Why 24th St Merchants Ditched Sunday Streets: High Fees, Too Many Events

Sunday Streets on 24th Street in 2011. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/geekstinkbreath/6275398463/in/photostream/##geekstinkbreath/Flickr##

People enjoying Sunday Streets in the Mission last weekend may have wondered why the route no longer ran on 24th Street, the most crowded street of any that see the event. Instead, the car-free Valencia Street route was complemented by an east-west leg on residential 18th Street, which saw sparse use compared to 24th.

Despite the boon to business Sunday Streets brings, it was 24th Street merchants who asked Sunday Streets to be taken off of their corridor.

Erick Arguello, president of the Calle 24 Merchants and Neighborhood Association, said merchants no longer wanted to pay high permitting fees to serve food outside, and that residents felt there are just too many events held on 24th.

“Twenty-Fourth Street has the highest concentration of events of any corridor in the city,” said Arguello. “There were some complaints from residents, and it was tougher for their customers to get there, [because] Sunday’s usually [the merchants’] busiest day. But mainly it was the cost.”

As we’ve written, organizers of Sunday Streets and other car-free neighborhood street events get slammed with questionably high fees from a slew of city agencies, including the SFPD, SF Fire Department, and the Departments of Public Health and Public Works.

“Although the route along 24th Street was incredibly popular, group members requested the event continue through the Mission on other streets in 2014,” said Beth Byrne, co-director of Sunday Streets for Livable City. “The challenges working with so many events that take place in the neighborhood throughout the year were overwhelming, and they decided to focus on other events and initiatives along the corridor.”

Eighteenth Street at Valencia during last weekend’s Sunday Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

At SF’s 50th event on Valencia last Sunday, Supervisor David Campos said Sunday Streets has become “a staple” in the Mission, the most popular and frequent stage for the program. And although he respected the merchants’ wishes, “I wish it extended to 24th Street,” he said.

“I remember when it started in 2008, and there was a fear that it was going to hurt businesses… but of course, it’s had the opposite effect,” said Campos. “It brought people into the neighborhood.”

“San Franciscans have fully embraced the celebration of returning the streets to the people,” Senator Mark Leno told Streetsblog at the event. “The city that plays together stays together.”

Removing the Sunday Streets route from 24th also cut Muni-related costs, since 24th serves the 48 and 67 Muni lines, which must be re-routed during events.

Yet as pointed out by Susan King, who organized her final Sunday Streets in SF last weekend, “There’s nothing more dangerous you can do to a street than drive a car through it.” There’s still no word on when SF will levy fees on that activity.

Parking control officers drive people off of Valencia Street for drivers when Sunday Streets ends. Photo: Aaron Bialick
  • shotwellian

    Here’s what Eric Arguello had to say about the Potrero Avenue overhaul last year, as reported by Streetsblog: “I never see people on Potrero…Parking is really important.” Not surprising that he wouldn’t be a fan of Sunday Streets either.

  • voltairesmistress

    I think Sunday Streets best serves the cause of making streets people-friendly by concentrating on broader avenues usually devoted to car travel. People then experience these places in a whole new way, and perhaps become more open to the idea of down-sizing streets, giving them road-diets, according more space to people not-in-cars, etc. Twenty-fourth Street is already much like that: narrow and with stop signs on every block, slow car traffic, much pedestrian and bike use, lots of people crossing mid-block to visit the next store on their list, etc. In other words, while Valencia or Mission Streets could benefit from a Sunday Streets event, 24th Street is already “closer to fine” than we have perhaps recognized.

  • murphstahoe

    High fees are ironic in that the event drives sales tax revenue in the city.

  • Michael Smith

    I smell BS here. Eric Arguello is not a fan of livable streets so he makes absurd claims about customers not being able to make it to the businesses (when huge number of visitors meant the places were actually packed) and that businesses didn’t want to pay fees for serving food outdoors (they could simply not serve food outdoors). The businesses on Valencia get it. Eric doesn’t.

  • Perhaps the City should take a look at some of the disincentives it has to active street uses, in particular the permit fees for food preparation, outdoor seating, parklets, etc. All of these are subject to high fees that go to maintaining City departments’ budgets. Perhaps they serve some public benefit goal as well, but it’s not always obvious what that is. It certainly results in a less vibrant and active City.

  • baklazhan

    Well, there you have it. The city will let you store your car on Sundays for free (very important), but commerce? People sitting and eating? These things must apparently be discouraged with stiff fees.

  • Dave Moore

    I’m not sure about the other fees, but parklets are anything but a money maker for the city. I think they can’t be, by state law.

    According to http://www.peoplepoweredmovement.org/site/images/uploads/ParkletDetailedFAQ.pdf

    the city fees are $800 for the application, $650 for removal of 2 meters and yearly fees of $250

    I’ve got to believe that if meters were lost then they are technically a money loser, at least after the first year. $250 is about 4 parking tickets let alone the meter revenue itself.

  • Over time the Parklet fees add up. Plus there is the restriction on “private” use (inconsistent when storing your “private” car there has no such restriction). This means as a restaurant you can’t serve tables at a Parklet that you have invested tens of thousands of dollars in.

    But the theoretical goal of Parklets as well as parking meters is to provide public benefit not revenue: a more active pedestrian realm (tremendous increase in business and value for the neighborhood) or in the latter case parking turnover for businesses (a good thing for getting customers who drive to shop in a neighborhood. At some density point this adds neglible value, cars being such an inefficient custoner delivery option in terms of square foot per customer).

  • Dave Moore

    I wasn’t debating the relative merits of metered car parking vs parklets. I was objecting to the characterization of them with “All of these are subject to high fees that go to maintaining City departments’ budgets”. These are not high fees and are a drop in the bucket compared to the departments’ budgets.

    Also the limit on the use of these permanent spaces is not inconsistent when compared to that of temporary usage of parking spaces. I can’t legally run a business out of my car either. I can temporarily rent a space for a food truck though. Perhaps that’s a better comparison point. The fees on that are considerably higher than $250 a year.

  • ladyfleur

    I think you’re on to it. Maybe once a area is established as a busy walking district with relatively slow traffic there’s less need to close the street. The good news/bad news is there are are plenty of other parts of the city where Sunday Streets events can have a real impact.

    Let’s see which other Sunday Streets street will grow out of it next. Anyone want to make a guess?

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