian space. The changes were approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors last week.