Uh, Sorry City Officials, That Thing You Did on Powell Last Year Was Not a “Success.” But, Thanks Audi!

[Sarcasm Mode = OFF. You know, Audis are kind of expensive for what they are, right?]

Remember that thing The Powers That Be did to Powell in Union Square last year?

It was all like this:


Click to expand

Well, turns out that “city officials” consider that fail whale a smash success:

“City officials admitted that pilot, which was conducted on a rainy weekend using only barricades, was not really a good example of re-purposing the street but it turned out to be a success nonetheless.”

Uh, no it wasn’t.

Strike One.

And is this new deal with Audi an really an example of Pavement to Parks reclaiming:

“…unused public right of ways* and quickly and inexpensively turn them into new public plazas and parks?

Uh, no it’s not. Pray tell, which part of Powell Street is an “unused” public right of way? And isn’t PtoP 100% run by the govmint? What, if anything does San Francisco government do “quickly and inexpensively?” Absolutely nothing, that’s what.

Strike Two.

And to top it off, Audi* USA gets to use this project for their advertising / marketing?

Strike Three.

Doing this to Powell is not necessarily a win-win, right? Srlsy, even if Audi ends up footing for a small part of the bill. What you’re involved with is scarcity and choice in resource allocation. What you’re involved with is something that might not work out. That would be something to acknowledge before printing up those signs telling people how appreciative they should be to you.

And Audi.

And will this improve business for the what’s-good-for-General-Motors-is-good-for-America Union Square Business Improvement District? Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. Only Time Will Tell.

See a report from last year below, and a fresh news release after the jump.

*Or rights of way, just saying, bro.

**Audi drivers, you have good reflexes and loads of “active safety” at your disposal, and yet, as a general rule, collectively, you’re worser-than-average drivers in the 415. Discuss.***

***It’s cause you all are in too much of a hurry, that’s why. You, Audi Driver, are not the Lord of Driving. Try to remember that.

“I don’t know, are the sidewalks of Powell so shopper-clogged that pedestrains appreciated the option of walking in the street for part of two blocks this past weekend?

Not that I could tell. The trouble with the execution of this New Idea is that peds needed to enter and exit the pedestrian “passing lane” twice each block. Oh well. At least this program provided room for the cops to cite drunken Santas loitering about the Gold Dust during SantaCon ’09 on Saturday, so I guess that’s something.

Here’s the concept, from a time when all men wore suits and hats and women wore dresses and skirts every day, and everybody was white, of course. Check out the babe magnet loiterers “walking” or pitching woo or whatever in the road.

Powell Street Is For Lovers and cable cars and police fencing, in this fantasy world:


Click to expand

The reality:


See the potted palms? Did it improve your “pedestrian experience” or whatnot? If so, thank Walgreens.

And don’t forget to call up 311 to tell them how grateful you are:


Anyway, we can tell that at least some peds made use of the extra space by clicking here.

And check out this premature, self-congratulatory video.

Here are the deets. The term “world class” is only used once, non-ironically. (Feel free to substitute “northbound and southbound” for “east and westbound.”)

UPDATE: Or, in the words of local designer Shawn Allen:

Half-assed temporary projects like this make me embarrassed to live in San Francisco. Seriously, why even bother?

Testify, brother.

UPDATE: The StreetsBlog SF is all over this. Let’s hear from Donna Ficarrotta, Managing Director of the Union Square Association:

Ficarrotta indicated that she had been to the site on Sunday during the rain and that she hadn’t seen many people using the space. ‘I think people didn’t know quite what to make of it. Between the weather and people being in a hurry, I don’t think people really understood what it was for.'”

“A longer-term trial could happen in the spring, said Ficarrotta, up to four weeks, but the details of that depended on feedback from the city and her membership. She was hopeful a longer trial would also attract more use.”

I think if people understood it, obviously they would use it.”

(Perhaps we should wait for a winter / Christmas / holiday / Sol Invictus shopping season when it doesn’t rain and the people aren’t in a hurry and maybe then we can try this again?)

But see how you can tell this woman doesn’t work for any of the numerous City agencies that spent time on this program?  She gave journalist Matthew Roth an Acknowledgement of Reality. How refreshing!

Are peds really so stoopid? Or maybe they’d prefer to walk on the actual sidewalk instead of stepping down into the street?

Anyway, the deets:

Parking lane closures to provide extra walking space

San Francisco, CA—Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced that San Francisco is expanding the walkway for pedestrians in the Union Square area as part of a pilot project under the Better Market Street Program. The Powell Street Pedestrian Improvement Project is allowing more walking space and access along two blocks of Powell Street, Geary to Ellis Streets, to improve and enhance the public’s experience during one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

“This pilot project will create a festive and unique experience for holiday shoppers and tourists visiting the Union Square area,” said Mayor Newsom. “We hope this pilot makes our city more welcoming for shoppers and drives more business to our union square merchants.”

Beginning Friday, December 11 at 2 pm, the east and westboundparking lanes on Powell between Geary and Ellis Streets will close to vehicles. The Powell Street Cable Car line will not be affected by this closure.

Emergency vehicles will have full access and vehicles may continue to use designated white zones. Signs will be posted to direct traffic and pedestrian access. Planters will be temporarily installed and holiday decorations donated by Walgreens will be placed along the walkway to enhance the pedestrian experience. Parking lanes will reopen to vehicles on Monday, December 14 at 9am.

The City will monitor and evaluate this closure over the course of the weekend and provide results of this pilot and future projects in the coming months. Feedback from local partners and merchants will also be collected during this process.

“Union Square is widely known as a world-class destination for its mix of shopping, dining, entertainment and hospitality accommodations. Our hope is that this project will further enhance the visitor experience by providing greater access to pedestrians on what is widely considered one of San Francisco’s most heavily traveled pedestrian corridors,” said Linda Mjellem, Executive Director of the Union Square Association.

This test project is part of the Better Market Street Program; which aims to revitalize Market Street and connect streets by undertaking a series of pilot projects. The results of this pilot and future projects and input from the community and stakeholders will be used to inform the final improvements and long-term design of Market Street.

“Over the next few months, these pilot projects will provide us with the knowledge and the opportunity to collect feedback from people that share this roadway. These coordinated initiatives will help us deliver tangible improvements that are aligned with our vision for a better, a safer, a smarter, and a more modern Market Street,” said Ed Reiskin, Director of the Department of Public Works.

The Better Market Street Program is a collaborative initiative between the City and community partners, businesses, and non-profits including the Department of Public Works (DPW), Planning Department, Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and the Transportation Authority.

For more information and to learn how to get involved, visit the http://marketstreet.sfplanning.org or call 3-1-1.

No, we’re still not done.


San Francisco, CA—Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced the construction of the City’s latest Pavement to Parks project, a new and innovative public space in the heart of San Francisco’s commercial downtown as part of a new a partnership between the City & County of San Francisco, The Union Square Business Improvement District (BID) and Audi of America.  This new public space will take the form of a continuous pedestrian promenade along Powell Street for two blocks between Ellis and Geary Streets and running alongside the famed Cable Car.  The new Powell Street Promenade will provide more space for pedestrians to sit and relax and enjoy one of San Francisco’s most vibrant corridors.

“Through an innovative public-private partnership, we are creating a vibrant, new green public space in the heart of our City, despite limited resources and a difficult economic climate,” said Mayor Newsom. “I applaud Audi for their generous financial support and for partnering with the City and the Union Square BID. I also want to thank the BID for its leadership in the district for the past 11 years, and for expanding in 2009 from 10 to 27 blocks, increasing its capacity to invest in improvements, maintenance and activation of innovative public spaces such as the Powell Street Promenade.”

In 2009, the Mayor’s Office together with the Planning Department worked with the Union Square BID and local merchants and property owners on a pilot test project that created a temporary pedestrian promenade along Powell Street last December. After reviewing the results of the pilot project and holding several community meetings, a concept design was created by the BID to provide a beautiful and much needed new walking and resting area for two blocks along Powell between Ellis and Geary. Audi of America partnered with the BID to provide the necessary design and construction funds for the Powell Street Promenade. Installation is expected to be finished by April 2011.

“Audi is honored to take part in this exciting and important project for the people of San Francisco,” said Scott Keogh, Chief Marketing Officer for Audi of America. “As a global hub of art and aesthetic, it seemed only natural that Audi – a company that stands for innovation and design – partner with the City of San Francisco to re-imagine Powell Street.”

Over an average weekend, up to 100,000 pedestrians walk along this portion of Powell Street, contributing to a highly animated yet often congested sidewalk experience. ThePowell Street Promenade will provide extra space for people to walk, sit at a table or on a bench, chat with a friend, or just watch as thousands of people pass by.  Wood, stone, and metal trim will provide a rich visual quality to the space, softened by landscaping and pedestrian scale lighting. In 2011, construction will begin on the Central Subway Project along Stockton Street, creating a much more pressing need to increase the pedestrian holding capacity along Powell Street in an elegant and comfortable way.

“The Union Square BID is excited to be the project sponsor,” James C. Flood, The Union Square Board President, said.  “With construction for the Central Subway on Stockton Street right around the corner, Audi’s gift couldn’t have come at a better time.  We are anxious to begin work and committed to the on-going maintenance of the new promenade.”

The pro-bono design team for the Powell Street Promenade, which includes the firm Royston, Hanamoto, Alley and Abey (RHAA) and BAR Architects, have worked with the community to develop a preliminary concept vision for the project site. Following the model of the Pavement to Parks program where local designers work free of charge to develop plans for new and innovative public spaces around the City, the Powell Street Promenade will be the marquee Pavement to Parks project in 2011.  Other, smaller projects are also being planned for neighborhoods throughout the City.

For designs of the Powell Street Promenade, go to: http://www.unionsquarebid.com/

Pavement to Parks aims to reclaim unused public right of ways and quickly and inexpensively turn them into new public plazas and parks. Today, there are nine completed projects including four plazas (Castro, Guerrero Park, Showplace Triangle Plaza, Naples Green Plaza) and five parklets (Divisadero Parklet, 22nd Street Parklet, 24th Street Parklet at Sanchez, 24th Street Parklet at Noe, Columbus Parklet #1 with Columbus Parklet #2 forthcoming). The program is a collaborative effort between the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department, and the Municipal Transportation Agency.

Recently, the Department of Public Works (DPW) issued detailed implementation guidelines for the approval and installation of parklets consistent with the sidewalk landscaping program. Request for Proposals (RFP) for projects was issued to Community Benefit Districts (CBDs), storefront business owners and non-profit institutions and community organizations.  DPW received 42 applications with permitting for nearly 30 parklet proposals.  Funds for construction will be the responsibility of the permit holder.

For more information about Pavement to Parks, go to: http://sfpavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/

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4 Responses to “Uh, Sorry City Officials, That Thing You Did on Powell Last Year Was Not a “Success.” But, Thanks Audi!”

  1. SlideSF says:

    Okay, I’ll give you this one. Even though your motivation for complaining about that debacle is that you hate pedestrians and wish to see them, and the sidewalks they inhabit, exterminated from the planet (or at least San Francisco) – nevertheless, those barricades are atrocious. They are an eyesore and a menace to both pedestrians and non-pedestrians alike

  2. plumpy says:

    “I don’t know, are the sidewalks of Powell so shopper-clogged that pedestrains appreciated the option of walking in the street for part of two blocks this past weekend? Not that I could tell.”

    Really? I used to live on Pine & Mason and had to walk down Powell to get to BART. You know what I did? I walked down the street. All the time, even when the street wasn’t closed. You know why? Because the sidewalks there are ALWAYS fucking clogged, and tourists and shoppers walk fucking SLOWLY. So I don’t know why you’re hating on this idea so much, but I think it’s probably great.

  3. sfcitizen says:

    All right, time yourself before and after all the changes on those two blocks – I’ll bet there won’t be much of a difference.

    Bidnesses and informal for-profit enterprises will find a way to take up the space, you’ll see

  4. Harry says:

    This idea appears to be another line-item for Gavin Newsom’s ‘green’ resume…… Great for Audi, of dubious value otherwise.