The city’s effort to make Castro Street more welcoming for pedestrians took a step forward yesterday, when the SF Planning Department presented preliminary design concepts at a packed community meeting.
The plan [PDF] would improve the pedestrian realm on the commercial corridor with wider sidewalks, sidewalk seating, pedestrian-scaled lighting, small plazas, and greening, while reclaiming some of the excessive street space devoted to automobiles, which would reduce double parking and tame motor vehicle traffic.
Castro’s intersections with Market/17th (at the Castro Muni Metro Station), 18th, and 19th Streets would also be made safer with bus bulb-outs, sidewalk extensions, and more visible crosswalks re-aligned to shorten crossing distances. Planners are considering banning right-turns at red lights to discourage drivers from blocking crosswalks.
The proposal is based on a plan adopted in 2008 by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, which, coupled with $4 million in Prop B street improvement bonds recently secured thanks to D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, helped move the project forward.
“We get used to all sorts of plans and ideas that don’t go anywhere because there isn’t the political will, or there isn’t the money, and to finally have the money set aside set for the project and so much community support is just terrific,” said Wiener.
An early milestone came when Jane Warner Plaza was created in 2009, carved out of a section of 17th Street at Castro, as envisioned in the CBD’s plan. “Re-claiming that asphalt for people, and the fact that it was instantly occupied and successful, demonstrated that there’s a latent demand for more and better-quality public space in this area,” said Ed Reiskin, director of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency. “People are sometimes walking in the road to get through the crowded sidewalk.”