Castro Street changes
by Matthew S. Bajko
Details emerged this week on how pedestrians would gain more breathing room along Castro Street between 19th and Market streets.
The sidewalks in the middle of the 400 and 500 blocks on both sides of Castro Street would be widened roughly 10 feet for about 300 feet. Additional trees, lighting, and outdoor seating could be installed in those areas.
There would be one lane of traffic for both directions, and left-hand turn lanes would be maintained at 18th Street.
More curb space would be added for those waiting to board Muni buses at the Market and 18th Street intersections. Yet there would be enough room for cars to pass the transit vehicles so traffic would not come to a standstill.
"We are highlighting the areas where we think the widened sidewalk areas can occur," said Nick Perry, an urban designer with the Planning Department's City Design Group.
Planners presented their initial design to Castro residents and merchants at a community meeting Wednesday night. In an interview late Tuesday with the Bay Area Reporter to preview the proposal, Perry laid out several elements planners are seeking input on in particular.
One idea calls for mini parklets – two each on both blocks of Castro Street but on opposite sides of the street – to be carved out of two parking spaces. The parklet now in front of the Dancing Pig restaurant on the 500 block is slated to be removed.
"That will be one thing we are asking the community tomorrow if there is interest in doing mini plazas," said Perry.
Planners would try to make up for the lost parking somewhere else in the neighborhood. Perry pointed to the proposal to replace the gas station at the corner of Market, Castro and 17th streets with a mixed-use residential building as one possibility. Several of the gas station's existing curb cutouts could be turned into parking spaces.
"We are trying really hard not to lose any parking spaces because we know the business community wants to keep those preserved," said Perry.
As the B.A.R. first reported in December, city officials have designated $4 million for the project. Planners are now trying to determine how to allocate that funding by seeking feedback on what design elements the public most desires.
"As one of the busiest streets in the city, Castro Street will be redesigned to accommodate pedestrians and all modes of transportation," stated Planning Director John Rahaim, a gay man who lives in the Castro, last week in officially announcing the project.
Proposed plans shown to the B.A.R. show extra details added to the crosswalks at the three intersections in the project area. Perry said the city is looking at using special paving treatments for the crosswalks.
"Nothing has been determined yet, and we'll be asking the community whether it's an element they'd like prioritized in the budget," he said.
Another change planners are reviewing is redrawing the crosswalk from Jane Warner Plaza across Market Street toward the Pottery Barn building. It could be moved south in front of the plaza boundary flush with the entrance to the Twin Peaks bar.
"We would make the crosswalk in line with Castro Street. As it is now, cars turning right onto Market from Castro cannot see pedestrians crossing," said Perry. "We want to make the intersection smaller and hopefully make pedestrians more visible. We are not sure it would work but want to show people our idea tomorrow."
Another proposal is turning the crosswalks at 18th Street into what is known as a scramble, where cars in all directions are stopped to let pedestrians cross all at once. An earlier study found it to be impractical to install, but it is being revisited.
"We are looking at the possibility of it," said Perry.
Another community meeting will be held in February, with a final design completed by April. Construction is slated to begin in January 2014.