Bus-only lane and pedestrian accessibility are key issues for neighborhood
SAN FRANCISCO — With the livelihood of one of the last remaining Japantowns in the country at stake, residents and stakeholders discussed at a Feb. 12 meeting on a new plan to revitalize the commercial core, affecting future development for years to come.
At the community meeting for the Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan, groups of participants placed stickers on a poster-sized map marking where they envisioned affordable housing, playgrounds and parks, along with improved crosswalks and bus shelters.
“Even though [these things may seem] impossible to achieve, we need to think visionary,” said Rosemary Dudley of the San Francisco Planning Department, who heads the plan. “Planning efforts like this come once every 20 years.”
With major projects by private developers in the pipeline — including a new condominium high-rise and reconstruction of the malls — the city is coordinating the individual projects by integrating them into the Better Neighborhood Plan, and seeking input on changing outdated zoning and development regulations through a series of public meetings.
Glynis Nakahara brought her 9-year-old daughter, Malia, who attends the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program at nearby Rosa Parks Elementary School. Neighborhood parents are “interested in more connectivity” between the school and Japantown, said Nakahara, who serves as co-chair of the Parent Teacher Community Council. An eight-lane segment of Geary Street, a product of redevelopment in the ’60s and ’70s, acts as a physical boundary between them.
“Prior to urban renewal, it was pretty seamless,” Nakahara said. “Rosa Parks was the elementary school for Western Addition and Japantown.”
A proposal by city and county transportation agencies to redesign Geary Street is also under review in the Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan. The Geary bus rapid-transit plan would create a bus-only traffic lane in each direction to ease congestion on one of the busiest transportation corridors in the city. Whether the dedicated bus lanes would take the middle lanes, curbside lanes or travel below the street level is still an option to be explored.
It would also strive for a more pedestrian-friendly appearance and functionality. With improved crosswalks and sidewalks extending out at intersections, pedestrians could cross Geary at street level instead of using the existing pedestrian overpasses, said Zabe Bent of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.
The community meeting started a new round of nine focus groups, which have a different objective than last year’s series.
Last year’s set was organized by an interest group to hear their biggest concerns, said Ken Rich, manager of plans and programs at the San Francisco Planning Department. “Now we roll out our preliminary recommendations … what we’re proposing … and getting their reactions,” he said.
The first focus group addresses the Geary bus rapid-transit. The last focus group includes the developers of the proposed condominium high-rise at 1481 Post Street.
Drop-in hours for the public will begin in March in the Japantown Planning Room on the second floor of the Miyako Mall on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons.
“The idea of opening the room was always part of the plan,” said Robert Hamaguchi, executive director of the Japantown Task Force. “It’s our opportunity to show the public more about the planning process.”
Focus Groups Schedule
Transportation and Circulation: February 19
Improvements to Geary Boulevard, bus rapid-transit, Webster Street, pedestrian crosswalks and parking conditions
Cultural Institution Retention: February 20
Strategies to retain and attract cultural institutions, specifically the provision of performing and cultural arts space
Urban Design: February 21
Preliminary design solutions for Japantown’s streetscape and buildings, including appropriate heights
Business Retention and Support: February 25, 2–4 p.m.
Strategies to address potential displacement from Japan
Center and assistance to Japantown’s existing retailers from market pressures
Historic and Cultural Preservation: February 27
Methods to preserve the special character, culture and architecture of Japantown
Open Space and Wayfinding: March 3
Improvements to Japantown’s parks and open space and getting around
Housing: March 4
Possible strategies for providing more affordable and mixed-income housing in Japantown
Japan Center: March 6
Revised concept designs for the redesign of Japan Center (Miyako and Kintetsu malls), including related shadow, construction, parking, housing, and business impacts and opportunities.
1481 Post Street Proposal: March 11
Proposal for a residential building on 1481 Post Street,
including related shadow, construction, parking, housing, and open space impacts and opportunities.
All focus groups held in the Japantown Planning Room on the second floor of Miyako Mall from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.,
except where noted. RSVP to Rosemary.Dudley@sfgov.org or call (415) 575-9068.