Monday, July 06, 2009

Cutesifying Divisadero

Even allowing for the fact that the article on Divisadero is a fluff piece in the fluffiest part of the Chronicle, the Style section, it can't be allowed to define this neighborhood:

Long known as a gritty stretch of seedy dive bars, failed businesses and low-income housing, Divisadero Street has functioned primarily as a multicultural thoroughfare from Market Street to the Marina, rather than a destination in itself. Recently, however, the section between Haight and McAllister streets, commonly known as the Divisadero Corridor, has seen an influx of vibrant, independently owned boutiques, galleries and bars, along with restaurants like bustling Nopa, which have illuminated an often neglected area. While some stores are north of Fell and the Panhandle and therefore technically in the area known as NoPa, others are decidedly south and aren't---though it's a subject of fierce debate.

In fact Divisadero has never had a lot of "seedy dive bars"---at least in the time I've known this area, and I first lived here way back in 1962. Nor have I ever heard anyone "fiercely debate" about how the area is defined. Only real estate agents care about that.

But it's good that the article gives some of the small businesses in the area some ink, though what they really need---especially the restaurants---is more parking if the area is ever going to be a "destination." And I suspect that, unfortunately, most of these "vibrant" businesses won't survive the recession. 

The Ninth and Irving area shows how it can be done, with some small parking lots that make the area more accessible, even though the metered spaces only allow you an hour without feeding the meter, not enough time to have a leisurely lunch in one of the many restaurants in that neighborhood. That area also has the large underground garage in nearby Golden Gate Park, where you can park as long as you want and walk over to the neighborhood.

The article mentions that a "$3.4 million revitalization plan is also under way between Waller Street and Geary Boulevard to make the street safer and more inviting with bus stop improvements, wider medians planted with trees and upgraded lighting fixtures." This is the party line from our meddlesome city government; whatever they do to city neighborhoods is an "improvement." 

Along with more parking, what Divisadero Street needs most is to be repaved and something useful done with the old Harding Theater property, which, thanks to Supervisor Mirkarimi and Dave Tornheim, is evidently going to remain an eyesore in the middle of the neighborhood for a long time.

Hard to see how the city can do much with the narrow medians without narrowing the traffic lanes or eliminating street parking. As the city's website on the Divisadero "improvements" tells us, the city is going to put a bunch of bulb-outs on the intersections, which will make it even more difficult for traffic---including Muni's #24 line---to negotiate this busy street.

From the city's website:

One of the goals of the Divisadero Streetscape Project is to improve Muni service along the street. In addition to widening sidewalks at 6 locations where there are bus stops, there is the need to decrease delay for buses and improve reliability. On Divisadero, there was a problem particularly in the southbound direction during the evening rush hour when average bus speeds would drop to ~5 mph, or somewhat faster than walking speed. 

This was due primarily to traffic congestion. Initially, the Municipal Transportation Agency proposed a part-time tow-away along the west side of the street from Fulton to Oak to create room for a bus lane during the most congested periods. This idea was presented at community meetings in Summer 2008 but rejected due to concerns of losing parking and adding vehicular capacity on the street directly adjacent [to]the sidewalk.

This is a reference to a community meeting attended by around 40 people, all of whom were underwhelmed by the city's Powerpoint presentation selling this idea, which would have taken away all the street parking on the west side of that part of Divisadero for a bus lane, even though the #24 line is the only bus that runs on Divisadero.

The #24 supposedly runs every ten minutes, but in my experience it doesn't. Hence, during the busiest time of the day all the street parking on the west side of Diviz would have been lost to neighbors and visitors, with an occasional south-bound #24 speeding along next to a sidewalk no longer buffered by parked cars. 

And there would surely have been many other vehicles doing the same thing in an under-used bus lane during the busiest time of day. The assumption seems to be that the southbound traffic on Diviz is somehow more serious than the northbound traffic on the east side of the street, even though, during commute hours, congestion is caused by people traveling in both directions on the #24 and in trucks and cars.

Whether we like it or not, Divisadero Street is going to be cutesified by the city, probably with those faux-antique light fixtures like on Octavia Boulevard and a banner telling us what neighborhood we live in. Let's hope they at least spare us those stupid benches on the medians on Octavia that no one will ever sit on.

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At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

Oh, give me a break. If the parking garage on Broderick hasn't "solved" the parking problem in this neighborhood, nothing will. Where would the extra parking space come from? Perhaps the city should exercise eminent domain and kick some of those nouveau riche assholes out of their "cutesy" homes nearby to make room for more cars!

And how do sidewalk bulb-outs make streets any more difficult for traffic to negotiate a street? That's ridiculous; all they do is hand over some parking real estate to pedestrians—which, coincidentally, has been a proven track record of increasing foot traffic and bringing more business to street side merchants.

Everything the city is proposing to do on Divisadero is an improvement of its current state. Improving Muni service (and the bus stops) encourages the use of public transit, which is a far more efficient mode for getting lots of people into and out of (as well as commuters through) the neighborhood than private autos. Taking a parking lane is actually a great idea: the 24 moves more freely; traffic doesn't have to flow around cars attempting to parallel park in heavy congestion; and, as a result of having a harder time parking in the neighborhood, motorists are encouraged to use Muni rather than driving their car.

As specifically noted in the article, public transit on this corridor is hindered primarily by traffic congestion. The only ways to improve the situation are to either route the traffic elsewhere, or improve the facilities that allow people to make a smarter decision about whether they're going to drive or take public transit.

If you really cared about Muni (rather than just using it as a foil in your idiotic war against cyclists), you would support these improvements.

At 5:42 AM, Anonymous El Grand Mastro said...

Yes! I am trilled that DivCo is finally getting the improvements it needs. As a long time resident,of the area, I concur that the pedestrian aspect of Divis really stinks. Wider sidewalks will do wonders. Frankly, the only people who drive to Divis are the Marina people drawn to the incorrectly named "NoPa" - which is a great restaurant, but a few less Marina jackasses there and I say all-the-better!

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Shawn: Once again you haven't read the material carefully. As the city itself points out, the bus-only lane idea has already been rejected by the community, which means that nothing that remains of all the "improvements" will do anything to help the #24 line move along Diviz. Except for the bulb-outs, the rest of this project is strictly cosmetic---tarting up the median, replacing the light standards, etc.

I often ride the #24 line, and of course it doesn't move quickly on Diviz between McAllister and Oak, but that's more acceptable than MTA's dicking around with the traffic lanes and street parking. There really is no remedy for this congestion that slows Muni until the city installs a system allowing Muni drivers to change traffic lights in favor of Muni vehicles. (Fillmore Street is another street that needs that technology.)

I'll concede on the bulb-out issue; they probably won't hinder traffic, but the only really dangerous intersection for pedestrians is at Diviz and Grove. I never try to cross there and go instead to Hayes or Fulton, where there are traffic lights.

And at least the city isn't going to put a bike lane on Diviz like they're going to do on nearby Masonic, which is going to screw up traffic in the entire area.

At 1:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Viva DivCo! I'm happy my 'hood finally has a name

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, you're the sort who likes to put a label on everything. Maybe the city will put up one of those stupid banners---like the one on lower Haight Street---with the officially approved name of our neighborhood, which you'll find reassuring. But "DivCo" won't make the cut, since it sounds like a financial derivative or a dotcom company. We have Cole Valley, Noe Valley, and Hayes Valley in SF. Based on my observation of the demographic of many of the newcomers to the area, I propose "Twit Valley" for that portion of Divisadero between Haight Street and McAllister Street.

At 9:58 PM, Blogger bigt said...

It's called NOPA, and we should definitely have a logo, like Hayes Valley and Lower Haight, and neighborhood banners. It will help give an identity and a brand for the evolving neighborhood. It would be cool to have it designed by a local artist. In fact, this kind of thing was discussed in the neighborhood planning meetings.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, your idea is the ultimate in TwitThink---your vacuous sense of identity requires that you live in a "branded" neighborhood. Of course it was discussed in your meetings. Why don't you folks just put a bar code on your forehead?


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