Mini Plaza Creates Public Space, Not Carmageddon, at Market and Dolores

Photo: Scott Wiener

It’s happened again: street space was re-allocated from cars to people, and the unbearable traffic jams opponents warned of have failed to materialize. In fact, some of them even like the result now.

At the southwest corner of Market and Dolores Streets, the sidewalk was extended to create a mini plaza last fall, as part of a city agreement with the developers of a building housing condos and a Whole Foods Market there. The sidewalk extension was opposed by a loud few, who claimed that removing part of a traffic lane and car parking lane would result in disastrous queues of cars.

Supervisor Scott Wiener posted the above photo of the plaza on Facebook, noting that it “has been a huge success”:

We had to push hard to prevent the plaza from being significantly reduced in size due to unfounded concerns about traffic congestion. Fortunately we were able to keep the plaza design intact, and it’s worked out beautifully. Very positive addition to our public realm in this growing part of the neighborhood.

Over and over again, we see that the sky doesn’t fall when well-executed projects reclaim space for people. Some folks just won’t believe it until the changes are on the ground, but in the meantime we all reap the benefits of safer and more livable streets.

Hayes Valley livable streets advocate Jason Henderson said that even some of the most ardent opponents of the Market and Dolores plaza are now fans of it, as noted in my article last week about why city officials won’t win by pandering to the vocal cars-first contingent.

Photo: Clarissa Celestino/Twitter
Photo: Clarissa Celestino/Twitter

Market and Dolores also saw other pedestrian safety improvements as part of this project, including a brick crosswalk, another bulb-out opposite the mini-plaza, and a raised crosswalk at a nearby alleyway entrance. The center median on Dolores was also extended through the crosswalk, apparently to slow left-turning drivers; one Twitter user complained that it was “pedestrian unfriendly,” perhaps because high curbs and narrow passageway make the median thumbnail difficult to traverse.

We should note that Wiener wasn’t a full-fledged proponent of the sidewalk expansion on this project. He actually opposed the Planning Department’s original proposal for block-long sidewalk widening for fear of traffic congestion, a move which led to the scaled-back plan. Wiener did also, however, push through a package of legislation that helps streamline future pedestrian safety upgrades made as part of development agreements.

  • Nice project and a great example of a win/win community benefit funded by a new development.

  • the_greasybear

    It is a well-designed and, so far, well-utilized public space.

  • There could definitely be a recurring Streetsblog article category tag, along the lines of “Predicted Apocalypse Doesn’t Actually Occur, As It Turns Out”.

  • Jackson

    Looking at the photo, why does the walkway narrow with curbs in the crosswalk? What purpose does that serve other than to narrow the path for pedestrians?

  • Mario Tanev

    It narrows the road for drivers (without narrowing it too much which is what would happen if the lower curb area is shifted further down) and creates the perception that it’s a street that cuts through the plaza, rather than the other way around. But I agree that the pedestrian is also disadvantaged. I think a better solution might have been a raised crosswalk.

  • Upright Biker

    Carmageddon? We should be more concerned with the Walkmageddon and Bikemageddon that auto supremacy brought about. Car-centric planning and engineering is at the heart of why these two people-powered forms of transport have nearly disappeared in some places.

    Projects like these are simply returning some balance to the situation.

  • Jackson

    I think you’re misunderstanding. Why is the crosswalk between the curbs so narrow? It doesn’t seem to make any sense that pedestrians should be forced into that narrow path. The curb coming from the left (the south) doesn’t need to extend so far into the crosswalk, right? For what purpose does that serve? If a lot of people were crossing the street, they’d be forced to go single or double file through that passage, or walk up on top of the curb. Am I missing something?

  • Jackson

    Is it really well designed? WHy is the passage for pedestrians so narrow in the crosswalk?

  • tony

    If it’s any wider, cars might try to drive through. I think that’s why it’s so narrow. I agree, it’s not very ped-friendly. Maybe there should be a ramp up to the median instead of a cut through.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Seems like Wiener just picked a handy non-offensive, already-finished pedestrian improvement (one he didn’t really have anything to do with since the upper market planning project which came up with the plaza was initiated by Bevan Dufty and wrapped up by the time Scott was elected) to deflect any criticism over standing by while Muni fares going up and service gets cut to fund “free” parking.

    Not opposing something already decided before his election is a really low bar for “We had to push hard” and I wonder against who since the project had nearly-universal support from MUMC (Merchants of Upper Market & Castro) by which I mean there was one member who would not support the project (and that was over having delivery trucks on 14th which stands out because some MUMC members and a former president were very hostile towards the plaza at 14th & Market which removed all of 1 parking spaces)

  • Scott Wiener

    Jamison, thanks for your post, but you’re wrong and should check your facts before posting comments like that. I understand and accept that you’re not a fan of mine, but making up facts isn’t helpful. This plaza/bulbout was designed and approved entirely during my time in office. It was never considered during Bevan’s term. I and my office worked closely with the developer and planning department for more than a year to get it designed and approved. The fire department and neighborhood association – during my term exclusively – strenuously opposed the project. In fact the fire department vetoed it, and I then I escalated it to the fire chief. I, along with my staff, went out to the site with the fire chief and her team and literally argued with them in the middle of the street as we coned the proposed bulbout and observed turning movements by a fire truck. The fire department, based on our work, ended up reversing itself. The Mission Dolores Neighborhood Association was very upset with me for supporting the plaza. The developer was prepared, based on this opposition, to scale back the plaza by 50%, but I insisted that they not do that. I then personally went to the Planning Commission hearing last year and asked the commission to approve the project, which it did. We now have an amazing plaza. So, to the extent you’re interested in the facts, there you have them.

  • Greg Riessen

    Actually Supervisor Wiener and his staff deserve major credit for this successful project. While the project was conceived by City staff, there was adamant opposition to it from a local neighborhood group, so we reached out to his office and he came through. It is very challenging for City staff to complete a project like this without the committed support of the local supervisor.

    The Whole Foods developer also deserves credit for being open to the improvements in the face of such resistance, and also for agreeing to maintain them.

  • Jamison Wieser

    I lost interest in facts when the SFMTA voted to repeal sunday parking meters and the ENUF crowd proved that whining and lying work really well for getting your way!

    (apologies for the unrelated parking photo, It seems to have gotten stuck from a separate comment posted earlier today in a different browser tab)

  • Craig

    I live in the building. The mini plaza is a terrific spot-there are folks sitting with coffee,waiting for shoppers, etc. at all times of day. The added street life from both the Whole Foods and the plaza are such an improvement over the days of the Ford dealership.

  • 94103er

    I could’ve sworn that I saw plans to improve the awful pedestrian flow across Market St along with this other stuff, but nothing has been done. We still have the same zig-zag, caged-in, inconveniently located crosswalk. Oh, and also? Zero ways for bicycles to legally cross the street. The same stupid car-oriented concrete median on Market remains.

    I mean, come on, how many more new apartments and condos need to be built near this intersection before someone realizes that

    a) cyclists going northbound on Dolores would like to continue to the Wiggle or WB Market without using Church (congested plus tracks) or 15th (horrible during rush hours);

    b) said cyclists might even want to connect to the Duboce bikeway, which is right friggin’ there behind the dumb Safeway minimallplex parking lot;

    c) People living east of Buchanan might want to shop at Whole Foods and not cross three intersections to get there?

    I mean really, whippy whip. This is such small potatoes, such a tiny win for pedestrians amid a travesty of a car-is-king shitshow that is the Market/Dolores intersection.

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