Details for Castro Street's forthcoming makeover came to light last night at a crowded open house held in a vacant storefront on Market Street. The $4M project focuses on transforming the two blocks of Castro Street between Market and 19th into a safer and more compelling experience for the hoards of pedestrians that make it one of the most crowded neighborhoods in the city. There were few surprises in the plans given the extensive public process behind it, but a few key design choices did emerge. The main program of the redesign removes center traffic lanes to widen sidewalks by roughly 10' on both sides. Those expansive sidewalks will be topped with all the good fixings like pedestrian scale lighting, bike racks, new street trees (Ginko Bilboba was the controversial species selection), and "leaning posts" a la the Powell Street parklet. A mid-block mini-plaza in front of Harvey Milk's old digs is also on the table. The meeting also introduced a new proposal to prohibit north-bound left turns at the intersection at 18th and Castro streets to make way for even more sidewalk widening.
$4M doesn't go as far as you might think, so the public was asked to choose between 4 major renovations that would be added onto the base design: bulbs-outs and additional enhancements at 19th Street, 18th Street, or North of Market, or an improved Jane Warner Plaza. Market and Castro was decisively identified as the priority intersection with a focus on making the popular but temporary amenities at the Plaza into more permanent improvements, including repaving, increased accessibility, and plaza edge treatments. Crosswalks will be reconfigured at the intersection to align with the Plaza. The bulb out at the northwest corner where 17th Street meets Market will be tabled with the hopes that the developer of the adjacent property will take on the project.
Classic NIMBY complaints included the negative impact of construction on local businesses, the issue of double-parked loading vehicles blocking traffic on the two-lane street, and of course reduced parking. Nonetheless the plans are proceeding full speed ahead with construction slated to kick off in January 2014 and wrap next October. - Laura Tepper
· Castro street design [SF Planning]
· Castro Street Gets a Little Nip and Tuck [Curbed SF]
· Castro Street to Be More Friendly to Walkers and Bikers, Less Friendly to Cars [Curbed SF]