Soon, Cesar Chavez Boulevard Will Not Suck

In the beginning, during the days of the Ohlone and the Bernal Rancho, Bernalwood’s northern boundary was a sporadic waterway called Precita Creek. In 1888, the creek was covered over, to become Army Street. To  accommodate the automobile and pump traffic into US 101,  Army Street was widened during the 1950s, to become a six-lane artery. And so it has remained, largely unchanged, but for the 1995 name-change to Cesar Chavez Boulevard.

Today, Cesar Chavez Speedway Boulevard is not pretty. Frankly, it looks like ass. Even worse, it’s dangerous too. But help is on the way: As a multi-year planning process that began in 2006 enters its final stages, Cesar Chavez should soon get a full makeover that will make it more pretty, more sexy, and safer for bikers and pedestrians. Streetsblog brings an update:

If the plan continues to sail through approvals, Cesar Chavez from Hampshire Street to Guerrero will soon slim down from three vehicle traffic lanes in each direction to two, with the freed-up space going to bike lanes, strategic turn pockets, and a wide landscaped median. Extensive corner bulbouts, additional greening, and stormwater capture enhancements round out the design elements. Work should begin next summer, following sewer replacement construction. Crews are scheduled to start ripping up the street at Hampshire in February, then move west. The streetscape improvements will shadow the sewer work, with workers zipping the street back together as the sewer dig moves on to the next segment.

Inevitably, projects such as this act as magnets for NIMBYs, whiners, and other Reactionary Enemies of Progress. But the news here is encouraging as well:

According to Andres Power of the Planning Department, who has been riding herd on the Cesar Chavez plan along with representatives from the SFMTA, Public Utilities Commission, and Department of Public Works, the proposed left turn ban, bulbouts, and median are intended to prevent danger, not invite it. Still, e-mail messages circulating days before the hearing predicted dire consequences should the left turn ban be implemented as proposed. Power and the SFMTA’s Mike Sallaberry agreed to meet with the concerned parents and attempt some reconciliation. Evidently, the hearing officer agreed that a dust up over one intersection shouldn’t derail the entire project.

A few other speakers objected to the plan, with varying degrees of heat. One critic denounced the whole idea, saying it would cause congestion and thus create pollution. Sallaberry agreed that congestion would increase at the peak rush hour but showed a graph demonstrating how underutilized the street now is the other 23 hours every day. Another speaker who has lived on Cesar Chavez for many years expressed concern about loss of parking, though she mistakenly attributed this to the bike lanes rather than the pedestrian bulbouts. The total number of spaces lost should be around 30, sprinkled over the length of the street from Hampshire to Guerrero.

Bring it on!

IMAGES: Photo, top, adapted from Mark Pritchard. Renderings from the SF Planning Dept.