City planners working to transform Castro Street in the heart of San Francisco’s gayborhood into a more pedestrian-friendly boulevard are giving people more time to weigh in on the project.
They have extended the deadline to fill out a survey about the sidewalk widening project until Monday, February 11. The two-page form can be downloaded online here and includes specific questions to gauge public support for several elements being proposed that could mean a loss of parking.
One idea is to install mid-block parklets along the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street. Rather than the temporary structures businesses have installed, these would be permanent extensions of the sidewalk. Planners have suggested erecting one across from the Castro Theater and another in front of the late gay Supervisor Harvey Milk’s camera shop.
Although they would take up a parking space, the lost parking could be recouped on 18th Street by redesigning the bus loading zones now in place on the side street. Planners also point to additional street parking gains that will come from the replacement of a gas station at Castro and Market streets with a residential building and changes proposed to how drivers would access 17th Street heading south on Market Street.
“Five to 10 parking spots would be lost if we do everything” proposed for the streetscape along Castro Street, said Castro resident Nick Perry, an urban designer with the Planning Department’s City Design Group working on the plans. “We are trying to minimize the loss of parking.”
At its meeting Thursday, February 7 the Castro / Upper Market Community Benefits District board voted on its own wishlist for what it wants to see done as part of the streetscape changes. Among the CBD’s items are creating bulb-outs at all intersections, mid-block parklets with greening elements and leaning posts, and the plans to reconfigure the intersection at Market, 17th, and Castro streets.
Another element it wants to see is a raised pedestrian scramble at 18th and Castro, where traffic would be stopped in all directions so people on foot could diagonally cross the street.
The public’s survey responses will be tabulated and used to determine those various design features included in the $4 million project. The answers will be discussed at the second community hearing planned for sometime in March that will focus on the various street amenities – from sidewalk seating and directional signs to the placement of street trees – planners envision for the project.
The final design plan is expected to be revealed in May. Construction would start in January of 2014 and be done in phases so as not to disrupt the entire street.
“Most commercial areas would fight for this money to improve their sidewalks,” District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener told Castro merchants at their meeting Thursday, February 7 in response to concerns about the impact businesses will incur due to the project’s build-out.
While there will be some inconvenience, Wiener said, “It is the price we pay to have better sidewalks.” He added that city leaders and planning staff “want to make sure we minimize disruptions.”
Completion of the project is slated for October of next year, meaning it could be officially dedicated the weekend of the Castro Street Fair. The annual outdoor event always takes place on the first Sunday of October.
For more information on the Castro Street Design project, visit its website here.