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Posts from the "Sunday Streets" Category

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Enrique Peñalosa in SF: A Livable Streets Visionary Shares His Wisdom

This weekend, San Francisco was treated to a visit by Enrique Peñalosa, the livable streets visionary who spearheaded a transportation revolution as mayor of Bogotá, Colombia by championing ideas like car-free streets, bus rapid transit, and protected bikeways. Peñalosa, who now professes his vision to city leaders worldwide, spoke at Sunday Streets in the Mission and at a SPUR forum.

Enrique Peñalosa speaking in front of Mission Playground during Sunday Streets, with Livable City’s Tom Radulovich behind. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Sunday Streets, of course, was inspired by Peñalosa’s Ciclovia program, which opens many miles of streets every week.

“Why is it so special? Why is it so magical?,” Peñalosa asked during a speech on Valencia Street. “It’s like a ritual of reconquering the city for human beings… it’s always fun to do the things that we are not allowed to do.”

In thinking about how cities use street space, Peñalosa emphasizes the importance of equity and democracy as a rubric. “Road space is one of the most valuable resources a city has,” he said. “San Francisco could find oil or diamonds underground and it would not be as valuable. The question is how to distribute this road space between pedestrians, bicyclists, public transport, and cars. There is no technical way of doing it. There is no legal way of doing it.”

In San Francisco, like most cities, the vast majority of street space is devoted primarily to moving and storing private automobiles. In many neighborhoods, even the sidewalks are used for parking — an absurd situation Peñalosa took on as mayor in Bogotá.

“Sidewalks are much closer relatives to parks than to streets,” he said. ”To say that on a sidewalk, there is enough space to park cars as well as for people to walk by, is equivalent to saying that we can turn the main park or plaza into a parking lot — so long as we leave enough space for people to walk by.”

Many of SF’s battles over re-allocating street space for people focus on maintaining car parking. To that, Peñalosa says, ”We should remember that parking is not a constitutional right.”

Peñalosa pointed out that there’s no other piece of personal property for which the public provides free space for its storage. When someone buys a refrigerator, for example, the public isn’t obligated to provide a kitchen.

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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.”

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After 50 Events, Sunday Streets Director Departs to Spread the Word

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Sunday Streets on Valencia Street yesterday. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Susan King is moving on from her position at Livable City as director of SF’s Sunday Streets, after hosting the 50th open streets event yesterday in the Mission. King plans to bring open streets events to cities across the state by establishing the California Open Streets Network (CAOS).

Susan King yesterday speaking with SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin (right) and Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. Photo: Aaron Bialick

“I feel great that this program is so solid and successful, and there are really fantastic people pushing the ball forward,” said King.

To help other California cities learn from King’s experience in spearheading a nationally-renowned model for open streets, CAOS will provide services like a “calendar, shared resources, peer-to-peer advocacy, one-on-one trainings, regional trainings, webinars, and advocacy on the state level for a framework that addresses some of the barriers,” she said.

When Sunday Streets was first proposed in collaboration with then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office in 2008, it saw resistance from merchants who believed that their businesses would be hurt by opening streets to people and closing them to cars. The 50 events since have shown the opposite result, providing a boon for both business and public health. Merchants have since clamored for the event to bring customers to their neighborhoods, with as many as 75,000 regularly attending Sunday Streets in the Mission.

Today, San Francisco has held more major open streets events than any other American city, and Sunday Streets is “mundane, it’s part of everyday life,” said King. “That’s a good thing to create — as a fabric of what a livable community looks like.”

For today’s youngest San Franciscans, the ability to play in car-free streets may even be taken for granted, as a generation grows up with a fundamentally different experience of city streets. King told an anecdote about a woman who said her five-year-old grandson “didn’t know what life was without Sunday Streets.”

“I’m supremely proud to think about the generation that’s going to lead us, that are still in school and growing up in this city with the expectation that Sunday Streets is just part of city life,” said King. “The next generation really has a different idea of how we use and interact with our city streets.”

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Inner Richmond’s First Sunday Streets Lively With Llamas and Humans

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Despite the cloudy weather, Clement and Arguello Streets were bustling yesterday during the first Sunday Streets in the Inner Richmond — the first Sunday Streets to come to the west side’s neighborhood streets. (The other events have all been in Golden Gate Park and on the Great Highway.)

With the event tied in with Clement’s on-street farmer’s market, which launched a few months ago, the throngs of humans were no surprise. Less expected were the llamas.

Arguello, a residential street, wasn’t quite as lively as Clement, though removing the cars certainly made it more kid-friendly and provided a much quieter, safer connection to walk and bike between the Presidio and Golden Gate Park.

More photos after the break.

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Despite Broad Support, Sunday Streets Berkeley Can’t Grow Without Funding

In its second iteration, Sunday Streets Berkeley flooded Shattuck Avenue with an estimated 50,000 people last weekend in an even more powerful demonstration of the draw of closing streets to cars and opening them up to people.

Since the first event one year ago, political support seems to have only grown, and attendance once again exceeded expectations despite the challenges organizers continue to face in receiving financial support from the city.

“It really is a very important event now in Berkeley,” said Mayor Tom Bates. ”People all want to extend it to have it be more than once a year, and I would certainly be in favor of it.”

Sunday Streets Berkeley received support from the City Council, which set aside nearly $60,000 to help finance one event for 2013 and another in 2014 (each event requires about $50,000 total). While some council members had initially expressed hesitance to approve those funds, the majority were apparently won over.

“There were lots of people with kids, which was wonderful to see,” noted Berkeley Council Member Laurie Capitelli, who championed the city’s grant to help support the program. “I really believe in the concept of Sunday Streets.”

“Open streets don’t survive [without] the city — the minimal level of support is that the city covers traffic, police, etc.,” said Emunah Hauser, Sunday Streets director for Livable Berkeley.

John Caner, the chief executive officer of the Downtown Berkeley Association, remembers being “dumbfounded by the outpouring” when over 40,000 people turned out for the first event last October, where just 5,000 were expected. The Downtown Berkeley Association helped fund this year’s event along with the North Shattuck Association.

As with the launch of Sunday Streets San Francisco in 2008, merchants who initially opposed the events based on fears that removing car traffic would hurt their businesses were quickly won over after witnessing the opposite result.

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This Weekend: Sunday Streets Returns to the Tenderloin and Civic Center

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Jones Street. Photo: Sirgious/Flickr

It’s been a while, but the Tenderloin and Civic Center will be graced once again with Sunday Streets this weekend. Get out and enjoy this rare opportunity to play on the normally speed-dominated streets of one of the city’s densest neighborhoods.

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Eyes on the Street: Lounging on a Reclaimed Valencia Street

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Photos: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

Swinging through SF for a few days, Streetfilms producer Clarence spotted a nice setup at yesterday’s Sunday Streets in the Mission. Harrington’s, an antique furniture store, used some of  its sofa inventory to create a comfortable little music venue on Valencia Street.

“People were encouraged to just sit in it,” said Clarence, noting that “tons of music” on SF’s streets “provided a nice laid back vibe we don’t see nearly as much in NYC.”

It’s always great to see the creative ways merchants find to embrace Sunday Streets — it’s good for business, good for health, and good for building community.

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City’s First “Play Streets” Event Kicks Off in the Western Addition

Photos: Aaron Bialick

Two blocks in the Western Addition were closed to cars and turned into a neighborhood gathering space Saturday for the city’s first “Play Streets” event. The program is an effort to build on the success of Sunday Streets and provide smaller-scale car-free spaces where people can play and socialize on a more frequent basis.

“This is an attempt to do all the great things that we do on Sunday Streets — creating a place for outdoor recreation, for neighbors to gather, for people to connect — but to do it on a small scale, and allow communities to self-start,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, which organizes Sunday Streets. “Sunday Streets is a big operation, and can be complicated. With Play Streets, we want it to scale down so any neighborhood can take back their streets for a day, or part of a day, and make them community space where kids can play and neighbors can be together.”

Supervisor London Breed with community activist Meaghan Mitchell (right) and Plaza East residents.

D5 Supervisor London Breed, who grew up in the immediate neighborhood, spoke at the event along with organizers from Sunday Streets and agencies that helped coordinate the program. In addition to providing a space that’s safe from car traffic, organizers said the aim was to invite residents to participate in community life with a space that feels safer from crime.

“Part of the challenge that we’ve come to face in this community has been kids not feeling comfortable and free to come outside and just enjoy themselves and be themselves,” said Breed. “I believe that we need to block off more streets to allow families and kids to play and be free.”

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New Stats on the Health and Business Benefits of Sunday Streets

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Sunday Streets on outer Mission Street in the Excelsior last October. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

When San Francisco streets are opened up to people for Sunday Streets, the influx of foot traffic brings a host of health and economic benefits to the city’s neighborhoods, according to findings presented by Dr. Susan Zieff, a professor of kinesiology at SF State University, at a Board of Supervisors committee hearing yesterday.

Zieff and her team surveyed 600 Sunday Streets participants at events 2010 and 2011, collecting data that makes a strong case for investing in open streets events. One of the data points we reported in late 2011, for instance, is that every dollar spent on running Sunday Streets yields an estimated savings of $2.32 in medical costs.

The studies “have been really invaluable to us,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, which organizes Sunday Streets with help from city agencies.

The top reason people come to Sunday Streets, said Zieff, is to enjoy the city’s streets in a way that’s impossible at nearly any other time, when the space is primarily reserved for traffic and parking.

“Over and over again, people talk about being able to walk down the middle of the street with their families, do physical activity in a safe environment, not to worry about vehicle traffic, and generally be around people who are having a good time,” said Zieff.

In Zieff’s survey, 51 percent of participants reported coming from outside the neighborhood, and the average participant traveled 3.25 miles, round trip, to the event. Among those who had attended Sunday Streets more than once, 25 percent reported an overall increase in physical activity since they began participating in the events. And, Zieff noted, the ethnic demographics at Sunday Streets are generally representative of the city as a whole, meaning the events appear to be effective at increasing physical activity among African-American and Latino residents, who tend to suffer the highest rates of cardiovascular disease.

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Sunday Streets Coming to the Richmond in October

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Clement Street will finally be opened up to people instead of cars. Photo: musicsack/Flickr

Later this year, for the first time, the Richmond District will be graced with Sunday Streets. The event in late October will run from inner Clement Street all the way out to Ocean Beach, D1 Supervisor Eric Mar announced at a Board of Supervisors meeting this week.

Organizers haven’t established the details of the route or the exact date, but an aide from Mar’s office said it will likely include inner Clement’s commercial strip and a major section of Balboa Street, running out to the Great Highway and including connections into Golden Gate Park, where eastern John F. Kennedy Drive is already car-free every Sunday.

Sunday Streets events in the western neighborhoods thus far have been limited to extensions of Golden Gate Park’s regular car-free route out to the Great Highway, and the Richmond event would be the first time it comes to the area’s neighborhood and commercial streets. Inner Sunset residents have made strides in establishing regular street openings, but the city’s sky-high fees have forced organizers to commercialize the event and limit it to one block.

Noting how much he enjoyed the Sunday Streets 2013 kick-off on the Embarcadero last Sunday, Mar said he hopes “people take the chance to explore other neighborhoods like the Richmond.”

While three other dates have been announced for this year, Sunday Streets organizers say they’re still finalizing the rest of the schedule before it’s released.