Sidewalk project includes
Jane Warner Plaza upgrades
by Matthew S. Bajko
The Castro's pedestrian plaza will be upgraded as part of a larger project to widen the sidewalks along a two-block stretch in the heart of the city's gayborhood.
The changes are set to be revealed at a public open house May 14.
Based on public feedback, planners working on the Castro Street sidewalk widening project are incorporating several cosmetic changes to Jane Warner Plaza. The city opened the mini-parklet at the corner of 17th, Market and Castro streets in 2009.
It is named after a lesbian San Francisco Patrol Special Police officer who for years provided additional security for area businesses. Warner died in 2010 after a long battle with cancer.
The plaza has seen a few improvements since opening, such as permanent planting beds that serve as buffers from passing vehicular traffic paid for by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District. Visually it remains clear, though, that it is a repurposed section of the street.
"Right now what we are talking about is new pavement material on the ground. We would be replacing what is out there right now with something more durable, permeable, and is able to be steam cleaned," explained Nick Perry, a Castro resident and an urban designer with the Planning Department's City Design Group working on the project.
The plaza boundary facing Market Street would also see changes, such as "improvements to the edge treatments," said Perry.
The plaza would also receive accessibility improvements for ADA purposes, added Perry. And the crosswalk northeast of the plaza on Market Street will be moved so it aligns with the sidewalk in front of the Twin Peaks Tavern straight across to Pottery Barn.
"My initial reaction is I think it is really interesting. It means the community really appreciates Jane Warner Plaza and it really has become an important piece of the neighborhood," said Andrea Aiello, the CBD's executive director.
Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who has championed the sidewalk project, said it is a "great opportunity to upgrade the plaza."
The plaza work will be part of a $4 million makeover of the streetscape along Castro Street between 19th and Market streets. It is the first project to be funded from a road-paving bond measure passed by voters in 2011.
Slated to start construction in early 2014, the project aims to provide more room for pedestrians, slow vehicle traffic, and add such elements as street trees and sidewalk seating.
Due to limited funding for the work, planners asked the public to prioritize which of the four intersections they most wanted to see upgraded. The budget for the changes at the chosen intersection has yet to be finalized but is likely to be in the range of $500,000.
In addition to upgrades at Jane Warner Plaza, the options included redoing the bus stops at 18th and Castro streets; adding bulb-outs and a gateway median at 19th and Castro streets; or adding corner bulb-outs to the intersection north of Market Street.
The survey netted 119 responses, with Jane Warner Plaza receiving 41 percent and 18th Street netting 39 percent. North of Market had 14 percent while 19th Street came in at 6 percent.
"The sense we got from the community is they would like to see us do something at all the corners but it looks like Jane Warner is the top priority," Perry told the Bay Area Reporter this week. "Of the four options, it was really close between 18th Street and the Jane Warner Plaza improvements. But Jane Warner Plaza edged out 18th Street."
Planners are talking to the developer of the gas station north of Market Street to see if the builder of a new mixed-use housing project will incorporate a bulb-out on 17th Street into its plans.
"They are seeing if there is a cost efficiency to fit that into their project too since they are doing so much work on that corner anyway," said Perry.
Moving the current bus stops on 18th Street to the other side of the intersection is no longer part of the proposed plan, though the current bus shelters may be made more flush with nearby buildings to provide extra space on the sidewalk.
"We are taking a close look at 18th Street to see what we can do," said Perry.
Aiello said the CBD is hopeful changes will be made to the 18th and Castro intersection to address pedestrian safety there.
"It is a very important and crowded intersection. We want to make sure significant improvements happen there," she said.
One change that will be incorporated into the final design is relocating the existing poles for Muni's overhead catenary wire system along Castro Street so they are flush with the new street curb and not in the middle of the extended sidewalks. Sixty percent of survey respondents said doing so was "very important," with another 22 percent calling it "important."
"We heard loud and clear from the survey results that people want to see them moved to the new curb," said Perry, adding that the cost of doing so will be paid for with federal funds.
Planning staff met several times this week to hash out other details for the project ahead of the third and final public meeting they are holding next week. They will then use the additional feedback to refine their plans for Castro Street prior to presenting the final project design to the city's Municipal Transportation Agency board later this summer.
For more information about the project, visit http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=3343.
The open house will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 inside a vacant storefront at the Market and Noe Center at 2278 Market Street near Noe.