Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Third Community Meeting- November 28th

Next Wednesday, November 28th, the San Francisco Department of Public Works, Municipal Transportation Agency, and City Planning will host a third and final community meeting for the Second Street Improvement Project. Over the course of the previous community meetings and a number of online surveys, we, the community, selected one-way cycletracks as the best option for a bicycle facility on Second Street. This meeting will discuss the proposed conceptual design in detail and provide the opportunity for questions and answers.

We urge you to attend this meeting and show your support for bicycle and pedestrian improvements in our neighborhood!

Date:          Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time:         6:00-8:00 pm

Location:  CBS Interactive, 235 2nd Street. Enter via Tehama Street, just east of 2nd Street.

Please RSVP by 11/27 at:  http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4793969893#

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A message from SF DPW:

I would like to thank you on behalf of San Francisco’s Department of Public Works, the Municipal Transportation Agency and Department of City Planning for attending the Second Street Improvement Project meeting on Thursday September 20, 2012. The meeting was a huge success and the feedback provided by the community is invaluable in determining the future vision for 2nd Street.
At the meeting several of you filled out a survey providing us feedback on design elements you would like included in the final design concept and their order of preference. However, since some neighbors and merchants were not able to attend the meeting, we would like to extend the survey to residents and merchants for their review and comments. We are extending the survey period until Friday October 12, 2012.
We have posted the presentation materials and a brief comparison of the design options on the project website. Please feel free to forward the link to any neighbors that might be interested in providing the Project Team with feedback. Thank you.  


Lastly, I’m including a link to an article that ran this past weekend regarding the upcoming Second Street Improvement Project. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/place/article/Repaving-2nd-Street-revamping-traffic-3905515.php

Alex M. MurilloDepartment of Public Works
Office of Communications and Public Affairs
1680 Mission Street, 1st Floor  |  San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel. (415) 437-7009  |  Cell (415) 627-8106

We're supporting the One Way Cycle Tracks option as the best for pedestrians and street greening, particularly in front of the ClockTower Lofts.  I addition we think not widening the sidewalks on both sides of the street (currently SF DPW proposed widening only the western, shady side because of an undetermined cost to underground the power on the crowded, sunny, eastern side) for the three blocks from Harrison to Townsend is missing a huge once in a generation opportunity to do this right.  You could write that in the feedback form if you agree...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Come to the second Community Meeting Thursday, September 20

The San Francisco Department of Public Works, Municipal Transportation Agency and City Planning invite you to the second community meeting for the 2nd Street Improvement Project. The project extends along 2nd Street from Market to King. The key elements of the project are pedestrian improvements, a bicycle facility, streetscape enhancements and repaving. Come to the meeting to review the community’s design proposals and help select a preferred alternative.

Thursday, September 20, 2012, 6:00-8:00 pm @ CBS Interactive, 235 2nd Street. Enter via Tehama Street, just east of 2nd Street.

Please RSVP by 9/19 at: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4259514322

Friday, August 24, 2012


There are two motorized traffic lanes cutting through the sidewalk at Second and Harrison.  That's right, through the sidewalk, without a stoplight or even a stop sign to protect pedestrians. This seems dangerous, and it is: a pedestrian died here a few years back.  But this public land could serve a higher purpose: dog walking.  This area has had a huge increase in residential population over the last few years, and in San Francisco that means dogs.  We're proposing San Francisco's first BARKlet to meet the neighborhood's pressing need.

Pavement to Barks!
The existing high speed on-ramp through the sidewalk.

It's a good sized plot of public land that could serve a dire need: DOG RUN.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Protected bicycle lanes are great to ride on, and give pedestrians, cyclists, and cars their own space. They also provide space for larger trees than are possible with narrow sidewalks alone.

They are an economical alternative to sidewalk widening since they require less infrastructure. Whenever curbs are moved, storm-water drains need to be relocated, which is very costly.

Protected Cycle Tracks green and calm Second Street while respecting human powered transport.

Existing bleak condition of Second Street.
At 62 feet wide curb to curb, Second allows generous cycle tracks and planted buffers.

Friday, June 1, 2012


In the past few years San Francisco has helped pioneer the concept of Pavement to Parks, where excess vehicle space is transformed into people space. 

In LA they are calling it Streets For People. It works great there too.

Castro Commons at 17th and Castro Streets.
The first of these at Castro and 17th Street transformed that intersection into a vital pedestrian space. Originally built in a month with  a super low budget this has become a permanent park and is being upgraded with more robust materials.

This first success has been followed by other spaces such as Guerrero Park on San Jose Avenue and Showplace triangle where 8th and 16th streets meet.

There are several opportunities on Second Street for this sort of pedestrian space.

{1} South Park Gateway
{2} Harrison Chute Parklet
{3} Market Street Plaza

We'll get into these potential public spaces in future posts.

Guerrero Park calms a nasty stretch of San Jose Avenue

Castro Commons is always populated by people enjoying the City.

The Planning Department has a great web page on this program: http://sfpavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


This barren plaza at Second and Folsom Street was built in 1965 entirely of the same brick. It was designed by MBT as part of the AT&T switch-gear windowless high-rise that looms over and often shades the plaza. The original abstract design was modified later with more not quite matching brick to incorporate more seating and add skateboard defensive devices, but it's not entirely successful from either a design or use perspective. Two rows of Plane trees along Folsom Street are the only greenery. More planting might help it attract more people. It is open 24/7.

SPUR has done an excellent report on POPOS: 

601 Folsom Plaza is surprisingly barren and typically not populated.

601 Folsom Plaza is a POPOS was built in 1965. 

Good materials, but a bit forlorn.

There are four POPOS on Second Street, of which 601 Folsom is the least successful.

Monday, May 21, 2012


101 Second Street, at the corner of Second Street and Mission, is an SOM designed high rise with a large glass enclosed plaza, a POPOSPrivately Owned Public Open Spaces. This space was dedicated to the public in exchange for development rights.  It's a five story high greenhouse built in 2000. It feels quite public even though the large glass sliding doors to Second Street are almost never opened.

SPUR has done an excellent report on POPOS: 

101 California's POPOS is well used by the public.

There are four POPOS on Second Street, all on the northern half of the street.

Some good art in this well managed space.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


This corner plaza is located on the CBS Interactive (formerly Cnet) property on the corner at 235 Second Street and Clementina Alley.  It's an intimate urban open space and though it feels a bit privatized it doesn't exclude the general public. The inside space is also a POPOS where you can hang out, though this fact is fairly obscure.  If there was a cafe nearby this space would be much more active.  

SPUR has done an excellent report on POPOS: 

The 235 Second Street Plaza @ Clementina is urban and (semi)public.

A view from the rear corner along Clementina.
235 Second is one of four POPOS on the northern half of Second Street.
The fountain along Second Street is a nice touch.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The largest open space immediately adjacent to the Second Street sidewalk is on the block between Folsom and Harrison. It's recently been given a total rehabilitation from it's original 1980s design. Bordered by restaurants, it's a great place to eat your lunch in the sun on the grass and people watch. Though privately owned it feels public with no separation from the street.

Sunny grassy lawn at Marathon Plaza.

Marathon Plaza is currently the best open space along Second Street.

Some nice art in Marathon Plaza.

A sunken lounge area is well done.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Named after the Denver traffic engineer who invented it in the 1950s, the Barnes Dance, Pedestrian Scramble, or Diagonal Crossing, is a great way to make an intersection pedestrian friendly. The SFMTA has done one at Folsom and Fourth, and it has made that intersection much safer. The good news is that it can be done with the existing traffic lights, which all turn red for vehicles going any direction during a crossing phase. This allows pedestrians to cross in any direction, including diagonally, with no danger from turning motorists.

There are two intersections on Second where this might make sense: at Bryant and at Harrison. Both these intersections have a lot of turning, are very unpleasant to walk across, and have high pedestrian accident rates including a fatality at Harrison.

This video from Streetfilms.org has a great description of Barnes Dances.


The Pasadena Barnes Dance, or "All Cross" as they call it, with peds.

The Pasadena Barnes Dance before the pedestrians cross every which way.

Monday, April 30, 2012


90% of the time little, but high speed, traffic.

10% of the time gridlock.
The SFCTA (SF County Transportation Agency) is doing a Bay Bridge congestion study which will make recommendations on how to deal with the rush hour gridlock.  It's a challenge since the Bay Bridge is at capacity during rush hour so the congestion comes primarily from queuing, or storing, cars that will eventually get on the Bridge. No amount of tow-away lanes or turn lanes or even additional traffic lanes will get any cars on the Bay Bridge any faster. The current design tries to solve for less than 10% of the hours a week, and it fails miserably. The other 90% of the time it makes for an unfriendly, and downright dangerous, pedestrian and cyclist experience. 

The current design gives people false hope that this is a good way to get on the eastbound Bay Bridge.  At the Harrison on ramp seven lanes neck down to one which creates a very slow commute, increases local pollution, and delays MUNI buses such as the 10 and 12 that have routes through the neighborhood.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Sketch illustrating how Cycle Tracks might be configured on Second Street to increase safety and planting.

In Northern Europe cycling has been prioritized as a sustainable and efficient mode of transportation. They have invented a type of bike lane that is truly suitable for riders from 8 to 80 years old: the Cycle Track. Think of a regular American bicycle lane, but it sits next to sidewalk and is protected from the motorized vehicle lanes with bollards, a curb, or even a row of parked cars. In San Francisco the SFMTA has started to implement Buffered Bicycle Lanes, our own version of the Cycle Track. A couple of blocks on Market started it off, and cyclists loved it. Recently Cargo Way and JFK Drive have had protected bikeways added as well.

Jan Gehl, the wonderful Danish architect and urban planner, sums up a key advantage of putting the bikes inside the parking lane: the row of parked cars protects the cyclists, instead of having the cyclists protect the parked cars. The other benefit for cyclists is that it's difficult to double park in the cycle track, eliminating a common source of conflict. Meanwhile, drivers, too, are finding that the separation provides a level of clarity that makes it easier to share the road with cyclists.

Second Street is wide enough for cycle tracks. The sketch above shows how this might be implemented. The city initially could define the lane with paint, but the buffer ultimately could have trees and permeable paving to further green the street. There are traffic engineering challenges at the intersections, but one of the positives of Second Street is that there are relatively few driveways that have to penetrate through the cycle track.

The official NACTO standards for protected bicycle lanes, Cycle Tracks, in the USA.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


The Second Street Improvement Project to plan streetscape, pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements for Second Street between Market and King Streets is scheduled to have it's first official SFMTA and SFDPW Community Meeting on Wednesday evening, May 2, at 6pm at CBS Interactive (CNET), 235 Second Street, 1st Floor. 

This first official community meeting will develop shared goals and a vision for Second Street that reflects the needs of an emerging neighborhood that has quickly become the go-to commuter route for workers and residents in South Beach and Mission Bay.  The community will develop and choose three design proposals, which will be refined and presented again at the second community meeting. This first meeting will include an introduction to the elements of the project (repaving, streetscape, pedestrian improvements and a bicycle facility), context with the surrounding area improvements and project constraints.  

As you know, our representation and input is vital for a Great Second Street. So please join us in sharing our concerns and ideas with those that will be upgrading Second Street.


The City showed real commitment to making this a genuine community process at this meeting.  The turnout was great, both neighbors and the City Family: SFMTA, DPW, and our District 6 elected Jane Kim. Though the design charrette was necessarily simplified, dealing only with the two typical street sections of Second Street, it allowed priorities to come through clearly: pedestrian safety, better cycling, and a strategy to calm the Bay Bridge congestion. Kudo's to our hard working and smart folks who serve our City: most of them really get it.
To come will be the difficult task of translating this community feedback into a comprehensive design that has many challenges in dividing road capacity fairly between all the users. 

Friday, April 6, 2012


More than half of the length of Second Street currently has generous wide sidewalks.

Second Street is seven blocks long, and 4 of those blocks have 15 foot wide sidewalks, the width recommended by San Francisco's Better Streets Plan.  The 3 blocks in the middle have 10 foot wide sidewalks, which doesn't make them a great pedestrian experience, creates huge pedestrian congestion on Giants game days, and restricts the size of street trees.  Planning for 15 foot wide sidewalks the length of Second Street would be a huge step towards making Second Street great.

10 foot wide sidewalks are narrow and utilitarian.

Width transforms sidewalks into vibrant public amenities.
Often sidewalks were narrowed in the past to allow for more and faster vehicle traffic.

As you get close to Market the 15 foot wide sidewalks become crowded with pedestrians.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


San Francisco approved the Better Streets Plan in 2010. Previously streets were the domain of Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT), which focussed primarily on private motor-vehicle use. The design of streets as public space comprising 20 percent of the City’s land area was left to, well, no one. But this critical gap was remedied in 1999, when San Francisco did its agency shakeup, merging DPT and the transit agency, MUNI, into the SFMTA, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority. In creating the SFMTA, the city righted its transportation priorities, by charging the new agency with managing our streets as a multimodal asset with the goal of moving people first, not vehicles. The official priority order is now: pedestrians, transit, bicycles, trucks, and then necessary private automobiles. It makes sense when you consider how many people are served, not how much space they take up while moving. It's a new world in how we think about streets, administered by the SFMTA Livable Streets Program. 

The SFMTA now has a clear vision of what a better city street should be: a critical public space asset as well as an essential conduit of mobility. The Better Streets Plan lays out a comprehensive tool kit for making our streets great, starting with a preferred sidewalk width of 15 feet. Second Street has 10 foot sidewalks for three of its seven blocks. Widening this stretch between Harrison and Townsend would have a huge beneficial effect, bringing it up to the Green Connector status of the rest of Second Street,  which already enjoys the enhanced pedestrian environment made possible by 15-foot-wide sidewalks.

The intersections of Second and Harrison and Bryant are unpleasant and dangerous to cross (see injury and fatality information in a previous post pedestrian-down-second-bryant). Here sidewalk extensions would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and slow motor-vehicles, making these intersections safer. The Better Streets Plan also calls for extensive greening using street trees and sustainable storm water planters that filter street runoff while making the street more pleasant to walk on. Safer, more beautiful streets, who wouldn’t want that?

The City has put up a great web site for the Better Streets Plan: http://www.sfbetterstreets.org/

The Better Streets Plan calms and organized streets to serve all the uses,  prioritizing pedestrians not vehicles.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Historic Second Street: the Cut

The Cut destroyed Rincon Hill as a fashionable residential district.
Second Street used to go over the crest of Rincon Hill. In 1869 the street was given a more gentle grade by digging through the top of the hill, the Second Street Cut. The excavation went from Folsom to Bryant, where the crest of the hill was about 100 feet higher than it is now. This was before society implemented the EIR process!

1869 after the Cut.

1866 before the Cut.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Bicycle routes in the area as addressed in the Central Corridor Project Plan.

Second Street is SFMTA's Bicycle Route 11. Currently the bicycle infrastructure consists of "share the lane" signs and some fading "sharrows" painted as a trial several years ago. In 2010 the bicycle lanes on Second Street were approved as part of the San Francisco Bicycle Plan’s approval process which included certification of an EIR, Environmental Impact Report.  However a specific design for the approved solution, regular Class 2 bicycle lanes, was not adopted in part because of opposition from automobile owners in the district who were worried about the elimination of some left turns on Second Street.  
This delay turns out to have been a blessing as the design proposed in 2010 had some serious flaws, most notably the failure to address the Bay Bridge on-ramp at Harrison. It did what bicycle infrastructure has so often done in San Francisco: when the going gets rough, disappear. Rather than offering a solution that would provide more clarity for drivers and cyclists, the proposed design simply ignored the intersection. 
This is not how you build an system friendly to cyclists from eight to 80 years old.  Times have changed markedly since 2010, with growing recognition among SFMTA traffic engineers that bicycling should be treated as an important transportation mode and that bicycle infrastructure needs to be continuous to function properly. With this change has come much improved continuity in recently designed bicycle infrastructure and a willingness to sacrifice some car space, particularly on-street parking, to realize this goal. 

The SFBC bicycle map showing Route 11: Second Street

Friday, March 23, 2012


Nice Ride bicycle sharing system pod in Minneapolis has been extremely successful.

The SFMTA is currently working with its regional partners to select the vendor for the Bay Area's first bicyle-sharing system. The regional MTC has funded a pilot program of 1000 bikes along the Caltrain line, and 500 will come San Francisco in 2012. This system, which will benefit from fourth-generation technology, will include pods along Second Street, most notably at South Park.  Anyone who has recently visited Paris, Montreal, Washington DC, or even Minneapolis, will understand the excitement. In these cities, bike sharing's immediate, wild success has been an urban transportation game changer, with high demand driving rapid expansion of the bike-share networks. With bicycle sharing,  current frequent urban cyclists, around 16 percent of the city's residents, will welcome the next demographic group, the 50 percent who can ride a bike and are curious about the idea, but haven't yet made the leap to urban cycling for everyday transportation. When these folks start using the easy-to-access, inexpensive bike-share system,  bicycle ridership is likely to double. Whether you’re enthusiastic about this or not, it's coming, and will hit the ground here this fall. 

UPDATE: Alta Bike Sharing in partnership with BIXI have been selected to implement the San Francisco bike sharing system. This is an excellent, mature solution. Kudos to the SFMTA for this excellent choice. Now let's make the bikes orange and black!

SFMTA Bicycle Sharing Pilot area. The system is scheduled to be implemented later in 2012.