Monday, August 22, 2011

New Green Sidewalk Thriving: Lessons Learned

Photos: Michael Helquist

The concrete’s gone, the plants are in, purple spikes and yellow blossoms flash along the sidewalk. Once it starts raining, the permeable aspect – letting the rain water reach the aquifer instead of the sewer – begins. It’s green, healthy and just the start of what we can do together for a more sustainable future.

Any good project deserves reflection and evaluation. What went really well, what surprised us, what might we have done better, and how well did the city permit process work?


  • For a large project, get input from friends and neighbors – we held a Design Lab last fall to exchange ideas
  • Attend the city’s Grey2Green workshop
  • Enlist the help of a landscape architect* to prepare drawings to-scale, select materials and plants, order at wholesale outlets and guide the planting
  • Have several pairs of eyes read the city’s sidewalk use restrictions
  • Host an event to present plans (and a fundraiser, if needed, to cover costs)
  • Remember to plan for every stage – including removal of the dirt
  • Make it a work party – so much better with music and food provided

From Grey2Green

  • Expect concrete cutting and removal to cost at least $5.50 per square foot
  • Schedule the concrete work to coincide with street cleaning hours and avoid the risk of damaging vehicles parked nearby during demolition
  • Expect to remove a lot of dirt – it will be sand or clay
  • Prep the required edging a few days before – the workday will be busy enough
  • Place new plants with soil and mulch one inch below the sidewalk or curb surface – this will help contain the rain water and irrigation

After the Planting

  • Celebrate and post photos online, thank everyone
  • Depending on the season and weather, water frequently to get plants thriving

Now We Know

  • Really do plan for dirt removal – we thought of everything but this
  • Read the city regs one more time – especially about the edging & courtesy paths
  • Do the prep work with the edging materials ahead of time – we rushed to saw 4"x6" beams and drill holes right before the workday started
  • Keep at the fundraising – unexpected costs will occur
  • Work can proceed in two phases – we left another stretch of sidewalk for the future

Working the System

  • City staff are friendly & enthusiastic,** but sometimes difficult to contact initially
  • You can’t get begin the work without a permit; allow 2-4 weeks
  • An initial inspection is required
  • Be sure to get a final inspection – the city sign-off increases liability protection
  • City website – DPW Bureau of Urban Forestry -- needs to be more user-friendly

How Much Did It Cost?

  • We removed 160 square feet of concrete at $5.50 per square foot
  • We purchased almost 100 plants and shrubs – we bought more mature plants
  • Plants and soil were obtained from a wholesale firm through our landscape architect
  • Total cost: approximately $3400
  • Total donations: approximately $3400***

Was It Worth It? Stop by Turk & Lyon and then start plans for your own Grey2Green project

* James Munden, senior landscape architect, at Marta Fry Landscape Associates/MFLA Studio, made all the difference to the success of this project

** Thanks to Markos Major, DPW Bureau of Urban Forestry for getting us through the permit process

*** Huge thanks to major donors Rev. Sally Bingham; Oz Erickson, President of the Emerald Fund and all those who supported this project from start to finish and at points in-between

Note: article first published at Green Turk & Lyon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sunday Streets Set for Western Addition/NOPA September 11th

Adding more pink, Sunday Streets NOPA 2010 Photo: Michael Helquist

Which bands will play outside Matching Half Cafe this year?
Photo: Michael Helquist

Western Addition/NOPA Route for Sunday Streets Sept. 11, 2011

No sooner did the "clear the streets" call come at the close of the Civic Center/ Tenderloin Sunday Streets yesterday than organizers shifted into gear for the September 11 street celebration in the Western Addition, NOPA, Alamo Square, and the Fillmore. (Perhaps it was low-gear with a day or two off).

A few route changes accompany this year's event after the successful, if drizzly, debut in the area in 2010:
  • the west-end still begins in the Panhandle and travels north on Central and then east on Grove to Divisadero with a spur up the Baker hill to stop at McAllister. This year the crossover street, the east-west transition, is Fulton. Still a hill to ride and walk but not the steep slalom Golden Gate presented last year
  • Alamo Square will be more directly involved -- hello neighbors! -- with Fulton sidling Alamo Square park
  • Fillmore defines the east-end from Fulton to Geary but the route doesn't extend further north or further east
The new route is more compact, manageable and focused. Programs and scheduling are largely left to the wishes and initiatives of residents, local businesses and organizations. But Sunday Streets will provide the usual kids activities, dance, exercise sessions, skate time, bike programs and lots of music.

More information to come but Save the Date and plan your events.

Sunday Streets Western Addition
Includes North Panhandle, Alamo Square and Fillmore neighborhoods
September 11, 2011
11 am to 4 pm

Parking Restrictions
Sunday Streets works so well because it opens the streets to walking, biking, people-watching, bands and kids play. But that means no parking from 11pm Saturday September 10th until 4pm Sunday September 11th. Remind yourself, remind your family and friends. Vehicles will be towed and who needs that?

Friday, August 12, 2011

One Year Ago: 22-Year-Old Yannick Linke Struck and Killed by Speeding Motorist on Masonic Avenue

Yannick Linke's grave in Berlin. Photo: Petra Linke

"We are stardust. Billion year old carbon. We are golden." -- a favorite lyric for Yannick Linke

Flowers placed on Masonic sidewalk at Turk by Petra Linke
in honor of her only son. Photo: Michael Helquist

One year ago Yannick Linke, a 22-year-old German college student and visitor to San Francisco, was struck and killed by a speeding motorist while riding his bicycle on Masonic Avenue. He had arrived in the city a few days earlier to visit friends as part of a holiday trip to the United States. On August 9th, four days before his death, Linke celebrated his birthday.

Petra Linke, Yannick's mother, visited San Francisco for the first time three weeks ago and stopped at the site of her son's death. Amid the roar of the traffic and afternoon fog, she laid flowers at the same location where her daughter Sophia had placed candles a few months earlier. City crews long ago removed the ghost bike locked to a utility pole at the site and the wind chimes placed to commemorate the young man at a memorial two weeks after his death. For that occasion, more than 100 bicyclists and community members gathered in grief to pay their respects at Masonic and Turk. For her visit, Petra Linke requested the company of bicyclists who had participated in last year's memorial when she walked to the intersection.

Petra Linke had timed her visit to coincide with a preliminary Superior Court hearing for the charges brought against the motorist who struck and killed her son while driving south on Masonic. (Lawyers for the Linke family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver, 36-year-old Joshua Calder in January). He has been ordered to stand trial for vehicular manslaughter, hit-and-run, and driving under the influence. As reported in the San Francisco Examiner, Assistant District Attorney Todd Barrett stated in court that Calder had the alcohol equivalent of seven drinks in his system in addition to THC from smoking marijuana. The defense attorney, Daniel Barton, argued that although Calder had been drinking, his alcohol blood level was within legal limits. Calder has pleaded not guilty. Soon after the collision, he posted the $500,000 bail. Judge Newton Lam ordered the defendant to return to court for a formal arraignment on September 1st.

Petra Linke wrote from Berlin last week of her plans on her son's birthday:
I would like to say I miss Yannick and the whole family does. It is very hard to live without his funny and very much interesting view on music, travelling, his studies. I will go to his grave on Tuesday, his birthday, and I will put shells from Florida and New Jersey. And a birthday candle. I hope for justice.
Yannick Linke, traveller Photo provided by Sophia Linke

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What to Expect of the New Target Store and the City Center Upgrade? Is Better Enough?

Image: studioneleven

Change is coming to the City Center complex at Geary and Masonic, and most everyone seems to agree it’s good. A new Target outpost will bring a lot of color – heavy on the red – to the space once claimed by the bland Mervyn’s department store. The City Center campus will undergo a make-over as well with a new “refined color palette” for the exterior. Anza Vista residents and those from nearby neighborhoods want a more attractive and vibrant complex. Some welcome Target specifically; others just want the gaping Mervyn’s spot filled. Both Target and City Center received a positive nod from the Planning Commission last month, with a few reservations. On Thursday, August 11th City Center will return to the planning board with modifications on outdoor design treatments.

Here’s what neighbors and shoppers can expect in March 2013 when Target is expected to open its second San Francisco store:

  • Target will fill 106,135 square feet on two levels – a combination of the old Mervyn’s and Good Guy’s spaces
  • Office Depot is downsizing significantly – shrinking its footprint by 14,000 square – and Target might expand into the vacated area
  • All 601 parking spaces will remain; bike parking will increase just a bit from 28 to 42 spaces plus a bike storage area
  • New signage – 15 foot directional signs in the parking lots -- will help rescue shoppers now bewildered by the trek to and from stores
  • Ten months of full construction
  • A more-noticeably branded center with outlet names showcased on the exterior
  • A proposed soaring sign tower -- from the current 20 ft to 35 feet -- unless the Planning Department requires a scaling back, as expected
  • A moderate amount of new landscaping to green some of the perimeter and parking lots

City Center will not be improving the ivy-covered blighted median along its Geary side. “We haven’t gone outside our property,” Adam Miller of City Center explained to a July 15 gathering of interested neighbors. And there won’t be much greening of the parking expanses since designers are reluctant to dig very deep on the multi-layered lots. Motorists can expect green walls – vertical landscaping – along the Geary exterior.

The Planning Department and the Municipal Transportation Agency negotiated two neighborhood investments from the development: new signal lights on Masonic. One will guide southbound left-turn traffic at O’Farrell to improve access to the rear parking lots. And one at Ewing for the small Ewing Terrace residential area. The projects represent a $500,000 expenditure. Target is considering financial assistance to the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center, the Jewish Vocational Services, and other local organizations – but no word on helping GLBT groups, even after the ongoing controversy over financing anti-gay candidates in Minnesota and trying to block same-sex marriage advocates from sidewalks along a few of its California outlets.

Once it clears the Planning Commission, Target and City Center will seek building permits and approval by the Board of Supervisors.