Castro CBD raises funds to keep palm trees lit

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday November 30, 2022
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The Castro Community Benefit District is seeking donations to cover electricity costs associated with uplighting the palm trees along upper Market Street. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko
The Castro Community Benefit District is seeking donations to cover electricity costs associated with uplighting the palm trees along upper Market Street. Photo: Matthew S. Bajko

With city officials set to turn the switch on next week to light the palm trees in the median of upper Market Street, the Castro Community Benefit District is raising money to cover the cost of the electricity bill for doing so. It has set a goal of at least $12,500 in donations to pay for five years worth of the new uplighting.

According to Andrea Aiello, the CBD's executive director, the city only agreed to install the uplighting as part of the near complete Upper Market Safety Project if the nonprofit neighborhood group agreed to cover the operational costs for the 88 LED lights installed near the base of the palm trees. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has estimated the yearly cost will be $2,500, Aiello told the Bay Area Reporter.

As of November 29, the CBD had raised $1,780 toward its Light Up The Night campaign. The community group offered to pay for the lighting bill because residents of the city's LGBTQ neighborhood have wanted to see the palm trees bathed in light for decades, said Aiello.

"When I was first hired, members of my board were talking about wouldn't it be wonderful to have uplighting on the palm trees on upper Market Street. I have been with the CBD since 2008," said Aiello. "I don't think there has ever been lighting on the palm trees, not that I can remember."

Along with helping to beautify the commercial corridor, the lighting will also provide a bit more safety for people walking about in the evening, noted Aiello.

"It is a beautification project but will also help a little bit toward public safety," she said. "Hopefully, it will encourage people to get out and walk a little more in the neighborhood and feel OK about that."

For most of the year the LED lights will be white. But as the CBD noted in its appeal for donations, the lighting can be changed to pink during Pride Month in June or red during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

Mayor London Breed was to have flipped the switch to unveil the new uplighting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, December 8, at Laguna and Market streets near the campus of Openhouse, the nonprofit provider of services and affordable housing for LGBTQ seniors. She also was to cut a ribbon to officially inaugurate the pedestrian improvements the city has installed along Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street.

But an expected rainstorm led city officials to cancel the event. It is to be rescheduled for some time in early 2023.

As the B.A.R. noted in October, the project included the installation at the Muni boarding platforms on upper Market Street of orange-colored safety railings honoring the late gay supervisor Harvey Milk, who lived in the Castro and represented it at City Hall. New bulb-outs at several intersections along the roadway were added to slow down vehicular traffic and make it safer for pedestrians.

New decorative crosswalks in a brick pattern are being added to two intersections, the one by Openhouse where the dedication ceremony will be held and the other at Sanchez and 15th streets on the north side in front of the Chase bank.

According to SFMTA, new sidewalk extensions and/or ramps have been constructed at 17 street corners between Castro Street and Octavia Boulevard, while the traffic signals have been either fully rebuilt and/or modified at the intersections of 16th and Noe streets, 15th and Sanchez streets, and at Hermann, Laguna, and Guerrero streets.

At that intersection left-turn signals for both directions on Market Street have been added. Meanwhile, the former Z-shaped crosswalk on Market Street at Dolores Street that ran from the Whole Foods to the Safeway parking lot was reworked to be a straight line.

The changes for one of the city's main arterial roadways are part of the Vision Zero plan to end pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. Collisions along upper Market Street have been a serious problem for years.

Work on the street safety project began last summer and sped up in recent months. According to the SFMTA, it included the installation of more than a dozen Rainbow Honor Walk bronze plaques memorializing deceased LGBTQ luminaries along Market Street earlier this year.

"I am glad the project is done," said Aiello. "There was a lot of delays with the shipping and supply chain issues."

To donate toward the CBD's fundraising drive for the lighting bill, visit the donation page on its website.

UPDATED 12/7/22 due to the postponement of the planned ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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