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.