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Aaron Peskin

Sup. Christensen Gives Tentative Support for Car-Free Powell Street

3:04 PM PDT on September 4, 2015

District 3 Supervisor Julie Christensen offered tentative support for the car-free Powell Street trial proposed for Union Square. The SFMTA hopes to have a pilot project in place in November, in time for the holiday shopping season, but it has met some resistance from the Union Square Business Improvement District because delivery vehicles would be banned during daytime hours.

Supervisor Christensen on the Powell-Mason cable car. Photo: Julie Christensen/Twitter
Supervisor Christensen on the Powell-Mason cable car. Photo: Julie Christensen/Twitter

Christensen wrote in a statement:

As always with these types of adjustments, all types of access need to be weighed and factored - including bicycles, passenger and luggage drop off, deliveries, emergency vehicle access, etc. It is my understanding that the MTA is considering the varied uses and needs of buildings and businesses along this stretch of Powell and surrounding streets and are conferring with those parties, as well as the Union Square BID. My staff and I are involved in discussions and are monitoring the planning process closely.

Temporary trials have proven valuable in evaluating proposals like this one. We want to make sure the trial is designed with sufficient input and consideration and look forward to feedback on the results.

Given the pushback from the Union Square BID, support from electeds like the District 3 supervisor could be critical in implementing the two-block trial without delay. Requests for comment from D3 supervisor candidate Aaron Peskin and Mayor Ed Lee were not returned.

Getting cars off Powell figures to boost business -- it would make the street safer to walk on, keep crosswalks clear and transit moving, and reduce the "stop-and-go lurches caused by heavy and unpredictable traffic," as Christensen put it.

The Union Square BID's insistence on all-day deliveries on Powell seems to have little merit, since few businesses get deliveries on the street during the day, according to the SFMTA.

Christensen pointed to the popularity of the Powell Promenade "mega parklet" and the "Winter Walk" Plaza on Stockton Street, noting that the SFMTA is "looking at long range plans for the Union Square area, with a focus towards pedestrian and public transit uses."

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