Living Alley Conceptual Design

San Francisco’s Market and Octavia Area Plan includes the development of a network of “Living Alleys,” with corner plazas, community gardens, and little public spaces, aiming to create “traffic calmed environments that contrast the heavy traffic on the surrounding arterial streets” and “a common front yard for public use and enjoyment.”

Next month, a two-year community-based program to design and implement the network of Living Alleys will commence, enabling residents “to create a public realm that strengthens the community, creates a sense of identity, and makes a more useful, safe, and attractive neighborhood.”

The first community workshop for the Living Alleys project will be held on July 9, from 6 to 8 pm at 699 Hayes Street. The project will also identify opportunities for mid-block crosswalks to link the living alleys together.

33 thoughts on “Designs For A Network Of Living Alleys”
  1. All I see here is the residents of the alley streets eliminating existing neighborhood parking spaces in neighborhoods where parking for all the other residents is next to impossible.
    What is the term for the opposite of NIMBY, which would mean “Yes, build this for MY MY MY backyard and screw my neighbors.”?

  2. I like this idea and say let’s include some commercial space as well (like Maiden Lane, Belden, etc.). Recently I was in London and Rome. I was amazed by all the dining and shopping activity happening on the sidelines. It certainly beats the sterile and suburban, “let’s bring everything inside a windowless building” experience like Westfield on Market St. The issue I see with any public space in SF points to the tolerance of homeless, squatters, drug dealers, prostitutes, etc.

  3. @Jeremy: I see your point, but parking wouldn’t be that much of an issue if we had a world class transit system that gave people a real option to owning a car.
    Just sayin’.

  4. I’m surprised Leah Shahum and her Bike Coalition did not make this plan into two way bike paths. Being that she moved here from Florida and has no educational background in Transit Planning, or any type of planning, should not stop her from demanding what she thinks is best for “her city”.
    I’m surprised and happy that pedestrians are FINALLY getting a voice. Note that the woman walking on the SIDEWALK of Market Street who was hit by a bicyclist is still in critical condition (she was hit on June 10th). I think these alleys should be “NO Bike Zones” to create a safe pedestrian space.
    I am curious, why is it so wrong for the SFMTA to even consider reversing their policy of no new parking garages and allowing some private garages to be built for residents who will have their parking removed?

  5. I’m curious why you are talking about bikes on a thread that has no relation to bikes…
    Anyway, seems like a good concept, similar to the parklets but on an expanded scope. Benefits will be to anybody who enjoys an improved urban landscape.
    I think there was a similar one-off project like this in Hayes Valley, but I can’t remember the specific alley that it was on, maybe Linden? I remember the pics looked pretty good.

  6. Because I am tired of bikes hitting people in designated pedestrian places, that’s all.
    I am asking these be NO bike zones.

    1. As a cyclist it bothers me when bikes ride on the sidewalk, and I preach to my friends who ride their bikes to show the same courtesy to pedestrians as they expect motorists to show to them. However, I am troubled by the reactionary bias in your comment “I am tired of bikes hitting people in designated pedestrian places.” It seems to give the impression that there is a huge number of pedestrians being hit by bikes, when this is not the case. The reality is that the number of cyclist hitting pedestrians is actually quite low, and when these accidents have occurred they are almost never fatal. However, the fatal accidents that occurred last year certainly garnered way more publicity and media attention than the 800 plus people that are hit by cars in SF on average per year, and the hundred of deaths that occurred when those people were hit by cars. We should be concerned about making our streets, sidewalks and alleys safe for everyone in all ways, instead of disproportionately placing blame on one group of people. The anti-biking bias that has infiltrated the mindsets of many on sites such as these reminds me very much of the racial, gender, sexual orientation, and other types of bias where one majority blames a minority for it’s whoas, regardless of how irrational it sounds.

      1. Here is the standard balderdash of lets hide behind what the automobiles do. I am quite sure that a patient when they wake up in intensive care glad they are one of the few to be injured by a bicycle.

  7. @lyqwyd – It’s on Linden. With the Blue Bottle coffee stand. Really nice space, although I echo concerns about the significantly reduced/eliminated street parking, for a neighborhood that is already incredibly difficult to park in, which is only increasing as the parking lots get converted into condos (which, of course, I’m for).

  8. @JWS
    Personally I greatly prefer the space to be used for people rather than car storage.
    I’m especially in favor of changes that will take epicenters of homelessness and re-purpose them for use by the general population.
    If some parking has to be lost to make the necessary improvements, then so be it.

  9. Do not turn streets into parks. Just what I don’t want to see is more homeless vagrants camping infront of my apartment. The stench of urine and human excrement is already unbearable. There are a number of lovely parks in SF. GO USE THEM. If you want shopping, GO TO A SHOPPING DISTRICT. I am all for removing parking on the streets as soon as SFMTS pulls their head out of their butt hole and allows all these new developments to put in ample parking for the spots we remove from the street, then we could have safe bike lanes and traffic lanes. DO NOT TURN MY STREET INTO A PARK, it is a STREET for a reason.

  10. @Mark – Yes, true. Parking would also be less of an issue if people who need to be multiple places in a day (work, help out elderly parents, visit friends, take kids where they need to be) could levitate and fly. The odds of that happening are roughly equivalent to SF ever having a super-efficient public transit system – which generally requires massive underground transit (such as the Metro in Paris – everything is blocks away from a Metro station there – that’ll never happen here).
    An easy solution would be to allow new construction to build as many underground parking spots as they wish – to rent out excess spots to neighbors. Instead, the Octavia plan to limit parking to 1/2 spot per new unit will just create more traffic congestion as residents circle blocks 20 times looking for parking, rather than just zipping into their underground garage space.
    The “livable alleys” are great, in and of themselves – a real boon to the folks who live in those alleys. Not so good for the rest of the neighbors who will have to increase their parking space search time from 10 minutes per trip to 30 minutes per trip – and whose responsibilities require them to make multiple trips per day.
    It just seems like the idealistic “planners” assume that everyone is like them – healthy, non-disabled, no children or elderly parents who need care, whose lives consist of biking or bussing to a job, and then hanging out with friends at a cool bar or restaurant after that.

  11. This will lead to lots of rats and raccoons. I think that it’s a great idea overall, but any little green space is instantly colonized. If you want to check this out hang out where 12 th street intersects with Mission and south Van Ness. There is a little triangle of green space filled with rat burrows. Just an observation.

  12. This Living Alleys plan is awesome.
    Talking down on this because of bums, a few bike/ped accidents, and faulty transit is not relative.
    “no more parks! because there are cars…”

  13. … and the thing I hate about SocketSite — where are the links? Did someone just anonymously send in this map and drawing?

  14. @Rob: as I said earlier I’m for it, just keeping it real in terms of vagrants and squatters so it is relative. If I lived in a unit on one of the living alleys safety and cleanliness would certainly be a concern. These issues need to be addressed before the fact, not after.

  15. Calm down guys. Don’t you see there are 4 parking spaces in the picture?
    Yes, Linden is probably the pilot and inspiration for this proposal. It is a really nice alley. I wonder how it is like in the old days.

  16. I don’t understand the vagrants and squatter comments. Most of the greener mid-block streets in the mission (Lexington, Bird, parts of Bartlett, Capp near ODC) seem to have much less of that than the more open, bigger streets around them.
    I see people camped out on the side of Octavia south of the green all the time, but never really anyone on Linden, etc.

  17. I just caught up on curious’ bizarre rant about cyclists. Yes, this unfortunate pedestrian is still in critical condition. Shame on the cyclist. I hope he gets a well deserved punishment.
    In the mean time, the several pedestrians killed by cars or trucks while on a crosswalk these past 6 months are still dead. Does that mean it’s time to make the city a “No car zone”? Of course it isn’t.
    You just can’t see the forest for the tree.

  18. Several observers are right on the money …during the day but particularly at night these space DO bring street people who spend the night and they don’t necessarily bed down and be quiet. In our neighborhood we have several alleys (SOMA) with nice trees and planted areas and we have street people camping out and doing drugs or drinking. It NEVER fails that by 3am the noise and fights start with these people. In the morning we have to call the police and then clean up the mess.

  19. As apparently the homeless will come and ruin anything nice in the city, we should not allow anything nice, thereby preventing them from ruining it.

  20. I just love the way the PlanInc department and the SFMTA’INT spend all their time dreaming up ways to make our city an ugly, congested hell hole with no parking — but lemme tell ya’s, those ALLEY”S are going to be Fan Fricken Tastic! Chortle.

  21. Nice to see the ‘homeless encampment’ meme make it’s return.
    It has been awhile since I have seen that pop up in awhile.
    The rats/racoons is nice new addition too. Hey let’s pave over GG Park, there are coyotes in there you know.
    And the cyclist rant was cute too, as if car’s and trucks have never hit a pedestrian in a cross walk.
    I will give you parking as an issue. Of course if SF had listened to Daniel Burnham a century ago SF sidewalks would look like this
    and the need to ‘green’ the alley, thus removing parking, would be far less.
    BTW, you can actually tear up a lot of the concrete in front of your building and replace it with trees and greenery. FURF is doing this right now along a nice stretch of Broderick St near Grove.

  22. What if you have a garage on one of these streets? Can the new park block your garage? I am not sure from the plans and conversation if a car can even drive down the middle of the park, the 4 car spot shown are confusing.

  23. I’m totally pumped looking at this. how great that people are considering this and making plans for implementation.
    if sprucing up alleys attracts undesireable indigent activity then it needs to be taken as a good opportunity to address the problem.
    something innovative or nice is proposed and time and again people throw up their arms, disgusted, because indigent people will end up defecating there or what-not.
    the indigent problem in sf is horribly bad. taking that into account people’s strident reactions are understandable. but we can’t just not design and build anything good because we’re depressed at the thought that indigent people will damage or destroy it.
    we’ll just have to call the cops more and chase away people with brooms. if we value what is built it will be worth it. success and failure – each carry its own momentum.
    I think this project has amazingly good legs. hopefully I can make the planning meeting.

  24. good christian: a lot, if not the plurality, of these homeless people are untreated schizophrenics who have nothing to lose and are not likely to listen to reason, much less a more physical intervention.
    Good luck trying to chase them off with brooms. Have you tried that? How’d that work out for you?
    I’m reminded of the guy who was sitting at a bus stop shelter in April with his two young children, and a homeless guy walked up and started peeing there. The father asked the man to stop. The homeless guy cursed him and kept at it. When the father tried to walk away from the argument, the other guy stabbed him several times.

  25. Just 10 days ago, one of our “beloved” homeless violently assaulted a Castro resident trying to clear out the front of his property.
    It’s not the first violent aggression related to out-of-control homelessness (remember the boombox killer? The Castro arsonist?)
    After these incidents, I have very little compassion left for the homeless. Whatever sad story that happened to you, don’t impose your sh!t to other people.

  26. @Navigator
    It’s not a park.
    Yes, existing driveways will still be usable. The street may be narrowed, but cars will still be able to drive in the alleys.
    There will be reduced street parking, with pedestrian and aesthetic improvements replacing the parking.

  27. Have you ever read the warnings to European and Asian tourists on various websites regarding San Francisco and the homeless? We are now world famous for a violent aggressive homeless population that requires “extreme caution” to be used by visitors who should “avoid eye contact” if at all possible. (Quotes from ANA and JAL websites)
    “Expect panhandlers and take taxis after dark” (Frommers)
    “A word of warning: most first-time visitors are thrown by the grittiness of some downtown areas, including lower Powell St., the Downtown destination of two cable car routes. Downtown is generally safe, but the streets west of Powell St. and south of Geary St. are rife with panhandlers and junkies.” — Lonely Planet

  28. @FedUp: Lonely Planet has warnings about San Francisco? Of course they do, they have warnings about every city on the planet. Here’s a few:
    Miami: “Dangers run from aggressive vagrants to calculating muggers”
    Los Angeles: “Downtown is also home to numerous homeless folks”
    San Diego: “Hostile panhandling is the most common problem.”

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