Community Meetings, Eastern Neighborhoods, Pedestrian Experience, San Francisco, Streetscape

Better Streets for the Mission District

Cesar Chavez
Courtesy SF Planning Dept.

San Francisco is arguably one of America’s most walkable cities, with its dense, lively downtown complemented by a multitude of compact, bustling commercial districts that provide pleasant strolling experiences. But it also has its fair share of boulevards, like outer Geary and 19th Avenue, whose designs are rigged to maximize automotive throughput — at the direct expense of the pedestrian experience, which ranges from drab and noisy, at best, to downright dangerous, at worst. These boulevards may be wide, but they fall considerably short of grand. Solutions range from reducing speed limits on 19th Avenue to landscaping and dedicated bus lanes and stations on Geary that provide a sense of place and a pedestrian oasis in the median. In contrast to 19th Avenue, the Mission District boasts thorough transit access and a collection of comfortably walkable commercial strips, but there is room for improvement, as the bland landscape of Cesar Chavez (pictured above) demonstrates — with its long, multi-lane, infrequent pedestrian crossings; ample space for cars but narrow sidewalks; inadequate transit and bicycle amenities; and no greenery in sight.

Help is on the way, in the form of a State HCD grant to the tune of $745,000 dedicated to Mission District streetscape improvements, to be applied in the large area bounded by Division/14th Street on the north, Highway 101 to the east, Cesar Chavez/Mission to the south, and Dolores to the west. The streetscape in much of this area is actually already pretty good — many streets are of comfortable width and feature largely continuous streetwalls with attractive architecture and active storefronts in commercial strips. Dolores itself is one of the City’s most beautiful streets. But the area’s auto-dominated streets are in desperate need of improvement — streets like Cesar Chavez, which will have its own redesign scheme under the larger plan, though of course without the dedicated BRT lanes I would eventually like to see built here. The plan draws on a well-documented array of features to improve Mission District streets, including: curb bulbs to narrow the width of pedestrian crossings and to slow auto traffic at intersections; improved transit and bicycle amenities; ample and accessible sidewalks; and more street lighting and greenery.

The development of the Mission Streetscape plan will continue into 2009, and the Planning Department is looking for public input. Folks who are interested are encouraged to attend tonight’s meeting, which will be the first workshop of many:

Wednesday, May 28 (6:30 pm to 9:00 pm)
Cesar Chavez Elementary School
825 Shotwell Street (at 22nd Street)

Finally, on a related note, you may also want to check out one of the community meetings that are being held through mid-June to obtain public comments on the draft Better Streets plan. Better Streets is a more abstract plan that seeks to sensitively customize street design according to the street’s primary uses. The goal is to create a blueprint of pedestrian- and transit-oriented street design that could be implemented in neighborhoods across the City, largely drawing on the same sorts of techniques that would apply in the Mission Streetscape plan area.



10 thoughts on “Better Streets for the Mission District

  1. I’ve been thinking that they should make Valencia into a bus/bike only street. It’s only a block off Mission and flat to boot. Has anyone thought about that? I know I avoid it when I drive and I imagine others already do as well.

    Posted by The Overhead Wire | 28 May 2008, 10:45 am
  2. Well, seeing as how the TEP proposes to eliminate the 26-Valencia, there goes the bus part. It’s generally a pretty low-key street, and I think a lot of drivers do avoid it, leaving the impression that there is more pavement there than necessary.

    Posted by Eric | 28 May 2008, 1:24 pm
  3. I’d *love* Valencia to go bus/bike only.

    Re any BRT down Cesar Chavez, it needs to stop at the 22nd St Caltrain station.

    Will Valencia look the same or will they be getting rid of the middle lanes?

    Click to access Valencia.pdf

    Or did the bicycle injunction delay it?

    Posted by johnny0 | 28 May 2008, 5:23 pm
  4. With my earlier comment, I wasn’t disagreeing; it would be cool to see Valencia bus/bike only, though there are other places in SF I’d rather see prohibited to cars first. In any event, removing the middle lanes is a start. That Valencia plan proposes a one foot widening of bicycle lanes, among other changes, so it would fall under the injunction. Hopefully by the time the Bike Plan EIR gets finished, the streetscape plan will be ready to go into action.

    For CC BRT, another alternative is a Bayview connection. Either way, it’d be a good crosstown connection and there’s plenty of space.

    Posted by Eric | 28 May 2008, 5:58 pm
  5. What do you all think about getting rid of the 26 and pushing the 38 over to Valencia if it will be BRT. Dunno if its feasible but it wouldn’t be a big time suck. At the North end there is a direct link up. And on the South end it merges back into mission street.

    Posted by The Overhead Wire | 28 May 2008, 10:29 pm
  6. Did you mean the 49-VN/Mission, instead of the 38, so that the BRT corridor is basically Van Ness-Valencia-Mission? The one issue with splitting service between Mission and Valencia is that you lose out on having the really short headways. Is your proposal to move all bus service off of Mission and onto Valencia, or to split it up?

    Posted by Eric | 28 May 2008, 10:41 pm
  7. Oops. Yeah the 49. I must repeat the number 38 too much ;) Yeah, the idea would be to shift all service to the Valencia corridor. I think if you widened the sidewalks to allow for cafes and used trolley buses the whole distance along with bike lanes combined with the Mission’s sun exposure it would make it an amazing street.

    Posted by The Overhead Wire | 28 May 2008, 11:08 pm
  8. Ahh, you mean the Oakdale station plans?

    About 10-15 minutes from CC nd Valencia, not too bad.

    Another challenge will be getting Caltrain to make that station *and* 22nd be Baby Bullet stops. (That, or actually making Caltrain go faster than the average speed on 280…)

    Posted by johnny0 | 29 May 2008, 3:56 pm
  9. Well, with or without Oakdale, a Bayview connection still makes sense, but connections to regional nodes are always nice. Under current conditions, Baby Bullet runs from SF to SJ with the extra stop would run over the hour mark. 22nd Street is well-used for the BB runs, and it remains to be seen how many riders Oakdale will generate. That said, this whole corridor will change pretty dramatically with electrification and HSR, opening up new opportunities for service enhancements.

    In other words, we have a ways to go yet. :-)

    Posted by Eric | 30 May 2008, 8:19 am
  10. For bus/bike only, I’d much rather see Mission St. go that direction. There are environmental justice issues related to diverting all of Valencia St (mostly white) traffic to Mission St (mostly latin). But in reality, the main auto corridors are Guerrero and So. Van Ness anyway.

    Mission St, however, will have major bus service even post-TEP (in fact, it’s the #1 heaviest ridership in the city) and so could use the space and freedom from cars. Moreover, it lies directly between two BART stations. The new green “Miracle Mile” would greatly improve bus reliability for a huge number of Muni riders, as well as revitalize a thoroughfare that remains one of the most economically productive, even in its current rundown state.

    Posted by Josh | 6 June 2008, 2:30 pm

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