Monday, April 5, 2010

Say Yes to Noe Valley Community Space

24th Street is not just a great street, it’s a public space. And Noe Valley knows it. Up and down 24th street, people linger, socialize, eat, drink, stroll, sit and relax on the street. Kids play, dogs rest, people watch on the sidewalk. On benches, in pocket parks, at the farmer’s market, on curbs – Noe Valley is alive with community, people, activity.
At the same time, the 24th Street is crowded. This means a successful street! Families are out, businesses thrive, neighbors talk. Seen another way, it can be a limit on community space and even dangerous. Pedestrians step into the street to skirt crowds, kids have little room for running or scooting, parents clamor for control, drivers scrutinize for parking and not the pedestrians in their midst.
It is time that 24th Street addresses what the community calls out for not with words, but with actions. The community’s actions scream for more public space, play space, sitting space, safe space. Merchants put out benches, because they know it brings more business. Pocket park seating, sidewalk bulbouts and enhanced crosswalks have begun to answer the demands also. But they are not enough. They do not significantly address the need for more public space, sitting space and safe space off the roadway.
It’s time to see what works for the Noe Valley community; it’s time to create adequate public space. The City’s Pavement to Parks program is doing just this. Around San Francisco, local groups have partnered with the City to transform underused streets with unnecessary conflicts into safe public spaces – on a trial basis. If it doesn't work, there is no commitment to the trial design. Any Saturday or Sunday along 24th Street is testament to how perfectly suited the idea is for 24th Street.
The Noe Valley Association has partnered with the City to bring a Pavement to Parks trial public space to Noe and 24th – the 100% corner of community and sidewalk activity. One option for the trial is a plaza that extends 60 feet down Noe from 24th Street. It would not only increase people space adjacent to a major pedestrian hub. It would also create an entire block free of through-traffic. In and adjacent to the plaza, kids will have more space to learn how to bike, scoot on scooters, or play games. Neighbors could meet without squeezing on a sidewalk. Others could host events, if desired. The other option would increase sidewalk space, seating and planting through two “parklets,” on either side of Noe, while maintaining through traffic. A trial is the quickest and cheapest way to test what works for Noe Valley . It is way to say “yes” to something based on facts, not “no” based on fears.
It’s time we say yes to what the community is screaming for. Time to say yes to safer streets and fewer conflict points. To say yes to parks, not pavement. Yes to more play space. And yes to finding solutions. It’s time to say Yes Noe Valley.

Email Bevan Dufty to say YES to a trial public space.

Tell him YES in person on Thursday, April 8th at 6:30 in St. Philips.