May 16, 2013

Castro Street Makeover Plan Revealed And Rendered

Castro Street Makeover: Today And Tomorrow

As plugged-in people knew to expect, the Planning Department’s Castro Street Makeover plan does indeed include a reconfiguring of the crosswalk at Castro and Market Streets to align it with Jane Warner Plaza, bulb-outs on the corners of Castro and 18th Streets, and a mini-plaza in front of the historic Harvey Milk Residence and Castro Camera Shop site.

The detailed final plan and design for Castro Street (click image above to enlarge) also includes additional intersection safety measures between Market and 19th Streets, new street trees, landscaping, and lighting; and the widening of sidewalks up to 24.5 feet:

Castro%20Street%20Makeover%20-%20Mid-block.jpg

Special features to be installed include a Rainbow Honor Walk and leaning posts.

Castro%20Street%20Makeover%20-%20Special%20Features.gif

And yes, sidewalk sparkles and colored crosswalk markings will be included as well if competitive bids come in low enough to accommodate.

Once again, the Castro Street Makeover project is slated to start construction in January 2014 and last ten months, finishing before the holiday season.

Castro Street Design Plan | Streetscape Design [sf-planning.org]
Castro Street Makeover: Expected Features And Formal Unveiling [SocketSite]

First Published: May 16, 2013 12:45 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Nice to see Palm Trees were NOT used for a change. Love the wider sidewalks and that parking was preserved.

[Editor's Note: While the primary tree will be Gingkos, the King Palm will be used as an accent tree on the corners.]

Posted by: Can'tWait at May 16, 2013 1:12 PM

A rainbow crosswalk? Really?

It will be interesting to see how traffic signals are coordinated at 18th/Castro. I still think there should be a 4-way priority green for peds like we have in the FiDi, as well as left turn arrows for vehicles.

Too bad the project doesn't discuss how to deal with panhandlers, drug addicts and the general homeless who enjoy camping out on Castro St. and who make the neighborhood unsavory.

Posted by: Mark at May 16, 2013 1:36 PM

@Can'tWait: today on SFGate there's a piece about how the expensive palms along the Embarcadero are dying because of a fungus. For a city that's ripping out non-natives in its parks it should have thought better about lining its streets with palms that cannot handle the moisture.

[Editor's Note: Or as we first reported two years ago, San Francisco's Dying Palms Problem Could Have Been Avoided.]

Posted by: Mark at May 16, 2013 1:42 PM

"...the primary trees will be Gingko..."

Hopefully the arborist can select male specimens. Otherwise the sidewalk will be littered with rotting butryic acid* emitting fruit. In other words Stinko trees.

I really like Gingkos though. They're an ancient species and there really are unique. They're beautiful year round and especially in the fall.

(*a.k.a the "puke smell")

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at May 16, 2013 1:59 PM

Good changes overall minus the cheesy rainbow crosswalk.

I know there is a finite amount of money, but it's too bad something cant be done for Harvey Milk Plaza. They need to raise it to ground level, its pathetic as-is.

Posted by: wc1 at May 16, 2013 2:39 PM

@mark: the term for it is a "scramble signal" and the reason they work downtown is one or both streets are one-way and the pedestrian crush load just can't be accommodated any other way.

It was studied at the request of Supervisor Wiener and the community, but the results weren't surprising: the corollary to giving pedestrians their own phase is that it generates more traffic backup which means the traffic signals need to be longer to let the greater traffic back clear out which ends up making pedestrians wait longer in one direction or another.

There wasn't enough money or community support for relocating the 33-Stanyan bus stops with full bulbouts so traffic doesn't back up into the intersection or delay busses making them wait to pull out.

The widened sidewalks on Castro Street and the partial bulbouts along 18th Street means the distance from one side of the street is shorter and you can get across in less time, spend less time in the street itself - the bulbouts create tighter turn radius both that slows drivers that are turning right and gives them greater visibility to who's in the crosswalk - even queuing at the corner when its red puts you closer to the other side.

Posted by: Jamison Wieser at May 16, 2013 2:42 PM

@jamison: thanks for the clarification. I assumed there was logic behind the decision, but with SF Planning one never knows.

Posted by: Mark at May 16, 2013 2:49 PM

Rainbow crosswalk, eh. A Yellow-brick one? That would be cool. :-)

Posted by: Joel V at May 16, 2013 2:56 PM

Magnolia trees PLEASE (one of Harvey's favorite)...they stay green (year round) and dont drop many leaves...just beautiful....like in Dolores Park!

Posted by: vincent at May 16, 2013 3:36 PM

magnolias are better on residential streets than on commercial ones. They can get very dense, and obscuring facades and signage doesn't make merchants happy (not as bad as ficus which are the absolute worst...see lower 24th street...as much as I love trees those should all be chainsawed). Ginkos have actually worked out pretty well along Castro so far...as long as they get established past the first few difficult years they are pretty hardy and quite beautiful.

Posted by: curmudgeon at May 16, 2013 5:19 PM

King palms, Archontophoenix cunninghamiana, are not susceptible to fusarium wilt. Only Canary Island date palms, Phoenix canariensis, are susceptible.

Posted by: Jason Dewees at May 16, 2013 5:52 PM

When I was a kid there was a rich, rather self-absorbed lady in our neighborhood who fetishized endlessly about forever refining every aspect of her garden.

As a gay man, I moved to the wonderfully loose, spontaneous, freewheeling utopia San Francisco -- to get away from provincials like her.

Who knew she moved here too -- and took over the SFMTA/DPW/SS

Posted by: the_biker_elite at May 16, 2013 8:59 PM

oh no, the construction will last forever, although it does look nice, no wires either for the tree to bother with.

Posted by: grumpy at May 16, 2013 10:08 PM

As someone who has lived on Castro between 18th and 19th for 20 years, I do not see this plan working very well.

First of all, I do not understand the argument that the street needs to be wider. The only times it may seem as though there is not enough space to walk is when panhandlers and vagrants camp out, which is a policing issue. There are certainly a few restaurants that might like the idea of cafe seating in front of their place, but for much of the year the weather will not make cafe seating ideal. I know quite a few merchants that are not happy with it because when there will be only one lane of traffic in each direction, deliveries and pick-ups will be a nightmare. Already, at certain times of the day, traffic heading south gets snarled at the 19th street 4-way stop, backing up almost to 18th street. When there is just the one lane going each way, with people parking, buses, etc. the traffic will be a nightmare.

Looking at the drawings of how it will look seem real nice. Could the area use some new trees and perhaps sidewalk re-pavement...sure...but losing the extra lanes of traffic will change the neighborhood forever. We get a ton of tourists to the area already....is this supposed to make the area even more tourist friendly? I guess.....and I would love to know who is making the money in all of this.

Posted by: castroguy at May 17, 2013 12:03 PM

I almost never see the sidewalk being overcrowded on Castro Street, even when there's a long line at Castro Theatre. This project may make the area prettier, but I would not be surprised if it causes traffic backups.

Also, to the extent the local businesses are hurting, it's not because of the street -- it's because of their bad product IMHO. For example, IME the average restaurant quality on Castro St. is worse than it is a few blocks down Market, say around 16th or Church Streets.

Posted by: NJ at May 17, 2013 2:35 PM

castroguy, there are not officially two lanes at 19th now, there is just enough space (because the street is so wide) that folks who are making a right turn often slip to the side. The proposed arrangement shouldn't change things too much...the bus stop is still there, so I bet people will still slip to the side to make the turn anyway.

Pick ups and deliveries WILL be a nightmare, and that's a good thing, IMHO. People should not be double parking along Castro. They do that now because there is so much extra street right of way. They won't be able to do it in the future, because there will be a sea of car horns if they do. The truth is, we have one functional lane in each direction now (because of all the double parking) and we'll have one in the future.

I would advocate that more of the curb space be devoted to taxi pick up drop off (that's not marked in the plan, I don't think). Currently there is one on Castro northbound at 18th. There should also be at least one more on Castro Southbound, and probably still more elsewhere (like on Market). Given the density of taxis in the Castro, it is important to get them out of the traffic lane to the greatest degree possible.

Posted by: curmudgeon at May 17, 2013 4:00 PM

"Pick ups and deliveries WILL be a nightmare, and that's a good thing, IMHO."

But since when does any delivery driver in this City give a crap about blocking traffic? They don't -- they will just block traffic, and make things a nightmare. Just takes one.

One of my pet peeves about this City is that double parking is so readily allowed, even when blocking busy lanes of traffic during rush hour.

Posted by: NJ at May 17, 2013 4:36 PM

I did some double-parking on that street for some really heavy items (150+Lbs pieces from Dolma for instance) and found myself in the situation of the entitled douche hogging a lane.

Except I didn't block anyone because of the oversize right lane. I even had to do parallel parking between 2 double-parked cars! It's that bad on some Saturdays.

Some of the parking NEEDS to be deliveries and/or drop on/off. They're lucky the street is really wide, which allows for flexibility, whereas the Polk street redesign calls for hard choices.

Posted by: lol at May 18, 2013 1:44 PM

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