Hayes Valley to Get More Green Space

by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez | The Examiner

Sections of Octavia near popular park to close to traffic

The beloved Hayes Valley park Patricia’s Green is about to get bigger and provide more space for the public to walk and play.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors on Tuesday approved closing a portion of Octavia Street that borders the park, between Hayes and Linden streets, to private vehicle traffic.

The street — which was once connected to a busy freeway— will be reserved for pedestrians and people on bikes and become an extension of the park itself. That public space is especially key as two spaces across from the park, which are now used for a beer garden and outdoor movie screenings, will be filled with affordable and market-rate housing within a few years.

Those new neighbors will drive the need for more open space, said Supervisor Vallie Brown, who conveyed her support for the project via her legislative aide, Derek Remski.

Patricia’s Green is, “where you meet your neighbors, meet your friends, walk your dog, and just hang out,” Remski said.

The Octavia Open Street Project, as it is called, will begin construction this fall.

The park itself is still relatively new, having only opened in 2005 as “Hayes Green,” and was renamed Patricia’s Green a year later after the death of neighborhood advocate Patricia Walkup. Flash forward fourteen years, and while the freeway ramp has moved, nearly 1,200 vehicles still travel north and 1,100 south on the section of Octavia near the park daily, according to the SFMTA.

Octavia is among San Francisco’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians and is on The City’s “high injury network,” a map of known dangerous streets. While the sections of the street close to the park will be closed to private vehicle traffic, a type of easily-knocked-down semi-permanent traffic cone, called a “break-away bollard,” will be installed to keep cars out but still allow access to fire vehicles.

The project will also include a short bike lane along Hayes Street with a protected barrier next to Octavia Street.

Most neighbors at Tuesday’s SFMTA meeting were supportive of the project, which has been in various planning phases since 2014.

“I personally think this is one of the best things you could for our neighborhood moving forward,” said a woman who identified herself to the San Francisco Examiner as “Ms PJ,” who lives in the neighborhood and also used to work for Muni as an operator.

Gail Baugh, a Hayes Valley neighbor and former president of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, said the project would help alleviate traffic concerns along Octavia as “clearly, we’re victims of our own success,” from people who love to visit the neighborhood.

However, one neighbor who lives on Linden Street bemoaned the loss of 11 parking spaces for the project.

“It doesn’t work for me, and I live there,” said Sal Inocencio, who said he’s lived in Hayes Valley for 40 years. “Extend the park? For who?” he said.

Still, some on the SFMTA board felt the project didn’t go far enough.

Directors asked SFMTA staff to explore also closing Octavia Street south of Linden to Fell Street from car traffic, to expand the length of Octavia open exclusively to pedestrians and cyclists. This would be a “phase two” for the project, they said.

SFMTA director Cheryl Brinkman also asked staff to explore closing off Hayes Street, near the park, to car traffic, making it exclusively open to buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Brinkman said her own 21-Hayes Muni bus ride through Hayes Street often gets stuck in traffic near the park, where neighbors said Uber and Lyft vehicles tend to “swarm,” leading to honking, angry clashes and chaos.

“Let’s just get the private vehicles out of there,” Brinkman said of Hayes.