Friday, July 23, 2010

Redeeming Geary and Masonic

Michael Baehr comments:

They can put in a Target, but I'll still call it Mervyn's Heights. I hope the neighborhood gets some good stuff out of the inevitable shakedown that you mentioned, but really the area is kind of irredeemable. Between the lines of cars backing up to get into Trader Joe's, the bizarre gauntlet of traffic signals required to cross between the different stores, and the zooming traffic from Masonic and Geary, that spot is already a nightmare for humans.

Target by itself will never redeem any neighborhood, but it's sure going to make that area a lot less blighted. Target will fill the long-empty 100,000 square feet Mervyns used to occupy, and they have promised to give the outside of the building a much-needed face-lift. They also said the other night that they will be using the display windows that Mervyns didn't use much, and they are going to put in some new landscaping around the massive complex.

The Geary/Masonic intersection is complicated for everyone, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. I shop at that Trader Joes occasionally, and, as a pedestrian, it took me a few trips to master the traffic lights. You just have to be careful, which is true of any busy intersection in the city.

Trader Joes still has that lane for motorists waiting to get into its parking lot, but I notice that the line is a lot shorter lately, due, presumably, to the recession.

A shortage of parking creates more problems than too much parking. A few years ago, when Whole Foods was first proposed at Haight and Stanyan and parking was being discussed, I counted the parking spaces at Trader Joes at Geary and Masonic; it has only 61 spaces, whereas the Lucky Market at Fulton and Masonic has a 250-space garage underneath. That's why you never see any traffic jams---and no cars circling looking for parking---at Fulton and Masonic: there's plenty of parking under the store. You can even park there and eat lunch at one of the restaurants across the street. But the Trader Joes parking congestion on Masonic doesn't impact traffic on Geary or the complex that Target is going to occupy.

The Whole Foods at Franklin and California has 90 parking spaces, which isn't bad, but it can jam up, especially after 5:00, since a lot of people seem to drive there after work to shop. The Whole Foods project at Haight and Stanyan has been scaled back to the footprint of the old Cala Market, with only 42 parking spaces in that lot (the original proposal included an underground garage with 114 parking spaces for the store). That parking lot is too small for Whole Foods, and I predict that when the store opens there will be serious traffic congestion around the Haight/Stanyan intersection.

But the old Mervyns/Sears complex that Target is going to occupy has 609 parking spaces, which means that people driving to the store can get in and out quickly with a minimum of circling looking for parking.

By the way, that complex has always had other businesses besides Mervyns. It now houses Office Depot, a Best Buy, a Subway sandwich shop, a tanning salon, a beauty supply, something called "Edible Arrangements," a "dental suite," and a Payless shoe store.

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