Wider Sidewalk Plan for Dolores St. Satisfies City and Developer, Divides Neighbors

En Español.

San Francisco developer Prado Group Inc. is seeking city approval for a project to drastically expand the sidewalks at the intersection of Market and Dolores streets.

The project would fulfill the requirement that Prado pay up to $450,000 in impact fees for a nearby 82-unit apartment complex the developer is building at 2001 Market St., atop an existing structure that will become a Whole Foods.

After the city approved construction for the 2001 Market St. project, Prado applied to extend the sidewalks at the intersection, a proposal that is supported by city planners. Neighborhood groups are divided on the plan.

The question, said Kearstin Dischinger, manager of the Planning Department’s Market and Octavia Area Plan, is how make the area a good walking neighborhood.

The city’s answer: bigger sidewalks.

The Planning Department drew up the design for the extensions, or “bulb-outs,” with input from Supervisor Scott Wiener and a neighborhood association, the Market and Octavia Community Advisory Committee, which then voted on it. The most recent design would expand the sidewalks on Dolores Street at Market by 14 feet, with smaller bulb-outs at 14th Street.

The bulb-outs would block one lane on either side of Dolores at Market Street, forcing wider turns and slowing traffic while increasing pedestrian visibility, according to planners.

The sidewalk project barely survived the eight-member Community Advisory Committee’s vote in December 2011. Two members voted against it, two abstained, and because another member was absent, the Committee approved the project with only three out of eight members voting in favor.

The Committee also voted to support “the sponsor’s request for allocating up to $450,000 credit” toward the sidewalk extensions, beyond Prado’s preliminary estimate of $250,000.

The Planning Commission will likely vote on the sidewalk extensions in a few months, said Don Bragg, Prado’s senior vice president and director of development.

“Market and Dolores is going to be a much more significant intersection than it is right now,” said Wiener, who would like to see outdoor plazas manifest alongside the bulb-outs.

Not everyone agrees.

Marius Starkey, a former board member of the community advisory group who voted against the proposal, is loath to see Dolores Street change, because it is a part of El Camino Real, a state landmark road that runs from San Diego to Sonoma.

Karen Knowles-Pearce of the Mission Dolores Neighborhood Association, a group that represents approximately 300 residents and opposes the project, said that the bulb-outs are unnecessary.

The extensions are intended to shorten crosswalks, but “people can already rest at the medians if they get tired,” Knowles-Pearce said.

She worries that cars will cause a backup at the Whole Foods, where Dolores Street would shrink to one lane.

But community advisory board member Dennis Richards said that because of current traffic controls at the intersection, only one lane of cars can turn onto Dolores Street now. “The only difference would be the concrete,” he said.

“All the research and traffic modeling [the Planning Department has] done has demonstrated that this shouldn’t increase congestion,” said Dischinger.

If approved by the Planning Commission, the sidewalk extensions would constitute the first-ever in-kind agreement in the area plan’s vicinity, said Adam Varat, a city planner. Developers have been able to apply for in-kind agreements since the Market and Octavia Area Plan became effective on May 30, 2008, he said.

Under the agreement, Prado’s community infrastructure impact fee for the 2001 Market St. project would go into the community fund for impact fees and then be redirected to the sidewalk extension project.

The community infrastructure fee for the 2001 Market St. development was calculated at roughly $10 per square foot; added to other project fees, the developer’s total will come to around $1.4 million. Up to $450,000 of that will go toward the sidewalk extension project, if approved.

According to Bragg, the only question is whether the sidewalk job will be done by Prado or someone else, because the funding already exists.

Under an in-kind agreement, the city can avoid putting the sidewalk project out for an open bid and simply use Prado, which will already be on-site for the 2001 Market St. project. No muss, no fuss, city officials argued.

“It would be more expensive to do the same project if DPW [the Department of Public Works] did it,” said Wiener.

However, with no other developers to bid against, what will keep Prado’s cost estimates in line?

“At the end of the day, it will cost what it costs,” said Kate McGee, the San Francisco planner working with Prado on the agreement. “But in order for [Prado] to get the credit, they’ll have to give us the receipts for the work.”

According to McGee, DPW will review Prado’s design plans to verify that the company doesn’t use the money for “gold-plated piping.”

To Wiener, the in-kind agreement is a boon.

“We’ve always had these visions, but never had the money,” he said. “Now that the financial markets are coming back to life, we have a unique opportunity to leverage those developments to actually make some of these public space improvements.”

Wiener would like to see bulb-outs at other locations, as well. 

“I, and a lot of people, are very interested in bulbing out 18th and Dolores. That intersection needs to be more pedestrian-friendly.”

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21 Comments

  1. Keepin it real

    Scott Weiner has not done one positive thing for the area he represents. His only interest is big business. He is a very poor leader and it makes me appreciate Bevan Dufty even more. Mr. Weiner is scary and does not speak for the majority of his districts interests or preserving the area. He is selling us out over and over again to big business interests. Very sad. The Dolores Park Playground currently in progress looks like DisneyWorld. So Sad

  2. Sprague

    Thank you to the developer and to Supervisor Wiener for supporting this pedestrian-friendly improvement. This plan will also beautify an already attractive intersection. Many intersections along Market Street (ie. Noe, Castro, etc.) are in need of similar “bulb-outs” and other measures to calm motorised traffic and improve pedestrian safety. These improvements will make the neighborhood nicer for residents and visitors alike.

    • Valenchia

      It seems that it would be easy to make this pedestrian friendly without impeding traffic. Congestion benefits no one. I wonder why the community isn’t being listened to here.

  3. Paul

    great idea. Now everyone shut up and build the damn thing

    • Valenchia

      Paul: No, It is a ttupid idea. Now You shut up and go home.

      Don’t you like it when someone responds to you at your exact intellectual and emotional level.

      Please post again when you actually have something to add to the conversation.

  4. hurray for more pedestrian oriented designs! And have you seen what an positive impact widening the sidewalks on valencia has had? wider sidewalks everywhere!

  5. Bob

    Sounds like a great plan. Some people oppose any change even if it is for the better.

  6. wc1

    I fully support this and other measures Sup Wiener has been taking in regards to quality of life improvements in his district.

    Next up is more pedestrian friendly improvements on the corners of 16/Noe/Market.

    Frankly I’m tired of people like “Keepin it real” from holding SF back. We don’t all want to live in urban blight, no matter how ‘real’ that may seem. We don’t want our children to play in a run down playground that floods.

  7. anonymous

    What – no bike lanes for the self-entitled bike-dork faux hipsters?

    • 94103er

      Lots of us ride bikes. Some of us who bike have kids. Many of us would like to bike more often but are discouraged by our city’s lack of forward progress on fixing our piecemeal bike network.

      “Self-entitled?” What on earth does that even mean?

  8. Julie

    I live near this intersection – for both motorists and pedestrians, it is awkward and even treacherous at times. I’m quite relieved to see these design improvements!

  9. Alai

    Love it.

    I find the criticisms from the article baffling: “people can already rest at the medians if they get tired”? Neither one of the intersections affected has a median which reaches the crosswalk (they inexplicably end about 20 feet away, presumably to make it easier to make turns at higher speeds– just the sort of thing that is actively dangerous to pedestrians). The diagonal Dolores St. crosswalk is over 100 feet long–the equivalent of 10 city lanes!

    As far as the “state landmark road” goes– are we now going to have landmarked asphalt? The street is still present and functional.

  10. knightcrimes

    Stop trying to recreate suburbia in the City! Eliminating or reducing one thing for another on narrow City streets will come at a price. Let’s hope that emergency and service vehicles will be able to get around all these obstacles and the bottleneck traffic that it will create after the next major earthquake!

  11. meme

    I live very close to here, and think this looks great. That intersection (and others nearby) is a total disaster. I’m a fast walker and I hardly make it across sometimes. I can only imagine how intimidating it is for older people carrying groceries, etc.

    Frankly, it’s also confusing for cars heading towards Market, because there’s so much empty space and the possible turn on to Clinton Park confuses people.

    This looks like a massive improvement!

  12. Jules

    If you want to make it safer for pedestrians in that general area, then put a stoplight in at 15th and Dolores. The intersection at Market and Dolores isn’t bad, but at 15th I always feel like I’m about to be flattened by drivers who can’t negotiate the four way stop. Seems like a much better use for the funds.

    • randolph mortimer

      can’t ? won’t.

      stick a cop there for a weekend to write some tickets, cheaper than a stop light, brings in $, and doesn’t mess up traffic flow for the tiny minority that obey traffic laws.

  13. Gordon

    I feel like we’re all being duped into arguing about the width of the sidewalks.

    “The project would fulfill the requirement that Prado pay up to $450,000 in impact fees for a nearby 82-unit apartment complex the developer is building at 2001 Market St., atop an existing structure that will become a Whole Foods.”

    In other words every single dollar of the community impact fees is going towards sidewalks. How about spending some of that on beautifying Dolores instead?

    The stretch between Market and 14th is a gray wasteland. Huge, featureless sidewalks with hardly a plant in sight, and most of the east side is a boarded up building. Fix that. Put in some trees or something.

    • Noah Arroyo Post author

      Gordon, you’re partially right: the slated money would go toward this project only.

      But that sum (up to $450,000, if the project gets Planning Commission approval) would be only a slice of the total fees ($1.4 million) that Prado has to pay for the 2001 Market St. project. The rest, still goes to a community fund, potentially for exactly the types of projects you’re mentioning.

      This is from the SF General Plan, and it’s a collection of basic guidelines that planners and other government officers try to follow when they seek to “improve” this neighborhood:

      http://www.sf-planning.org/ftp/General_Plan/Market_Octavia.htm

      And, this one’s not neighborhood-specific, but Sup. Wiener supports the Better Streets Plan:

      http://www.sf-planning.org/ftp/BetterStreets/index.htm

      If the sidewalk project costs more than $450,000, Prado will have to cover the difference.

      Personally, I suspect that less than $450,000 will go toward the sidewalk project, since Prado’s original estimate was $250,000. But that’s only my opinion. And it’s worth paying attention to.

  14. Mlocal

    I live on that block and can’t imagine a bigger or more idiotic waste of money. The condo project does not have enough parking spaces for the number of units in the building, not to mention there will not be ample parking for the customers of the awful chain grocery store going in on the ground floor .
    The city says that people are not going to drive to do their shopping at Whole Foods. Really? Get real. Many, if not most of the people that will do their shopping at this location will do so on their way from the freeway. 14th already has too much traffic traveling at high speeds racing to get to the freeway. Now our neighborhood will get the same commuters on their way home, waiting at the intersection of Dolores and Market for a spot in the Whole Foods parking lot.
    This intersection is going to become as congested as Franklin and California or 24th in Noe Valley, where other Whole Foods without adequate parking attract SUV’s driven by entitled yuppies on cell phones. Our greedy politicians can’t wait to do the same to Dolores and Market.
    Removing a lane of traffic from a main thoroughfare, while building dozens of new condos that don’t have dedicated parking spaces and opening a grocery store without enough parking spaces, all at the same time and expecting that there will not be any serious congestion is lunacy. Attempting to portray this new congestion causing bottleneck as something beautiful for the neighborhood, that is long overdue is patently dishonest and reeks of graft.
    It’s nice to see Weiner in action, his service to his district is self serving and thinly veiled.
    BTW- The neighborhood isn’t divided over this.

  15. Lucia Bogatay

    One problem is that cars waiting to enter the proposed Whole Foods parking garage, the door to which is in the first block of Dolores Street on the west side, will be sitting in the only traffic lane, if there is only one traffic lane, and people trying to turn will have to wait (potentially) in the middle of Market Street. Better to do nothing until the store is up and running and then design something which will work for the new conditions.

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