America’s Cup may be scaled-down, but transportation challenges are unchanged

City scrambles to invent temporary bus and train lines for legions of yacht race spectators
A version of this story appears in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.
The effect of a scaled-down America’s Cup plan on an ambitious transit effort is unclear as the city continues to view the expected flood of visitors for America’s Cup pre-events this August and October as a chance to experiment with new transit options. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with America’s Cup organizers that will put more of the spectator activity along the Marina Green. The transit plan for the game calls for an estimated 300,000 spectators around the waterfront — the equivalent of almost half the average weekday Muni ridership of 637,000 — city planners said they have to get nearly everyone out of cars to prevent transportation chaos.


Ordinance would put restrictions on Castro District plazas

A proposal to regulate two popular Castro District hangouts by restricting chairs and shopping carts is a step closer to becoming city law. The Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday on an ordinance, which passed the Land Use Committee this week, that would ban nighttime sitting, sleeping, vending, smoking and even pushing a shopping cart in Harvey Milk and Jane Warner Plazas.


Ocean Beach Master Plan envisions big changes for Great Highway

Have you heard about the Ocean Beach Master Plan? The San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association (SPUR) is facilitating a coordinated effort among multiple agencies to create a “sustainable long-range plan” for San Francisco’s shoreline. Why do we need a plan? Because erosion of the beach and anticipated rising sea levels may necessitate major changes in the infrastructure that serves the area.


Restoring Presidio’s native plants is painstaking process

Extreme biodiversity, coupled with the surrounding extreme urbanism, makes the Presidio arguably the epicenter of native plant restoration in the West. The 2.3 square mile park, formerly an Army base, is home to 600 plants, more variety than in most states. It owes this biodiversity to its San Francisco location, a city at a biogeographic crossroads. At the Presidio, Betty Young leads a team of botanists that collect and grow native plants as part of a painstakingly precise attempt to restore the park’s native habitat.


New San Francisco biodiversity push could come too late for golf course critters

Public debate about the plight of protected species on a San Francisco-owned golf course in Pacifica has refocused attention on the city’s commitment to safeguarding natural diversity. In late May, the San Francisco Department of the Environment adopted its first biodiversity plan, which would make it city policy to protect rare plants and animals. The idea that San Francisco could do more to protect biodiversity is gaining momentum among city officials, a movement that could change debates on land use. A proposal that Supervisor John Avalos floated last month would turn the Sharp Park golf course over to the National Park Service. His plan was a reaction to environmentalists’ sustained push to aid federally protected species that live there, the San Francisco garter snake and the California red-legged frog.


Story in progress: Veteran smart growth group wary of rushing to judgment

The other day we had a chance to chat over the phone with Jeremy Madsen, executive director of Greenbelt Alliance. This much-respected nonprofit has been advocating smart growth and open spaces in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1958. In 2008 the outfit published Smart Infill, a 80-page report that recommends infill development — building on vacant lots and redeveloping blighted urban areas — as a way of accommodating the Bay Area’s growing population without paving the region’s farms and natural areas.


Unveiling the Presidio’s new green neighborhood

The Presidio will open a green chapter in its storied existence this weekend when it invites the public to explore the restored and sustainably upgraded Public Health Service District. The Marine Hospital and a handful of residences near 15th Avenue and Lake Street on the southern edge of the Presidio have been converted into a residential neighborhood after decades of debate about the district’s future.


Athletes vie with birds in Golden Gate Park’s environmental turf war

A swath of ground at the western end of Golden Gate Park has stirred debate among soccer players, neighborhood residents, astronomers and environmentalists. The disputed turf is the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields. A plan to replace the grass surface with artificial turf has been put on hold by the Recreation and Park Commission which has ordered an environmental impact report on the project.


Restored Depression-era maritime murals recall heyday of public art

The Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park at Beach and Polk streets is emerging from a rehabilitation project with a noticeable facelift. The Bathhouse was built in 1939 by the Works Project Administration and became the park’s Maritime Museum in 1951. The building, which was designed to resemble the bridge of an ocean liner, is teeming with sea-themed art, none more striking that Hilaire Hiler’s “Undersea Life” mural, which has also been restored.


Bipedalism rules Sunday Streets kick-off

Take a virtual tour of the city’s northeastern waterfront … There were no slackers at the third annual Sunday Streets kick-off on Embarcadero. Whether it was biking, Rollerblading, scootering or walking, people — not vehicles — were mobile. The northbound lane of the Embarcadero, where bumper-to-bumper traffic on a Sunday is the norm, was converted to a bidpedal and pedalers’ mecca.