News and Construction alerts about the transformation of Jefferson Street into a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly street.

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New Jefferson Street a dream for walkers

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Kale Williams

June 21, 2013
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/New-Jefferson-Street-a-dream-for-walkers-4613262.php

 

A new Jefferson Street was officially unveiled Thursday - at least the two westernmost blocks of it. City officials, including Mayor Ed Lee, were on hand at Fisherman's Wharf for the official ribbon-cutting, but the real story is the improvements themselves, which include wider sidewalks, a narrower two-way street for vehicles, upgraded lighting and revitalized landscaping, all designed to transform the main drag for one of the city's best-known tourist attractions into a pedestrian-friendly urban plaza. A steel drum band played under sunny skies as city officials took turns thanking each other and tourists, confused by the large crowd of well-dressed individuals blocking the street, ducked their rented bikes under the red ribbon stretched across the roadway.

Tourists, and the many businesses that depend on them, were key to the renovation plan. The stretch between Hyde and Jones streets was overhauled just in time for busy summer season to expand pedestrian use, discourage vehicle traffic and encourage businesses to utilize the new wider sidewalks for European-style cafe seating. "The sidewalk in front used to be little more than a ribbon," said Paul Capurro, owner of Capurro's Restaurant and Bar, which has been on Fisherman's Wharf for 65 years. "People in wheelchairs nearly had to use the road just to get down the street."


The existing sidewalks on the bay side of the street were widened by about 15 feet to accommodate the 40,000 to 75,000 pedestrians who use the stretch daily, an upgrade that should help with the America's Cup races set to begin in less than two weeks. To make way for the wider walkways, the one-way, two-lane road, which was lined with parking, has been replaced by a two-way road with no parking. The narrower roadway was designed to slow traffic on a street popular with cyclists. New lighting and landscaping also was installed along the sidewalks, which has already had an impact on some businesses, said Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District. "Some of the restaurants are already reporting an uptick in dinner business," he said. "The street wasn't very well lit before and I think it probably caused some folks to avoid the area." Discussions about redoing Jefferson Street started in 2007, but it took time for consensus to be reached among the neighborhood's various stakeholders, which included businesses, neighbors, tourism interests and a variety of transportation advocates. "It shouldn't have taken six years, but it did. Sometimes things take a little longer here because we're sensitive," the mayor said at the celebration Thursday. Supervisor David Chiu, who represents the Fisherman's Wharf area, said, "It's great that such a diverse constituency could come together to invest in a project that is going to be important for the economic development of this part of the city." The project cost just more than $5.5 million, with most of the money coming from the city. But the completed two-block section is only the first phase of what planners, politicians and merchants hope will be a complete revitalization of Jefferson Street, from Aquatic Park to Powell Street. Much of the design work needed to begin phase two has already been completed. All that's left now is to figure out how to pay for the project.

 

"The good thing is that we've already talked to the community about the design and we've had all the environmental study stuff done," Campbell said. "All we need to do is find the money."

For now, merchants along Jefferson Street are pleased with the upgrades and look forward to the added business. "On Father's Day we had a line down the block," Capurro said. "Never in my 44 years down here have I seen so many people."

 

Kale Williams is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Twitter: @shortleafkale