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Enjoy the First Sunday Streets in the Excelsior, the Last One of the Year

The Excelsior Arts and Music Festival. Photo: excelsiorfestival.org

This weekend is your last chance in 2012 to enjoy Sunday Streets, with a new route in the Excelsior along outer Mission Street and Seneca Avenue. The event will be held in conjunction with the Excelsior Arts and Music Festival, where Mission meets Ocean and Persia Avenues — a confluence of car-free streets for walking, bicycling, music and community gathering.

It’ll also be the first time Sunday Streets comes to the city’s southern central neighborhoods. If you’re coming by transit, the event will be right next to Balboa Park BART.

Note: I’ll be on break for the next two weeks. In the meantime, our always-dependable Robert Prinz will keep you updated with the daily headlines, and we’ll have some great guest posts from other writers. See you back here in November, Streetsblog readers.

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Berkeley Embraces Its Inaugural Sunday Streets on Car-Free Shattuck Ave

Throngs of people filled Shattuck Avenue for Berkeley's first car-free Sunday Streets event. Photos: Judy Silber

Seventeen blocks of Shattuck Avenue, normally one of Berkeley’s most traffic-clogged streets, were filled with an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people walking, biking and skating for the debut of Sunday Streets Berkeley this weekend.

“It was a huge success,” said Erin Rhoades, executive director of Livable Berkeley, one of the event’s main organizers. “It’s evidence that the community was really ready for an event like that – to be in the right of way, in a way that was totally non-auto oriented.”

For five hours, more than a mile of Shattuck — from Haste to Rose Streets, through the downtown area and Gourmet Ghetto — was car-free, dedicated to human activity and non-motorized transportation. Walking and biking down Shattuck offered an opportunity to explore the neighborhood’s stores and restaurants in a new way, and many merchants took advantage by opening their doors wide and putting out tables on the sidewalk.

“It’s being able to take back a street and not having to worry about cars,” said Berkeley Council Member Laurie Capitelli. “People see their neighborhood in a whole new light. When you’re in a car, you miss a lot of it.”

Rhoades said she approached the mayor’s office with the idea to emulate the success of Sunday Streets in San Francisco, which will hold the last of this year’s ten events this weekend. With East Bay residents regularly traveling across the bay to attend SF’s events, Rhoades sought to bring Sunday Streets home.

“We wanted to see a huge [section] of the community come and experience Berkeley in a different way, to be able to imagine new possibilities for how Berkeley could become more bicycle- and transit-friendly, and become advocates,” Rhoades said.

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Play at Sunday Streets in NoPa and the Western Addition This Weekend

Baker Street. Photo: Bryan Goebel

Sunday Streets hits the NoPa and Western Addition neighborhoods this weekend, with car-free streets linking the Panhandle, Alamo Square and Fillmore Street. Along with the usual swath of activities, the route will link to the Grove Street Farmer’s Market.

I’ve got my fingers crossed hoping the recent beautiful weather holds up on the west side. See you out there.

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Sunday Streets Returns to Chinatown (But Not North Beach) This Weekend

Sunday Streets returns to Chinatown this weekend with a car-free route running along Grant Avenue and east toward the Embarcadero. It’ll be Sunday Streets’ second run in Chinatown, following a highly popular event last year, but the route will be different: Rather than running into North Beach all the way to Coit Tower, it’ll turn east at Jackson Street toward the waterfront.

Sunday Streets organizer Susan King said the route was changed to avoid disrupting Muni service on Columbus Avenue, which will help accommodate the crowds headed to the America’s Cup yacht race this weekend. On a block of Battery Street, where the route jogs over from Jackson to Washington Street, King said a temporary transit-only lane will be created to allow Muni and Golden Gate Transit buses to run through. “I am curious to see if this helps speed transit up since there are no cars to compete for road space with,” she said.

However, while King said organizers would aim to include North Beach in the following years, the neighborhood’s exclusion from the event was a surprise and a disappointment to local residents and merchants, said Mike Sonn, head of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Parking and Transportation Committee.

“Sunday Streets provides an excellent opportunity to experience a great neighborhood in an exciting new way and to expose our unique collection of local businesses to thousands of visitors and residents alike,” he said. “We look forward to working with Sunday Streets in the future to ensure that North Beach becomes a staple in the annual line-up.”

To be sure, folks from around the city will be coming to the area for the usual abundance of activities, including the annual ping pong tournament at Portsmouth Square, Tai Chi classes, a preview exhibit of the new Exploratorium, and, of course, free bike rentals and bike riding lessons for kids. Unlike last year, bicycle riding will be allowed along the entire route.

See you out there.

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In the Inner Sunset, a Push to Cut Sky-High Fees for Community Street Events

Last year's Inner Sunset Street Fair cost organizers $9,000 in fees. This year, it will expand as four separate one-block events called Inner Sunset Sundays, with fees totaling $25,000. Photo: Marty Chappell

San Franciscans have widely embraced events that close streets to cars and open them up to people, with Sunday Streets having expanded to 11 well-attended events per year, and possibly more to come. But for residents looking to hold car-free neighborhood events of their own, unaffordable city fees can present a major barrier.

Community organizers in the Inner Sunset, who are planning to hold four street fairs this year called Inner Sunset Sundays, have teamed up with Sunday Streets organizers to push city agencies to reduce costs and cut red tape to facilitate community street events.

Organizer Adam Greenfield said Inner Sunset Sundays is intended to build on the success of the Inner Sunset Street Fair, which was held each of the last two years. However, fees for this year’s four events, which will take place on one block of Irving Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, will saddle organizers with an estimated bill of $25,000. The fees, he said, are not only questionable, but prevent organizers from holding bigger, more frequent events and force them to commercialize much of the space.

“The current system in San Francisco is destroying community — it’s that simple,” said Greenfield. “It’s harming people psychologically and physically, it’s harming business, it’s harming everybody. And I think it should be one of the city’s core goals to help people who are building community.”

“You don’t have to pay a toll every time you get in your car and drive around,” he said, “but for some reason when it comes to building community, which I think is as important as moving around, the city lumps excessive fees on you.”

The fees for last year’s Inner Sunset Street Fair, which occupied just three blocks during a Sunday afternoon, were $9,000. “Everyone we talk to about this,” said Greenfield, “the universal reaction is shock. ‘How can it cost that much?’”

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Kick Back at Sunday Streets in Bayview, Dogpatch, and Potrero Hill

July’s second Sunday Streets event returns to the Bayview, Dogpatch, and Potrero Hill neighborhoods this weekend, running from Mission Bay to the Bayview Opera House.

For the third year in a row, the car-free event will connect with the Bayview Music Festival. Of course, there’s going to be a lot more happening all the way up the route as well.

The northern end of the route will be different this year — in Dogpatch, it will run on Mariposa Street to Terry Francois Boulevard, running along Mission Bay to Third and King Streets.

See you out there enjoying the sun.

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Sunday Streets Returns for More Car-Free Fun in the Mission

Kick back at Sunday Streets on Valencia and 24th Streets this weekend for the third car-free event in the Mission this year.

Here’s just a taste of all the activities available for kids: REI’s Block of Fun includes a climbing wall, disc golf, and a bike obstacle course. Kids just learning to ride a bike can sharpen their skills at YBike’s Bike Safety Rodeo and the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Freedom From Training Wheels.

Of course, anyone without wheels can get a free bike rental from ParkWide. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are even holding a Blessing of the Bicyclists. There’s also swing dancing, yoga, free massages, roller disco, and lots more.

Next year could hold even more than the four consecutive Mission events this year. Excited?

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Head Out for the Year’s Second Sunday Streets in the Mission

Valencia and 24th Streets are open to people once again this weekend for the second of four Sunday Streets events in the Mission this year.

Get out and soak in another sunny afternoon of music, food, dancing, and car-free activity. And don’t forget — the city’s looking at holding these as often as every month, so there could be many more to come.

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Get Ready for Four Months of Sunday Streets in the Mission

This weekend kicks off the first of four Sunday Streets events in the Mission every month through August, and organizers will be watching its success to evaluate the feasibility of making Valencia and 24th Streets car-free as frequently as once a month.

The Mission has become by far the most popular route for Sunday Streets, bringing out an estimated 25,000 people last May.

“San Francisco residents, merchants and visitors have enthusiastically embraced Sunday Streets and are consistently asking us for more of these kinds of programs,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin in a statement. “We are proud to introduce a new element to Sunday Streets by testing a regular car-free route through one of San Francisco’s most populated and diverse neighborhoods. During this pilot, we will be looking closely at how we can help create open spaces in communities like the Mission where park space is limited and support the many small businesses along the way.”

Be sure to get out and enjoy a sunny day of music, art, live performances, and all-around car-free fun.

Organizers “plan to do additional outreach during this pilot period, and gather input from residents, business owners, local employees, religious institutions to gauge the impacts and support for the idea of having a regular Sunday Streets route in the Mission (or in another area of the city),” according to the Sunday Streets website.

Love the idea? Be sure to let the organizers know.

And don’t forget, July will have two Sunday Streets events: the Mission route will be held on July 1 and the Bayview/Dogpatch route on July 22.

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New Car-Free GG Park Sunday Streets Route Kicks Off This Weekend

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Head out to the Avenues for some car-free action this weekend at Sunday Streets in Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway. Don’t forget: the route through Golden Gate Park is slightly different this year. At Transverse Drive, the route switches over from John F. Kennedy Drive to Martin Luther King along the western section.

Activities in the park include the intriguingly named “Roller Soccer International,” Purusha Yoga, a YMCA program for kids, and of course, the regular swing classes and musical skating area on JFK Drive. At Lincoln Way and Great Highway, you’ll find free bike rentals and repairs, the SF Bike Coalition’s Freedom From Training Wheels classes, and booths representing other local organizations and businesses. Along the coast: more music, dance, and kids’ activities.

Here’s hoping the beautiful forecast holds out.

Check out a map and full list of activities after the break. See you out there!

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