Safer, More Transit-Friendly Streets Planned for the Upper Haight

Flickr user Drumwolf writes: “Yes, THAT Haight and Ashbury. Really not all that, is it.”

Update 4/10: The Planning Department posted an online survey where you can weigh in on the design proposal for upper Haight Street.

The Planning Department has drawn up early plans for three of the Haight-Ashbury’s major streets: upper Haight Street, Stanyan Street, and the southern end of Masonic Avenue. The proposals for the Haight Ashbury Public Realm Plan were developed through two public workshops aimed at re-thinking the streets as friendlier places for walking, biking, and transit.

Although planners set out to consider all of the streets in the Haight-Ashbury, Masonic, Stanyan, and Haight “rose to the top” among streets that residents wanted the city to improve, said Alexis Smith, project manager for the Planning Department. “There was no interest in touching” the smaller residential streets, she said. “We didn’t want to muck up things that are already working well.”

Of the three streets, the strongest consensus so far seems to be around plans for Haight Street, said Smith. The proposed improvements for Haight include several sidewalk bulb-outs along the street, as part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project‘s plans to consolidate bus stops and add transit bulbs. Those would provide more breathing room along the busy sidewalks, while also speeding Muni boardings.

“Haight Street is a significant path for public transit,” said Christin Evans, owner of Booksmith and a board member of the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association. The removed bus stops will “free up space for wider sidewalks, which can accommodate heavy pedestrian traffic… on weekends and sunny days.”

The proposed plan for Haight Street, between Masonic and Ashbury. See the rest in this PDF.

Sidewalk extensions will also require removing some parking spaces. Evans said “the neighborhood may be divided over giving up parking spots,” but “there may be a willingness by the majority to make the trade off, if the planners design compelling streetscapes which accommodate improved flow to/from the neighborhood.”

Evans noted that “already, we’ve seen merchants and the community embrace this trade off,” given the success of two parklets on upper Haight (in front of Haight Street Market and Magnolia Pub), and the bike corral near Clayton Street. A third parklet was removed — the only such case in SF so far — to address illegal behaviors, smoking violations, and a lack of upkeep after parklet host Martin Macks bar changed owners.

Merchants and residents “universally” agree upon the need for pedestrian-scale lighting, said Evans. “Most of the lighting is currently high up and pointed at the roadway, as opposed to illuminating the sidewalks at night,” she said.

The parklet at Haight Street Market, seen here in October 2012. Photo: SF Planning/Flickr

The neighborhood’s priorities are less clear for the other two street segments being considered: Stanyan along Golden Gate Park, and Masonic between Haight and Oak Streets, Smith said. The Planning Department presented three options for Stanyan and six for Masonic, and wants residents to weigh in on options for bike lanes, planted medians, bulb-outs, and car parking.

Residents seem most polarized about Masonic. The street north of the Panhandle will be overhauled next year, gaining raised bike lanes and a tree-lined median, while reducing traffic lanes and removing all on-street parking on that segment. Evans said there “has been strong support for extending” those kinds of improvements south of the Panhandle, which also sees too many traffic crashes. But those who opposed the northern Masonic overhaul have also come out against doing the same elsewhere, according to Smith.

Two of the six proposed options for Masonic, between Haight and Oak Streets. These two options either increase car parking or replace it all with protected bike lanes. See the rest in this PDF.

Ted Lowenberg of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, who appealed the environmental review for the Fell and Oak bike lanes and vocally opposed the Masonic overhaul, criticized the project outreach by the SFMTA and the Planning Department. He said that the questions they asked of residents were too vague to elicit useful feedback.

“The first thing they came back with [for Haight Street] was, ‘let’s put bulb-outs everywhere,'” he said. “Do they really make things safer? There was no evidence offered of that… This is just more of the same stuff they’re trying to force throughout the city.” When asked if HAIA has other solutions in mind to improve Haight, Lowenberg only said he’d like to see further studies of its problems first.

On Stanyan, the three proposed alternatives vary between a focus on bulb-outs, bulb-outs and bike lanes, or bulb-outs and a center planted median. The two latter alternatives would remove two of the street’s four traffic lanes. “There’s a real perceived threat from traffic moving too fast. People don’t feel safe crossing it” to and from Golden Gate Park, said Smith. “It’s a barrier street.”

Smith said the priorities for Stanyan and Masonic could differ widely. For instance, “I can’t imagine that we’d move forward with bike facilities on both Stanyan and Masonic,” she said. “We’re looking at a north-south connection on one of those two streets, but it’ll all depend on what we hear back from the community.”

The Planning Department has an online survey on its website where residents can weigh in on the proposed design for upper Haight Street.

Two of three proposed options for Stanyan, between Frederick and Oak Streets. See the rest in this PDF.
  • Michael Smith

    Masonic is being redone everywhere except for between Oak & Fell? Given that there are currently six lanes of traffic there that seems rather ridiculous. Am I missing here?

  • It’s sad to see this well intentioned plan make the same mistake as the current design. Upper Haight is the perfect candidate for a pedestrian street. It’s pretty narrow and it’s overflowing with pedestrians pretty much all the time. There’s no clear reason to have cars on that street, but plenty of reasons not to.

  • pedestrianist

    “there may be a willingness by the majority to make the trade off.”

    Except we know from the Inner Sunset mess that SFMTA will cave even if a majority support the bulb-outs :-/

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Whatever you do, don’t waste space with a stupid median!

    And why can’t Stanyan and Masonic both have high-quality bicycle facilities?

  • p_chazz

    Masonic should tunnel under the Panhandle from Hayes to Waller with T intersections at Oak and Fell. Take cars out of the park!

  • murphstahoe

    You really do think there’s a printing press at city hall, dontcha?

  • KC

    I would like to see community benefits.

  • vcs

    Stanyan, yes. However that section of Masonic is a pretty steep hill and the street doesn’t go anywhere. For what specific reasons would is that a good location for a cycle track?

    (And if one were to read between the lines, they want to put angled parking in on Masonic to mitigate the loss of parking on Haight.)

  • vcs

    Anyone suggesting tunneling in SF without putting the Geary Subway on the top of the list is wrong.

  • p_chazz

    If they can build the Central Subway, they can build a lousy 3-block tunnel. The Big Dig this isn’t.

  • p_chazz

    What about handicapped access and deliveries?

  • twinpeaks_sf

    That stretch is certainly no steeper than Masonic north of Fell, and it would provide a useful link between the Haight St corridor, the Panhandle, and the forthcoming redesigned Masonic.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Because no other pedestrianized streets anywhere in the world have dealt with those issues..

  • The implementations I’ve seen in Europe usually allow delivery vehicles early in the day. That’s generally when retail and restaurant deliveries are made anyway, and when there’s fewer pedestrians to contend with.

    As for handicapped access, look at the sidewalks on Haight St. today. It must be brutal trying to navigate a wheelchair down that narrow strip of pavement.

  • Upright Biker

    The problem with tunnels is that the areas around the entrance and exit become unusable wastelands. So they tend to make sense only where there is ample space in between to make up for the loss of use at either end.

    As an example, look at the Geary underpass at Fillmore, the Stockton tunnel, or even the Broadway Tunnel. Maybe there’s a solution for those entrance/exit areas, but I haven’t seen it done well.

  • gneiss

    All you need to do is look at the nightmare that exists on the other end of Masonic with the Geary underpass. The approaches to that intersection on either side are horrible for walking and biking around, not to mention the lost land value due to the undesirable nature of the traffic racing by.

    Tunnels or depressed roadways to replace surface streets do nothing to promote connectivity and walkability in a dense urban framework.

  • theqin

    I’m surprised business aren’t pushing for this. How many of their customers arrive in cars anyway?
    Although I guess they would probably have to reroute muni.

  • Charles_Siegel

    They should get rid of the roads that run through the panhandle in the block nearest to Golden Gate park, encouraging cars to speed into and out of the park and making the crossing into the park more dangerous for pedestrians..

  • Sprague

    Great suggestion. As it now is, traffic proceeds very slowly along Haight Street on many afternoons greatly delaying Muni. If a few core blocks of Haight Street were closed to through traffic (except for buses and bicyclists) it would become less congested and more pleasant (it’d become a street much easier for transit riders, pedestrians, wheelchair users, skateboarders, etc. to travel). Perhaps this could be attempted as a trial on weekend afternoons (of for that matter on Friday afternoons…).

  • Sprague

    Pedestrian streets typically allow access for delivery vehicles at times with little foot traffic (ie. mornings). Accommodations (such as more designated disabled parking spots closer to Haight Street) can also be implemented.

  • Sprague

    Thank you very much Aaron and Streetsblog for covering this issue. The proposals to improve pedestrian safety and improve Muni access, speed and reliability on Haight, Masonic, and Stanyan look great. As to Stanyan Street, a two-way cycletrack on the western edge (between Frederick and the Panhandle) would be an appealing option, since this would greatly reduce the number of potential automobile-bicycle conflict points (such as intersections and driveways/parking spots) and because a large amount of the bike traffic (I’m guessing) is headed to Golden Gate Park anyway (and a bike path along the edge of the park increases such access).

  • Gustato

    I would like to see the Masonic Improvement (Boulevard) extended from Fell all the way up to Haight. I have no idea why they stopped at Fell, since the bike traffic and car traffic ends pretty much at Haight street and that would be a perfect end point. It’s like a freeway on Masonic and I would like to see things softened up with trees and more biking. I also like the idea of closing down Haight Street to car traffic.

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