San Francisco's newest on-street plaza opened downtown this week on Annie Street, a one-block alley that runs near SPUR's Urban Center between Market and Mission Streets, about halfway between Third and New Montgomery Streets. Temporary concrete and wood seats have transformed a large section of the alley into a car-free space for gatherings and events in the middle of the bustling Yerba Buena District.
The plaza project "shows just how little you really need to do to make use of these public spaces for things other than cars," said Gil Kelley, who started as the Planning Department's citywide planning director earlier this year. "A few lights, a few plants, a few wooden benches, a little music -- and suddenly, you have a great event space."
"This will be a place where we envision activation, to include music, festivals, movies, a place to socialize, and a place to find solace," said Lance Burwell, a board member of Yerba Buena Community Benefit District, which helped fund and coordinate the project, with the Planning Department's Pavement to Parks Project, through two years of planning.
Annie Alley is the first temporary on-street plaza conversion seen in some time -- they've been rare ever since the initial batch of on-street plazas was built in 2009 and 2010. The plaza is expected to be in place for two years, and will be evaluated afterwards, before plans for a permanent plaza are considered.
Annie Alley sits in the middle of one of SF's most heavily-walked neighborhoods. The area is poised to become a focal point for even denser development, as new buildings surround the Central Subway and Transbay Transit Center stations under construction.
"As San Francisco intensifies its human activity and builds, the streets really are our living room," said Kelley. "We have to use them for more than just cars."
"Ensuring that we have more spaces like Annie Alley that are protected for pedestrians -- places to listen to music, to watch movies, to walk, to drink at Novela [a neighboring bar], and come out and hang out with friends... all of this makes our neighborhoods more complete and humane," said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim.
Aaron was the editor of Streetsblog San Francisco from January 2012 until October 2015. He joined Streetsblog in 2010 after studying rhetoric and political communication at SF State University and spending a semester in Denmark.