Divisadero Street overhaul planned

New trees, streetlamps, footpaths, bus shelters, traffic lights, street crossings and businesses will breathe fresh life into the Divisadero Street corridor in 2009 under ambitious plans unveiled recently by city officials.

Hundreds of people who live and work around the corridor took part in community meetings over the past year to help city planners sculpt a new vision for the historic strip, officials said.

“Divisadero historically has been a very populist corridor with a high quotient of small, minority-owned businesses,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the neighborhood. “But in recent years, it’s had a significant downslide.”

Mirkarimi blamed wear and tear, rising crime and failed businesses for the downturn, but he says the $3.4 million project between Waller and Geary streets will make a “comeback kid” out of the area. “It will be more inviting and safe,” he said.

Boutique businesses are already starting to return to the street, said Lisa Zahner from the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development — a Divisadero resident who has worked on the project for the past year.

Increased graffiti-cleanup work and street sweeping has helped lure coffee shops, stores, art galleries and restaurants to set up shop on the street, Zahner said.

A lease was recently signed on a long-vacant building at the corner of Oak and Divisadero streets, where a business will serve coffee and jazz.

The new businesses will sell their wares in an urban environment that will bear little resemblance to today’s disjointed streetscape, according to the plans.

“We wanted to do something unifying for the corridor — from end to end,” said Project Manager Kris Opbroek, of the Public Works Department. “There was a desire from the community to really look at Divisadero as a whole street.”

According to the plan, freeway-style streetlights will be replaced with more classical designs and crosswalks will be upgraded to provide sanctuary to pedestrians caught in the middle of the road.

“That gives people a place to stop if they do get stuck in the center,” Opbroek said.

Armstrong maples, Mexican fan palms and lemon-scented eucalyptus will be planted in rebuilt 6-foot, 6-inch medians that run down the middle of the street, and sidewalks will be widened and planted with new trees and shrubs.

Power lines that hang above the street will remain because they’re needed by Muni buses, according to Opbroek, but she said cluttered advertising banners that flutter on light poles will be replaced with community messages.

jupton@examiner.com

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