Why the CBD supports widening Castro St.

  • by Andrea Aiello and Gustavo Serina
  • Wednesday March 6, 2013
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The existing, top, and proposed widening of two blocks of<br>Castro Street show how there would be room for outdoor seating, among other<br>changes.(Courtesy: SF Planning Dept.)<br><br><br><br><br><br><br>
The existing, top, and proposed widening of two blocks of
Castro Street show how there would be room for outdoor seating, among other
changes.(Courtesy: SF Planning Dept.)

At its special board of directors meeting February 7, the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefits District unanimously passed a motion in support of the San Francisco Department of Public Works' proposed widening of the sidewalks on Castro Street between Market and 19th streets.

Widening these two blocks will increase the neighborhood's economic vitality, a key CBD objective. The new sidewalks will make it feasible for restaurants along Castro Street to apply for outdoor seating permits. Increased outdoor seating will draw more people to the area, which in turn will benefit the many businesses on Castro Street and along Market Street. Additionally, the significant amount of new housing now being built or scheduled to be constructed over the next two years along Market Street from Octavia Boulevard to Castro Street will bring more residents to the neighborhood. Wider, more attractive sidewalks will encourage them to shop, dine, and enjoy the area's many urban amenities, which will help the district thrive.

Wider sidewalks will make the CBD's Castro Ambassadors stations more visible to visitors, thereby increasing the number of people who use this popular service to learn about our neighborhood's many attractions. They will make it easier for the CBD's cleaning, power-washing, and graffiti removal crews to do their jobs. They will facilitate the CBD's San Francisco Special Patrol and the regular SFPD's beat cops' ability to keep the area safe. They will protect the landmark Castro Theatre's marquee from being damaged by delivery trucks. They will also make it easier for people not queuing up to attend the many popular performances and special events at the theater to walk to their destination.

Attractive wider sidewalks along the two-block stretch of Castro Street are also consistent with the CBD's mission to make the neighborhood a beautiful, clean, welcoming, and exciting one. These less congested sidewalks are likely to include plaques honoring the first 20 names of historically important lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals chosen for the Rainbow Honor Walk, a project for which the CBD has acted as a fiscal sponsor. The San Francisco Arts Commission recently approved the design for the plaques.

The CBD has long worked to improve pedestrian safety in the neighborhood. The proposed bulb outs that are part of widening the sidewalks support that goal. So does the proposed pedestrian scramble at the busy intersection of Castro and 18th streets.

Replacing the current eclectic collection of trees along Castro Street between Market and 19th Street with a uniform variety may also be part of the design of the new, wider sidewalks. Uniform trees will make those blocks more visually appealing. This is consistent with the CBD's goal of making the neighborhood greener and more attractive.

During the February 7 meeting, the all-volunteer board members acknowledged that the 10-month project, scheduled to begin in early 2014, will be disruptive to many merchants, residents, and visitors. This disruption will, however, be temporary and the results will be a huge benefit to the district's most famous two blocks. Board members were also encouraged by DPW's creative solutions to minimize the number of parking spaces that may be lost as part of the sidewalk widening.

The CBD appreciates the leadership shown by District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, DPW Director Mohammed Nuru, Planning Director John Rahaim, Municipal Transportation Agency Director Ed Reiskin, and their respective hard-working staffs, in making the long-discussed widening of Castro Street a reality. These city leaders are also committed to making the construction process as painless as possible.

During the next few weeks, the CBD and other neighborhood organizations will be co-sponsoring another community meeting to discuss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform Castro Street. It will be held at the Market Noe Center (formerly Tower Records) at 2278 Market Street. Please check http://www.castrocbd.org for the date. The CBD encourages everyone interested in our neighborhood's future to attend and make their perspectives known. We want to hear from you.


Andrea Aiello is the Castro/Upper Market CBD's executive director. Gustavo Serina is the organization's board president.