June 27, 2011

Powell Street Promenade Making Progress

Powell Street Promenade Design

Construction is now underway between Ellis and Geary on the "Powell Street Promenade," the City’s latest Pavement to Parks project.

Over an average weekend, up to 100,000 pedestrians walk along this portion of Powell Street, contributing to a highly animated yet often congested sidewalk experience. The Powell Street Promenade will provide extra space for people to walk, sit at a table or on a bench, chat with a friend, or just watch as thousands of people pass by. Wood, stone, and metal trim will provide a rich visual quality to the space, softened by landscaping and pedestrian scale lighting.

Originally expected to be finished by April 2011, we’ll keep you plugged-in. And as that stretch has long appeared:

Powell Street at O'Farrell

First Published: June 27, 2011 1:30 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

sweet! Now I wish they'd get rid of the trees on the block between Ellis and Market. I'm a fan of the "urban forest" but in that location they make for a particularly gloomy overstory that seems inappropriate for the area. Only the overly dominant ficuses on 24th street in the Mission are worse...

Posted by: curmudgeon at June 27, 2011 2:36 PM

The area will be trashed in less than two weeks...I would bet on it. Just check out market street granite pavers, brick work...on and on.

Posted by: When Will We Learn at June 27, 2011 2:48 PM

I wouldn't be so sure of that. Union Square BID has been very effective, and Union Square itself is looking great (better than ever, actually).

Posted by: curmudgeon at June 27, 2011 3:06 PM

Why don't the renderings ever contains smelly homeless people taking shits on the bench?

Posted by: mightytroll at June 27, 2011 3:09 PM

Yeeeeeah! New beds for the homeless! Great idea!

Posted by: Woohoooo at June 27, 2011 3:17 PM

every cattle rancher will tell you that you cannot put obstacles in the way of the herd otherwise you'll end up with a stampede.

This is where the tourists are funneled from Market to Union Square and back. Chairs and tables in addition to the beggars that cater to them will not help the flow.

Posted by: lol at June 27, 2011 3:24 PM

nattering nabobs of negativity anyone?

Posted by: curmudgeon at June 27, 2011 3:30 PM

Other than the cable cars, why does any vehicle need to use that block? For that matter, why that block or those extending perpendicular from the intersection of Powell & Ellis? The only "traffic" through there is befuddled tourists and an occasional delivery truck or pickup for the Macy's loading dock.

This area is one of the few we could easily close entirely to private vehicles. Pity we won't give it a try.

Posted by: BobN at June 27, 2011 3:30 PM

Oops. The Macy's loading dock is another block towards Union Square.

Posted by: BobN at June 27, 2011 3:35 PM

And lets thank Audi for this as they are funding a majority, if not all of the financing for this project.

Posted by: Ryan at June 27, 2011 3:38 PM

Good News - I see La Ramblas in our future folks!

Posted by: BDB at June 27, 2011 3:47 PM

La Ramblas was my initial thought as well. la Ramblas without the thieves, that is :-)

Posted by: joh at June 27, 2011 4:12 PM

Should be extended right up to Sutter. Next up: Grant between Sutter and Pine. (the stretch @ the Chinatown gate).

Posted by: invented at June 27, 2011 4:41 PM

"la Ramblas without the thieves, that is :-)"

Well, we would probably call it La Ramblas here, since it is a requirement to pronounce Spanish words wrong. A great example is San Rafael or even street names like Taraval. Technically it would be either La Rambla or Las Ramblas (or in Catalan Les Rambles), since each Rambla takes up a few blocks and has a different name.

Instead of the thieves, we'd have the homeless.

Posted by: sfrenegade at June 27, 2011 4:53 PM

Looks great! This is sorely needed. The joke about putting homeless people in renderings was played out several years ago. Try some new material.

Posted by: Turin at June 27, 2011 5:04 PM

If you are leaving Union Square to go South of Market the most direct way is to go through here or on Stockton in order to get across Market to 4th St. That's why it gets so crowded, along with the pedestrians bringing all to a halt at Powell and Ellis.

This will just make it all the worse and back up Powell all the way through Union Square, and probably back up Geary and Post too with gridlock.

Posted by: Bob S. at June 27, 2011 5:47 PM

Why anyone would use Powell to head to SOMA is beyond me, Bob S. Much easier to make your way to Golden Gate/6th. This is primarily a pedestrian zone. Cars will find better ways, if they haven't already.

Posted by: curmudgeon at June 27, 2011 6:15 PM

Looks great - much better to push walking corridors as opposed to more traffic.

Unfortunately I agree with some of the cynical homeless comments here - within a few weeks this area is likely to become a stinking dump of filth.

Posted by: infinityres at June 27, 2011 6:19 PM

I am on this street every day of the week for work. Pretty-ing up the place is a good idea, but tables and benches?! Beautifying the area in a way that moves pedestrian traffic rather than stymies it would be more appealing.

There are a great many homeless in the area who will use the benches for sleeping. Take away food places are largely responsible for the garbage on the sidewalks already and I don't see garbage cans placed every few feet in the drawings. I think the benches will turn gross in a short time, due to frequent use, spills and (ew) other stuff.

If there is a way to reflect sunlight into the blocks between Market and O'Farrell, the area wouldn't look so dank.

Will the project spread a few blocks west, to the truly awful area around the Hilton? Will someone cope with the cesspit that is the Powell Station? Will someone stop the people banging on plastic bins or the ones with boom boxes demonstrating that they can't dance? That would be beautification!

Posted by: MCM at June 27, 2011 7:21 PM

BobN, with Stockton closed for the next X months/years, Powell is the only way south through this neighborhood to link up with eastern SoMa, unless you go all the way down to Montgomery. That's why people need to use it!

Posted by: Scooter at June 27, 2011 7:45 PM

I'm against this primarily because of that guy with bow tie and the giant margarita. Is that the kind of loitering we really want in this neighborhood?

Posted by: SFnative at June 27, 2011 8:11 PM

He's drinking that margarita ironically.

Posted by: Kurt Brown at June 27, 2011 10:20 PM

I so wish I'd kept the bowties that I had when I moved from the east coast. I felt like such a hopeless preppy. Live and learn. Fashion always comes around again. Oh, and i need to get a pair of skinny suspenders too......

Posted by: curmudgeon at June 27, 2011 11:25 PM

"Powell is the only way south through this neighborhood to link up with eastern SoMa"

Powell doesn't reach Market St.

Posted by: BobN at June 28, 2011 1:21 AM

@Bobn: I think he means Stockton.

Posted by: SFer at June 28, 2011 9:01 AM

Ah yes, another parklet, but one on steroids.

While I appreciate the spirit of DIY urbanism, these interventions always feel cheap and provisional. Wood decks and planters on Powell street? It'll look like a restaurant porch in Fairfield - festooned with urine and trash.

Why settle for sophisticated design and planning and deprive yourself of the opportunity to mess up a great street?

Posted by: rubber_chicken at June 28, 2011 9:17 AM

Parklets are a great temporary intervention to see if things work. In change adverse San Francisco they are just the ticket. No one believed the 17th and Castro project would work, and it did. A serviceable temporary installation was eventually replaced by a permanent project. The same could happen here?

Where is Noearch btw? Is he on vacation? Or is he on medication? :-)

Posted by: curmudgeon at June 28, 2011 10:15 AM

"No one believed the 17th and Castro project would work, and it did."

Curmudgeon: Just because they made that parklet more permanent I wouldn't necessarily call it a success. It's awkward, cheap looking and fairly underwhelming. The one near St Luke's hospital I think is far more effective.

Posted by: Willow at June 28, 2011 10:51 AM

The one near St Luke's hospital I think is far more effective

Effective? Nobody uses that one. Tons of people use the 17th/Castro one.

Posted by: [anon.ed] at June 28, 2011 10:53 AM


"Effective? Nobody uses that one. Tons of people use the 17th/Castro one."

No doubt 17th St is used more...but that's a function of foot traffic more than anything else. BTW, I drive by fairly often and have seen kids playing basketball and hospital employees hanging out at Guerrero Park.

Posted by: Willow at June 28, 2011 11:06 AM

Willow, I'm not saying the permanent solution at 17th & Castro is a perfect design. It's a bit bunkerish, and deciding to have planters where people were obviously going to be tempted to sit on the plants was a bit of a mistake. BUT...fundamentally the space works really well and tons of people use it. And compared to the unsafe and confusing traffic pattern that was there before, there is just no comparison.

Posted by: curmudgeon at June 28, 2011 12:07 PM

curmudgeon, I think the other side of Castro / Market near the muni station would have been a far better option for a parklet.

With the F-line splitting the already tiny space in two I just find it odd. Perhaps that's the best that could be done short of completely reconfiguring the intersection.

It is however, as you mentioned, a big improvement over what was previously there...

Posted by: Willow at June 28, 2011 2:19 PM

@BobN, of course Powell doesn't connect directly to Market, but with Stockton closed the most direct path to Market is Powell to Ellis and on across Market to 4th.

Posted by: Scooter at June 28, 2011 7:41 PM

I get your point, scooter, but so few cars take that route, it's hard to believe it's critical (though it might be while Stockton is closed).

It would be interesting to see the count of cars/hour through that intersection. It's always a mess of jaywalking pedestrians and befuddled tourists. Biggest clue: taxis rarely even try.

Posted by: BobN at June 29, 2011 1:34 PM

Cars really don't belong downtown at all. Let's make the whole market mile car free too! Don't stop at Powell. Between traffic, parking, and no turns, I always wish I left my car at home.

Posted by: Bicycledefender at June 30, 2011 5:58 PM

I walked down Powell today to see what is possibly the most ridiculous bit of urban construction I've ever seen. It looks nothing like the original plan.

Posted by: Bob Douglas at July 12, 2011 4:27 PM

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