A plan to make Stockton Street car-free once the Central Subway is completed is the subject of debate within the community. (Courtesy rendering)

A plan to make Stockton Street car-free once the Central Subway is completed is the subject of debate within the community. (Courtesy rendering)

Pedestrian group tries to save car-free Stockton Street proposal

Politically powerful Chinatown community organizer Rose Pak put her foot down on the Lower Stockton Street Improvement Project, perhaps endangering the proposal to close part of Stockton Street to cars before the proposal ever reached a public agency for a vote.

Now some pedestrian-friendly groups are speaking out in hopes of keeping the effort alive.

And new conceptual drawings of the project obtained by the San Francisco Examiner show the project is beyond the point of stakeholder discussions, and may be in the beginning stages of planning.

“We’d love to see The City study it,” said Tom Radulovich, head of transportation advocacy group Livable City, adding the project shouldn’t be killed after one meeting with one stakeholder.

“There needs to be a public discussion,” he said, “not a closed door discussion.”

Radulovich’s comments in support of the project come after Pak spoke to the Examiner blasting the project as bad for Chinatown traffic. Pak also sent a letter to SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin condemning the walkway.

The walkway in question is a stretch of Stockton Street between Market and Geary streets that may become pedestrian-only once the Central Subway opens in 2019.

Right now the closure to cars is temporary. Every winter the SFMTA lays down astroturf for a “Winter Walk,” in order to boost businesses harmed during construction by creating a walkable community for shoppers.

Pak said she had a personal meeting with Reiskin to express Chinatown’s concerns over business impacts to the project. Making the walkway permanent would “make permanent all the problems we’ve experienced,” she wrote in a letter to Reiskin, adding it’s “unacceptable to our community.”

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said no decision would be made on the project until all stakeholders are consulted.

Some are reaching out to smooth troubled waters. Nicole Ferrara, director of Walk SF, said, “We have been talking with Chinatown, though we haven’t talked to Rose herself.”

She noted a pedestrian was struck and killed by a motorcycle at Union Square on Monday, and said the Stockton Street walkway is not just about shopping, but safety.

Radulovich said the walkway “should be for transit” also.

In conceptual drawings of the Lower Stockton Street Improvement Project by the Planning Department and SFMTA, the traditional astroturf design is seen with cement sections carved out for buses — presumably such as the 30-Stockton — to pass through.

While Livable City is moving full steam ahead to support the project, other advocacy groups like the San Francisco Transit Riders are taking a more hands-off approach.

Peter Straus, of San Francisco Transit Riders, said that while the group supports the walkway, “I don’t think it’s something where we’re going to jump the gun on Chinatown, we don’t want a battle here.”30-StocktonChinatownSFMTATransitWALK SFWinter Walk

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