Annie Alley – Creating Open Space in a Neglected Alley

We are working hard to reclaim our public spaces and ensure privately-owned places are still welcoming to everyone. Public rights-of-way – streets and alleyways – make up about a quarter of San Francisco’s land area. Projects that reclaim alleyways as neighborhood-serving public places with greening, traffic-calming, and pedestrianization are moving forward in 2015.

Living Alleys, also known as woonerfs, are shared space alleyways that prioritize pedestrian use and open space, using special paving, traffic calming, lighting, seating, green landscaping, and other design features to indicate that vehicles are visitors and pedestrians have primacy across the full width of the right-of-way.

Pedestrianized alleyways, or paseos, are closed to auto traffic. Some alleyways, like Maiden Lane in Union Square, are pedestrian spaces for part of the day, but allow delivery and other auto access at other times. Others, like Annie Street, are working to become permanent paseos.

In November of last year, a block of Annie Street between Mission and Ambrose Bierce streets was transformed into Annie Street Plaza, with seating and landscaping. The Hearst Corporation, which owns the nearby parking garage, initially supported the plaza, but appealed several months later to tear out the plaza. After an outpouring of community support, Hearst eventually dropped its appeal, but now the plaza is at risk of being returned to a desolate alley used for car traffic and disuse.

Over the last several months, Nelson\Nygaard Consulting has conducted an in-depth review of the changes to the street. The results are overwhelmingly positive. The Hearst Corporation’s parking garage continues to earn more revenue than in the past, 44% of survey respondents use the plaza several times each week, and vehicles are impacted by just 110 seconds during peak hours.

Annie Street Plaza faces a critical moment this Thursday, when its permit is up for renewal. If you value public space and want to protect a street dedicated to making it safe to walk, congregate, socialize, and relax in SoMa’s densely trafficked neighborhood, we hope you’ll lend your support the renewal of the Annie Street Alley permit.

You can attend the ISCOTT permit hearing:
Thursday, July 23
9 a.m.
SFMTA 7th Fl, Rm 7080 (1 South Van Ness Blvd.)

Or, if you can’t attend in person, send an e-mail before Thursday morning supporting the plaza. Here is a sample letter you can cut and paste to get you started:

Dear Directors Reiskin and Nuru:

I am writing to urge you to support the reauthorization of Annie Street Plaza as designed. As a San Franciscan who is passionate about our community and creating livable neighborhoods and increased open space, I believe Annie Street Plaza is an irreplaceable asset for residents, employees, students and visitors to the Yerba Buena Neighborhood.

The plaza, a result of years of community visioning and planning with residents and business owners engaged in the process, is a neighborhood gem in a part of San Francisco sorely lacking in open space. Annie Street Plaza provides a wonderful variety of free public programming – an important strategy keeping our alleys safe and friendly, especially in the evenings. The conversion of the plaza to a pedestrian zone also made the area much safer for pedestrians and provides everyone a safe place to gather and relax. It also is a great place to host free programming.

Yerba Buena Community Benefit District (YBCBD) is committed to continuing to maintain and support the project. YBCBD’s post-occupancy traffic study and public life evaluation contains positive findings, with minimal increases in delays (less than two minutes during peak times) to few cars along Jessie Street and overall positive reception to the plaza, its maintenance and programming. Nearly one year after the project’s development, YBCD continues to devote staff time to programming the space, helping to spark the arts, promote health, and improve partnerships with local organizations and businesses.

Annie Street Plaza is an oasis of publicly-accessible open space for one of our City’s most crowded and dense neighborhoods. As this area continues its rapid growth with dense residential and office buildings, Annie Street Plaza’s importance will continue to grow. Please make San Francisco a more livable city by reauthorizing Annie Street Plaza.



CC:      Edwin Lee, Mayor, City and County of San Francisco

Gillian Gillette, Director of Transportation Policy, Office of the Mayor

Jane Kim, Supervisor, District 6

John Rahaim, Director, San Francisco Planning Department

Meryl Klein, Temporary Street Closures I Special Events, SFMTA

Nick Elsner, Bureau of Street-use and Mapping, SFDPW