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

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Sunday Streets on 24th Street in 2011. Photo: 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