Top of the Hill extreme makeover

No denying that Top of the Hill, Daly City, has definitely seen better days. During its heyday in the 1970s, the intersection of Mission Street and John Daly Boulevard was burned into Bay Area consciousness by an inescapable barrage of commercials that ended with “Matthews TV And Stereo City; 6400 Mission Street, Top Of The Hill, Daly City.”

Fortunately, the drab neighborhood now seems poised for an impressive comeback. Daly City’s ambitious new War Memorial Community Center and library branch is nearing completion. The controversial high-rise Landmark development, a mixed-use tower of condos, retail and offices, already dominates the hilltop skyline as its steel framework rises into place like a gigantic Erector set.

The latest news is that Daly City officials are seeking $1 million from the Federal High Priority Program to fund construction of an expanded 10-foot-wide sidewalk on the west side of Mission Street. The widened sidewalk would extend for three blocks south of the John Daly Boulevard intersection, directly facing the new Landmark tower, community center and library.

The project is being presented to federal authorities as a much-needed safety improvement for pedestrians crossing the wide Mission Street hilltop intersections. There have been at least two fatal auto-pedestrian accidents along these three blocks of Mission Street during the last five years.

The sidewalk widening is also seen as a necessary transit enhancement for the sparse facilities available to bus commuters at Top of the Hill’s busy routing hub. In addition, the project brings another useful piece to the emerging jigsaw puzzle of the dauntingly multijurisdictional Grand Boulevard Initiative, which would upgrade El Camino Real and Mission Street along the entire length of the Peninsula.

Wider sidewalks would encourage new retail occupancy and complement the coming improvements to the busy bus turnaround plaza just north of John Daly Boulevard. The plaza would get wind screens, a much-improved bus shelter and digital real-time transit information.

Despite a shrinking retail base — most recently seen as City Toyota moved from its cramped site to spacious new quarters near Colma BART — Top of the Hill remains a key bus transit hub. Straddling the San Francisco city line and served by both SamTrans and Muni, the hilltop bus stops are a major connection point for hundreds of daily commuters traveling between The City and the Peninsula for employment.

The new $1 million sidewalk grant sought by Daly City would also pay for improved lighting, street trees and storm water measures to prevent flooding from streets higher up the slope of San Bruno Mountain. Officials expect to know by the end of 2007 whether the funding is approved. We hope the money comes through to help Daly City cover the $2.4 million needed to complete its ambitious Top of the Hill improvement plans.

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