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North Beach to Get a ‘Slow Street’

5:00 PM PDT on May 14, 2020

At least one "slow street" is coming to North Beach "imminently" according to Lee Hepner, a Legislative Aide to District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin. A formal announcement could come as soon as today "or tomorrow, hopefully soon," he added in a phone interview with Streetsblog.

This development comes on the heels of a new survey which shows an overwhelming majority of North Beach residents want their neighborhood added to the 'slow streets' program. The survey, conducted by the North Beach Neighbors association, shows a full 77 percent of the 130 or so respondents support removing parking or a vehicle lane, at least temporarily, to make more room for people to exercise while maintaining social distance.

From the survey:

In light of COVID-19 guidelines on Social Distancing, North Beach Neighbors conducted a survey of over 100 persons who live and/or work in the neighborhood, asking them for their insights into potential implementation of sidewalk widening to allow easier Social Distancing, as well as outdoor seating bars, restaurants, and cafés. We also asked them about “Slow Streets” in North Beach. A Slow Street is a residential street that has signs and barricades that disallow cut-through driving but still allow local access for residents, delivery, and emergency services.

Streetsblog readers will recall that with the elimination of Holloway, the southernmost neighborhoods are now without any "slow streets." But District 3 was the real elephant in the room when San Francisco first announced its "slow streets" program in April: with neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Polk Gulch, and North Beach, it contains the densest parts of the city, and, arguably, those most in need of space. Thus far, the district has been left out.

"This is a no-brainer when it comes to allowing both safe social distancing, travel to essential businesses, and creating open space for our families. We should have had this in place months ago," wrote Danny Sauter, also with the North Beach Neighbors, who is running for Peskin's seat on the Board of Supervisors in November.

From the survey results
From the survey results
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SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato and Peskin's office are waiting to finalize which street (or streets) will be closed and refused to name the contenders.

The most current map of SFMTA's slow streets program. Image: SFMTA
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Meanwhile, Streetsblog readers will recall that advocates are often frustrated by District 3's Supervisor Aaron Peskin's tendency to water down or even help torpedo safe and livable streets projects from Polk to Stockton Street and the Embarcadero. But this time it seems that, as advocate and Streetsblog contributor Kyle Grochmal quipped below, "Hell has frozen over."

"He’s clearly getting the message (as a result of our harping on the issue, I think) and is at least talking about the possibilities in public," wrote Tony Wessling, Chair of the North Beach Neighbors Complete Streets Committee. Lee wouldn't comment on whether the survey influenced Peskin's decision, however, he pointed to the supervisor's statements on social media about supporting small businesses by allowing them to expand onto the sidewalk and street. As Streetsblog San Francisco and other publications have argued, open street space will be key to allowing people to socially distance as they access small businesses.

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Peskin also tweeted his appreciation of "...staff who have been working with us to think through the complexities of all the moving pieces and competing needs."

Be sure to check out the full survey results HERE.

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