Mojo Cafe Parklet (

As the sun comes up, the police barricades around Mojo Café’s parklet are down.

Mojo Cafe Parklet (

And in about an hour, Mayor Newsom will officially “unveil” the parklet, street improvements, and new median strip green along lower Divisadero.

New Divisadero Median (

We give both initiatives two enthusiastic thumbs up. Perhaps even two snaps up in a circle.

67 thoughts on “Mojo Parklet Opens Up, Divsiadero Street Improvements “Unveiled””
  1. Looks terrific. I’m impressed they planted such large trees. Hopefully the Cesar Chavez street improvements will be of the same caliber.

  2. It all looks great, but it is nothing but window dressing on a down and out neighborhood that has little hope of improvement given the “improvements” the redevelopment agency forced through many years ago. Do the socketsite readers know that most pizza delivery places will NOT deliver to this part of the city? I believe Amici’s actually has a map on their website. (Or if not Amici’s, one of the others — just can’t remember right this minute.) Also, take a look at the various crime maps of SF sometime. A lot of it is concentrated very close to this strip of Divisidero…trees aren’t going to change this. How about spending this money on EDUCATION and work to get SF schools out of the gutter.

  3. The difficulty with Divisadero (note: the headline has a typo) right now is the high concentration of businesses that will not attract anyone that doesn’t live in the neighborhood, like salons and dry cleaners. I believe that there are about 7 dry cleaners on the street from golden gate to page, so about one per block.
    Yes, having a hardware store, a meat market, a dry cleaner, etc, are all necessary for a vibrant neighborhood, but it would be useful to encourage businesses likely to attract people from all over the city to bring money into that corridor, like fancy bakeries, higher end restaurants (although, we have a bunch of those right now), etc.
    The theater right next to the independent is a total waste of space. It irks me to no end that my neighbors decided letting the building remain derelict was better that letting it be redeveloped into housing.

  4. Also, take a look at the various crime maps of SF sometime. A lot of it is concentrated very close to this strip of Divisidero…trees aren’t going to change this.

    I’m not sure I agree with this. I’m partial to the belief that fixing broken windows can effect a meaningful drop in crime.

  5. rr, I really don’t agree. Every district can’t be a destination, and there are a lot of reasons why Divisidero isn’t. It has a relative lack of parking, and while reasonably served by transit (including a major cross town bus line) it certainly doesn’t have the ease of access of Market Street or Mission Street corridors. What it does have is a lot of people living in close proximity, and it’s been great to see the corridor begin to serve them better over the last dozen or so years (starting with Cafe Abir, in my opinion). Mix in the occassional city-wide draw like Nopa and you’ve got an interesting neighborhood.

  6. Although I support the concept, and approve of the parklet, does anyone know how Mojo got this thing? It seems like 90% of the benefit of the bike parking and seating goes to that cafe alone. Did they pay for it somehow?

  7. Divisadero has always been a little gritty, and honestly, I’m not really bothered by it… I also don’t think the residents that live along its corridor really expect Divis to be more than it is. I drove down it yesterday and the flax looks good, as do the pears on the sidewalks. I’m not sure what kind of tree is in the median.
    My only question is this: did the city have to plant ALL deciduous tree? Come fall the entire street is going to be blanketed with leaves.

  8. We spent $650 Million on the T light rail and improvements on third street. To my knowledge, it has had nearly zero effect, three years after opening.

    Well, I think that is kind of a non sequitur. I was talking about limited use of eminent domain to reduce blight, crime, and improve quality of living. I’m not sure a major transporation project can be grouped into the same category.
    With that said, I would point out that historically, in the United States and around the world, real estate prices rise within a few blocks radius of a rail station, and neighborhoods slowly improve.
    I think the T Third Street line has been a major factor in the development of Mission Bay. I don’t know what the long term effect will be in Hunters Point, etc, but I would suggest it will take more time to tell – especially considering the intense recession.

  9. My only question is this: did the city have to plant ALL deciduous tree? Come fall the entire street is going to be blanketed with leaves.
    Deciduous trees help moderate temperatures by providing shade and evaporative cooling in the summer, and allowing direct sunlight to hit the sidewalk and buildings in the winter.

  10. Has anyone noticed how well “destination districts” are fairing in this economy? Would you rather be a restaurant owner on Divis or on Union?

  11. Hey author, Great in living color reference….
    I wish they would continue this up divis on the other side of geary up to sac street… why sac street? because there is an ugly median up to that point. Past sacramento street it turns into just a double yellow line.

  12. sleepiguy-
    We have a flowering pear in front of our house. It doesn’t lose leaves in the winter because it’s too warm here.
    I am not asking every district to be a destination, or even the entire NOPA/Alamo Sq/South Western Addition (depending on what term you want to use). However, if they are going to redo the entire length of divis, they ought to work on making the businesses on the street as attractive as the street itself. Otherwise, why waste the time? Cars are only going to spend a few minutes on the road at most, so beautifying it for them is a waste.

  13. I also have a pear and it loses about 50% of its leaves, which isn’t too bad. They also don’t seem to destroy the sidewalk, another plus. It’s too bad we don’t have the spectacular blooms like in Marin and on the Peninsula.
    I’m not criticizing their choice of plants really… anything to get some more damn trees in the city.

  14. I have lived in this neighborhood for 11 of my 15 years in SF (on Fell, Broderick, & Ellis). In that time I have seen improvement in the neighborhood. I hope these improvements on Divis can help contiue that trend and perhaps even speed it up a bit. The area between Fell & Golden Gate has improved the most so far, now we need to boost the area between Golden Gate & Geary. Some changes there are underway already with these median changes going all the way up to Geary, the refurbishment of the building on the NW corner of O’Farrell & Divis by Kaiser, and hopefully an actual building going up at Ellis & Divis to replace the old gas station. Slowly but surely the street is improving.

  15. @sleepyguy
    ” anything to get some more damn trees in the city.”
    I totally agree! My particular rant on that front is Utilities Undergrounding. Its all the overhead utilities that keep trees from growing up healthy (they get chopped up by PG&E) to protect the lines. Look around the mission – streets that have been undergrounded, like folsom and 24th have beautiful deep shade, but then side streets are just a mess of utility wires. There are a lot of young small trees that home owners have planted on the sidewalks, but they will never be able to grow much with the wires there.
    I keep thinking that utility undergrounding would be a GREAT use of government/stimulus money:
    – lots of jobs
    – earthquake saftey is improved
    – could add flexible smart interconnects for the “smart grid”
    – makes room for trees
    – improves the looks of a street

  16. Have any of the commenters so far spent any time on Divis between Haight and Geary? It’s really REALLY improved in the 12 years I’ve lived here. The place is crawling with young 20 and 30 somethings going to dinner, hanging out at the cafes, etc. There are a lot of new restaurants around Divis and Grove, in particular.

  17. I can only think that this improvement will help bring more business into the area. It’s looking very smart along divis now.
    I’ve lived in the area for 10 years at this point, and I think this is a great step. For sure Nopa opening was the biggest thing to happen, and then others followed from there, including Bar Crudo the latest, and even Nopalito brings in the crows.

  18. I also agree that the area has changed substantially within the last 15 years. I grew up visiting Divis/Fell on a regular basis and it used to be slightly sketchy to walk in that area even in the daytime. There were a lot of people who would loiter around shops there. Walking down the street around Divis/Fell now versus 10 years ago is a totally different experience. I think that the racial mix has changed a lot in 15 years.

  19. I live in this neighborhood and have for 4 years. In just that short period of time the Divisadero Corridor has improved markedly. I am impressed by the most recent streetscaping improvements along the corridor and I for one certainly enjoy walking along Divis better after the improvements. This street has a pulse now that it did not have previously. Divis feels very alive and the parklet is just another step in the right direction to promote greater pedestrian interaction and use.

  20. I also have a pear and it loses about 50% of its leaves, which isn’t too bad. They also don’t seem to destroy the sidewalk, another plus.
    I’m in the middle of treelawn (about a four foot wide strip between the sidewalk and street) restoration project and am looking at putting in some fruit trees. The pears sound intriguing; anyone want to give a shout out for their favorite cultivar that might be suitable for this type of location?

  21. EBGuy-
    Call up Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), who specialize in putting in new trees in SF. They can overwhelm you with info, should you so choose. They can also help with permitting.
    Ours is a Pyrus calleryana, grafted on to rootstock from some unknown plant, which keeps it at about 20ft tall, max. It doesn’t actually produce edible fruit (they are about 1cm in diameter), but the flowers are quite nice.
    When we moved in, the tree had been planted by FUF a year earlier but had no one to water it, so it was just about dead. FUF comes back to restake the trees, etc, but had marked ours as ‘observe but do not aid’ because of it’s condition. Now it’s much much more healthy, but seems a little confused because it will randomly flower at different times of the year.

  22. One bad thing about pears – they get fire blight. Mine had a terrible case last year as did a bunch of pears in the northern part of the city. I had mine treated fairly quickly and it stopped the spread of the disease, but my tree looks a little mutilated.
    I don’t see a lot of fruit bearing trees on the sidewalks. Personally, I’m partial to cherries (yoshino) and California Pepper Trees which, as they mature are really gorgeous. My least favorite are the flowering plums (prunus cerasifera) because even though they’re dynamite in the spring, by summer they start looking kind of ragged. It’s like a three month tree.

  23. EBGuy – I think that the “flowering pear” referred to above is the Bradford Pear which doesn’t produce edible fruit. It actually isn’t supposed to produce fruit at all, but mine creates these little squirrel feeding round pearlets that are annoying.
    But the fall colors are fantastic and make up for the bogus pear mess.

  24. Do whatever you want along Divisadero but please keep the Popeyes open! It’s the only reason I go down there.(BTW, I’m not convinced that these parklets actually add much in the way of public space. Thumbs up to the trees and other greenery. It’s great for the merchant though…)When I lived here my biggest problems was Muni. To those who live in this hood how’s the 5 Fulton, 24 Divisadero & 21 Hayes? I dreaded having to take those buses. It was so stressful taking that 20 minute ride from downtown to my apartment. I hope it has improved.

  25. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for more greening in The City…and more “parklets”..but seriously.
    What about the first time a car or bus plows into that little cafe strip right next to heavy traffic? Have they thought about it? From the pictures that cute little sitting area is RIGHT NEXT to the car lane…a serious accident is waiting to happen. I hope it doesn’t…If these are put in the city needs to add some serious, heavy duty bollards.

  26. @Willow – Muni is just plain bad.
    However it’s a fantastically easy area to ride downtown from..
    I can easily beat the 21 Hayes to work and home. And hardly a sweat broken!
    @noearch – Surely the same could be said of a sidewalk! A car could go right up on a sidewalk and plough down people, but we don’t have serious heavy duty bollards for that.

  27. Noearch, I’m guessing (but I’m not sure) that you’ve identified the reason the City put bike parking in the first half of the parklet (in relation to on-coming traffic). That at least gives some buffer to collision issues.
    It is certainly an issue that the City needs to consider in designing these parklets, not so much on residential streets, but on arterials where traffic is relatively heavy. However, I don’t think traffic can build up much speed on Divis going northbound anyway, you typically are stop and go between lights quite alot. So it’s probably effectively a non-issue.

  28. @Willow
    I live on the south side of Alamo Square. I take the 5 every morning. Ever since the MTA, the 5 is amazing. I always get on the first bus. I get a seat about 50% of the time. This is at the height of the morning commute.
    I take the 5 or the 21 home from the Financial District. Both are uncrowded at the Montgomery stop at around 5-6 p.m. Talking with a co-worker who used to take the 21, it has markedly improved in the last 10 years.

  29. @bdb disagree with you. Typically there are (not always but a lot of the time) cars in a parking space next to the sidewalk..Yes, I know that cars rarely jump the curb and cause injuries. But putting tables RIGHT NEXT TO THE TRAFFIC LANE I’m not sure is a good idea; not to mention the danger, but sitting there eating and breathing in the fumes..
    and no, bikes in front of a parklet would provide absolutely NO buffer zone from oncoming traffic.
    I know that all over Italy and France these wonderful sidewalk cafes exist and it’s a great part of the street culture..Typically they are on plazas or piazzas with some buffer to traffic..
    These parklets, in particular, I don’t feel work well on busy busy Divisadero St. Love the median planting however.

  30. The median trees are Acer rubrum “Armstrong”; (Armstrong Maple). 40-60′; 15 spread; red in autumn. These are the same trees in Berkeley’s San Pablo Ave median. Appears sycamore/London plane trees are planted on sidewalks from Golden Gate to Geary.

  31. Noearch, not to harp on this, but there is a planter and another divider/bench between oncoming traffic and seated people. I concede that would not be much protection from an errant muni bus, but it is not “No buffer” as you stated.
    Parked cars are certainly a good buffer between pedestrians and sidewalks. Although cars rarely swerve onto sidewalks, there is both a psychological and physical issue when auto traffic travels quickly alongside the pedestrian zone. However, I think the planters provide the psychological barrier, and I think the physical danger is overstated in this location.
    I’m looking forward to getting a latte and checking it out personally this weekend.

  32. noearch, there is very little danger, it would be almost impossible to accidentally drive into this space, as it goes no farther out than the parked cars, and as curmudgeon said, there are planters between the street and people sitting, it’s about 2-3 feet of space. People don’t seem concerned as it’s been packed since before it was even finished.
    Also, there are many streets with no parking between the sidewalk and the street, mostly downtown where there are tons of people walking.

  33. I’m going to check it out in person this weekend, just to see…my comments are, yes, partly about the realistic use of that space right next to heavy traffic..let’s be real; Divisadero is not some little country lane.
    I’ll reserve any more judgement till I see it, but I dont feel these little so called parklets are very good long term solutions to making our city more liveable, walkable and even safe…These mini parks appear to be cute, cheap and temporary looking, and nothing more.
    No, I’m not a hater, just a realist. I’ll report back on monday.

  34. I made it along for the formalities this morning and hope to see many more to follow. Big thanks to all involved in the project!!

  35. I think the chances of any autos smacking the parklet are pretty slim. As lyqwyd said, there are many streets in SF where there is no buffer between traffic and crowds on sidewalks, and we’re not talking about “some little country lane.” There are such streets downtown, particularly during rush hour where the parking lanes turn into traffic lanes.
    I’m not saying that these parklets are perfectly safe, but they are certainly safe enough. Personally, I think bikes and cars sharing roads is far more dangerous, and nobody is opposed to that.
    I also question the value of such parklets, but considering their low cost and easy implementation, it seems like a good idea.
    Mojo Cafe and its customers seem to be the only beneficiaries of this particular parklet. Does the city pay for all maintenance of this space? Or does Mojo Cafe pay some kind of fee to the city? Only asking because it would seem unfair to Mojo’s competitors if the city just gave this to them.

  36. The chances of a vehicle slamming into pedestrians enjoying the parklet are low because of the row of parked cars leading up to the two old parking spaces that have been converted into the parklet.
    So a vehicle would have to jump the curb at the exact spot of the parklet. swerving towards the right before the parklet would, likely, hit a parked vehicle first and then bounce back into traffic. A drive would have to swerve hard to the right at a very percise moment to be a threat to pedestrians. While not impossible, it is unlikely.

  37. There are a few other reasons that make a car jumping the curb unlikely and they are tied to the overall effects of putting in planted medians in any city.
    Landspaced medians such as the one on Divsiadero have been shown in several studies to have a traffic calming effect by reducing driver stress, this naturally slows traffic and increases following distances.
    As a result, drivers are less likley to get into an accident and accidents are likely to be less severe. This cuts costs for cities because of less emergency calls and increased productivity due to reduced congestion caused by accident related traffic jams.
    Additionally local business sees greater foot traffic. The planted median ‘tricks’ the pedestrians brain into seeing only two lanes of traffic instead of four. Also, the traffic is flowing slower which further reduces pedestrian stress therefore making walking in the area more likely.
    Finally the environment benefits by inceased carbon absorbstion through the plants, decreases to carbon output because of slower traffic burning less gas, and shade reducing the ‘heat island’ effect of cities which contributes smog formation.
    So the money spent on putting in planted medians is quickly recovered through increased business activity in the local area, increased productivity in the region as less time is wasted in traffic resulting from accidents, and fewer city services are consumed cleaning up those accidents.

  38. that was a good point about the parking stalls in front of this “parklet” providing additional protection. I was looking at the images, and considering the “worst case” scenario, when the parking stalls aren’t occupied and there is therefore some small chance of a head on collision. However, as has been pointed out, most of the time the only possibility would be a side-swipe. And, just to reiterate, I think that the potential for either happening is remote.
    Regarding maintainance….
    “Mojo café has agreed to provide daily maintenance of the Parklet, although all seating and bike parking is free and open to the public.” Obviously, the city doesn’t have the resources to maintain these little parklets, so they’re only possible with the partnership of businesses or other local orgs. This seems like a total win/win to me. Yes, it’s great for Mojo, but it’s also great for all of us.

  39. If you guys had seen the river of blood running down the steps of the T-line muni platform at 4th and King this morning, you might have a different opinion.
    A big rig hit a pickup truck, which spun out of control and hit a pedestrian who was just standing next to the street, minding his own business.
    Divis is a busy street. Sure, the probability of a problem is low, but I still think it’s nuts to have people sitting here, breathing the exhaust fumes while waiting for disaster to strike. A couple of bikes aren’t going to stop a 4000 lb car. They should have put this around the corner on a less traveled street. Looks pretty and all, but dumb, dumb, dumb.

  40. “These mini parks appear to be cute, cheap and temporary looking, and nothing more.”
    Noearch: I agree with you whole heartedly. I too think they are cheap, tacky and quite frankly embarrassing. I will admit I have not been to this parklet in person but if it’s anything like the one at Castro and 17th I’m going to give it a miss. Compare the space to some of the amazing little parks in Chicago and New York…The efforts to green the city is a noble one (and much needed) but we can do so much better than this.

  41. thanks tipster and willow:
    Nice to know I’m not the only one who has brought up these points about the new parklets.
    I do think safety is a REAL ISSUE.
    I think they are tacky and cheap and cheap looking.
    We can do much better..

  42. Willow,
    Castro and 17th was built on the cheap as a temporary installation to prove to folks that a park there was possible. It has been incredibly well received and successful, but no one ever said the design was beautiful. The City is currently preparing to rejeuvenate it to get it through the summer season, in anticipation of permanent changes.
    But again, even in its somewhat bedraggled state, it is a great use of the “leftover” space, and the simple addition of portable seating has made a great people place. And, I should note, I think the safety aspects have been well handled, given that this park is located at a pretty major intersection.
    Regarding the “cute, cheap and temporary looking” nature of the parklets. Well, gosh, that’s exactly what is intended. It’s an experiment! If Mojo’s doesn’t keep up their agreement, or if there is some other reason it doesn’t work out, it’s designed to be easily removed. I doubt that a parklet like this would ever be made absolutely permanent.

  43. Curmudgeon: I’ve spoken to a number of my friends about the 17th & Castro parklet and a number of them feel like you do. I do realize that these parklets are temporary but I seem them as an eyesore and simply not good enough for a public space. Maybe I have to readjust my expectations. (Same can be said for the one on San Jose Ave by St Luke’s or the parklet in front of Axis Cafe in Potrero Hill that has been taken over by skateboarders.) These spaces are well intentioned but poorly exectued. Thumbs down for me…

  44. Perfect is the enemy of the good. Perfect is the enemy of the good.
    These parks would never be built if they had to be done to standard park specifications or even to “nice” specifications, given the current budget cuts. They also had to be done ‘temporary’ in case they were failures and had to be removed quickly. I suspect they may have to remain ‘temporary’ forever given the long drawn out process it will take to permanently designate an area as a public park.

  45. (wish we could edit posts!)
    PS. I agree that breathing fumes is the biggest drawback to the Mojo parklet. The traffic on Divis is never that speedy – I’ve driven it a lot lately and the lights are poorly timed and you stop every block.
    I would be more worried about a bus hitting you than a car and I agree putting this on the corner of a cross street would make even more sense.
    I remember hearing urban legends 12 years ago when I moved here that people had been killed by out of control trolley bus electricity poles and that’s never come to pass since I’ve been here. I think people worry about worst-case scenarios too much.

  46. A pedestrian was KILLED this morning by a pickup trip that jumped the curb and hit a person standing in a MUNI stop. This could easily happen in a parklet.
    They are a waste of city resources. they are cheap quick ugly fixes. What we need are more PERMANENT landscaped medians, sidewalk edges and trees.
    The parklet at the corner of Castro/17th is one of the UGLIEST ever, even it is temporary. This city can do much better and should.

  47. noearch – the geometry and traffic patterns of the 4th and King intersection is quite a bit different from where this parklet is located. You really cannot draw much of a connection between the two.
    Pedestrians get run over all of the time. It is a tragic problem that needs better solutions. The problem is not pedestrians using their appointed spaces. The problem almost always is due to incompetent or negligent driving.
    With the exception of DUI cases, we’re really really lax with incompetent and negligent driving. Someone can mow down a cyclist or pedestrian and the courts deem it to be an “accident”. A traffic fine is issued and the offending driver is back on the streets. This is the penalty for neglecting to avoid a collision with dire consequences, yet the offender gets off with a slap on the wrist.
    A ten year revocation of driving privileges would go a long way towards convincing motorists to take their role more seriously (at least it would protect the public for a while). Jail time would have even greater influence.

  48. … as an addendum to my comment above, I neglected to mention that many car-pedestrian collisions are the pedestrian’s fault too. So let me soften the tone, the problem is not “almost always” due to driver as some pedestrians and cyclists practice their share of incompetence or negligence too. The difference is that it is unlikely that their bad behavior will kill anyone but themselves.

  49. Eric, it wasn’t an urban legend. Two people really did get brained by trolley poles in the late 90s, and a few others were injured. Muni subsequently replaced almost all of those vehicles. The buses you see today on e.g. the 1-California have much higher tech poles that can’t swing around and hit people. Unfortunately Muni still runs a few of the old style buses on routes were the locals are too poor to complain about it (e.g. on the 14).

  50. Why is San Francisco obsessed with saving old movie theaters? (note eyesore across the street from “cafe”) If it really was the “new media” city it claims to be, why would it want to preserve 80 year old outposts of Hollywood that are no longer popular or viable? L.A. tore down most of its old single screen theaters long ago and nobody is crying down there even though that is the city where movies are made. But it is not just this piece of junk on across from Mojo, but the Alexandria theater featured previously, or Pagoda Theater in North Beach (also featured numerous times on this site), that many San Franciscans would rather see empty, unused, and decaying, instead of allowing the valuable land to be transformed into more up to date uses. I am still not convinced this is the forward looking city it claims to be. Most of the innovations and creations San Francisco makes claims on are really part of the Southbay & Peninsula area’s story, not ours.

  51. Y’all do realize the Castro St streetside dining in Mountain View has been in place for more than a decade? No one’s died, and yes, Castro gets a lot of traffic (retail strip, effective downtown, caltrain station and grade crossing at one end).
    I’m currently streetside at the South Beach Cafe on Townsend (can reach out and touch the curb with my left foot), and I’m not quaking in my boots. I am however wondering why the cash-starved city doesn’t do a little revenue enhancement by enforcing noise laws on our short pipe harley (aka gasoline-powered vibrators) riders, who mostly hail from out of town.
    The 4th&Townsend/4th&King interesections seem to experience a pedestrian fatality every two years or so. It’s the intersections, not the norm. (4th&Townsend is particularly crazy).

  52. noearch, Divis also sees no semi trucks, unlike townsend. It’s also a two lane in each direction street, and sees far less traffic than many other streets, even in the neighborhood.
    The parklet is so popular it’s hard to find a seat, so apparently there are plenty of people that are not concerned. It’s nice and pleasant, and far better than the 2 parked cars that were there before.
    You don’t like it? Fine, don’t use it, nobody cares, and nobody will miss you.

  53. Wait, we’re seriously comparing 4th and King to Divis? You guys do realize that King is a freeway on/off ramp at 4th, right? I will certainly agree, building parklets at freeway ramps would be a bad idea.

  54. Comparing an intersection to midblock is not apples to apples.
    I drove by the parklet today at 4pm-ish, and only saw two people using it on this beautiful day.

  55. I drove by the parklet today at 4pm-ish, and only saw two people using it on this beautiful day.
    I drove by at noon-ish, and the parklet was full, and even seemed to have an overflow crowd.

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