Streetfilms: SF Carves a Park from the Midst of Its Pavement

The entire family of San Francisco city agencies responsible for
maintaining its streets made an unconventional decision to close a
portion of a street to cars and convert the new space into a simple,
yet elegant, public plaza.  The project combines all the important
elements of plaza creation that have been successful in New York City
and elsewhere: take space from cars, use simple treatments to convert
the space into a pedestrian sanctuary, including movable furniture and
leftover granite blocks from city salvage yards, and engage commercial
interests around the plaza to help maintain and care for the new public

Though some neighborhood constituents voiced skepticism that the
plaza would be empty at best, or filled with miscreants and vagabonds
at worst, the plaza’s success is hard to dispute. In fact, so many
people are using the new space and enjoying the tables and chairs, the
businesses around the plaza have contemplated leaving the furniture out
later than sunset, which was the initial closing time agreed upon
between them and the Castro/Upper Market Community Betterment

This film, shot and edited by Paul Jaffe and produced by Streetsblog SF editor Bryan Goebel, takes an in-depth look at the construction of the
plaza with some of the agencies responsible for it, and includes some
entertaining man-on-the-street interviews.

  • Very nice. I want to add that by eliminating excessive road space, it makes driving safer too. The problem with many Market Street intersections is cars seem coming from all directions. It is very confusing for drivers. By closing off some part of the street it helps to better define driving paths.

  • Can we get a “temp” set up for the Vallejo piazza? I think once people realize how awesome it is, they will jump on it like they did with this one. I’m on North Beach Neighbors and I can already sense the heels being dug in to fight the piazza because it’ll inconvenience the people who driving down the hill from their homes. We need to act quickly so that those who would actually use and enjoy the space can have a chance to experience it.

  • thegreasybear

    The plaza was also used as a rally site by the gay community after the Proposition 8 ruling by the CA Supreme Court. This space is a smashing civic success.

  • marcos

    Back in the day, Market, 17th and Castro would regularly be made into “car free” autonomous zones at the drop of a hat for a protest.

    In 2003, when Bowers v. Hardwick was overturned by Lawrence v. Texas, the communities rallied at Harvey Milk Plaza.

    This intersection has historical significance for the queer communities irrespective of any temporary treatments, indeed in spite of any (self) conscious efforts at streetscape engineering.

    One would hard pressed to make the case that these slivers of streets cum park amidst streetcar tracks made anti-Prop 8 organizing any easier or more effective.

    When critical political mass comes together, the least of concerns are traffic laws.


  • The rally held after the Prop 8 ruling closed down the entire Castro & Market intersection. The crowd was many times the size of what could fit in the plaza.

  • thegreasybear

    After the street reopened, the remaining protesters (I’m talking like after 11:30pm) had two choices: Harvey Milk Plaza or 17th Street. The crowd passed over the uneven, bunkered and sidelined subway station “plaza” for the new temporary space in the heart of the neighborhood.

  • Former SFer reading this from 2,000 miles away, and it looks like a great idea but the video doesn’t show the changes. I’ll be looking elsewhere for photos or a diagram…

  • Cute but I see that the Holy Automobile Throughput was not challenged. Also curious how much space that Chevron station takes up…


Coming Soon: Mini Plazas at Persia Triangle and Better Plaza Management

Update: According to the Planning Department, the San Francisco Plaza Program will only apply to permanently plazas installed with concrete features, not semi-permanent Pavement to Parks plazs. City agencies are set to launch a program to manage San Francisco’s plazas, establishing a long-term system to coordinate maintenance and activities in public spaces. As we wrote […]
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The plaza behind the Ferry Building, known largely as a farmer’s market venue and a place for ferry commuters to pass through, could be temporarily turned into a 64-space part-time parking lot during weekdays under a plan being considered by the Port Commission. Equity Office, which leases the Ferry terminal, is pushing the 18-month proposal as a […]