After 2 years of construction, Polk Streetscape Project nears completion

After 2 years of construction, Polk Streetscape Project nears completion
The Polk Streetscape project includes new bike lanes, pedestrian safety improvements, and fewer parking spots | Image: SFMTA
By Carrie Sisto - Published on December 26, 2018.

After nearly two years of construction, the Polk Streetscape Project is wrapping up. The project aims to improve safety conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, and to foster community engagement opportunities for local residents. 

The $18 million project spans Polk Street between McAllister and Beach streets. It also includes some upgrades along nearby side streets in an area that previously saw an average of one pedestrian and one biker hit by vehicles each month, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).

Construction to improve safety along the relatively flat north-south route, which is also served by the 19-Polk bus line, commenced in October 2016. With the exception of some final touches such as decorative painting, construction on the project is complete, according to SFMTA.

Polk Streetscape timeline | Image: SFMTA

Safety improvements installed during the project include pedestrian bulb-outs that shorten the crossing distance at crosswalks and increase visibility, traffic signal upgrades, and protected bike lanes

The streetscape project also included improvements to two alleyways in the Lower Polk neighborhood, which added new landscaping, decorative paving, and additional lighting. 

New decorative paving on Fern Alley between Polk and Larkin | Photo: Carrie Sisto/Hoodline

While the loss of parking in the alleys and along protected bike lanes may still prove a challenge to some businesses in the area, neighborhood advocacy group Lower Polk Neighbors (LPN) is largely pleased with the upgrades, LPN board member Chris Schulman told us. 

The work in Austin Alley is nearly complete and the decorative paving in Fern Alley was completed earlier this month, Schulman said.

Austin Alley rendering via Interstice Architects

The alley projects are included in a broader Lower Polk Alleyways District Vision Plan, which LPN developed through a year-long community engagement process aimed at identifying priorities for the 12 blocks of alleyways located within the area. 

Although costs incurred as part of the Fern and Austin Alleys project were largely included in the Polk Streetscape Project budget, funds also came from city fees imposed on construction projects in the neighborhood, including the California Pacific Medical Center campus on Van Ness and Geary streets, said Schulman. LPN and the Lower Polk Community Benefit District have also chipped in some funds for the newly refinished alleys, he added.

Decorative paving and inspirational quotes adorn Fern Alley today | Photo: LPN/Twitter

Now that the project is complete, LPN is actively working to better activate the alleys, particularly in Fern Alley, which has new murals and lighting to accent its decorative paving.

Current plans include attracting a new farmers market and a craft market, Schulman said. The Community Benefit District is planning to hire someone that will orchestrate the alley activation efforts, he added.