Mayor Lee to Bring Sunday Streets to Chinatown and North Beach This Year

Mayor Ed Lee with (left to right) Livable City Program Manager Susan King, Supervisor David Chiu, and SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Bond Yee. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Chinatown and North Beach, the “densest neighborhoods west of the Mississippi,” are set to be graced by Sunday Streets for the first time this year, Mayor Ed Lee announced today. City leaders and advocates said they’re eager for the opportunity to let residents experience Grant Avenue and California Street free of car traffic.

“Sunday Streets will be different from a street fair. It will allow residents to explore all uses of the streets,” said Mayor Lee. “This is about working with all of the elements of the community and breaking down bureaucratic walls to make things happen.”

The growing demand from neighborhood and merchants associations had initially put Sunday Streets on the horizon for next year, but a 2011 date is being chosen at the insistence of Mayor Lee, said Livable City Director Tom Radulovich.

Dwellers of the city’s urban core, including City Lights publisher and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, have long dreamed of pedestrianizing streets like the crowded Grant Avenue, he noted. Last year, a parklet made some headway by expanding the public realm in front of a Columbus Avenue restaurant. The area’s compact character will foster a slower, more pedestrian and play-focused environment than Sunday Streets held elsewhere, but it will not be like the vendor-oriented street fairs familiar to the area, said Radulovich.

“People living in Chinatown don’t have front porches or backyards to use,” said Supervisor David Chiu, highlighting the packed neighborhood’s long-stifled need for open public spaces. Sunday Streets will provide breathing room on the streets mostly reserved for storing and moving motor vehicles, despite the fact that it has one of the lowest car ownership rates in the country.

“It’s really great that there’s recognition that walking is the primary way of getting around Chinatown,” said Deland Chan, senior planner at the Chinatown Community Development Center. “We want to see the programming done in the most community-serving way, particularly for the elderly population.”

Advocates applauded the benefits Sunday Streets has brought to the city that go beyond encouraging healthy physical activity. Events in the past three years have provided an easy way for neighbors to meet one another and more intimately explore the streets around them when not subject to the impacts of car traffic.

“What greater way is there to connect neighborhoods and appreciate our city?” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who was excited at the opportunity to visit neighborhoods “not as a tourist, but as a local.”

Although the time frame is yet to be determined, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Bond Yee said the agency is working on squeezing the ninth Sunday Streets into the current calendar without conflicting with other events.

This year’s street parties will be held an hour later, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, to better accommodate church-going families, said Livable City Program Manager Susan King.

The first Sunday Streets of the season kicks off this weekend along the Embarcadero from Fisherman’s Wharf to Terry Francois Street:

  • icarus12

    I am glad Streetsblog advertises when and where Sunday Streets take place. I avoid them like the plague. They turn well-functioning, multi-modal neighborhoods into temporary theme parks. Just such bullshit — I am not surprised that politicians pander to a well-organized minority of “new urbanists” and some merchants out to make one-day street fair bucks. I remain skeptical, however, as to the events’ popularity with neighbors and people mightily inconvenienced by these sticky-sweet confections.

  • Haters gonna hate.

    Let’s get rid of Sunday Streets, Giants games, Bay to Breakers, St Patrick’s Day Parade, Fleet Week, America’s Cup, Amgen ToC, Love Parade, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Union Street Fair, Opera in the Park, Stern Grove Music Series. All of it. Let’s go to work, go home, and go to bed, and not be inconvenienced in that mission.

  • ZA

    @John Murphy – perfectly said.

  • Nick

    There is some truth to the NIMBY aspect of the event.

    -For example, people in NOPA hate the chaos that the Bay to Breakers brings. People who don’t live there love the event.

    -People in the Sunset hate Stern Grove Sundays for the parking it takes away. Others come here and enjoy it immensely.

    -Downtown residents hate Halloween in the Castro. Damn near everyone else thought it was a smashing good time.

    The point we all equally are inconvienced or benefited from the different neighborhood events.

  • ccc

    Yes, please continue avoiding places where families and social beings like to congregate and have a good time, while at the same time helping with the local economy by patronizing the local merchants. Go on and stay annoyed at the whole .81% of the year (no bs – that’s what 72 hrs of the year amounts to) that Sunday Streets closes the streets so that people can enjoy the city in a way they never could otherwise. Do all of that because you’ve earned it, old grumpy grandpa (sorry if you’re not a grandpa, but you sure as heck sound like an old fart).

  • drew

    it’s one day of inconvenience. if someone can’t sacrifice one day out of the year to lose a little bit of sleep in order to make a huge group of people happy then they don’t deserve to live in this awesome city.

  • CBrinkman

    Great news, well done Livable City, Mayor Lee and MTA. I cannot wait to enjoy Sunday Streets this year. Who would have thought we would come so far in just 3 years?

  • Otto


    Yeah, B2B is probably the worst because it essentially isolates the two halves of the city from each other. They should have that race along the waterfront.

    More generally, I tend to agree with Icarus that Sunday Streets is big enough to be annoying but not big enough to really make streets more liveable. They’re more like glorified versions of the long-standing street fairs like the Haight Street fair.

    I’d rather have a handful of streets permanently pedestrianized, as most cities can manage to do, but not SF, rather that this lame substitute. As such, Sunday Streets is a sop. Denver did this 25 years ago. Toronto, as well.

  • Horray!!

    Thank you to everyone who worked to bring a Subday Streets to this area. Much needed and it will be a huge hit.

  • MrWriteSF

    So the article says that Chinatown and North Beach will be featured this year, but has nothing about it. And as for the Love Parade John Murphy, it WAS canceled last year because of that unfortunate stampede at a similar event in Europe (Germany I think). If they resume, then SF has the distinction of being one of the few cities, if not the only city, to have TWO gay pride celebrations; Love Parade ain’t nothing but gay pride for straight people.

  • John R.

    I’m glad icarus12 will be avoiding all Sunday Streets. It takes a true cynic to find a “sticky sweet confection” and nefarious motives in these wonderful events, and it would be highly unpleasant to see his/her scowling mug moping around. As for the Embarcadero being a well-functioning multi-modal neighborhood, most of the time it feels more like a congested urban highway to me.

  • roymeo

    So, Lee is going to run for mayor?

  • John A

    agree w @MrWriteSF, post seems to imply that closures will head into the side streets, but it’s only along Embarcadero.

  • Aaron Bialick

    MrWriteSF said: “So the article says that Chinatown and North Beach will be featured this year, but has nothing about it.”

    This article is about the announcement that Chinatown/North Beach is coming, and states that a date has yet to be chosen. My guess is the Sunday Streets website will be updated once the date is set.

    John A said: “agree w @MrWriteSF, post seems to imply that closures will head into the side streets, but it’s only along Embarcadero.”

    The Embarcadero route is a different route, which we chose to mention and include a map as a reminder because it will start the Sunday Streets season off this weekend. The Chinatown/North Beach route hasn’t been mapped out yet. Apologies for any confusion.

  • Did this ever get resolved one way or another? The Sunday Streets site still doesn’t show any Chinatown/North Beach event, and we’re running out of summer 🙂

  • mikesonn

    I thought I heard Sept 18th.

  • Susan

    The new Sunday Streets event in Chinatown (and North Beach) is on Sunday, September 18. The route goes on Grant Ave from Bush St- the Chinatown Gates to Coit Tower. We’ll be updating our website and sending out full info on this event soon. Thank you for your interest in the event.


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