If the 20-minute coffee shop lines, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and one-in, one-out Trader Joe’s parking lots have you thinking that the city might be reaching capacity, we’ve got bad news. A new project overview released by Public Works, the SFMTA and Planning shows that up to 9,000 new units of housing are coming to one itty bitty section of the city: an oddly shaped few blocks on Market Street and in SoMa, between Octavia Boulevard and Ninth Street.
The intersection of Market with Valencia, Haight and Gough streets was coined as the “Hub” in the late 1880s, due to its capacity for four streetcar lines that converged on the area. Over time the borders began to loosen and started to include the neighborhood surrounding Market Street as well. According to historian and writer Larry Cronader, the area was a hot spot for businesses: Hub Bowling, the Hub pharmacy, and the McRoskey Mattress Company all moved in during the 1930s.
But in years since the area of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue has become a wasteland. Despite its proximity to multiple Muni lines, the All-Star Donuts is often empty, the large car dealership feels misplaced, and the strong winds suck the soul out of the corner. But like it or not, change is on the horizon.
Based on what’s slowly working its way through Planning, here is a summary of the population changes we can expect in the Hub: new housing units will come in somewhere between 7,300 and 9,000 apartments. Pedestrian traffic will increase by fifty percent at the Market and Van Ness intersection during peak hours. And more than 8,800 people will use the Van Ness Muni station to commute to and from work.
The simple reason for this population jump: the ever-coveted housing. Here are a few of the big developments coming our way:
- 30 Van Ness Ave. (which houses the Walgreens on the corner of Van Ness and Market streets) is being sold by the Board of Supervisors, and is zoned to accommodate a 550-foot residential tower.
- One Oak (which will replace All-Star Donuts and its adjacent parking lot) will reach 40 stories into the sky and will contain 310 units of market-rate housing.
- 10 South Van Ness Ave. (where the car dealership lives) is also set to be demolished, with two 40-story towers proposed for the site, with 767 units placed over 20,000 square feet of mixed-use space.
- And as Socketsite reported earlier this month, approval is pending for a 400-foot building to be constructed just down the road at the former Goodwill, at 1500 Mission St.
In response to the anticipated population growth of the Hub, the SFMTA, Planning and Public Works are brainstorming ways to make the streets and sidewalks safer, more enjoyable and higher functioning for the thousands of extra people who will be spilling out of their luxury apartments nearby. And thus enters the first draft of the Hub Public Realm Plan.
“Public Realm improvements will be implemented over time,” reads the plan’s introduction. “Some improvements may be led and funded by the city and other improvements may be implemented in coordination with private development. Because these projects will be implemented at different times, it is important to set forth a clear direction for how these spaces should be designed and function as an emerging new neighborhood.”
Scrolling through the draft Hub Public Realm Plan is like taking a peek into a strange utopia—the few blocks have been cheerful but drastically re-designed to resemble a modern European street scene. The sidewalks are clean, the bikes plentiful, and everyone slides into their right place, be they driver, pedestrian or cyclist.
But the reality of the situation is that each element of the plan would require community meetings, public hearings, Planning Commission recommendations, letters of support or lack thereof, and if any of this is to come to fruition, it will take years.
Some examples of potential controversies: 11th Street between Market and Bryant streets would get parking-separated bike lanes. The 14-Mission bus would get red painted transit-only lanes to make it a more rapid transit option. Wind canopies would be installed. And private vehicles would not be allowed on Market Street between 11th and 12th streets.
Traffic infrastructure would have to be improved to accommodate the sharp increase in population, but the draft Hub Public Realm Plan also takes a closer look at how to make the area prettier and more enjoyable. Part of this includes a revamp of alleyways near the Hub: Brady Street, Chase Court, Colton Street, Colusa Place, Stevenson Street, Jessie Street, Lafayette Street, Lily Street, Minna Street, Plum Street and Rose Street are all being considered for Living Alleys—redesigned community spaces with benches, trees, and murals.
For the urban planning nerds among you, the entire 92-page draft Hub Public Realm Plan can be accessed here, complete with details on every bike lane’s width, proposed streetlight, and pedestrian bulb out. While some of the projects listed in the plan — such as the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project — have broken ground, there is no specific timeline planned to launch the newly proposed ideas.
In the meantime, we suggest savoring the soon-to-be-worse morning waits at Corridor Cafe. The high-rises are inevitable, and with them come the crowds.