Having drafted three initial frameworks to help gather public input and guide the redevelopment of San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, Fulton Mall and United Nations Plaza, the design team has now created a comprehensive Civic Center Public Realm Plan which will be presented to the City’s Planning Commission next week.

The conceptual design includes a “Landmark District” with spaces arranged for performance, recreation and gathering; a “Flexible, Accessible, Ceremonial Gathering Space” with fixed amenities framing larger flexible plazas for events and festivals; and a tree-lined “Civic Promenade” that would connect the spaces, from UN Plaza to City Hall.

“UN Plaza would be renovated as a neighborhood-focused market plaza that supports the Farmers’ Market. Existing UN Charter commemorations would be retained while adding sites to commemorate local heroes. The plaza’s Leavenworth segment would be transformed as a gateway and neighborhood mini-park featuring amenities like a dog play area, outdoor exercise equipment, and an interactive community message board. A new BART station pavilion and adaptive reuse of the historic fountain designed by Lawrence Halprin would create new amenities that help anchor the Market Street edge of the plaza.”

“Fulton Mall is conceived as a new public park and the cultural heart of the district. It would include revived access to the Main Library and the Asian Art Museum from Fulton Street and new uses such as a sculpture garden, information/stewards center, and reading room at their edges. The conceptual design proposes closing the street to traffic to create new flexible space on plaza and lawn that provide settings for on-going and new activities. Lawn panels would be sized to accommodate daily recreational activities such as youth soccer.”

“Civic Center Plaza is envisioned as the most civic space, its arrangement reflecting Beaux Art symmetry and the intention of Civic Center’s original 1912 plan to create a grand venue for large events. The center of the plaza would contain a large, open flexible area consisting of a central paved plaza flanked with lawn panels. Lawn panels would be sized for recreational uses such as youth soccer programs that take place today. At the same time, the conceptual design proposes adding more intimate spaces for daily activity and carefully integrating park pavilion structures that provide pedestrian access to Brooks Hall and the Civic Center Garage. The existing Helen Diller Civic Center Playgrounds would be retained and complimented by new “gardens of delight” and “gardens of memory” at the plaza’s edges that bring beauty and seasonal character.”

And in addition to solidifying Civic Center as San Francisco’s cultural hub and political heart, with “flexible, accessible, [and] inviting place[s] for all,” and “source[s] of beauty, delight, and wellness” throughout, the concept plan includes the aim of making Civic Center “The safest place in San Francisco,” in part by creating venues for new (night) markets, festivals, performances, activities and events, with the hope that people will “linger in the public spaces during commute hours and into the evening” as well.

The conceptual plan will be refined through the end of this year. An environmental review is expected to take a year or two. And as such, San Francisco’s Civic Center plan could be formally adopted as early as early 2021.  We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

56 thoughts on “Plans to Make Civic Center the Safest Place in San Francisco”
  1. “Fulton Mall”, of course is a phrase already in use elsewhere, so if SF wants to be the ‘Brooklyn of the West’ – or even the ‘Fresno of the Coast’ – then I say go for it! Otherwise they may want to be a little more original. And I think it’s swell that the city has it’s priorities straight: filling gores w/ alien pods, First; handling vagrants and cleaning the streets..somewhere down the line.

  2. This honestly looks great. I live nearby and this looks very exciting. However the elephant (dinosaur? blue whale?) in the room that nobody will address is that the prime reason this area is under utilized is the excessive open air heroin usage in the park and in the immediate vicinity. We see needles daily. People openly shoot up wherever they feel like it. Until the city will actually prosecute drug dealing and drug using this area will not get better.

    1. Prosecuting drug dealers?

      What kind of crazy talk is that??? It would never work, which is I’m sure why we don’t try.

      1. Yes, the war on drugs and heavy handed sentencing for drug offenses has been so effective. Oh wait.

        1. As if stopping persecution of drug dealing and using has been effective either. Come on. This area (I live here) is drowning in drugs, both dealing and using. Cops don’t do ANYTHING about it. People are literally injecting right in front of our library for pete’s sake. The new children’s playgrounds too! We won’t walk our dogs on the grass because we’ve found many needles in there. And then the city wonders why nobody uses this park. In ANY other city this would be viewed as a public health emergency and an utter embarrassment. Of course here we’re more *progressive* (read: incompetent and terrified of enforcing laws lest our constituents call for our heads).

        2. That’s why I say arrest dealers. Not the users. The dealers. Big difference.

          I used to live in the area and all the shopkeepers knew who the big dealers were. Everyone knew. Why not arrest them?

          1. I have lierally watched a gathering of cops chatting in front of Philz at Golden Gate and Hyde while halfway down the block a full-scale drug bazaar was in progress. They couldn’t help but see it and everybody knows it’s been there for years (because of the convenience of the ATMs across the street). Yet they do NOTHING. Why? Frustration that any charges or tickets they issue will be thrown out? It almost doesn’t matter if they confiscate the drugs and tell the dealers to leave.

          2. Exactly. Any person can walk down the street and watch the drug dealers operating in broad daylight. Is this a problem? I think it’s a problem.

        3. You don’t have to employ “heavy handed sentences”. You just have to say, “No, you can’t do that here,” and make them leave. Enough harrassment of that sort and they will find somewhere else. Enough harrassment of that sort in every very public obvious spot and they will at least find places more discreet (or, another way to put it, hidden).

          There is a middle way between trying to prevent drug use using law enforcement, which doesn’t work, and preventing open, offensive drug use which can if consistently done.

          Personally, I’m libertarian about drug use in general. If they want to do, I'm fine with that. What I am not fine with is seeing them doing it everywhere in the public realms of San Francisco and seeing the residua of their doing it–used needles and so forth–as well. That's what I want to go away, not so much the drug use itself.

          But I don't see how this design does anything about all that nor about the other people who don't use the public realm but abuse it.

    2. Great new space to shoot up , poop and sleep. The city would be 10x nicer if it just enforced drug laws.

  3. Nice. Looks great. Pissed that it’s going to take at least 2 more years to see any actual work taking place.

    1. And let’s not forget Better Market Street project is continually delayed for no real reason with planned to start in, what, like 3 years? Most of the people reading this post will likely have moved or died by the time any of this is realized. But I guess if we wait just a little longer, time travel will prob have been invented and we’ll just go back.

      [Editor’s Note: Plan for a Better Market Street Picked, Aiming for a 2020 Start]

  4. Perfect place to put one of London Breed’s 200 bed Navigation Centers…..even if it’s in D6.
    And I bet it wouldn’t take two years to build. I bet she could get a NC up and running in 2 months.
    As the headline says “The safest place in San Francisco” What could possibility go wrong?

  5. Safest place in San Francisco? LOL. The biggest problem with Civic Center is the people not the place itself.

    Where are all the meth addicts in the renderings? Until they are banished Civic Center will never be a destination.

      1. People are definitely injecting meth around Civic Center. Sure, its probably 70% heroin/oxy/fentanyl crap. But a good chunk are shooting meth, the really really crazy ones…yeah…them.

        1. During the time I volunteered cooking and serving meals for Curry without Worry in Civic Center, I saw a lot of meth injection cases. It was not unusual to see the meth addicts inject after eating, then take a crap in the landscaping, and start masturbating. After witnessing months of this behavior, I felt that I was enabling it by volunteering, and stopped. Meth is back in a big way, and a lot of the meth addicts also use heroin.

          1. On the human poop map. Glide Memorial is ground zero. Enabling is the San Francisco psychosis.

      2. Yes, God forbid one quotes the wrong drug when discussing why the Civic Center is a sh*thole. THIS is what’s wrong with this City — if you make a valid point, [someone] will take you to task for something having nothing to do with the actual issue. Who cares if it’s meth or heroine and why do you think that even matters?

        1. A long history of being pretty egregiously wrong on basic facts and militantly NIMBY isn’t a good way to convince anyone to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  6. I guess I will be the lone optimist…the improvements to the area look great and though it will take a while it will come to fruition.

    1. Nobody is saying they don’t look good (they look great!). What many including myself are saying is that if police won’t enforce drug dealing and open air drug using laws, it’s all for naught. Look at the immediate blocks around this venue. There are schools, there is a law school, there are many new residential buildings with 300-800 units a piece, there are tech HQs, there are low-income families in the TL, there are arts establishments, and of course government buildings. That’s a formula for success for this park. So many different types of people. And yet people shy away from using it, not because of the park itself, but because of the rampant drug usage, not only in the park but on streets like Hyde, Larkin, Grove, and Hayes.

      As a resident I was sent so many e-mails about what we should add to Civic Center. There were checklists of literally dozens and dozens of ideas. Nothing about drugs. I wrote that into the comments, as did my wife. This is THE main reason why nobody likes going here. But SF just wants to pretend it does not exist as always.

    2. They look great because they do not accurately depict who will hang out there, and what they will be doing.

    1. San Fransicans/Voters are the real problem. You vote(d) in mentally I’ll Politicians that pass mentally I’ll policy and then complain about your once beautiful city going to sh*t! (Literally and Figuratively) You need to recall all elected officials and put in real individuals that have your best interests at heart. Otherwise continue to complain and watch your City be overrun by Slimy Mentally I’ll Politicians and their Handlers. Quit enabling the status quo!! Stand up and take your city back.

  7. The lead image makes it look like the Bi-Rite Cafe structure would be removed. I take it that’s not true given how new it is.

  8. What people forget is, the Civic Center Plaza is in the same neighborhood as most of the city’s social service agencies, to wit: Episcopal Sanctuary Services: Eighth and Folsom; St Anthony’s Dining Room, 150 Golden Gate Avenue; Westside Community Services on 11th between Howard and Folsom; Quaker Community Center, on Ninth between Market and Mission; Catholic Charities, 801 Jessie Street between Market and Mission; Human Services Center, City and County of San Francisco, on Mission between Eighth and Ninth; San Francisco Human Services Agency, 1440 Harrison; Community Behavioral Health Services, Howard at Tenth. There may be others.

    Put all these agencies in the Downtown area or in Pacific Heights, and you’d have the same problems Downtown or in Pacific Heights. I don’t know why people don’t get this.

    1. Exactly. The city has always decided where to move and locate the problem. The police and agencies are squeezing a balloon. So, 8th and Market is bad. Where would you rather it be bad? There is no mechanism, humane, at least, for booting these people out. They are on hard times. They live here.

      But, I lived on 6th and Howard for 12 years, during crack and whatever else. And there were people barbecuing on the sidewalk, men coming and going to jail down the street, but contributing to the neighborhood — it was functional in a weird way. Now, the change in drug use has created the new zombie class of street people, and dealers, The nature of the drugs is paramount.

  9. Looks great, but no matter how much they activate this plaza it will immediately be overrun by the same drifters and dealers, especially after hours, and the needles, feces, urine, and trash found across the street at the BART entrance will reclaim this “safest of places”. MRSA anyone?

  10. I know this is required for literally any construction in SF but why exactly is it necessary for an EIR for this? I can tell you the impact……. It’s good.

    1. Arresting drug users en masse has been a proven failure for decades. Maybe stop offering “solutions” that have repeatedly and spectacularly failed.

        1. It’s literally not. You’re comparing hundreds of thousands to millions of ridiculous and societally cancerous heavy drug sentences to a small number of needles being handed out in one city.

          1. 6million needles a year on the street with half being picked up and probably at least 1 million washing into the bay vs. 30 dealers getting 10 yrs in prison, 60 getting 5 years in prison, 120 getting 1 yr in prison (all made up numbers of course). I dont want users in jail necessarily but there needs to be a way to force them into 6Months+ of treatment.

            But i have to say im on the side of public health. the needles on the street and in the bay represent a very significant public health to innocent people, the environment and some folks food.

          2. San Francisco has more drug addicts than it has students enrolled in its public high schools, according to the city Health Department’s latest estimates. There are about 24,500 injection drug users in San Francisco — that’s about 8,500 more people than the nearly 16,000 students enrolled in San Francisco Unified School District’s 15 high schools and illustrates the scope of the problem on the city’s streets.

  11. But I mean, how would one provide an alternative to arrests? “Excuse me Sir, yes you dealing crack there. Would it be okay with you and your rights if we gave you free college in France?” I’d like to see that idea implemented. In SF, it would mean committees, or such, to study the problem, and then a coalition on drug dealer education, and so on. Either the central city will always be a toilet, or the city can not be as permissive.

    1. Confiscate illegal drugs and come back in 30 minutes and if they have more drugs confiscate them and keep it up until they get the idea somewhere else would be a better place to do business. But do it everywhere you regularly see them. Judges in SF may not impose significant sentences but losing their stock of wares consistently will dissuade them and make them go somewhere they won’t be seen and that’s probably the best we can do.

      1. Easier said than done. Most drug dealers in SoMa work in packs of between 2 and 10 and if you watch them long enough, you will notice they have spotters in every direction so that they can continue to make transactions in relative safety from the actual police officers standing 50 feet away from them.

  12. Rounding up drug users and force them to get clean and send them to mental institutes until they get well is the only way for this plaza will ever look like rendering. Until people are willing to change the law and make it happen, this plaza is a lost cause no matter how big and green the lawn they put in.

  13. Until San Francisco gets serious about the criminals who roam its streets, none of this will work. It’s all very expensive lipstick on a pig. Okay, now that I’ve riled you up, start screaming. . .

  14. This is all a pipe dream until they deal with the uncivil and uncivilized people who live and hang out around Civic Center.

    Step 1: Rezone the SROs
    Step 2: Build ‘navigation centers’ far away from civilization. Once the navigation center teaches its denizens how to navigate life, they can navigate back to civilization
    Step 3: Don’t allow people to sleep on the street if there is room in a navigation center.
    Step 4: Enforce loitering and sit-lie ordinances, pass more if needed

    1. Extremely Boomer mentality there. If the problem isn’t near me and I can’t see it, it’s solved. Stupendously dumb strategy.

      1. not totally dumb. its not just about not seeing it. Its also about not having your children have to see people pooping on the street, naked methheads ranting, or stepping on needles. Yes, the sickest of the sick need to be places outside of a concentrated pedestrian area. if we are just talking about poor people who fell on hard times and are homeless, different story. but the addicts need to go

      2. And the issue here is to make Civic Center safer, not solving the drug problems in SF – obviously, there is no way to design a public place that will solve substance dependence. And IMO there is no way to feel safe in a public space where there is rampant drug dealing and use.

        But Anonymous seems happy with the current state of things…

  15. The Fulton Mall renderings are hard (painful) to look at. They are so wildly out of place for the context. This current, cold abstract preoccupation of some architects is already starting to look dated in a bad way. I can already see the urban grime of the glass surfaces creating a creepy public space.

  16. Bummer to see the plan retaining the existing UN Plaza waterfall. The fact that it is sunken below sidewalk grade means it will continue to attract the open-air drug market.

    I’m happy about the rest of the plan, and I do think activation is the necessary first step to cleaning up this area. You can’t really justify kicking out the mentally ill from a public park when there’s really nothing else going on there.

  17. The last thing the city needs is more “open space” in the Civic Center area. As ugly as asphalt streets and parking lots are, at least they are not homeless bedrooms/shooting galleries.

    As long as the City refuses to enforce the relevant laws, the best thing to do with this area is completely open Fulton Street to traffic, from Market to Larkin.

    Filling in the Halprin Fountain? Yeah, great. All the more nooks and crannies to park your shopping cart while you do drug deals and shoot up.

  18. I live in this area. and yeah it looks great. but just like when they redid Jefferson Square Park, in less than a year it will be a sh*thole. I used to volunteer in JSP, there were only about 3 other people who regularly did. Most people who live here refuse to get involved in supporting local organizations because they’re lazy. I gave up spending my Saturdays picking up needles and crap. I don’t mind paying taxes at all to support my fellow citizens down on their luck.

    I really want this to change. We don’t have mental institutions anymore and we think it’s freedom to let these people sit in their own filth. It’s disgusting. We don’t want to pay for them to be humanely housed, so it won’t be long before inhumane suggestions start getting bandied about.

    I worked my ass off to build a life, coming up from poverty. I have sympathy. I don’t however want to look at used needles and human feces and people shooting up every day. I hate that I can’t use the main branch of the library because it smells and the bathrooms are dangerous. Each day I get more and more angry about it. I am angry at our society. At my fellow lazy citizens. At the users and the dealers and cops and the government.

    Pretty soon I won’t mind so much if a Giuliani comes in and wants to start cracking skulls. I’m tired of it.

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