What will the Irving Commons look like?
Why not locate a pedestrian plaza somewhere else in the Inner Sunset?
We already have Golden Gate Park one block away, what’s the point in locating the Commons so close to the park?
What effect would The Commons have on traffic flow and congestion?
Won’t removing the block’s parking be harmful to local drivers and businesses?
Will delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles be able to enter the Commons?
How would we deal with antisocial activity?
Won’t this project be too expensive or take too long?
I have some other issues with this idea that prevent me supporting it.
Isn’t this idea just too much of a big jump into the unknown?
The design of the Commons will come many steps down the road. Any renderings on this website are just conversation-starters, not serious design proposals.
The key consideration at this stage is the process by which this project will be run. As an underlying ethic, we believe that those who use and are affected by the space should guide this project, and, if we collectively decide we’d like a pedestrian plaza, the community should design that too. Experts should certainly assist and provide feedback, but the community would be the project’s driving force.
Before proceeding, we recommend you review the qualities required for a successful public space. We think the evidence points clearly toward Irving Street between 9th and 10th Avenues being the strongest candidate and our arguments are explained here.
For instance, a great public space must be highly visible, bordered by many kinds of destinations, and close to (preferably not in the way of) public transportation. Those conditions alone exclude residential streets, streets through which streetcars and buses pass, and parking lots. The conditions also point to a space as close as possible to the neighborhood’s busiest pedestrian area (9th & Irving Street) and to as many transportation lines as possible (again, 9th & Irving).
The qualities required for a successful public space show that great pedestrian plazas need to be in just the right place. We love Golden Gate Park, but it doesn’t function as a pedestrian plaza.
For instance, plazas need to be:
- Bordered by a diverse variety of destinations. This keeps the space vibrant by providing many reasons for people to go there. No places in Golden Gate Park fit this condition. Golden Gate Park is not a place to go for day-to-day purposes, such as shopping or eating
- Accessible by public transportation and easy to get to for the young and elderly. Few transit lines pass through the Park and mobility-impaired people have to work much harder to get there
- Highly visible. Golden Gate Park is out of the way for local residents
- Safe-feeling at all times. Many people only feel safe in the Park during daylight hours
The only way we can know the answer to this for sure is to do a scientific study – until then, it’s all just speculation.
However, we think there’s a good chance this location would work. The Commons would turn two four-way intersections into three-way intersections, which could help traffic and public transportation run more smoothly. There’s also the possibility of altering permitted left/right turns in streets close to the Commons to make traffic flow more efficiently.
One measure to address parking loss could be to re-angle the parking spaces on the north side of Irving Street between 10th and 12th Avenues. This would add more spaces than what we’d lose on the Commons location. In addition, studies elsewhere in the world show that drivers a) rarely park right in front of their destination and b) are prepared to walk more than several blocks..
But, as with the above question, we need to do our own study to determine the facts of this particular case, especially to find out what percentage of people actually drive to local businesses versus walking, bicycling, or taking public transportation.
Even such general issues as delivery and emergency vehicle access are beyond where we’re at right now. But we can say that most pedestrian spaces allow such access and we’re pretty keen to push for the same thing on Irving Street.
Evidence in the US and abroad suggests that a well-located plaza which attracts a healthy number of users over the course of the day does not become overwhelmed by antisocial behavior. For instance, Patricia’s Green, a successful public gathering space in Hayes Valley, certainly draws folks hard up on their luck, but generally they fit in with the high number of users the area attracts.
Even so, there may certainly be some troublesome behavior on our Commons – but we think most people will feel that the potentially vast benefits of a quality gathering space will outweigh the effort of dealing with a few antisocial people.
This is definitely a concern. We need to make sure that the process is not so demanding that those involved in it get burned out and give up. There are methods that could help ameliorate this challenge such as the Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper model, which starts off with an inexpensive installation and then adds to the space over time, based on feedback and available funds. The Castro Plaza and parklets are examples of this approach.
Figuring out where any of the funds will come from to build and maintain a plaza will be a key part of the project’s process. Come help out!
That’s fine! We believe, though, that supporting or opposing the Irving Commons idea should be based on evidence. If you have a concern about, say, traffic congestion, you can still support the Irving Commons project because as part of the project we’ll scientifically study the important issues and make sure that the final decision is based as much as possible on firm evidence. Your involvement will help make sure these studies are thorough and useful.
It’s important to make sure this isn’t the case. There are a few ideas we could consider to reduce the size of important steps:
- Collecting as much data as possible before implementing any bricks and mortar changes. For example, what percentage of people drive to local businesses, what would be the effect on peak traffic flow, etc.?
- Trying some kind of temporary street closure and reviewing the results
- Making low-cost changes first and only putting in significant funds if things go well