S.F. opens street planning to public 

Whether it’s wider sidewalks or more outside dining options, San Francisco residents will soon have a chance to suggest ways to give their neighborhood streets panache.

Starting this month, the San Francisco Planning Department will host communityworkshops throughout The City to pick residents’ brains about designing neighborhood streetscapes. City officials are developing a "cookbook" of guidelines, officially called the Streetscape Master Plan, for designing green, pedestrian-friendly streets that promote local commerce.

"What this is designed to do is enable projects that embody what The City agrees is good, safe and sustainable planning with a focus on where people are — sidewalks, street walks, plazas," said Daniel Sider, director of City Greening in the Office of the Mayor. "If you step outside of your front door, then this plan matters to you."

In 2004, Sider said The City adopted a Better Streets Ordinance after Mayor Gavin Newsom visited several world-class cities and decided San Francisco was falling behind by neglecting its public realm. The community workshops, which begin April 16 and will continue through the summer, are a result of that ordinance.

Adam Varat, project manager of the Streetscape Master Plan, said various city departments are involved in street-design projects, but there is no clear direction.

"It’s not a holistic approach, and that’s what we’re trying to change," he said.

The new plan will be a go-to guide with appropriate designs for various neighborhoods, similar to Chicago’s Landscape Ordinance and the pedestrian master plans of other cities, including San Diego, Portland and Seattle.

The principles of urban street design include safety and access, especially for disabled residents. But there is a plethora of other decisions that have to be made: Is sidewalk dining appropriate? Should there be trees, and if so, what type? How wide should the sidewalks be, and what materials should be used?

"It’s not a one size fits all," Sider said. "Octavia Boulevard is a good example, but to say we want to bring an Octavia response to 24th Street in Noe Valley is not what we’re looking for."

North Beach and the Marina, for example, are commercial districts with good designs already in place, and Ashbury Heights and Duboce Triangle likewise are residential neighborhoods with tailor-made approaches, Sider said.

A kick-off event for The City’s Better Streets Plan will be held from 5:15 to 8 p.m. Thursday at City Hall’s North Light Court. The plan’s 15-member Community Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting from 5 to 6:30 p.m. today at 1155 Market St., Fourth Floor.

arocha@examiner.com

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