Packed Mission Sunday Streets Raises the Question, “Why Not Every Week?”

cutie.jpgVoguing for the camera, with proud parents behind. Photos: Matthew Roth

Massive crowds came out to the Mission yesterday to enjoy the first of two Sunday Streets events, packing Valencia Street and 24th Street with families, dog walkers, and cyclists of all ages and abilities. Organizers were thrilled with the turnout and seemed only to worry how they would get everyone off the streets at 2 pm, the scheduled closing time.

I started on the route just after 10 am and was a little bit concerned that more people weren’t already enjoying the car-free space. One of the first kids I came upon at Valencia and 22nd Street was three-year old Ben Sant-Johnson, who was riding a balance bike, which has no pedals and helps riders learn balance and agility before graduating to pedals. When I asked Ben if he was having fun, he exclaimed, "I’m a astronaut!"

Ben’s father, Mission resident Rick Johnson, explained that this was the third Sunday Streets they had participated in and that they expected to go to the next three as well.  "It’s great being in your own neighborhood and I start imagining the next steps for the street, let’s put in greening," said Johnson. "This is good for San Francisco and all the people here.  It would be great if there was always some neighborhood you could go to every week, not just every month."

kid_push_bike.jpgBen Sant-Johnson, astronaut, learning the basics of bicycle riding on his LIKEaBIKE balance bicycle.

At 19th Street I turned West toward Dolores Park and a block up discovered several families were in the process of redecorating the asphalt in front of their homes.

Chalk_on_pave.jpg19th Street near Dolores Park

Without cars, parents were happy letting their children play in the middle of the street with minor supervision. This toddler was alternately playing basketball and soccer, when not falling over himself from the excitement.


Dolores Park was beginning to fill up with the usual assortment of cool kids that pack it on sunny Sundays, but there was a very noticeable difference about Dolores Street, a frequent speedway for cars coming off the hill toward 18th Street. An unusual, but lovely, place for a stroll.

empty_dolores.jpgA couple walks down the west side of Dolores Street. Cars were prohibited for several blocks immediately adjacent to the park.

If any readers were wondering where the extra parked cars went, it seemed that the MTA (or an enterprising neighbor?) had put out traffic cones to take over one of the two lanes in each direction on Guerrero Street. Even with Valencia closed and one lane out of service on Guerrero, traffic wasn’t backed up more than five or seven cars deep.  Guerrero road diet anyone?

Parked_cars.jpgA row of cars parked in the middle Guerrero Street NOT for church.

Doubling back on the route to Valencia Street just before 11:00 am, the crowd was thicker, with a prevalence of kids on all manner of conveyance.

flyer_bike.jpgReading the GPS or just mesmerized by the bell?
girls_pink_scooter.jpgWhy yes, I am adorable.

kid_red_wagon.jpgSome were chauffeured.

Though Valencia looked great with all the kids practicing their bicycle skills, 24th Street was a sea of people. As the Chronicle noted in its glowing coverage, it resembled Bay to Breakers, though without all the debauchery and costumes.

24th_St.jpgThousands of people pack 24th Street

At the corner of 24th and Valencia, SFBC Program Director Andy Thornley stopped his bicycle to chat. He remarked how pleasant he found the interactions of all street users, despite the large crowd. "It’s very encouraging to see how people are sorting
themselves out, how the pedestrians and cyclists are in the same space
but they’re not bumping into each other and we don’t really need a lot of
traffic cops for sorting out," he said. "In earlier Sunday Streets on Embarcadero and 3rd Streets, it was just too fast; we didn’t really see people walking in the middle of the street, it was just the sides because the bikes were too fast."

Crowfoot, the Mayor’s Director of Climate Initiatives, walked by us and
stopped long enough to say how excited he was by the turnout. "Thousands and thousands of people, from babies to old folks, and everyone’s just having a beautiful time–it’s a great vibe.  It’s amazing what you can do when you actually get the cars off the streets and open it up to people."

When asked whether they would consider expanding the hours and adding Sundays, Crowfoot said they would discuss it, though he wasn’t sure it would happen by the July 19th event in the Mission. He said the Mayor’s office was looking forward to the two
Sunday Streets events in the Sunset, which will create a car-free link from
the Panhandle, through Golden Gate Park, to the Great Highway along
Ocean Beach, where at least one direction of traffic will be closed for
several miles.

"I think the name of the game is to get this to more neighborhoods, make it more frequent, more consistent," said Crowfoot. "This
is only the beginning."

The next Mission Sunday Streets will be July 19th, from 10 am – 2 pm (unless something changes…). See many more photos of the event and add your own on our Flickr pool here.

The_Frondz.jpgA green shout out to "Happy Days."
princess.jpgA princess riding her steed.

  • “Packed Mission Sunday Streets Begs Question, ‘Why Not Every Week?'”

    yes! i heard several people on sunday asking the same thing.

  • CBrinkman

    Thanks to all the volunteers and the City, thanks to everyone who came out to play – and thank you San Franciscans for sharing your streets. What a lovely four hours it was. Don’t forget to let the Mayor and your supervisor know if you liked Sunday Streets and would like to see more.

  • Where can I offer suggestions for other locations? This would be great in North Beach.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Only one suggestion for the organizers: I was out and about in the morning and didn’t really know where the route was. I tried to look it up on the website from my phone but the website must have been blitzed because I couldn’t get it to load. Eventually I found the route on the website of the Examiner. Perhaps it would be a good idea to simplify the site so it just states the route on a simple front page (not a PDF, not in Flash).

  • The ad-hoc street parking on Guerrero happens every week, thanks to the Cornerstone Church at Dearborn and 17th St. They run a massive parking operation on Sundays, with an enclosed garage immediately adjacent to the church, a surface lot across the street from them at a mortuary, and the lines of cars on Guerrero Street. In such a transit-rich neighborhood, such an influx of motorists is very unfortunate–with the city’s informal help, this is a supply-driven phenomenon.

    Sunday Streets, Cornerstone-style, has apparently involved easy and informal street-grabs for vehicle parking for quite some time. Tim Redmond wrote about the issue in the SFBG last year ( and there was a letter to the editor follow-up from a resident who tells of trying to confront church-goers with the existence of a BART station two blocks away ( I prefer a calm, bike-by protest of this strange ritual with the slogan ‘Jesus Loves Bart!’ Because, you know, he does.

  • There were so many people out walking this time. I can’t wait till the next one in the mission.

  • Is it illegal to park your bike on Guerrero on Sundays?

  • Susan King

    A discussion among Livable City staff (who do a lot of alt. transportation advocacy outside of Sunday Streets organizing, fyi) City and MTA staffers is how we can jump start discussions for eliminating Sunday double parking in the Mission and elsewhere.

    From what I understand, this practice started at Mission Dolores Church and was for funerals only. It subsequently spread to other churches and is now a weekly occurrence City wide. While doing outreach for Sunday Streets (particularly about parking enforcement), we noted that many of the ‘Church Parked’ cars were not being used for church parking, but for dining, Yoga classes, and hanging out in the neighborhood.

    Personally, I don’t care what someone is parked for, and don’t think that double parking to attend church should be above the law. There appears to be a growing sentiment among neighbors who live near churches who agree and would love to see the practice eliminated.

    The discussion may well be rendered moot, however, if the City does go ahead with plans to charge for Sunday parking. They won’t put parking meters in the medians, and will have to enforce non paid parking in the median lest folks flock to these free spots to avoid having to pay to park. At least we can hope thats what happens.

  • I don’t like the double parking in bike lanes but I don’t understand why non-driving folks get upset about double parking on Guerrero. It’s instant traffic calming since it makes it only one lane! It only affects drivers right?

  • Susan King

    Double parking on narrow streets makes it very uncomfortable for cyclists who have no choice but to take the lane. Irritable drivers then react as if the cyclist- not the scofflaw parkers- are to blame for the road being so congested and can be quite aggressive when they have to slow down (maybe actually go the speed limit) behind a cyclist. Also, cyclists have to avoid being doored from both sides. So no, double parking affects more than just drivers. I am sure there are stories from pedestrians and transit users about how double parking impacts them as well.

  • @ Justin Fraser

    I can see the benefits of an instant – if temporary – road diet, but a block with 20 illegally parked cars that don’t get ticketed is $2,000 dollars that the MTA is losing out on. That’s an awful lot of 50¢ Muni fare increases to make up for it.

  • One thought: maybe the case ought to be made that since people apparently only need one lane on Guerrero, it ought to be significantly narrowed and sidewalks expanded.

  • Those were some nice pictures and a good article. Of the sunday streets so far this one seems the most interesting as it was through a densely populated part of the city not on the waterfront, etc. I think there are more pressing things to worry about than sunday double parking and that the practice does have a traffic calming effect. I have never seen a car react angrily in such a situation.


  • Gillian Gillett

    I hear from fellow residents of Guerrero all the time about how much the free double-parking really bothers them…that the practise sends the message that even on Sundays/on bingo nights/during long Sunday lines at the church of St. Tartine/what have you, Guerrero Street is for cars rather than for its residents or businesses…that street trees are not permitted within 50′ of an intersection but the tail end of a Cadillac Escalade may apparently jut right into a crosswalk…that free and unpermitted parking in this way feels like some kind of First Amendment issue (why not lunchtime parking for Guerrero eateries or dry cleaners?)…that the residents of Guerrero wouldn’t be allowed to close off two lanes of traffic for block parties…that our 4′ center traffic divider should disappear in favor of wider sidewalks and street trees with a healthy future…that our neighborhood is not a parking lot…that there’s insufficient notice of when the neighborhood will be “calmed” in this way…that the neighborhood derives no benefit (financially, health-wise, livability-wise) from this “calming”…

  • It was a great day in Mission. Thank you to the organizers and volunteers! And thanks Sports Basement for fixing my flat tire. This really should have happen regularly. The 24th St merchants should really petition for it.

  • “Where can I offer suggestions for other locations? This would be great in North Beach.”

    Suggest it to the Supervisors and the Mayor – we are limited only by popular demand and money. Oh yes, money. It’s not horribly expensive but enough to pay for the costs of the events must be raised by Sunday Streets – to pay for event insurance, the SFPD and the Parking Control Officers, to pay for permits, to pay for volunteer coordination, etc etc…

    In these tight budget times it’s not realistic to expect the City to have money to spend on events such as these – so we’ve worked very hard to raise money to cover the costs of the events. Considering the bang for our buck it’s a fantastic return on investment – the return being simply fun and happiness and hopefully more business for the merchants. With more money we could address the complaints received about lack of outreach with advertising and pretty signs and banners and route markings…oh we have big ideas but limited means at this point.

  • Pat

    At the intersection I was volunteering at, pretty much everyone but one guy was disappointed when I told them, “no it doesn’t happen every weekend just 6 times this summer.” Doing this in places like the Mission, North Beach and even the Haight or along the Wiggle makes so much more sense than Embarcadero or Ocean Beach. Far more merchants to attract people, greater density will make for higher turnout and the neighborhoods are just more interesting and walking oriented to begin with.

    As for Guerrero double parking, might I suggest some locals bring out lawn chairs, maybe a love seat, a bbq or other such things and occupy some of the illegal double parking spaces just to kind of make a point? An improptu park/tiny event celebrating another use of the street and making a point to illegal parkers could be fun.

  • Josh J

    As a Mission resident and avid bike commuter, I am very happy about these events! I was curious if the local businesses seemed to have experienced more than average income on this day? That metric alone might be a good way to justify the expenses to the city.

  • ZA

    This last Sunday Streets was the best yet, but all of them have achieved a far more important and subtle victory … breaking down the psychological barriers between neighborhoods, and introducing the places to people from everywhere else. People get locked into patterns, and pretty soon a decade has past and you’ve never been to X. This is a great and natural way of making new connections.

    It’d be great to get to the point that we could have similar events in the Fillmore and the Tenderloin. Step by step, with plenty of community involvement.

  • andreac

    i was very sad that i had to work this past sunday and for the first time missed a sunday streets. but as someone who lives in soma/south beach (after more than 20 years in the mission which i still miss dearly) i just want to say that we here on the embarcadero LOVE our sunday streets too, so please don’t take it away from us. this is a very loud neighborhood, what with the bay bridge and four lanes of the embarcadero, and the first thing i noticed about the first sunday streets here was the quiet. so lovely. and so nice to ride my bike without worrying about cars. also, the first one here did a great job connecting soma/south beach with bayview. i’d like to see that happen more often. (and i did write to the mayor and all the supes expressing my support for any and all sunday streets, in any neighborhood, and i will do that again.)

    it is true that during the sunday streets in my new neighborhood, bikes used the road and the people stuck to the sidewalk — but is that really a failure? maybe sunday streets just has to be different in different neighborhoods. but please … let’s keep them going in all neighborhoods! don’t take any sunday streets away!!!

  • I don’t want to sound too absolute a note on the modal mixing dynamics of the various Sunday Streets so far — I was definitely seeing tiny pink bikes and ambling families and folks in wheelchairs out on the middle of the Embarcadero roadway at each of the waterfront Sunday Streets, and the overall speed of things was never very fast, at the center or the edges. It’s more that the width of 24th St meant that everybody had less pavement to claim individually, more need to share and be aware of other folks, so the distinction between the center and the edges wasn’t great, indeed, it was all the same human mingle-space (and not exclusively human, either). You could even just ~stop~ in the middle of the street and not be “in the way,” other people would find a way to flow, dogs and babies and bikes and skateboards — the whole thing was a traffic engineer’s worst nightmare, unless that engineer was also an entomologist or chaos theorist (though I must note that I encountered both Bond Yee [DPT Director] and Jack Fleck [City Traffic Engineer] on the route Sunday and they both were fascinated and delighted by the spectacle).

    I also want to note that I saw something like Sunday’s successful self-sorting crush on 24th St at the season opener Sunday Streets on April 26, in the stretch through Fisherman’s Wharf, walkers and cyclists and dogs all mixed up and moving in at least two opposing flows, nobody (that I saw) crashing into anyone else. I have to say, witnessing such friendly cooperation and awareness of others really makes me despair for humanity a little less!

  • It all comes down to this, people. If we want our streets to be OUR streets, we have to make it a priority. We have to make people friendly, calm streets more important than parking. We have to put the weight of our desires into letters and hearings and votes. The City depends on its citizens being apathetic and disinterested to push through all kinds of junk we do not need, spending money on things that do not matter or could be done so much less expensively.

    Speak up! Write letters. Tell the churches you don’t like them double parking. Tell the City you want more open spaces for your kids and less room for cars that contribute nothing.

  • Galen Maloney

    About time. About time. About time. In Thailand and other parts of the world, weekly markets are the norm. Different streets in various parts of the city close themselves to cars, and let vendors sell their wares on the street, creating an amazing opportunity to stroll, eat, mingle, shop, listen to music, etc. Hopefully, this is just the beginning for San Francisco. Now, with budget cuts looming, this is the perfect time to transform our city. People just need new avenues of expression, community and commerce. Cars have their place but not 24 hours/7 days a week…lets continue to take back the streets and see what happens

  • Another area of double parking abuse is the notion that triple kid parents and their oversized pollution spewing 4×4 baby strollers have an inalienable right to double, triple park while they drop off and or pick up the tots at school. And if it is a bike lane, all the better cause we all know that the cowards at the SFMTA don’t have the political guts to do anything about it.

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