Bay Area/ San Francisco
Published on February 23, 2015
Completion Of Oak And Fell Streetscape Enhancements DelayedPhotos: Andrew Dudley / Hoodline

Since August of last year, construction has taken up lanes of Oak and Fell streets, rerouted pedestrians through a labyrinth of orange barriers, and caused noise and upheaval for many of the neighborhood's residents. With the plethora of construction sites around the city these ones blend in to the rest—like the PG&E construction on Divisadero. But what is it all for, and when will it end?

One of those questions is easier to answer than the other. 

Sewer Replacement

The Department of Public Works has slowly been replacing the city's outdated sewer pipes, but tries to time the construction with other infrastructure needs such as road repaving, thus the name "Streetscape Enhancement Project". The project has been tacked on to the Oak Street and Fell Street Pedestrian and Bike Safety Project to theoretically coincide with the bike lane improvements along both Oak and Fell. Aside from replacing sewer pipes, the city will be using this opportunity to renovate pavements, create bulb-outs and improved pedestrian intersections, build new curb ramps, and add in bioretention units.

In other words, it's a project that provides out-of-sight infrastructure updates like sewer pipe replacement, and combines them with obvious changes like smooth clean cement and neater intersections. 

A new sidewalk bulbout at Oak and Baker.

Rain Gardens

For environmentalists, this construction is good news. Bioretention units, or "rain gardens" as they're often called, are generally constructed of rocks and soil, allowing a natural filtration of pollutants and helping to direct storm water out of our streets. This means less problematic flooding at the intersection of Oak and Baker, and a smarter city pavement. 

All this sounds great, but for any resident of the area it's starkly apparent how infrequently the construction sites are being worked on. With much of the construction halted at the intersections of Fell and Broderick and Oak and Baker, it's rare to see construction workers on site, and much of the work is covered in plastic tarps, weighed down by sandbags. The project was meant to be wrapped up by January of 2015, but with gaping holes still in Oak and Fell streets it doesn't appear to be finishing up anytime soon.

A bike lane barrier being installed at Oak and Divisadero

Protected Bike Lanes

One bit of good news on the construction front: as we reported earlier this month, crews have begun installing the concrete barriers that will separate the bike lanes on Oak and Fell streets from auto traffic.

Pavement along sections of Oak and Fell between Baker and Scott was being torn up last week in preparation for the installation. The barriers will be five-foot-wide concrete medians, atop which will sit planter boxes to catch rainwater and provide some aesthetic appeal.

The protected bike lines have been in the works for nearly four years, with the SFMTA first exploring the idea back in June of 2011. The full board eventually approved the project in October of 2012, with an original targeted completion date of Spring 2013. That November, the Fell Street bike lane was installed, with its Oak Street counterpart arriving six months later, in May of 2013. And a month after that, soft pylons were installed along certain sections of the paths, including Oak Street between Divisadero and Scott.

According to Dadisi Najib from the SF Public Works, we should see Oak Street from Baker to Scott to get protected bike lanes first. Construction is already underway, and should run from February 18th to March 20th. 

As for Fell Street, safety barriers will be built from Scott to Baker streets next month. Construction will take place from March 2nd to April 30th. 

In regards to the sewer work and the Streetscape Enhancement Project, the Department of Public Works only states "mid-April", which is three months past its expected January completion date. We'll keep you updated on how things progress.