The remodel of the 24th Street BART plaza will add 1,200 square feet to the plaza’s southwest corner, according to planners who met with the community last Wednesday.
“These plazas are important public open spaces … they are gateways to the neighborhood for residents and myriad visitors,” said Tom Radulovich, the BART board’s vice president. “Everyone I talk to about them agrees they are not working now the way they should.”
Principle planner Rube Warren said he should have the finished designs by May, with construction done by October 2013. The station will remain open throughout construction.
A 2007 project report, authored by Warren and others, stated that “the plaza lacks basic infrastructure and amenities — a stage, vendor stalls, seating and sufficient bus shelters — to support healthy public life.”
“We’ve opened up the area quite a bit,” said Warren, whose main concerns include growing the plaza’s open space. The redesign features a bus bulb along Mission Street that will add 1,200 square feet to the plaza. The bulb will be the length of two buses, resembling the one at the 16th Street BART station.
At the Wednesday meeting, community members talked about how the new plaza will change the corner’s aesthetics, functionality and safety.
Vicky Valdez, who coordinates schedules for vendors at the 24th Street plaza, worried that thieves would approach vendors from Osage, the alley just behind the station.
“Is there going to be adequate lighting?” asked Officer Eugene Wong. “Particularly in that alley, if there are any dark spots, that can encourage crime.”
“We’ve doubled the light fixtures all along the curb,” responded the project’s architect, Robin Chiang.
“The alley is a big challenge to all of us,” said Warren, who suggested that vendors might be able to set up farther away from Osage. “We don’t know how that space is going to get used until we build it.”
The community was divided over whether the new plaza would have enough trees. Erick Arguello, chair of the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association, suggested that trees might provide shade to the bus stops, and member John Mendoza backed him up.
“I’m not a tree lover, but if a tree is doing well, why not incorporate it?” said Mendoza.
Warren said that more trees would cramp the space and encourage loitering, a potential danger to nighttime travelers.
Another attendee, Maria Maigua, said, “Currently homeless people stand in front of the trees along 24th,” deterring customers from approaching vendors.
Diana Medina, a regular vendor at the plaza who also operates Niju Jewelry on 26th Street, called the trees a safety hazard for the elderly. “The roots from these trees break up the concrete, and people trip on it. And when it rains, people use the trees to urinate; you can smell it.”
Maigua waved her hand across the model’s fake trees. “We should just remove them,” she said.
After hearing the testimony, Arguello called Medina’s and Maigua’s concerns reasonable.
Warren assured Medina that the broken bricks and concrete would be repaired in the plaza’s overhaul. After the meeting, Warren said, “I’ll be advocating that we add two ginkgo trees somewhere on the Mission frontage, on the new paved area.”
The project has been in the pipeline for more than a decade, Warren said, but has secured funding only in the last two years. Todd Morgan, a principal financial analyst for the project, puts the total cost at around $3.2 million so far.
Community suggestions have tweaked the design and upped the price, so Morgan is on the hunt for another million in grants — just in case, he said.
Morgan said the project’s art component is one reason the price went up. “To really do it right, I don’t think we had that budgeted sufficiently. We had an approach on artwork that was going to be very small, local and limited.”
BART put out a call in February for local artists to compete to beautify the plaza, as a component of the remodel.
According to the project’s public art consultant, Regina Almaguer, when only 15 artists submitted applications, the art selection committee extended the contest deadline to May 18 and expanded the art budget to $200,000, including a $1,000 honorarium for the chosen artist.
“We have a significant amount of funding in place,” said Morgan, “but there’s my feeling based on experience that we’re going to need more.”
For information about the project’s art component, go here, or email questions to 24MissionPlaza(at)gmail(dot)com.