Livable City is working to ensure that city streets, which cover over 25% of San Francisco's land area, are designed and maintained as a safe and attractive public spaces that support walking, bicycling, and public transit.
Our current efforts are to improve the City's designs and standards to improve the appearance, safety and accessibility of city streets, protect neighborhoods from excessive traffic, and remove dangerous conditions for bicylists and pedestrians. Livable City supports streetscapes that integrate street trees and landscaping, energy- and resource-efficiency standards, and that minimize impermeable pavements to improve the livability of the city while reducing environmental impacts and infrastructure costs.
Livable City's complete streets campaign works at three scales: citywide reform, neighborhood planning, and individual projects. We are working citywide to improve streets standards, improve the effectiveness, responsiveness, and coordination of city departments, and increase funding opportunities for complete streets projects. At the neighborhood scale, we are working to empower every neighborhood to create its own complete streets plan, and to secure the funding and bureaucratic support to implement neighborhood plans that have already been completed. We are also engaged in innovative projects all over the city to create complete streets, and that demonstrate what is possible.
Livable City has been participating in the City's Better Streets Plan. We submitted extensive comments and recommendations on the Better Streets Plan Draft for Public Review in December 2008. A revised Better Streets Plan, as well as a Better Streets Institutional Analysis prepared by the Controller's Office, were completed and adopted in 2010.
Our Current projects
Our Citywide strategy
Livable City's citywide strategy for complete streets is integrated with and complements our land use vision (City of Neighborhoods), our strategy for an effective and seamless transit network, and our campaign for a citywide Greenway Network.
The citywide strategy has ten elements.
Reclaiming the Central City
Downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods SoMa, Tenderloin, and Chinatown are San Francisco's densest neighborhoods, residents of these neighborhoods have the City's highest rates of transit use, walking, and cycling.
Unfortunately, these neighborhoods, which contribute least to traffic and environmental impacts, are subjected to unhealthy and unsafe levels of traffic and traffic-related noise and pollution, these neighborhoods often lack nearby green and well-designed parks, sidewalks, and plazas.
Livable City's strategy for reclaiming the central city includes:
Downtown: see Livable City's Livable Downtown page for details.
Chinatown: Livable City supports reclaiming Chinatown's Alleyways, improving Grant Avenue as a pedestrian-oriented street, and improving public transit and pedestrian safety on Stockton and Kearny streets, and making Washington and Clay streets more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly.
Tenderloin: see our Tenderloin page for details.
Civic Center: San Francisco's Civic Center is rich in history and distinguished architecture, but its streets and public spaces are badly designed and dominated by traffic. Livable City supports pedestrianizing Fulton Street between Larkin and Hyde, narrowing the excessively-wide sections of Polk, Grove, Larkin, and McAllister streets that isolate City Hall and Civic Center Plaza, and improving Grove Street for cycling and walking, and McAllister for walking, cycling, and transit.
South of Market: The South of Market neighborhoods are made up of large blocks which are divided by a series of intimate alleyways. Livable City is working to green and calm SoMa's wonderful residentiall alleyways, and extend the alleyway network where it s lacking. We are working to implement the street improvements and green open spaces called for in the Transbay and Rincon Hill Plans, and convert Folsom, Howard, 7th, and 8th from harsh, fast-moving, one way streets to slower, greener two-way streets that put pedestrians, cyclists, and transit first.
Great Transit Streets
Livable City is working to make sure that the dozen or so corridors that comprise the city's rapid transit network, focus both on improving transit speed, reliablity, and accessibility, and on creating great streets that integrate pedestrian, bicycle, and streetscape elements with light rail and rapid bus projects.
San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, and vibrant, walkable neighborhood centers make San Francisco more livable and sustainable.
Home zones are residential streets that are designed around pedestrians and cyclists, and limit traffic to low speeds. Home zones are designed to allow everyone, including children and seniors, to move safely on foot and on bike.
San Francisco's General Plan has a decades-old policy that designates most of the city's residential neighborhoods as "protected residential areas", yet has never prioritized making these home zones a reality. Livable City is working to create a process and standards for creating home zones, and getting the city to commit staff and resources to implementing them.
Strategy and priorities
Better Streets Plan
In September 2007, The Planning Department held two public meetings to present their draft street types. The street types are meant to be the template for future street improvements. Each street type has a set of basic improvements that will, hopefully, be standard elements on all streets of that type, as well as a menu of additional options that could be applied to individual streets. The Planning Department released a Draft for Public Review in 2008. We submitted extensive comments and recommendations on the draft in December 2008. The Better Streets Plan was adopted in December 2010.
Citywide streets assessment
Livable City will work to secure funding for a citywide assessment of existing street conditions, and where they fall short of complete streets standards. This assessment can form the basis of a complete streets action plan to guide future years’ capital plans.
Improve standards and metrics
Complete streets standards
Livable City will work to advance the inter-departmental effort to create a comprehensive set of complete streets standards. These standards should address all transportation modes and street types, and include environmental and aesthetic standards. The city's standards should include both minimum (least acceptable) and optimum (best possible) values.
Improve planning and public participation
Neighborhood transportation plans
Livable City will work with the Planning Department to get the Mission Streetscape and Transportation Plan underway, Secure funding for a comprehensive Downtown and SoMa Transportation and Streetscape Plan, and to fund complete streets plans for other neighborhoods.
Create stable funding and improve project coordination
Address San Francisco's systemic street capital shortfall
Livable City is working to create a blue-ribbon committee, composed of representatives of users of the transportation system (pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists, people with disabilities, etc), as well as neighborhood, civic, environmental, and urban greening and beautification groups and city staff, to recommend solutions to the city’s long-term capital funding shortfalls in the aftermath of the failure of Prop. B at the ballot box last fall. The committee’s recommendations should complete streets thinking into an approach to these infrastructure deficits that is equitable and both financially and ecologically sustainable.
Improve maintenance and enforcement
Complete Streets ideas and resources
"Intersection Repair" by Street Films
10 minute film, available online at the Street Films web site
City Repair in Portland, Oregon hosts an annual Village Building Convergence where hundreds of people come together to build diverse projects for the benefit of their communities and to take back their streets via a process known as the Intersection Repair.
Intersection Repair involves painting streets with a high-visiblity mural that creates a public square for residents to gather and one which gently encourages drivers to slow down when approaching these spaces. Over time the neighbors further enhance the transformation by adding amenities like benches, community bulletin boards, and introducing gardens & art. As you’ll see, the possibilites are endless.
Intersection Repair is the latest film by the amazing Clarence Eckerson for Street Films, which has created dozens of short films about making more livable cities.
The case for physically separated bike lanes
The film makes the case for physically separating bicycle lanes from traffic on New York's busy streets, where bike lanes are plagued with the same problems we have in San Francisco: intrusions by double parked and right-turning cars, with the same lax enforcement by the transportation department. The film features interviews with New York City cyclists and advocates, as well as Livable City heroes like former Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa, Danish urbanist Jan Gehl, and former New York City Deputy Transportation Commissioner "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz (would that we had traffic engineers like Gridlock Sam...)
Share or Segregate?
Are segregated bike lanes appropriate for every bike route? Possibly not. The detractors of separated lanes cite possible difficulties at intersections, where bicycles need to merge with right-turning traffic.
Another idea is that of shared space; creating narrow streets where cars move at slow speeds, and share the right-of-way with pedestrians and bicycles. The Dutch woonerf is one sort of shared street.
The video flashes an image from Transport for London's excellent Cycling Design Standards (image to the right). London's approach is to create segregated lanes on streets with high traffic volumes and speeds, but to calm lower-traffic streets to create shared spaces.
Lessons From New York: The Hudson River Greenway
The Hudson River Greenway, with its separated bicycle path and pedestrian promenade along the water's edge, is featured prominently in the film. The path attracts 5000 cyclists on an average day, and feels usable and safe for both experienced cyclists and inexperienced ones.
Last year, Clarence produced a 12-minute film called Lessons from San Francisco: The Embarcadero Freeway Removal. The film features Livable City's Tom Radulovich, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's Andy Thornley, and historian and activist Chris Carlsson, talking about the Embarcadero and Octavia Boulevard.
The Hudson River Greenway, with its bicycle and pedestrian paths and green piers, is a great model for San Francisco's Embarcadero. While the Hudson River Greenway could have benefitted from a waterfront streetcar line like the Embarcadero's F line, San Francisco would do well to create a separated bicycle path on the bay side of the Embarcadero like New York's.
Grants are available to green your street or park!
The deadline to apply for San Francisco Beautiful neighborhood beautification grants is August 1st. The deadline for the City of San Francisco's Community Challenge Grant Program passed in July, but a new grant cycle should start this winter.
Ongoing planning efforts
Mission-Geneva Transportation Study Community Workshop: on Saturday July 8, the Transportation Authority hosted the second of three community workshops on transportation in the Mission-Geneva area, where they reviewed proposed transportation solutions before a final plan is unveiled later this summer. For more information, call 415/585-0110 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit the study website for more details and a project fact sheet.
24th Street BART Plazas: BART hosted a community design workshop on Thursday, June 15 to help shape the future of the plazas at the 24th Street BART Station. The meeting revisited the 2001 for the 24th Street plazas, reviewing lessons learned from the 16th Street improvements, and prioritizing the first improvements for 24th Street Station. BART's plans for the plazas and station can be found here. A grant application for a first phase of improvements was submitted based on the input from the workshop.
Mission Street (from Cesar Chavez to Randall) Transportation and Pedestrian Safety Workshop: Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center hosted a public workshop on transportation and Pedestrian safety on Saturday, July 15 as part of the Transportation Authority's Mission Street Community Vision project. The meeting will be held at the Bernal Gateway Apartments, 3101 Mission Street at Cesar Chavez. Visit the study website for more information.
Mint Plaza: Mint Plaza is a new downtown urban plaza, located on block of Jessie Street beside the Old Mint near 5th and Mission Streets. The Plaza, which opened in 2007, is being financed by an innovative special property tax which the Martin Building Company agreed to assess on their adjacent properties. to learn more about the project, check out the Mint Plaza website.
Balboa Park Station Area The Balboa Park Station Area Plan, created several years ago by the planning department, envisioned a revitalized and reconnected neighborhood centered on Balboa Park Station, where BART, Muni Metro, and Muni bus lines converge. The Planning department held a "check-in" meeting on July 24th to discuss the new public plaza at the Phelan Loop, near Phelan and Ocean; a residential and retail project on the Kragen Auto site on Ocean Avenue; an update on the Muni-led effort to redesign the Balboa Park BART/Muni station, and a review of new zoning, parking regulations, and design guidelines. Visit the plan website for more details.
Livable City worked hard to make 2006 the year of the Complete Street. Our goal is that, starting in the 2006-2007 budget year, that every street project in San Francisco is a complete streets project.
Car-free Market Street: develop a proposal for closing the section between 3rd to 5th streets to cars.
Vision Boulevard: Extending Octavia Boulevard into South of Market and renaming Division and 13th Streets to "Vision Boulevard" would help revitalize the neighborhood and eliminate the Central Freeway.
The Vision Boulevard Project could increase the neighborhood tax base, allow for new land uses including housing, bring sunlight to the area and help many businesses.
Livable City supports Vision Boulevard, an extension of Octavia Boulevard across Market Street and through the North Mission/West SoMa neighborhood on the surface. Caltrans will have to close the Central Freeway in just ten years, when the deck of the metal bridge portion of the Central Freeway needs to be replaced. The Transportation Authority should study alternatives to a simple rebuilding of the overhead structure, so that we have an opportunity to restore the sunlight and vitality of the neighborhood we're enjoying in 2003-2004 while the overhead structure is gone.
For more information, see http://www.somawest.org/visionblvd