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Powell Streetscape Project at the SFMTA Board on 3 Mar 2020

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Neighborhoods Affected

Final legislation at the SFMTA Board on 3 March

With the project team ready to move into the ‘detailed design’ phase of the project this year and next, staff will be presenting the final legislation necessary to advance design of the project to the SFMTA Board of Directors on 3 March. The changes finalize the locations of load zones on Powell and intersecting streets, move the O’Farrell & Powell 38-Geary Muni stop to the far-side of the intersection with a sidewalk extension, and establish new turn restrictions at Powell Street & O’Farrell Street.

The legislation also designates a transit-only lane on Powell Street between Geary and Ellis streets. Taxis and vehicles loading passengers and goods on Powell Street will continue to be allowed, though only Muni and taxis will be permitted on southbound Powell between O’Farrell and Ellis streets, as a load zone will not be provided on this block face – which allows for full expansion of the sidewalk.

Over the past year, the project team has worked closely with key stakeholders in the area, including the Union Square Business Improvement District, the Hotel Council, and individual businesses, among others to finalize these project details. We look forward to taking the design forward.

SFMTA Board of Directors hearing

Tuesday 3 March 2020, 1pm

City Hall, Room 400

Design update

The concept design for the project envisioned a ‘curb-less’ street shared between people walking, cable cars, and limited vehicle traffic. As design for the project has advanced, the Public Works design team has spent considerable time analyzing the constructability of the ‘curb-less’ layout originally proposed. Ultimately, it was determined a ‘curb-less’ design is infeasible due to issues related to accessibility (sidewalk cross-slopes), stormwater run-off, and interface with the cable car system.

A modified proposal was developed following in the spirit of the original – providing a pedestrian-focused aesthetic by widening sidewalks with curbs, adding high-quality streetscape elements, and expanding the sidewalk along the entire west side of the O’Farrell-Ellis block. The restrictions on vehicle traffic already in place today will be reinforced with the new streetscape design.

Though we acknowledge the disappointment that a ‘curb-less’ design is not possible, many ideas for above-ground streetscape elements and materials are being considered by the design team so the street communicates its status as a people and transit-focused street – the front door to Union Square.


Mark Dreger

Senior Planner