Mission District Streets Cleared of Cars for Celebration

Sunday Streets turned a city neighborhood back to the neighbors

Hula hoops, not honking cars. Skateboarders, not speeding vehicles. On June 7, 2009, San Francisco's Mission District played ground zero to Sunday Streets, an experiment in car-free living.

Sunday Streets has happened along San Francisco's Embarcadero before, but this time it was in a real neighborhood, where people live and work, making it a lot more community oriented. Valencia Street was closed from 18th to 24th Streets, and 24th Street was closed a dozen blocks to York Street.

There were a few complaints, mostly that the event was too short and not well publicized. Everyone seemed to have a great day. A bunch of cool bicycles and tricycles cruised around the Mission. There were also a lot of quad skaters, in-line roller bladers and skateboarders.  One woman was hula hooping on 19th Street in front of the Mission Pool while skating around with her friends. 19th Street was closed from Valencia St.  to Dolores Park, where many people turned around and headed back through the open streets to where they started.

Proprietors from Red Circle Tea, a local specialty tea company, set up a table and handed out free samples to passing pedestrians. Other businesses, like Vertical Clearance Salon on Valencia Street, set up a table outside of their shop with a sign inviting people in. Miriam Martinez said she set up a table to "promote her artwork" in front of Encantada Gallery on Valencia Street. Another person hung pictures up in a sort of street sale along one of the side streets.

Steven LaMay sported an orange headband and quad skates in front of his shop Retro Fit, where he pulled out some racks of clothes and bargain bins. LeMay said Sunday Streets is "an amazing idea with two big problems."

Lemay, who learned about the event only three days in advance, said there was "not enough merchant notification ... and why not have it go until 4 p.m.?  2 p.m. is too early to stop.  But I'm just being nitpicky. It's great anyway."

The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which does seem a bit early to end it, since it seemed kind of quiet at 10 a.m. and the most busy by 2 p.m.

Some ladies brought out chairs and set up a living room of sorts in a parking space along Valencia Street. There were lots of kids out riding their bikes and skating down the closed off streets, as well as pets out in force. One six-person machine pedaled down the street with a disco ball in back above a booming sound system that played 1970's hits for all to hear.

The next event scheduled is also going to be in the Mission on Sunday, July 19. There are two scheduled for the Great Highway next to the Pacific Ocean on August 9 and on September 6 over Labor Day weekend.

To find out more info, check out the website.

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