April 21, 2010

Pavement To Parks: Feedback Appreciated

Via email:
Dear Noe Valley Community Member,

I would like to thank you for taking the time to send an email expressing your opinions and thoughts about the proposed Noe Valley Pavement to Park. We have received hundreds of emails, both supportive of and opposed to the trial, and unfortunately, we cannot respond individually to each. I would like to assure you that every email has been read and noted. Based on comments we heard at the April 8th community meeting, we are conducting some additional analysis in advance of a meeting tentatively scheduled for late May. I will send out an email invitation for the next meeting as the date gets a bit closer.

Again, thanks for taking the time to make your voice heard. It's much appreciated.

Best,

Andres Power
Pavement to Parks Project Manager
[NVSF: Parklets and Plazas: Notes from the April 8 Noe Valley Community Meeting]

15 comments:

rocky's dad said...

This is good news. I am looking forward to the next meeting to see how this evolves.

mulls said...

I'm all for it as someone who lives 10-ish blocks away...but if I lived on Jersey or Elizabeth I'd be freaking BUMMED.

Anonymous said...

Bummed?! More like thrilled.

Most other central Elizabeth Street residents like me are looking forward to having a plaza nearby.

murphstahoe said...

Anonymous - please get you and your other central Elizabethans to sign up for the mailing list for support of the trial at http://groups.google.com/group/support-noe-valley-plaza

mulls said...

Dunno, I just assumed the traffic navigating around that closed area would suck. If you're into it, then great -

Anonymous said...

Traffic actually improves when pedestrian malls are installed.

In Essen, Germany, merchants found that even on rainy days, pedestrian streets are frequented by leisurely strollers, suggesting that heavy traffic is a greater impediment to walking than bad weather. Many cities, including Bonn, Cologne, Hamburg, and Munich have all reported a visitor increase of 50% following the creation of pedestrian areas. Merchants on Copenhagen's Stroget-who initially opposed closing the street to vehicles-reported sales increases of 25-40%. An interesting phenomenon was thus observed: people in cars do not window shop, people on foot do.

City planners in Germany stated that one objective of closing off a street to traffic was to improve traffic flow. This may not seem logical at first. Intuitively, most people assume that the traffic from the closed street will automatically move to the side streets. Interestingly enough, evidence from numerous street closures shows that 100% of the traffic does not go to the adjoining streets. In Copenhagen only 72% of vehicles formerly on Stroget, now a pedestrian mall, reappeared on parallel streets. During peak hours the percentage of cars displaced to parallel streets dropped to 38 %. Another example can be found in Norwich, where only 40% of the traffic from London Street was found in surrounding areas after its closure.

Objectives given by German city planners related to closing a street to automobiles:

- preserving central city functions
- facilitating access for shoppers
- enhancing city's image
- reducing noise and air-pollution
- improving a city's appearance

Following a street closure in Bonn, property value along the street went up, the number of consumers increased, as did the amount of retail trade. An experimental closing of Madison Avenue in NYC found that the number of pedestrians more than doubled without any decrease in the foot traffic along the equally popular Fifth avenue. This seems to indicate that people who wouldn't have otherwise left the confines of their office ventured out once walking was more pleasant. Shopkeepers along pedestrian malls, initially in opposition to the street closure, are now said to believe that people take more interest in window displays in traffic-free zones than elsewhere. While people in cars tend to be cut off from their surroundings, people in pedestrian areas are said to be more considerate.

Source: http://www.culturechange.org/issue14/pedestrianmall.html

rocky's dad said...

Well, ok. But let's be very clear here. We are NOT talking about a pedestrian mall here in Noe. We are addressing the closure of one street at a 4 way intersection. Big difference.

Pedestrian malls can be awesome, in Germany or here. The one in Santa Monica is a huge success, but it took about 10 years and costs 10's of million dollars. They also built several massive multilevel parking garages to replace all the parking lost and so supplement all the additional drivers going to this new "mall".

The closure of Noe St, temporary or permanent will result in traffic changes. That we know. All statistics point to increased traffic and congestion on Jersey and Elizabeth Streets. Most of the residents on those streets don't want it, for that reason.

I still say there are other solutions, if people really want more places to sit and hang out, and park their strollers and dogs. Do the parklet idea,(even though I think they are flimsy) or develop a more long term permanent solution by expanding the sidewalks on Noe at 24th, for increased benches, planting, etc.

But keep the street open for cars, bikes, delivery vans as it has been for many many decades. It works. KEEP NOE ST. OPEN.
Thank you for listening.

murphstahoe said...

"All statistics point to increased traffic and congestion on Jersey and Elizabeth Streets."

Interesting. Can you give us a link to these statistics?

Max Schaefer said...

As a city planning major in college, we learned about example after example of the creation of pedestrian-friendly areas increasing business and decreasing traffic.

It's counter-intuitive that you can decrease traffic by cutting off streets, and similarly that doing so increased business at local shops and restaurants. But it is nevertheless true, and when you think about it, people using Noe as a thoroughfare through the 24th St. business district do not exactly improve the shopping or dining experience.

Anonymous said...

In the interests of framing the debate honestly and transparently, it should be pointed out that traffic gets displaced to parallel streets to those that are closed, and not to perpendicular streets as some believe.

From a numerically factual standpoint, the Jersey Street folks have few traffic arguments to stand on. The truth of the matter is that Noe Street's through traffic will divert itself to parallel streets in the east and west directions.

Sanchez Street might get a bit more to the east, for drivers who want to get across 24th and then hop back over to Noe or over to Church via 23rd Street.

Church Street will probably get a bit more further eastward, mainly because it is the primary thoroughfare in Noe Valley, seemingly by design.

Dolores Street will also probably get a bit further eastward of Church, as it provides two lanes and traffic lights in both north and south directions.

To the west of Noe Street, Castro Street will probably see a bit more, for drivers who want to get to Market, or just across 24th to hop back over to Noe or over to Diamond via Elizabeth Street.

Further to the west, Diamond Street might see a bit more, largely because it goes all the way to Diamond Heights to the south and 17 Street to the north, unlike Noe does anyway.

And then there are all the little streets in between, which were left out for brevity here but deserve consideration in this discussion.

If some part of Noe Street is closed, the traffic that was previously using that part of Noe Street will now go to lots of different places, some still in Noe Valley and others even outside of the neighborhood.

It will not all go to one or even two or three other streets, especially not perpendicular streets with no through access. It will instead disperse itself across several alternative routes that all let drivers get to where they want to go.

Anonymous said...

We might be talking about a pedestrian mall, at least by the popularly accepted definition of the term. It really all depends on if you consider pedestrian malls and pedestrian zones the same thing. Some people apparently see pedestrian malls (or pedestrianized streets) as being a fist step to pedestrian zones; others just lump them both together into one concept.

Some background:

Pedestrian Mall

A pedestrian mall (also known as a pedestrian street) is the most common form of pedestrian zone in large cities. It is a street lined with storefronts and closed off to most automobile traffic. Emergency vehicles have access at all times and delivery vehicles are restricted to either limited delivery hours or entrances on side streets.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedestrian_mall


Pedestrian Zones

Pedestrian zones (also known as auto-free zones and car-free zones) are areas of a city or town in which automobile traffic is prohibited. They are instituted by communities who feel that it is desirable to have areas not dominated by the automobile. Converting a street or an area to car-free use is called pedestrianisation.

North America

In North America, where a more commonly used term is pedestrian mall, such areas are still in their infancy. Few cities have pedestrian zones, but some have pedestrianized single streets. Many pedestrian streets are surfaced with cobblestones, or pavement bricks, thus discouraging any kind of wheeled traffic, including wheelchairs. They are rarely completely free of motor vehicles. Often, all of the cross streets are open to motorized traffic, which thus intrudes on the pedestrian flow at every street corner. In a few pedestrian streets with no cross street cars or trucks deliveries are made by trucks by night.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedestrian_zone

In 2009 there were some 75 pedestrian malls in the United States.

Source: http://www.urbanreviewstl.com/?cat=676

rocky's dad said...

Some interesting and well thought out comments on SFIST:

1. There really are a LOT of people who oppose the complete closing off of Noe St. at 24th, including residents of Jersey and Elizabeth and business owners on 24th.

2. Relocating the delivery trucks from Noe to 24th will create an even BIGGER traffic jam, when these trucks unload. They are large vehicles. Can you imagine people trying to get around them?

3. The traffic increase on 24th due to the proposed Noe closing will on make it worse in front of Whole Foods. As it is now, there is quite a back up in front of WF, esp on sat mornings. Add to that mess, more vehicles using 24th. to continue north on Noe St. since their previous route is now blocked. Quite a traffic mess, I think.

4. I have never been a huge fan of the temporary "parklets" at any location. While the one on Divis is busy, at times, its a very noisy little wooden platform positioned right next to busy lanes of car and bus traffic, spewing out gas fumes. Not very pleasant. Ok, so maybe a parklet could work along Noe st. at 24th. But keep in mind, the street is sloped at that location; sort of a funny way to sit and enjoy your coffee, sliding down the hill.

5. The sidewalks are huge next to Starbucks. Plenty of room available for lots more benches, and a few more trees within the existing paved area. Why not use that? See how it works for a while.

In summary, the idea of closing off the street remains problematic: delivery truck problem, emergency vehicles still need it open, neighbors living near by do not want it, traffic issues diverted to other streets has not been seriously addressed and will create serious bottle necks.

Creating "community" and "social bonding" are wonderful things to aspire to. You don't need to create a huge concrete plaza, by closing off a street to accomplish those warm, fuzzy feelings.

cr said...

1. There are also really a LOT of people who support a trial plaza at Noe & 24th, including residents of Jersey and Elizabeth and business owners on 24th. I talked to one woman at 24th & Noe. Her building is divided equally, 3 units in favor, 3 against. I've heard similar stories from plaza supporters at Noe & Jersey and Noe & Elizabeth. Don't judge by the window signs. (Only one side has them.) Talk to your neighbors.

2. As I understand it, the Noe Valley Association is working to have a loading zone installed where the bus zone currently is so delivery trucks will not have to double park on 24th OR Noe. This is a dramatic improvement in quality of life for the neighbors on Noe.

3. Congestion on 24th St. will not increase. It will likely decrease. If you don't believe me, let's have a properly conducted trial (with traffic counts before and after). No need to speculate.

4. There are simple design solutions to create level spaces on a gentle slope. As an architect, you know this.

5. You're missing the point. More benches would be great but they are not a substitute for a spacious pedestrian plaza.

I assume you're talking about all the interesting and thoughtful comments on today's SFist thread about the trial Divisadero Parklet. There is only one commenter there who speaks out against the Noe Valley Plaza trial (DreH) and that commenter believes it would block garages on Noe St., which is factually untrue.

I feel like we've covered this ground a lot, Rocky's Dad. We should meet up for coffee sometime. I'm not sure everyone else wants to hear us make the same points over and over again.

Anonymous said...

To summarize Rocky's Dad:

"No, no, no, no. No to a trial plaza, no to parklets. I do totally love common green space though, so I propose....well, I haven't mentioned any alternatives other than privately owned land."

rocky's dad said...

I'm really amazed at how others seems threatened by my single opinion here.

I am free to give it. I am free to offer alternate ideas. Relax, it's just one opinion of many.

Some of you are beginning to sound like Tea partiers, ready to demonize anyone who thinks differently than you. Chill out.

Let's see what happens at the next meeting. Until then, I'm going to comment when and how I choose to comment.