San Francisco’s Planning Department has updated its vision and policy plan for recreation and open space across the city, adding an emphasis on the recreation in addition to open space, re-prioritizing the high needs areas, and planning for a network of living streets.
The current reality for many blocks in the city:
And the vision for what could be:

San Francisco Recreation & Open Space Element Overview []

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by cq

    They removed a few cars in the ‘after’ shot – where are they parked?
    I see they reduced the sidewalk size – however for these streets it would make more sense to just narrow the street to add the grassy area between sidewalk and curb.
    and all those wires I presume have been undergrounded? nice, but expensive.
    Oh, and please no islands

  2. Posted by CH

    Love the vision but ironic that the guy in Planning’s “green” rendering appears to be toting a disposable plastic bag…

  3. Posted by Sierrajeff

    OMG they removed a few cars from the picture – it’s the JFK assassination conspiracy all over again!
    Undergrounding wires makes infinite sense, and what’s wrong with islands – they slow traffic and add green space.
    Anyone who wants a real-world example of the stark differences a little vegetation can make should walk 3rd Ave, between Fulton and Cabrillo, and compare it to 6th or 7th Ave between the same cross streets. Same neighborhood, same socioeconomic condition, etc – but 3rd has retained the small yards (for the most part) and has street trees, and it such a more pleasant and welcoming streetscape. I literally do not understand the Sunset and Richmond yahoos who think that paving as far as the eye can see is somehow desirable or aesthetic.

  4. Posted by SF Citizen

    The trees are very nice. They are depicted as healthy and well pruned. When new trees are planted on a street do they automatically get assigned to the adjoining property owner for maintenance and liability?

  5. Posted by Sam

    Ugh, roundabouts

  6. Posted by BobN

    Why are the gutters paved?

  7. Posted by Rillion

    >and what’s wrong with islands – they slow traffic
    You answer your own question. How dare the city oppress me by slowing my god given right to drive everywhere as fast as I can! Saving a few seconds when I drive is infinately more important than the trivial safety concerns of others or making the city look nicer. Islands are tyranny!

  8. Posted by Peej

    Welcome to Sacramento.

  9. Posted by asiago

    cq: the cars they photo-shopped out are to be parked in the very same garages that people now keep full of unnecessary crap because they can park on the street

  10. Posted by soccermom

    I suspect the gutters are ostensibly paved to support the root growth of the nearby trees.
    I built a sidewalk garden in front of my house. There is a rubric for it in the city planning department, but some there are some hoops to jump through. See namelink.
    The rendering violates many of the requirements for a sidewalk garden from the DPW. You need a curb of some kind or vertical surface alongside your sidewalk garden so that the cane of a walking blind person will not bump off into your garden and be trapped. No curb is pictured.
    But you can’t just put in a vertical curb piece of wood, because the city also requires that there be room for water to sheet off the sidewalk surface into your new permeable surface. So you have to put up that ‘cane knock’ wall, and then figure out a way to provide drainage. Since no curb is pictured, no drainage in the curb is pictured.
    Also you need 24″ buffer space between the face of the curb and your garden, so people can get in and out of their cars. No 24″ buffer space is pictured.
    Also you need a 36″ walk to traverse your garden every parking space length, so people won’t have to step in the dog poop in your garden, since once you put in a garden, it becomes like a neighborhood litter pan for sloppy dog owners.
    You need 48″ of sidewalk + 24″ of buffer at the curb so solve for your possible sidewalk garden space as Existing – 6 feet. From your front yard setback.
    Finally, those trees won’t have a problem getting water, because roots are really good at finding their way into old clay sewer laterals. But don’t worry, that won’t happen until the tree has been growing for 5-8 years, and the lady who lives next door either: Has her sewer pipes blocked and sues you for the repair value (it’s your tree after all) or will fight you when your sewer pipes are blocked and you want to remove your own tree, because it’s part of the public green space.
    I only mention the root issue because my next door neighbor let me know of my pending legal obligation to keep roots out of her sewer pipes when she saw me planting a tree. (NOT IN MY FRONT YARD) This is another reason the city has been so formal about assigning the maintenance responsibility to the property owners. You own the risk if the tree falls over on someone, and you own the risk underground too!
    I love trees, by the way.

  11. Posted by anon

    Love the islands, more please.
    The pavers in the gutter are a bit odd. Is that to allow a bit of drainage into the ground rather than funneling everything to the sewers?

  12. Posted by noe mom

    This is fine for the front, but what about the rear yards in all these new “remodels” of exisiting single family homes (or flats too). They turn a backyard into a W hotel style outdoor lounge, with wood platforms and glass and fire pits/or fire places. Where is all that water going? Some may capture it, but I would bet most is going into fancy drains. Better to have yards with soil, to match the fronts of houses and go back into the ground

  13. Posted by Stucco_Sux

    So rather than actually improve recreation and open space (they love that word element, don’t they? — makes them sound so all-knowing…) once again overreach and run off the rails with this weeks obsession — the fact that the west side of town has always been somewhat treeless and driveway rich. But the west side of town also has beaches and tons of parks. Meanwhile to look at what they have done to Buena Vista and Glen Park, to name a few, is horrifying. Our parks are a mess and shocker — the ant–car thugs at planning don’t care.

  14. Posted by SF Citizen

    soccermom – It sounds like you are saying that the Planning Department is not following current building code requirements. Are they planning to change the building code or is this just a way to sell the idea of street improvements?

  15. Posted by soccermom

    SF is quite clear that all captured rainwater be tied into the sewer system, so your assessment of the backyard-drainage problem is very apt.
    Funny that someone points out Sacramento (there are plenty of things to poke fun of Sacramento about, but having lots of nice tree-lined streets is not one of them, IMHO). Sacramento’s century old sewer system already reached and reaches failure levels during heavy rainstorms. There the city takes the opposite direction from SF and has requirements for permeable surfaces and does not want any water to go down into the sewer system unless it’s absolutely necessary. You pay a storm drain impact fee when you build new structures. You can’t drain more than some fixed percentage of your land area into the street.
    We haven’t reached that point in SF, I believe, but since the pricing/policy of ‘dumping more water into the sewer’ is (+/-) 0, it seems people will continue to use the common resource until there is some perceived cost.

  16. Posted by soccermom

    @SFCitizen. I am saying that whoever drew the pretty picture for the report never bothered to ask the question whether in fact what they proposed would even be possible. Probably not strategic, just careless.
    I don’t know if Planning are changing codes, but there is only so much that can be done. The Parks Department is currently spending millions of borrowed dollars making our park bathrooms ADA accessible to comply with federal regulations. I doubt the DPW is going to ‘back off’ of rules that make it feasible to get in and out of your parallel-parked car.

  17. Posted by zig

    islands and roundabouts totally suck unless they are in front of you house and on your street then they are awesome *
    *This is a sarcasitc comment for the impared

  18. Posted by Futurist

    The before and after picture is awesome. And all possible.
    What I find so classic here on SS is the MAJORITY of negative, critical, uninformed comments about achieving this type of greening.
    All of the obstacles can be overcome; some are minor, some will take more work and money. But the point is, many of our streets are concrete wastelands as shown in the first picture. Blame it partly on our public policies and lack of rules. Blame it partly on “lazy” or “indifferent” citizens who simply do NOT care about greenery, or who do not take the initiative to make our city more livable and green.

  19. Posted by the wolf

    so basically, lets turn our city streets into suburban subdivisions streets. Brilliant! wheres the basketball goal and the kids playing street hockey?

  20. Posted by BigV

    I love the vision! Implementation will result in some compromises, but the vision is awesome.
    I also love the idea of more traffic slowing islands in neighborhood streets. I canot believe the yahoo’s that floor it down our block — for only a single block! It is so stupid and dangerous — and pointless!
    Now — besides greening up the streets, I see that that report identifies the mission as an area lacking in green space — and I couldn’t agree more — I wonder how and where they will create more open green space in the mission?

  21. Posted by wc1

    @the wolf
    There are many, many, streets in SF that look like that after pic already. It’s actually more the norm than the all paved over look in the first pic.

  22. Posted by nancydrew99

    I would love to see more trees and sidewalk gardens. I think it improves the city in so many ways – looks nice, helps with runoff, good for air quality, etc. But I don’t know if it’s possible.
    I went thru the hoops to do a sidewalk garden and there are a lot of measurements and drainage requirements that I don’t see in the ‘after’ photos here… and good luck getting many citizens to put trees and plantings in themselves. We tried to get our neighbors in the Inner Richmond to plant some FUF trees and you would’ve thought we were asking to drain their bank account and take their firstborn child they were so “anti-trees”.
    I agree with Futurist that many of our streets are concrete wastelands – greenery helps so much. I hope that Planning encourages trees and plantings, but I’m not holding my breath.

  23. Posted by Sierrajeff

    How is this a “suburban subdivision street”? Have you ever been to Boston, D.C., Chicago etc.? It’s entirely possible – and eminently desireable – to have mature street trees and small front gardens in conjunction with dense urban townhouses. Do you honestly find the first picture more appealing than the 2nd?
    @soccermom – you obviously haven’t been to the older central neighborhoods of Sacramento, which are actually quite beautiful, and have *huge* mature street trees. Google “K St. & 19th, Sacramento” and you can get a feel even from the satellite view.

  24. Posted by Futurist

    @ nancydrew99: good comments. I hear you.
    We went thru sidewalk greening on my property; it wasn’t that complicated, but yes, some permit issues, measurements, etc. but nothing that could not be solved.
    But yes, getting neighbors, even here in Noe, to work with us and the FUF to plant street trees was an uphill battle. I don’t get the resistance.
    But I was happy to put in 7 street trees and extensive sidewalk greening on my corner property. The results are lush and green, and most neighbors love it.
    It just takes effort and initiative.
    @ thewolf: why the sarcastic, negative comment? How does that help?

  25. Posted by Snark17

    Please please please let’s get these wires underground. Makes the streets look so ugly.

  26. Posted by mdg

    Love the trees
    can we get rid of those horribly ugly and archaic power lines all over the city….I know it’s expensive but frankly a small meter fee would pay for it over say…. 10 years…?
    split the costs between PG %& E & the citizens and the city – &/OR open up the lines to private line management and

  27. Posted by Snark17

    There is an even easier process to get sidewalk taken up if you have a tree and want more planting space. I called the DPW and said my tree needs more room to grow and that I wanted the max allowable space. They came and marked a 3 x 6 space around my tree, which I paid someone to cut and remove. But no permit cost or design needed. Super easy.

  28. Posted by NJ

    So happy I live on a street with lots of greenery and underground wires.
    Unfortunately, going from pic 1 to pic 2 will be very difficult in many parts of this town. In fact, as evidenced by other threads on SS, you have residents who spend money to go the other direction — namely, paving over their once-grassy front yards.

  29. Posted by sf

    Looks like Lake St., one of SF’s most beautiful streets.

  30. Posted by ChuckD

    @sierrajeff – read carefully – that was just Soccermom’s point exactly! Would that we could have Sacto’s trees! Wish we’d plant on average taller trees in SF- the few corners of the city where they planted taller trees are some of its most beautiful. Instead we have lots of glorified shrubs like that weird bottlebrush tree with the ugly hanging roots- wtf!?!?

  31. Posted by Peej

    Since I brought up Sacramento.
    In Sacramento the city owns and manages the street trees. As a property you can decieded your landscaping between the street and the sidewalk, say grass or zeroscapping. But you can’t just decide you don’t want trees on your portion of the property.
    I think San Francisco’s policy of having properties in change of the trees is exactly why there aren’t many trees in certain area’s especially with single family homes.

  32. Posted by Peej

    Since I brought up Sacramento.
    In Sacramento the city owns and manages the street trees. As a property you can decieded your landscaping between the street and the sidewalk, say grass or zeroscapping. But you can’t just decide you don’t want trees on your portion of the property.
    I think San Francisco’s policy of having properties in change of the trees is exactly why there aren’t many trees in certain area’s especially with single family homes.

  33. Posted by BigV

    how about getting more power lines underground???
    That would be awesome!
    For those who are interested, there is a new citizen organization trying to make this happen. They have been picking up speed in the last year, talking with city leaders, and working on building membership and voters who will help pressure our leaders into action. Check them out:

  34. Posted by Mark

    I live in Parkside/Sunset and just saw a couple more homeowners pave over their entire front yard to add additional offstreet parking. So much for this being illegal.

  35. Posted by the wolf

    i wasn’t being sarcastic. some of us like the urban feel. that was my true feeling
    I like trees, but not blocking my light, so maybe a few less.
    The medians are terrible and very suburban subdivision like. I also dont want to take longer to get from place to place.
    lets not pretend there aer a tons of kids around playing on sidewalks here. maybe in a few areas.
    and the 2nd view as not more of the norm. maybe 10% of the city is like that (or less)

  36. Posted by Legacy Dude

    But seriously, where did all the cars in the first picture magically disappear to? Did those people move out of SF in the rendering? Are we replacing residents with trees?

  37. Posted by the wolf

    by the time this vision is realized, 70% of the residents will commute only by bike. You havent heard?

  38. Posted by anon

    But seriously, where did all the cars in the first picture magically disappear to? Did those people move out of SF in the rendering? Are we replacing residents with trees?
    Maybe market pricing of the street parking happened at the same time?

  39. Posted by invented

    One more time.
    Give us back our sidewalks. They’re getting narrower and narrower.
    If your want flax, succulents,and miniature statuary on the sidewalk, kill (sorry, remove) a lane of parking and reconfigure — and add a curbed bike lane with the garden strip. It will be verdant and pleasant and is a logical way to make cycling safe.
    I’m thinking the FUFers behind this don’t have kids and don’t observe how hard it is for wheelchairs to maneuver around our disappearing sidewalk.
    If anything we need to encourage pedestrian use of sidewalks not discourage.

  40. Posted by remy

    Anything to cover up dem ugly houses.

  41. Posted by Mark

    It’s a city. Most kids plays in parks for obvious reasons. As for sidewalk access, walk through the Sunset and see the excessive amount of concrete. Of course, sidewalks should have a minimum ADA clearance, but there is room to make streetscape improvements without removing a lane of parking as suggested above.
    Adding trees is a moot point if the city doesn’t underground the wires.

  42. Posted by Futurist

    Oh come on invented. Seriously?
    You want wide sidewalks? Come to Sanchez St. in Noe Valley, as one example. From house to curb is 19′ of concrete; Few trees, Few sidewalk greening. And there are worse streets than Sanchez all over SF.
    It’s sad, it’s harsh. We need to keep greening our city. 48″ wide is ALL you need and that’s what the code requires.

  43. Posted by inthemission

    Huh? – They also left out the city’s required 8″ edging for the ends of the sidewalk gardens. I am a big advocate for sidewalk gardens, but too many people get them and don’t take care of them. They become covered in trash.
    Then there are the trees. Half of them will be run over, pushed over, or mangled by the wind, another quarter will end up sticks with leaves and two branches.
    The city can’t keep streets clean in most of the city – this will just end up being another economic burden for landowners to pick up.

  44. Posted by anun

    All the powerlines and concrete is just part of the charm of Sunset/Richmond. It’s very San Francisco. I wouldn’t change it.

  45. Posted by Alai

    I don’t like how on a lot of streets, the trees are just squeezed right up against the buildings with a big gap in the canopy in the middle, especially when the street is wide and the sidewalks are narrow. See Lake Street:
    I prefer Sanchez Street between Duboce and 14th. I like the way the trees at the intersections come closer together and create a sort of gateway.

  46. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “I only mention the root issue because my next door neighbor let me know of my pending legal obligation to keep roots out of her sewer pipes when she saw me planting a tree.”
    A neighbor of mine made the same claim, then I looked into it. It turns out that tree roots don’t invade, crush, or otherwise break properly functioning sewer lines. If the sewer line leaks on the other hand then roots will follow the moisture and invade the sewer line, possibly clogging it or creating a bigger leak. But the root cause (pun intended) was the leak, probably caused by ordinary foundation settlement and not the tree. This sewer lateral was made of brittle terra cotta pipe sections and nearly a century old. It was near the end of its life and needed to be replaced anyways. The neighbor was just coming up for an excuse to get me to pay for their ordinary maintenance obligation.
    Yes, the gutter paving is to allow rainwater to penetrate into the soil instead of running off. Note that the driveway aprons are also water permeable.

  47. Posted by Jame

    Tree-lined streets are pretty common in Oakland as well. We have lots of mature trees on my street, including fruit trees! Poke around street view for Adams Point, Rockridge, and Piedmont Ave for denser areas with trees.

  48. Posted by Brian

    @MoD – Just like properly installed sidewalks don’t get moved by tree roots? The notion that roots wouldn’t grow up against, and then push on plumbing (in turn breaking something) is absurd.

  49. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    So Brian you’re saying that the opposing force of a surface sidewalk which is limited by its weight is the same as the counter force a buried pipe would present? It seems like the latter is limited by the strength of the pipe which was designed to support the load of the soil above and whatever is on top of that, including a sidewalk or road.

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