A one-block section of Noe Street is set to go car-free this Sunday.
The SFMTA has approved the Castro Merchants' request to close Noe Street between 16th and Market Streets and Beaver Street. Castro residents will be familiar with the footprint as it's the same one used for Castro Farmers' Market on Wednesdays.
The closure is part of the city's Shared Spaces program and will be the Castro's second street closure. Hoodline readers will recall a two-block section of 18th Street has been closed on Sundays since mid-August.
While SFMTA issued the permit October 13, Castro Merchants president Masood Samereie tells Hoodline they wanted to work out all the details before launching Noe St. "We wanted to do it safe and do it right," said Samereie. "We didn't want to be in the news for making a mistake and creating an unsafe environment."
Two blocks of 18th St. have been closed on Sundays since mid-August. | Photo: Shared Spaces/Facebook
"Now we've worked out all the kinks," said Samereie. "Once we were comfortable with 18th St., we decided to go forward with Noe Street."
While the permit allows Noe St. to be closed Friday through Sunday 10 a.m, to 10 p.m., Samereie tells Hoodline they're taking a more cautious approach.
Both Noe St. and 18th St. will be closed from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Barricades will set up at each end of the block and with a 14-foot pedestrian corridor carved out to maintain social distance and provide an emergency vehicle lane. Alcohol consumption will only be allowed in the dining areas set up by each business.
Samereie said the street closure and resulting foot traffic will provide "a much-needed relief" to area businesses. Currently, the permit is set to expire December 31, but the Shared Spaces program has been extended until June 30, 2021. Samereie says Castro Merchants are currently working on extending the permit.
A longer section of Noe Street from 18th to Duboce streets has been closed since September as part of the city's Slow Streets program which aims to divert vehicle traffic off neighborhood streets allowing residents more space for exercising outdoors.
Samereie tells Hoodline Castro Merchants will institute what they've learned from the 18th St. closure to make Noe St. just as successful. According to Samereie, compliance with mask-wearing and social-distancing continues to be the number-one problem with both attendees and merchants.
Diners outside The Edge at 18th and Collingwood streets. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline
Last week Castro Merchants launched a partnership with IDK Events. IDK Events has taken over management of both the Noe and 18th Street closures. Castro residents will be familiar with IDK Events as they manage the annual Castro Street Fair.
Samereie tells Hoodline District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman secured a $30,000 Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) grant through the budget add back process for the partnership. Samereie expects the funding to last through June 30, 2021. "In the meantime, we're working to get more add back funding," said Samereie.
IDK Events has also partnered with non-profit organization Turnout to assist in finding volunteers for the event. Volunteers are being offered a $25 stipend for each two-hour shift and they can sign up here.
Should the launch of Noe St. and the success of 18th St. continue, Samereie says Castro Merchants will consider extending the hours and adding Saturdays.
Two businesses along Noe Street have already been taking advantage of the Shared Spaces program for months. Neighborhood bar The Lookout (3600 16th) and Mediterranean restaurant Le Mediterranee (288 Noe) have added additional seating along the sidewalk and in adjacent parking spaces. However, the added room in the street will allow businesses to serve even more customers, with proper social-distancing.
"I'm excited to see it happening," said Lookout owner Chris Hastings. "I think it could be really good for the neighborhood and businesses around the Noe Street closure."
Hastings tells Hoodline he plans to take it slow the first week. "We want to do a dry run and make sure it's all okay," explained Hastings. After that Hastings plans to expand more seating into the street.
Outdoor seating at Lookout and Le Mediterranee. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline
Hastings tells Hoodline there will also be a handful of vendors along Noe St. including The Stud Collective and Nicole Whitten Designs. Discussions are currently underway with additional vendors along with businesses on Market Street who may want to participate.
Neighborhood restaurant Flore (formerly Cafe Flore), across the street from the Lookout, has remained closed since earlier this year. Owner Terrance Alan told Hoodline in June that Flore would be reopening once finding a new chef, however that hasn't come to fruition. Hastings tells Hoodline he's reached out to Alan who's said he may still potentially reopen Cafe Flore.
Alan did not respond to Hoodline request for comment. Alan's second business along Noe St., cannabis retailer Flore Store (258 Noe), has yet to open and construction has stopped since the former Gloss 'n Glam nail salon was demolished back in June.
Oz Ozkaynak, owner of Oz Pizza (508 Castro) and Oz Burgers (4092 18th), tells Hoodline that the street closure has brought more people to the Castro so long as the weather is nice. "It's helping the businesses increase their sales, but it's not enough to cover the Covid-19 impact," said Ozkaynak.
Ozkaynak would like to see the street closure expanded to include Thursday through Sundays. "The street closure helps but most businesses are open to support their employees and cover most of their rent," said Ozkaynak.
"The city of San Francisco is caring for homeless people more than the small businesses, but they should remember businesses are paying the taxes to keep the economy running," added Ozkaynak.