Complete Streets Initiative

Livable City is working to ensure that city streets, which cover over 25% of San Francisco’s land area, are designed and maintained as a safe and attractive public spaces that support walking, bicycling, and public transit.

Our current efforts are to improve the City’s designs and standards to improve the appearance, safety and accessibility of city streets, protect neighborhoods from excessive traffic, and remove dangerous conditions for bicylists and pedestrians. Livable City supports streetscapes that integrate street trees and landscaping, energy- and resource-efficiency standards, and that minimize impermeable pavements to improve the livability of the city while reducing environmental impacts and infrastructure costs.


Livable City’s complete streets campaign works at three scales: citywide reform, neighborhood planning, and individual projects. We are working citywide to improve streets standards, improve the effectiveness, responsiveness, and coordination of city departments, and increase funding opportunities for complete streets projects. At the neighborhood scale, we are working to empower every neighborhood to create its own complete streets plan, and to secure the funding and bureaucratic support to implement neighborhood plans that have already been completed. We are also engaged in innovative projects all over the city to create complete streets, and that demonstrate what is possible.

Livable City has been participating in the City’s Better Streets Plan. We submitted extensive comments and recommendations on the Better Streets Plan Draft for Public Review in December 2008. A revised Better Streets Plan, as well as a Better Streets Institutional Analysis prepared by the Controller’s Office, were completed and adopted in 2010.

 Our Current Projects

  • Two-way Haight Street. Livable City supports the SFMTA’s proposal for restoring two-way traffic to the first block of Haight Street. This will allow the Muni 6 and 71 routes to run in both directions on Haight, which will improve speed and reliability for over 20,000 daily riders. The project includes pedestrian safety improvements at the Haight-Gough-Market intersection, one of the most dangerous in the City.
  • Folsom, Howard, 7th, and 8th Streets. Livable City helped draft the Western SoMa Plan, which called for transforming Folsom and Howard Streets into neighborhood-serving streets, with two-way transit on Folsom, wider sidewalks, and cycling improvements. The plan called for restored two-way traffic and other improvements on 7th and 8th Streets, including completing a two-way bicycle connection along 7th from Market to 16th Streets.
  • Ellis and Eddy Streets. The Tenderloin/Little Saigon Transportation Plan called for several one-way to two-way conversions in the Tenderloin, including McAllister, Eddy, Ellis, Jones, and Leavenworth. McAllister is complete, and Ellis and Eddy are under discussion as a mitigation for the massive CPMC hospital proposed at Geary and Van Ness.
  • Ocean, Geneva, and San Jose Avenues. The streets surrounding Balboa Park Station are dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. SFMTA has identified some near term in their Balboa Park Area Pedestrian and Bicycle Connection project, including new crosswalks and signals, pedestrian safety improvements, bicycle improvements, and safety improvements to nearby freeway ramps, and secured funding for crosswalk improvements where Geneva meets I-280, and for a new crosswalk where BART’s new Ocean Avenue Entrance meets Ocean Avenue. Livable City is advocating for fixes to the dangerous freeway ramps on Ocean and Geneva Avenues, and lighting, cycing, and walking improvements on the streets surrounding the station.
  • Eastern Waterfront – The Embarcadero, Terry Francois, and Cargo Way. Livable City supported the 2009 Parks Bond, which is funding a set of modest improvements to the Blue Greenway from China Basin to Hunters Point. Livable City is also advocating for dedicated cycle paths along the Bay Trail, including Marina Boulevard, The Embarcadero, Terry Francois Boulevard, and Cargo Way.
  • Cesar Chavez Street. Livable City has been working to complete pedestrian and cycling connections between the Waterfront, Bayview, and Mission neighborhoods through The Hairball as part of the Planning Department’s Cesar Chavez Street East Plan.
  • Building Standards. Livable City worked with Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi to overhaul the Planning Code’s standards for building fronts, to encourage or require pedestrian-oriented street-fronting building frontages, limit driveway widths and locations to preserve and enhance pedestrian safety and amenity, and permit exceptions from off-street parking requirements to protect historic buidings, landmark trees, and important walking and cycling streets.
  • Street, Block, and Open Space standards. Livable City has developed and proposed Planning Code standards and incentives for creating pedestrian-oriented streets, small blocks, and public open spaces in large developments.

Our Citywide Strategy

Livable City’s citywide strategy for complete streets is integrated with and complements our land use vision (City of Neighborhoods), our strategy for an effective and seamless transit network, and our campaign for a citywide Greenway Network.

The citywide strategy has ten elements.

  • Reclaiming the Central City
  • Great Streets Network
  • Neighborhood Centers
  • Home Zones
  • Green Network
  • strategy and priorities
  • improve standards and metrics
  • improve planning and public participation
  • create stable funding and improve project coordination
  • improve maintenance and enforcement

Reclaiming the Central City

Downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods – SoMa, Tenderloin, and Chinatown – are San Francisco’s densest neighborhoods, residents of these neighborhoods have the City’s highest rates of transit use, walking, and cycling.

Unfortunately, these neighborhoods, which contribute least to traffic and environmental impacts, are subjected to unhealthy and unsafe levels of traffic and traffic-related noise and pollution, these neighborhoods often lack nearby green and well-designed parks, sidewalks, and plazas.

Livable City’s strategy for reclaiming the central city includes:

  • street reclaiming; one-way to two-way street conversion, widen sidewalks where needed, complete the bicycle network, especially north of Market.
  • get transit moving: transit-priority measures, improved conections, accessible transit, proof-of-payment.
  • create great plazas and parks: improve existing plazas and parks, reclaim streets and parking lots for public spaces.
  • alleyways: revitalize and pedestrianize alleyways, preserve and extend alleyway networks.
  • pedestrian-friendly buildings (pay attention to street level; restore historic buildings, form-based controls for new buildings, encourage the retrofit of modernist buildings to make them pedestrian-friendly.

Downtown: see Livable City’s Livable Downtown page for details.

Chinatown: Livable City supports reclaiming Chinatown’s Alleyways, improving Grant Avenue as a pedestrian-oriented street, and improving public transit and pedestrian safety on Stockton and Kearny streets, and making Washington and Clay streets more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly.

Tenderloin: see our Tenderloin page for details.

Civic Center: San Francisco’s Civic Center is rich in history and distinguished architecture, but its streets and public spaces are badly designed and dominated by traffic. Livable City supports pedestrianizing Fulton Street between Larkin and Hyde, narrowing the excessively-wide sections of Polk, Grove, Larkin, and McAllister streets that isolate City Hall and Civic Center Plaza, and improving Grove Street for cycling and walking, and McAllister for walking, cycling, and transit.

South of Market: The South of Market neighborhoods are made up of large blocks which are divided by a series of intimate alleyways. Livable City is working to green and calm SoMa’s wonderful residentiall alleyways, and extend the alleyway network where it s lacking. We are working to implement the street improvements and green open spaces called for in the Transbay and Rincon Hill Plans, and convert Folsom, Howard, 7th, and 8th from harsh, fast-moving, one way streets to slower, greener two-way streets that put pedestrians, cyclists, and transit first.

Removing the Central Freeway: Extending Octavia Boulevard into South of Market to replace the aging Central Freeway would help revitalize the neighborhood. Removing the freeway would reconnect the Mission and SoMa neighborhoods, reclaim land for housing and other uses, and reduce blight and improve safety. The freeway is almost 60 years old, and the roadway is nearing the end of its useful life. The Transportation Authority should study alternatives to a simple rebuilding of the overhead structure, so that we we have a better alternative ready when the freeway needs replacement.

Great Transit Streets

Livable City is working to make sure that the dozen or so corridors that comprise the city’s rapid transit network, focus both on improving transit speed, reliability, and accessibility, and on creating great streets that integrate pedestrian, bicycle, and streetscape elements with light rail and rapid bus projects.

  • Market Street
  • Mission Street
  • Geary Street – Geary Boulevard
  • Van Ness Avenue
  • Columbus Avenue: The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is working a Columbus Avenue NeighborhoodTransportation Study along with RenewSF, a coalition of neighbors and businesses dedicated to improving San Francisco’s Columbus Avenue. Livable City has provided technical and policy support, and helped publicize RenewSF events.
  • N-Judah (Duboce, Carl, Irving, Judah)
  • 3rd Street
  • West Portal Avenue
  • 19th Avenue
  • Ocean Avenue
  • The Embarcadero
  • Potero Avenue – Bayshore Boulevard – San Bruno Avenue
  • Haight Street
  • McAllister and Fulton streets

Neighborhood Centers

San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, and vibrant, walkable neighborhood centers make San Francisco more livable and sustainable.

  • Public Spaces: create or restore a great public space in the heart of each neighborhood. These include:
      • Castro: Harvey Milk Plaza
      • Mission: BART station plazas
      • North Beach: Washington Square, Piazza San Francisco (Vallejo Street between Grant and Columbus)
      • Glen Park: BART plaza
      • Balboa Park: new plazas at the Geneva and Ocean entrances to the BART station, Phelan Loop park
      • Excelsior: Persia Triangle Park
      • Crocker/Amazon: Naples/Geneva plaza
      • Hayes Valley: Patricia’s Green
      • Noe Valley: 24th and Castro
      • Fisherman’s Wharf: Jefferson Street, Waterfront Park, Joseph Conrad Square
  • Walkable Commercial Streets
      • Castro Street (Market to 19th)
      • Divisadero Street: The Department of Public Works (DPW) secured $3 million in Federal funding for greening and streetscaping Divisadero. DPW and MTA will present their findings and a block-by-block proposal for greening, streetscaping, and potential traffic and transit changes. See DPW’s project page for more information.
      • Hayes Street: Livable City has been working with neighbors and businesses to restore two-way traffic on Hayes. See our Market & Octavia page for more information.
      • Leland Avenue: Livable City is participating in the community-driven effort make Leland Avenue, the main commercial street in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley neighborhood, into a complete street.
      • Valencia Street: The Better Valencia Project is a neighborhood effort dedicated to making San Francisco’s Valencia Street a complete street. Livable City is actively involved in this neighborhood coalition.
  • Planning Controls and Pedestrian-friendly Building Design
  • Parking Management

Home Zones

Home zones are residential streets that are designed around pedestrians and cyclists, and limit traffic to low speeds. Home zones are designed to allow everyone, including children and seniors, to move safely on foot and on bike.

San Francisco’s General Plan has a decades-old policy that designates most of the city’s residential neighborhoods as “protected residential areas”, yet has never prioritized making these home zones a reality. Livable City is working to create a process and standards for creating home zones, and getting the city to commit staff and resources to implementing them.

  • traffic calmed zones
  • residential alleyways
  • residential boulevards: calm traffic and improve walking and cycling on the city’s residential boulevards, including
    • San Jose Avenue and Guerrero StreetSan Jose/Guerrero Coalition to Save Our Streets is a coalition dedicated to improving the San Jose/Guerrero Neighborhood. Livable City serves as fiscal sponsor to the coalition.
    • Oak and Fell streets
    • Dolores Street
    • Cesar Chavez Street
    • Octavia Boulevard
    • Monterey Boulevard (road diet and bike lanes)
    • Junipero Serra Boulevard
    • Sunset Boulevard
    • Alemany Boulevard
  • residential parking management
  • pedestrian-friendly buildng designs

Green Network

  • Bay trail
    • Cargo Way Streetscape Project: Cargo Way is an industrial street in Hunters Point that serves as part of the Bay Trail and the city’s Blue Greenway, as well as supporting the industrial and maritime uses in the area. Livable City was part of a team working for the Redevelopment Agency and Port of San Francisco to develop a plan for a greener, more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly street. The Cargo Way Plan is now complete; see the Redevelopment Agency’s India Basin Industrial Park web page for further information, or contact Kelley Kahn to get on the Cargo Way email list:
    • Embarcadero: Livable City is working to widen sidewalks along the Embarcadero, add a bi-directional bicycle path on the water side, improve pedestrian crossings of the Embarcadero, reduce parking over the water, and increase the speed, reliabilty, capacity, and accessibility of waterfront transit. Livable City serves on the Port’s Embarcadero Task Force.
  • coast trail
  • peaks
  • creeks

Strategy and Priorities

Better Streets Plan

In 2006, Livable City led a coalition of transportation and public space advocates to insist that the city develop an integrated, multi-modal, multi-objective, and multi-agency approach to designing and planning San Francisco’s streets. The result is the Better Streets Plan, a merger of sorts between the Planning Department’s Streetscape Master Plan and the MTA’s Pedestrian Master Plan.

In September 2007, The Planning Department held two public meetings to present their draft street types. The street types are meant to be the template for future street improvements. Each street type has a set of basic improvements that will, hopefully, be standard elements on all streets of that type, as well as a menu of additional options that could be applied to individual streets. The Planning Department released a Draft for Public Review in 2008. We submitted extensive comments and recommendations on the draft in December 2008. The Better Streets Plan was adopted in December 2010.

Citywide streets assessment

Livable City will work to secure funding for a citywide assessment of existing street conditions, and where they fall short of complete streets standards. This assessment can form the basis of a complete streets action plan to guide future years’ capital plans.

Improve Standards and Metrics

Complete Streets Standards

Livable City will work to advance the inter-departmental effort to create a comprehensive set of complete streets standards. These standards should address all transportation modes and street types, and include environmental and aesthetic standards. The city’s standards should include both minimum (least acceptable) and optimum (best possible) values.

Improve Planning and Public Participation

Neighborhood transportation plans

Livable City will work with the Planning Department to get the Mission Streetscape and Transportation Plan underway, Secure funding for a comprehensive Downtown and SoMa Transportation and Streetscape Plan, and to fund complete streets plans for other neighborhoods.

Create Stable Funding and Improve Project Coordination

Address San Francisco’s systemic street capital shortfall

Livable City is working to create a blue-ribbon committee, composed of representatives of users of the transportation system (pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists, people with disabilities, etc), as well as neighborhood, civic, environmental, and urban greening and beautification groups and city staff, to recommend solutions to the city’s long-term capital funding shortfalls in the aftermath of the failure of Prop. B at the ballot box last fall. The committee’s recommendations should complete streets thinking into an approach to these infrastructure deficits that is equitable and both financially and ecologically sustainable.

Improve Maintenance and Enforcement

  • Improve government organization to improve street maintenance and accountability
  • increase funding for maintainance to keep streetscape in a state of good repair
  • automobile user fees that reflect true costs
  • sort out maintenance ‘gray areas’: sidewalks, street trees, street lighting, unaccepted streets, etc.
  • consistent enforcement of transit, bike, and ped access/safety

Complete Streets Ideas and Resources

“Intersection Repair” by Street Films 10 minute film, available online at the Street Films web site

City Repair in Portland, Oregon hosts an annual Village Building Convergence where hundreds of people come together to build diverse projects for the benefit of their communities and to take back their streets via a process known as the Intersection Repair.

Intersection Repair involves painting streets with a high-visiblity mural that creates a public square for residents to gather and one which gently encourages drivers to slow down when approaching these spaces. Over time the neighbors further enhance the transformation by adding amenities like benches, community bulletin boards, and introducing gardens & art. As you’ll see, the possibilities are endless.

Intersection Repair is the latest film by the amazing Clarence Eckerson for Street Films, which has created dozens of short films about making more livable cities.

The Case for Physically Separated Bike Lanes

The amazing Clarence Eckerson of the Open Planning Project has created another short film, The Case for Physically Separated Bike Lanes, posted on New York’s addictive (for us, anyhow) Streetsblog.


The film makes the case for physically separating bicycle lanes from traffic on New York’s busy streets, where bike lanes are plagued with the same problems we have in San Francisco: intrusions by double parked and right-turning cars, with the same lax enforcement by the transportation department. The film features interviews with New York City cyclists and advocates, as well as Livable City heroes like former Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa, Danish urbanist Jan Gehl, and former New York City Deputy Transportation Commissioner “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz (would that we had traffic engineers like Gridlock Sam…)

Share or Segregate?

Are segregated bike lanes appropriate for every bike route? Possibly not. The detractors of separated lanes cite possible difficulties at intersections, where bicycles need to merge with right-turning traffic.

Another idea is that of shared space; creating narrow streets where cars move at slow speeds, and share the right-of-way with pedestrians and bicycles. The Dutch woonerf is one sort of shared street.

The video flashes an image from Transport for London’s excellent Cycling Design Standards (image to the right). London’s approach is to create segregated lanes on streets with high traffic volumes and speeds, but to calm lower-traffic streets to create shared spaces.

Lessons From New York: The Hudson River Greenway

The Hudson River Greenway, with its separated bicycle path and pedestrian promenade along the water’s edge, is featured prominently in the film. The path attracts 5000 cyclists on an average day, and feels usable and safe for both experienced cyclists and inexperienced ones.

Last year, Clarence produced a 12-minute film called Lessons from San Francisco: The Embarcadero Freeway Removal. The film features Livable City’s Tom Radulovich, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition‘s Andy Thornley, and historian and activist Chris Carlsson, talking about the Embarcadero and Octavia Boulevard.

The Hudson River Greenway, with its bicycle and pedestrian paths and green piers, is a great model for San Francisco’s Embarcadero. While the Hudson River Greenway could have benefitted from a waterfront streetcar line like the Embarcadero’s F line, San Francisco would do well to create a separated bicycle path on the bay side of the Embarcadero like New York’s.

Ongoing Planning Efforts

Market Street: Livable City is participating in the City’s Better Market Street planning study. We are advocating for a car-free Market Street that is a great street for walking, cycling, and public transit, with  better lighting, signage, and wayfinding, and great public open spaces at Hallidie Plaza and United Nations Plaza. We are also working to improve Mid-Market

24th Street BART Plazas: BART hosted a community design workshop on Thursday, June 15 to help shape the future of the plazas at the 24th Street BART Station. The meeting revisited the 2001 for the 24th Street plazas, reviewing lessons learned from the 16th Street improvements, and prioritizing the first improvements for 24th Street Station. BART’s plans for the plazas and station can be found here. A grant application for a first phase of improvements was submitted based on the input from the workshop.

Architectural rendering of the Southeast Plaza at the 24th & Mission BART station. Renovation & construction of the plaza is due to finish in early 2014.

Architectural rendering of the Southeast Plaza at the 24th & Mission BART station. Renovation & construction of the plaza is due to finish in early 2014. Find out more about the project.

Mission Street (from Cesar Chavez to Randall) Transportation and Pedestrian Safety Workshop: Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center hosted a public workshop on transportation and Pedestrian safety on Saturday, July 15 as part of the Transportation Authority’s Mission Street Community Vision project. The meeting will be held at the Bernal Gateway Apartments, 3101 Mission Street at Cesar Chavez. Visit the study website for more information.

Balboa Park Station Area: The Balboa Park Station Area Plan, created several years ago by the planning department, envisioned a revitalized and reconnected neighborhood centered on Balboa Park Station, where BART, Muni Metro, and Muni bus lines converge. The Planning department held a “check-in” meeting on July 24th to discuss the new public plaza at the Phelan Loop, near Phelan and Ocean; a residential and retail project on the Kragen Auto site on Ocean Avenue; an update on the Muni-led effort to redesign the Balboa Park BART/Muni station, and a review of new zoning, parking regulations, and design guidelines. Visit the plan website for more details.

Past Successes

Livable City worked hard to make 2006 the year of the Complete Street. Our goal is that, starting in the 2006-2007 budget year, that every street project in San Francisco is a complete streets project.

  • Complete Streets Ordinance: In 2005, Livable City worked with Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi on a resolution in support of complete streets. later that year, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi authored the Complete Streets Ordinance [PDF version], which requires that street resurfacing projects be coordinated with bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements and upgrades. It gave city departments a year to develop a plan for implementing the ordinance, including development of new standards that address pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access and safety, as well as street lighting, landscaping, and street trees.
  • Better Streets Ordinance: Livable City organized in support of the Supervisor McGoldrick’s Better Streets Ordinance, which was adopted in February 2006. [PDF version] Together with Walk San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Livable City worked with Supervisor McGoldrick to include provisions that expand public participation, ensure that faster and more complete implementation.
  • Streetscape Master Plan and Pedestrian Master Plan: Livable City led a coalition of advocates to integrate the Planning Department’s Streetscape Master Plan (SMP) with the Municipal Transportation Agency’s Pedestrian Master Plan (PMP) into a multi-modal, multi-objective, multi-agency plan that will, as Planning Director Dean Macris said, “Reinvent the way San Francisco thinks about its streets”. Thanks to our coalition’s efforts, the new integrated planning process will be overseen by the Director’s Working Group, a roundtable of the City’s transportation department heads.
  • Valencia Street: Livable City, as part of the Better Valencia Project, worked with neighbors, transportation advocates, and city agencies to develop a complete streets plan for Valencia Street, which will transform the street into a great walking and bicycling street. In June, the Department of Public Works team presented a design include much wider sidewalks, pedestrian bulb outs at the corners, a wider bike lane and parking lane, and landscaping, lighting, and street trees. (click here for the City’s presentation). Livable City worked to secure funding for streetscape improvements between 15th and 19th streets, which were completed in 2010.
  • Support neighborhood-based complete streets projects: In 2006, Livable City supported community-based planning efforts on San Jose and Guerrero streets, Cesar Chavez, Valencia Street, Columbus Avenue, Leland Avenue, and other streets.
  • Mint Plaza: Livable City helped secure official approval for Mint Plaza, a 250-foot long block of Jessie Street beside the Old Mint at 5th and Mission Streets that was transformed from a rutted alleyway into new pedestrian plaza. The project is sponsored by the Martin Building Company, and was funded will be built through an innovative public-private partnership. It is the first of what we hope will be many transformations of downtown streets into vital public spaces as envisioned in Livable City’s Livable Downtown Initiative.