SF looks for ways to revitalize Market Street, a key role in making downtown a global destination

Lyanne Melendez Image
Friday, October 6, 2023
How SF plans to transform downtown by revitalizing Market Street
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San Francisco has a plan to transform the downtown area into a global destination, but that plan requires building a "Better Market Street."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco has a plan to transform the downtown area into a global destination. But that plan requires building a Better Market Street. Many say it is critical to the recovery of the local community and businesses that are still trying to lift themselves up from the pandemic.

In 1962, Market Street was on the verge of a major restoration project which, at the time, caught the attention of The New York Times.

That came after a city report titled: "What to do about Market Street?" The goal, back then, was to put new life into Market Street as a center for business, shopping and entertainment. Wait a minute. Here we are in 2023 and isn't that what San Francisco is trying to do, again?

Alex Hana has owned Oxford Street clothing for 30 years.

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"There was lots of traffic. Now the traffic is very slow," said Hana. "The only thing keeping us here is because we have loyal customers. If we depended on the traffic, we would not survive."

We asked him if it was foot or car traffic he was referring to.

"Both of them are hurting," he responded.

Hana initially blames the demise of some businesses on the city's efforts to slowly begin banning private cars.

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But then in 2012, there was renewed hope for the revitalization of the area when X (formerly known as Twitter) and other businesses occupied residency here.

But that proved not to be the answer everyone anticipated.

Then just months before the pandemic, the city removed all car traffic from Market Street. That's when the number of bicyclists on Market Street increased by 25%.

Then the city shut down and those workers that were supposed to revitalize the neighborhood dwindled because hardly anyone was coming to work downtown.

Even the bicycle coalition admits bike commuting downtown is nowhere near what it once was.

We wanted to see why many bicyclists were staying away from Market Street, so we rode.

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One of the things bicyclists often complain about is the uneven surfaces in some spots, not to mention the potholes and you really have to pay attention because you can seriously get hurt.

"What the city needs to do and the DPW has to do, they need to start repaving our streets wherever they are and we would like the bike lanes to also be part of that because if you make safe pavements for people biking they will use those streets," Janelle Wong of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

She says any revitalization of Market Street has to include bicyclists and pedestrians.

There is a massive construction project underway, "part" of that Better Market Street makeover.

The project was sold on a much larger scale. It was supposed to make Market Street car-free from Octavia Street to the Embarcadero, but the city had to return the federal money for the project because it was unable to meet an imposed deadline.

"There are a lot of unfulfilled promises but that doesn't mean that Better Market Street can't continue to be working toward a future of sustainable transportation," assured Wong.

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Business owners along Market Street insist customers won't return unless they feel safe and the area is clean.

"Just the cleanliness. I don't like stepping in poop every day," expressed Jon Jong, a restaurant manager on Market Street.

Supervisor Matt Dorsey wants to propose a resolution to create a Downtown Commercial Core Police District. It would dedicate police patrols in the area.

"If you can imagine an area that would be from the Ferry Building down Market Street, down to Market Street and Van Ness, it should also encompass Union Square. It should also encompass the Moscone Center Convention area and the hotels around there," Dorsey said.

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"We need to get people to say let's go to Market Street like, let's do stuff on Market Street," said Manny Yekutiel, a small business owner who also happens to be on the Municipal Transportation Board. As a San Francisco resident, he'd like to see a section of Market Street converted into a Promenade.

"Maybe even turn it into a market, maybe plant a redwood grove, landscaping, flowers, music, poetry create something happening on the street that brings people to Market Street to do things," he said.

"This is a beautiful city. I love it, but unfortunately we're facing a lot of problems with the homeless, with the shoplifting. It's very tough. It's not a piece of cake. It's going to take a lot of time, long time you can say," Hana said.

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