Plan Would Turn Fisherman's Wharf Into a Pedestrian's Paradise

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An artist rendering of what a re-imagined Fisherman's Wharf would look like.

    City officials are working to transform part of San Francisco's  Fisherman's Wharf from a tsotchke-filled traffic jam to a vibrant outdoor  destination for locals and tourists alike in time for the America's Cup  sailing race.

        The redesign is part of a national movement to reclaim and  beautify urban waterfronts for public use, an urban designer with the City's  Planning Department said Thursday at a presentation hosted by the San Francisco  Planning and Urban Research Association.
       
    The environmental review for a revamping of Jefferson Street is  currently undergoing a 30-day public comment period, and -- barring any  lawsuits or major changes -- will likely go before the Board of Supervisors  this month, urban designer Neil Hrushowy said.
       
    "Fisherman's Wharf is a beautiful and historic location," Hrushowy  said. "But it needs to be refurbished. There's no doubt."

    Only about 20 percent of the area's visitors each year are locals,  according to studies commissioned by the City.

    The waterfront was an industrial zone and rail yard as late as  World War II, when it was used as an ammunition grounds for the Pacific  theatre, Hrushowy said.

    It is now home to some of the last West Coast commercial fishing  fleets on the West Coast with family businesses that have been there for four  generations, he said.

    City and business representatives said they hope that limiting  vehicular access and creating public seating would let visitors connect with  the wharf's history and character.

    "(The plan) would let people stop and see the fishing boats so  they could view the reason the wharf is there," said Kevin Carroll, executive  director of the Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District.

    Officials are also confident that some retail opportunities would  inevitably become more upscale, and most of the businesses in the area are on  board with the concept, Carroll added.

    The plan is still in the conceptual stages and does not include  specifics, but Hrushowy said it is inspired in part by cities such as  Vancouver and Toronto that have used public-private partnerships to create  unbroken stretches of public waterfront space.

    In those cities, destinations such as parks and public art  projects are connected by high-quality, well-maintained promenades, Hrushowy  said.

    He said the America's Cup race would provide an opportunity for  the city to focus on its own waterfront, and although the Jefferson Street  project is not directly related to the race, the Planning Department is  hoping to finish it by the 2013 event.

    If the environmental review is approved, officials could start the  design, contract and building process in June, Hrushowy said. A price tag  would be attached to the project during those stages.

    Hrushowy and Carroll said that originally, many Fisherman's Wharf  business owners were wary of making Jefferson Street a bike- and  pedestrian-heavy area. They gradually came to accept, though, that most of  their customers are the 75,000 pedestrians who pass through the area on any  given day.

    The few thousand drivers near Fisherman's Wharf are generally just  looking for parking, according to the City's studies. 

    Plus Jefferson Street has already become an unofficial bike and  pedestrian thoroughfare, Hrushowy said, with most drivers recognizing that  they need to yield to other forms of transportation.

    He acknowledged that San Francisco projects always run the risk of  litigation but said he thought any opposition could be worked through.

    The public can review the proposal at www.sf-planning.org. A  complete list of plans and projects is available under the "Plans and  Programs" tab.