Western SoMa plan building up

A plan that would turn Folsom and Howard into two-way streets and breathe new life into a neglected neighborhood is poised to take a major step forward today.

The City’s Planning Commission is expected to approve the draft of the Western SoMa Community Plan, an ambitious vision by residents to attract thousands of residential units to a nine-block area running from 13th to Fourth streets south of Market Street. The plan, proponents say, will create a thriving business district.

South of Market activist Jim Meko, who chairs the Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force, said he and other residents are breathing a sigh of relief after learning earlier this month that major transit improvements will be added to support the neighborhood’s growth.

“We envision adding as many as 10,000 new units of housing, primarily centered around Folsom and Howard Street. But you don’t want to add a single unit of housing unless there’s good transit in place,” Meko said.

The plan is not without its detractors. A rival group of residents claim the plan does not do enough to clean up the neighborhood.

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association has also criticized the plan, saying a 65-foot height limit on buildings is too restrictive to attract many new residents.

Residents working on the plan were up in arms in February, when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency released preliminary recommendations to revamp its bus system. The recommendations included cutting back several routes on or near Folsom Street, the envisioned heart of the new neighborhood.

Earlier this month, however, Muni revised its proposals to include a new line, the 11-Downtown Connector, which would run in both directions down Folsom Street to 11th Street.

Other bus routes, including the 27-Folsom and the 47-Van Ness, were brought into line with the group’s vision.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Better ways

The Western SoMa Streets Network calls for greener, more pedestrian-friendly streets.

  • Townsend Street: New bike lane, enhanced pedestrian environment
  • Freeway ramps: Gateway treatments to slow traffic
  • Ninth-Harrison intersection: Improved crosswalks
  • 12th Street: Calmer and greener
  • 11th Street: Wider sidewalks and streetscape improvements
  • 10th-Howard intersection: Improved crosswalks
  • Minna and Natoma streets: New crossings to connect with two residential enclaves
  • Hausser bulb-out at Rodgers and mid-block between Seventh and Eighth: New crossings
  • Howard Street: New bike lanes
  • Eighth Street: New bike lanes
  • Seventh Street: New bike lanes
  • Folsom and 7th: “Downtown SoMa” sign marked with intersection treatments
  • Russ-Folsom intersection: New crossing

Source: Western SoMa Community plan

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