17th Street Trial Plaza Builds Sense of Community Character

The 17th Street Plaza has been monitored and evaluated since its implementation as part of the Pavement to Parks trial process. Before and after the opening of the plaza, The Great Streets Project collected pedestrian counts, street perception surveys and timed photographs to analyze how the space was being utilized. We’ve compiled our observations into the 17th Street Trial Plaza User and Perception Analysis. We are also finalizing a survey of the businesses in the area to gauge their perception of the impact on their stores.

Some of the most interesting findings of our work were from the pedestrian surveys, where we could get a sense of how people viewed the area. Residents of the Castro neighborhood who felt a strong sense of community character rose from 76% to 89% after the plaza opened and those who considered the pedestrian experience of the area as positive rose from 79% to 84%. This was an unexpected but extremely interesting development, and one of the oft-overlooked impacts of improving street spaces; this is not just a “transportation” project, it’s a community building project. In the not surprising category, given that there was nowhere to gather before the trial plaza, visitors are staying in the area as much as eight times as long and are now actively engaging with each other.

Based on such observations and wide community feedback, the trial period for the plaza has been extended for four more months. We will continue to monitor the use of this space and publish our findings.

Special thanks to all of the volunteers that have helped collect this data.




… After


July 15, 2009 at 10:45 pm 1 comment

Enrique Penalosa Inspires San Francisco

Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogota, internationally acclaimed consultant to world leaders and, now, recipient of the prestigious Goteborg Award, inspired crowds of San Franciscans in a whirlwind three day trip last week. The San Francisco Great Streets Project organized meetings for Penalosa with Mayor Newsom, key decisionmakers in city agencies, the Chamber of Commerce, and many more people.

Penalosa is often known for his role in creating Transmilenio, Bogota’s Bus Rapid Transit System, and for expanding his city’s version of Sunday Streets to 120 kilometers of Bogota every Sunday for seven hours. But his message to San Francisco was not to adopt any particular project, but rather to rethink how we see our streets; they are more than a means, they are an extremely valuable end in and of themselves. Moreover, he reminded us that all decisions about street design and management are political, not technical.

His message could not have come at a more opportune time for San Francisco, with the passage of the city’s bike plan, successful expansion of Sunday Streets and now the City’s new trial approach to creating new public spaces through the Pavement to Parks initiative. This is the time to start thinking about — and acting upon — even more ambitious plans for our city’s streets. As Penalosa asked, how much would your life improve if there was a miles long pedestrian promenade where you could stroll, shop, sit or bike just a few blocks from your home?

Coverage of the events at: SF Chronicle, SF Streetsblog and Ecoworldy

Special thanks to ITDP for helping make Penalosa’s visit possible.

July 10, 2009 at 7:25 pm Leave a comment

Streetsfilms focuses on the 17th Street Plaza

We’re pleased to share a new short documentary produced by Paul Jaffe of Streetfilms that looks at the process that was involved in constructing and opening the 17th Street Plaza, as well as the responses of people utilizing the space. Thanks, Paul!

June 29, 2009 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

Enrique Penalosa coming to San Francisco

The San Francisco Great Streets Project is excited to be hosting Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia and international expert on the urban public realm, on July 6th and 7th. Penalosa will be speaking at a variety of events while he’s in town, including a public forum on Tuesday, July 7th at the Main San Francisco Public Library:

Sunday Streets to Great Streets: Enrique Penalosa, Former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia
& San Francisco Great Streets Project Launch Celebration

Tuesday, July 7th 5:30-7:30 pm
Koret Auditorium, Main Public Library in San Francisco (100 Larkin)

Valet bicycle parking provided.

Meet Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia and internationally-renowned innovator in the fields of transportation, housing and land use for large cities, as he discusses how San Francisco can learn from international best practices in urban public space development. San Francisco’s successful Sunday Streets program is based on Penalosa’s wildly popular “Ciclovia” system in Bogota. Thanks to Mayor Penalosa, Bogota has also become an international gold standard for Bus Rapid Transit. Penalosa will discuss how San Francisco can accomplish and benefit from further improvements to our city’s public realm.

This event will also celebrate the launch of the San Francisco Great Streets Project, a new campaign to catalyze the return of our city’s streets to their rightful place as the center of civic life in this wonderful city by working with government, business, and neighborhood leaders to test, analyze and institutionalize placemaking.

This is not a library sponsored event.

Penalosa’s visit is courtesy of ITDP.   

Enrique Penalosa’s Biography

An accomplished public official, economist and administrator, Enrique Peñalosa completed his three-year term as Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia on December 31, 2000. While mayor, Peñalosa was responsible for numerous dramatic improvements to the city and its citizens. He promoted a city model giving priority to children and public spaces and restricting private car use, building hundreds of kilometers of sidewalks, bicycle paths, pedestrian streets, greenways, and parks. After organizing a Car-Free Day in 2000, he was awarded the Stockholm Challenge Award and rewarded by a referendum vote endorsing an annual car-free day and further major public street improvements. He was integral in developing the TransMilenio bus rapid transit system.

Peñalosa also led efforts to improve Bogotá’s marginal neighborhoods through citizen involvement, planted more than 100,000 trees and turned a deteriorated downtown avenue into a dynamic pedestrian public space. He helped transform the city’s attitude from one of negative hopelessness to one of pride and hope, developing a model for urban improvement based on the equal rights of all people to transportation, education, and public spaces.

Previous positions include Managing Director, Arthur D. Little Consulting, Colombian Office; President, Colombian Institute of Mortgage Banks (ICAV); Economic Secretary to the Colombian President; Dean of the Business Administration Faculty at Externado de Colombia University; Commercial and Administrative Vice-president of the Bogotá Water and Sewage Company, among others. He was elected to the House of the Representatives of the Colombian Congress and to the Bogotá City Council.

He has been awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship, National Simon Bolivar Prize for Journalism; Prize of the Society of Economists of Bogotá and Cundinamarca; selected in 1986 as one of the Best Young Colombian Leaders by the Cámara Junior and was awarded a full Scholarship to Duke University. The City of Bogotá was awarded the National Colombian Architecture Prize, thanks to Peñalosa’s park development program. Most recently, Penalosa was awarded the Goteborg Award for Sustainable Development for his design and application of urban development in Colombia’s capital city.

June 22, 2009 at 10:03 pm Leave a comment

New Campaign Partner

The San Francisco Great Streets Project is thrilled to welcome SPUR as a new, core partner on the campaign. SPUR’s long history of thoughtful planning and policy development on a wide range of community development issues in San Francisco are a welcome addition to the Great Streets Project.

June 22, 2009 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

17th Street Plaza Community Opening Tomorrow

This is a reminder that there will be a neighborhood opening celebration sponsored by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefits District tomorrow – Saturday May 16th, 12:30 p.m. at the new 17th St. Plaza (at Castro and Market Streets). The event will kick off with Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and will include the Sister’s of Perpetual Indulgence, Mission High Guitar Club and the Gay Men’s Chorus.

May 15, 2009 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

Better Streets, Better Business

The plaza is already being put to good use.

This morning the Mayor, Supervisor Dufty and a large array of City agency staff, community members and general well wishers celebrated the opening of the new 17th Street trial project in the Castro.

In honor of the occasion, the Great Streets Project released “Better Streets, Better Business,” a compilation of studies from around San Francisco and the world linking public realm improvements to business benefits. The Great Streets Project has begun analyzing the 17th Street plaza and will be surveying businesses after a reasonable amount of time to determine if and how the plaza has impacted their sales. Well-executed and managed plazas and other public realm improvements often create significant economic benefits to the surrounding community. It remains to be seen whether the 17th Street plaza will be a boost to the Castro Street commercial area.

Photo courtesy of Jamison Weiser.

May 13, 2009 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

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Our Mission

The San Francisco Great Streets Project catalyzes the return of our city’s streets to their rightful place as the center of civic life in this wonderful city by working with government, business, and neighborhood leaders to test, analyze and institutionalize placemaking.


Kit Hodge
San Francisco Great Streets Project
995 Market Street, #1550
San Francisco, CA 94103
kit [at] sfgreatstreets DOT org
415-431-2453 x313