Rainbow Crosswalks, Colorful LEDs, Wider Sidewalks All Part Of Massive Castro Street Improvement Project

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener and other city and community leaders kicked off what he called a “transformational” street improvement project in the heart of the city’s Castro District this morning.

The $4.5-million “streetscaping” project includes plans to widen the sidewalks on two blocks of Castro Street between Market and 19th streets and add new lighting, trees and landscaping, and bike parking along with refurbishing Jane Warner Plaza.

The plaza, at the intersection of Market, Castro and 17th streets, was the site of a 10:30 a.m. ceremony where Wiener shared with the community the planned changes for the area that came together with the help of many city agencies and community groups, including the city’s Planning Department and DPW.

“We need to have sidewalks that match the vibrancy of the Castro,” he said.

He said the improvements stem from years of feedback that the sidewalks are too narrow. Wiener said he has been told that when neighbors stop to say hello it causes congestion.

The wider pedestrian area and bulb-outs for bus stops “makes for a better and safer neighborhood,” Wiener said.

The funding for the project comes from 2011’s Proposition B, the Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond, which the city’s Department of Public Works director Mohammed Nuru hailed and credited at the ceremony for making this project and other improvements around the city possible.

“This is the first major project under the bond measure,” he said.

Since the measure’s passage, Nuru said there have 800 city blocks repaved.

Construction in the Castro is scheduled to begin Friday and wrap up in October.

Wiener laid out the anticipated construction schedule, which allows for a break for Pride weekend in June and allows pedestrian access to all businesses on the two blocks.

“This is going to be a disruptive project as all projects are, but it will be well worth it,” he said.

He also said no parking spots will be lost after the construction and there will still be left-turn lanes for cars.

The supervisor said he hopes that the slimmed-down roadway will help alleviate the practice of double-parking ubiquitous along the Castro’s main drag.

This morning, the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District executive director Andrea Aiello unveiled the winning design for crosswalks that will be an additional part of the project.

The benefit district is giving $103,000 to beautify the neighborhood with colorful additions.

The money will go toward rainbow crosswalks, LED light bulbs with changeable colors on 24 light poles, and sidewalk etchings with historical facts about the neighborhood.

After 4,500 votes came through online and from a day surveying residents at Jane Warner Plaza in the past month, 42 percent of respondents chose a rainbow patterned design to be painted on all four corners of Castro and 18th streets, according to Aiello.

Aiello said merchants and residents alike are excited for what the neighborhood will look like by the end of the year and she said she cannot wait for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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