Vision: Slow Triangle — Experiments In Urbanism
By Miles B. Cooper
In San Francisco, there’s a neighborhood loosely bounded by Market Street, Castro Street, and Waller Street known as Duboce Triangle. Within the neighborhood, along Sanchez and Noe Streets, one will find aging brick bulb-outs in various states of repair. These give Duboce Triangle a quiet neighborhood-within-a-city feel. The brick bulb-outs are not part of the current traffic-calming efforts but instead date back to the 1970s. Back then, “urban renewal” was a buzzword used to bulldoze neighborhoods, particularly ones with high densities of people of color. One only has to look to San Francisco’s Western Addition and Fillmore District to see the results bulldozing established neighborhoods had — displacement, loss of character, and freeway-like roads.
Sanchez Street looking north in Duboce Triangle. Photo: Christopher Beland.
Duboce Triangle was threatened with the same urban renewal — bulldozing old Victorians to make way for freeway-like streets. The neighborhood fought back, however, and in the process won the 1970s versions of traffic calming found along Noe and Sanchez Street. Fast forward to the pandemic, slow-streets movement, and growing interest in urbanism. The net result is a rethinking of street space. Are streets the sole domain of cars and subsidized private car storage in public spaces (also known as parking) as many drivers believe? Or are they spaces owned by all, open for use by all, and open to revisiting their best uses? Many who live in busy urban environments believe the latter.
The Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association decided that 50 years after the victory over urban renewal, it was time as an organization to examine road and sidewalk use. Partnering with UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies, DTNA did initial surveying in 2021, and in 2022 funded a graduate student intern to run community feedback meetings to help formulate a community-backed plan for Duboce Triangle. The project was given the name Vision: Slow Triangle. In doing this, the neighborhood has looked for inspiration from projects like Barcelona’s superblocks, three block by three block sections where car travel is limited to those living within the neighborhood and the roads are open for all users, including children playing, people exercising, and neighbors socializing. DTNA is hopeful its work can help make the neighborhood even more livable, and like Barcelona’s superblocks, become a model for U.S. neighborhoods that want to prioritize living over car traffic.
As residents of Duboce Triangle, Bicycle Law’s Miles and Maryanne Cooper felt it was their obligation to provide time and financial resources to this important project to expand urbanism — the sometimes pat, “Think globally, and act locally,” put into play. As a result, Bicycle Law, along with Waymo and City and County District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s office has provided financial support for DTNA’s efforts. Change requires everyone’s input, and discussions about limiting car access can be tense. Nothing worth fighting for comes easy, though. We look forward to reporting on Vision: Slow Triangle’s progress in coming editions and hope it will indeed be a model for others to follow.
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