Bulb-Outs: Noe Valley’s Getting Them, Outer Balboa’s Got Them

Photo: SFMTA

Two business corridors are getting a boost from sidewalk bulb-outs: Balboa Street in the Outer Richmond recently had some finished, and 24th Street in Noe Valley will get them this fall.

The dozen-odd sidewalk extensions on outer Balboa were completed in May as part of a larger project under construction since last year that also includes a road diet and repaving. The SFMTA said that the switch, to two from four traffic lanes, both calmed traffic (as part of an area traffic calming plan) and provides wider lanes that Muni buses could actually fit in.

In April, Balboa also got a parklet, in front of Simple Pleasures Cafe at Balboa and 35th Avenue. The parklet is the second one in the Richmond, and the city’s second to occupy angled parking spaces.

The bulb-outs provide space for planters, although some neighbors were riled by their size relative to the sidewalk. One corner also features a monument that marks the Balboa corridor, which an SFMTA Facebook post called “an Outer Richmond gem.” The SFMTA wrote that staffers refer to the bulb-outs as ’Balbo-outs.”

In an SF Chronicle article last year, District 1 Supervior Eric Mar called the Outer Richmond strip “a quirky, great place,” and said “the project will bring new life to a very old neighborhood.”

The size of the planters that came with the bulb-outs on Balboa irked many residents. Photo: SFMTA

Plans for 24th and Castro Streets in Noe Valley. Image: DPW

In Noe Valley, the Department of Public Works’ “24th Street Urban Village” project, approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors last month, will create transit bulb-outs at 24th’s intersections with Castro and Noe Streets, and add some decorative crosswalk markings at those locations and at Church Street. The new pedestrian space will create some additional space for pedestrians and around Muni stops, and allow Muni buses to load without pulling in and out of car traffic.

“This streetscape project will spotlight 24th Street as a community and transit hub, and is part of a greater city initiative to construct safer, greener, and more beautiful streets,” Supervisor Scott Wiener wrote in a recent newsletter.

Bolder plans for more “urban village”-like streets have been shelved in recent years. In 2010, the Planning Department proposed converting a block of Noe at 24th into a pedestrian plaza, and closing it to cars. Unfortunately, some neighbors shouted loudly enough to keep the block open to unfettered car access. Neighborhood residents are, however, working on turning a nearby parking lot into a plaza instead.

A transit bulb-out planned at 24th and Noe. Image: DPW

24th and Church will only get decorative crosswalks, but no bulb-outs. Image: DPW