Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sunday Streets includes Bayview

"Sunday Streets," Mayor Newsom's plan to temporarily close five miles of San Francisco streets from Chinatown to Bayview, delivered mixed results this past Sunday. But future Sundays could benefit from lessons learned as government leaders attempt to adapt a program that has proven popular elsewhere.

San Franciscans responded to an energetic public relations campaign and stunningly beautiful weather to populate the Sunday Streets' route during the event's Labor Day weekend kick-off.

While the event wasn't all some had hoped for, most participants enjoyed a family-friendly, car-free day. Aside from city organizers, supportive involvement came from bicycle advocates like the Bicycle Coalition, and from health and wellness promoters who saw Sunday Streets as an opportunity for physical activity.

The vision for Sunday Streets included exposing residents to more of our multi-cultural city than we might see otherwise. Connecting two culturally-rich neighborhoods, Chinatown and Bayview, seemed like a good first step toward that vision. However, those who attended the event seemed to take advantage of nearby activities before discovering other communities.

In Bayview, the fast track organizing process left some concerned community members in the street's dust. One Bayview businessman reported that details about the streets closure were promised but not delivered. A community organizer said that the city's planning process could have encouraged participation by community groups near the route instead of just government programs.

A friendly contact at the city who was close to the organizing acknowledged that the process was fast-tracked and that there was no community representation at ISCOTT, a multi-agency jury that makes street closure decisions. That, she said, is "normal for something new and innovative."

Organizers say they are tracking lessons learned and trying to adjust, and promise an opportunity for public comment, while business advocates are running the numbers on the economic impact of an event some say kept customers away during one of the most important weekends on the business calendar.

One Quesada Gardens member reported a lively scene at the Bayview end of the streets closure, particularly enjoying a heart-healthy food demonstration. Activities were arranged at the Opera House, Joseph Lee Recreation Center, and YMCA.

The city modeled the Sunday Streets program after Ciclovia, a 25-year old program in Bogata, Columbia. San Francisco is the 3rd U.S. city to hold such an event.

Sunday Streets will happen again on September 15th. Click for more information

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