Placemaking News

For 2021, The East Cut CBD is trying something a little different in our newsletters. Each month, subscribers can expect a theme in the newsletter highlighted in the “Placemaking News” section, with several articles featured relating to that topic and a connection to how the content ties into projects or programs completed, forthcoming, or, in the idea-phase within our district.

You can find a running list of articles and content related to our 2021 themes on this page, which range from Activating Vacant Retail Spaces to Design Trends in the “Post COVID” City. This page will be updated monthly as more placemaking news articles are aded-in, so check back often!

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

Slow Streets Works but Be Sure to Engage the Local Community First!

With the sudden arrival of COVID-19, city life was altered and a call for change emerged. One of the main responses to supporting socially distance physical activity is the concept of ‘Slow Streets,’ in which cities restricted vehicle access to select neighborhood streets. To read the full article on how the Slow Streets movement was realized in Oakland, CA, click here.

In the East Cut, one of the densest neighborhoods in San Francisco, SFMTA has made no attempts to create a Slow Street. The need for safe public spaces where residents, particularly children, can move and play, led to the CBD’s lobbying to activate the Temporary Transbay Terminal. The RFP for the activation was due February 3rd, and the CBD is hopeful that neighborhood-serving activities will be happening on the site in the coming months.

For a link to the full article click here.

Vision Zero in San Francisco and Beyond

Founded in Sweden in 1995, Vision Zero is a road safety system that seeks to achieve zero road fatalities through the implementation of its principles and guidelines. Most major cities in the United States have adopted a Vision Zero policy and San Francisco adopted its own policy in 2014, in an effort to eliminate fatalities and injuries that occur on San Francisco streets. 

The evolving East Cut neighborhood is developing as truly multi-modal, with pedestrian, biking, and, of course, transit improvements being implemented in the neighborhood. Salesforce Transit Center has largely taken regional bus lines off the districts streets. Folsom Street improvements are nearing completion, with a protected bike lane in both directions and new turn restrictions to protect pedestrians and bicyclists at crossings. Most recently, “quick build” improvements have come to both Howard and Beale streets. 

All these improvements leave untouched the biggest challenge – that the neighborhood is still a massive thoroughfare to and from the Bay Bridge. Too often cars come off the bridge onto Fremont at high speeds, zipping through intersections busy with pedestrians. On First Street, during rush hour, the street is gridlock with cars blocking the box and making illegal turns. When not backed up with rush hour traffic, the street can feel like a raceway onto the bridge. Creating a truly safe residential neighborhood will require solving this challenge. 

Vision Zero High Injury Network Map, link here
Vision Zero SF Annual Fatality Report, link here

Share your thoughts on top priorities for pedestrian and bicycle safety in the East Cut by reaching out to us at:

For a link to the full article click here.

First Raised Intersection Coming to SF

Raised intersections act like speed bumps, slowing down traffic and elevating the road to be flush with the sidewalk. San Francisco’s first raised intersection is planned for Page and Buchanan, and many pedestrian safety activists hope this means more will be installed in the future.

The East Cut contains several high injury corridor streets and unfortunately, New Years brought with it two deaths at the Second and Mission Street intersection, just outside of our district. You can find a summary of the tragic incidents here. Given the City’s decision to entertain a raised intersection at Page and Buchanan, the CBD hopes rollout in other high-density, high-traffic areas will be forthcoming, as they are desperately needed. 

Several improvements in The East Cut in recent years, such as raised crosswalks on Second Street and new signage on Folsom Street designating no right turns on red, have indeed helped to protect pedestrians. However, as the district grows in size and as more cars come back on the road, the question the CBD asks is how we might build on these isolated improvements to truly slow traffic across the district, making the community safe for seniors, children and everyone to live, work, and play. Indeed, larger, systemic interventions are necessary.

For a link to the full article click here.

The U.S. Was Not Ready for The COVID Bike Boom. With Decades to Prepare, How Did This Happen?

If the first major bicycling boom took place in 1890, and bike use has grown steadily over the last few decades, why then are most major U.S. cities so far behind in creating sustainable biking infrastructure? Unfortunately, in the United States, urban planning and transportation authorities have long prioritized cars when building out urban transit networks.

The East Cut has some of the most sophisticated bike infrastructure in the City. Folsom Street has our newest cycle track, and Beale Street is our most forward thinking in that is has a two-way cycle track (there are only one or two others in the City). What’s more, planning stages for a two-way cycle track on the Embarcadero, just steps from our district, are in the concept phase with SFMTA. 

Another project that emphasizes cyclist protection in the East Cut is the Howard Street Quick Build, which was completed last December. A full reconstruction is planned for Howard Street as part of the Howard Streetscape Improvements Project, which would add another two-way cycle track to the neighborhood. These various street improvement projects will soon unite the district’s bike network to that of the rest of the City, but what about an overall reduction in vehicular traffic to promote both bike and pedestrian safety and prioritize the environment? This will require cultural policy shifts that may be on the horizon with a new administration in Washington D.C. that seeks to promote energy-efficient modes of transportation.  

For a link to the full article click here.

Moving Forward with Market Street Improvements

Market Street, one of San Francisco’s busiest and most well-known streets, has been approved for redesign––but not everyone is thrilled with the new plan. The original street redesign was scaled back due to the sudden toll that the pandemic-driven recession took on the project’s budget; the new plan will result in a $300 million savings for the total project. This reduction in costs, however, came with some backlash against the rather controversial redesign.

To learn more about the redesign and recent project changes, click here.

OakDOT Does Ped Improvements on Market, San Pablo

The Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) is midway through a series of intersection and crosswalk improvements on Market Street and San Pablo between 4th Street and 34th. The funding that is paying for all this work is from a Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program grant, awarded in part due to a history of crashes and fatalities along the corridor. There is still a lot of work to be done to make Oakland’s streets truly safe, but this is a good first step.

One step The East Cut has taken to improve street safety is our recently completed Folsom Streetscape Improvement Project, which comprised new asphalt paving, improved traffic signals, roadway lane striping, green cycle tracks, and much more! Additionally, Howard Street currently has a few temporary, quick-build safety measures implemented that could serve as a test for something potentially permanent in the near future. Overall, enhancements will, very hopefully, continue to expand to more streets in our district!

For a link to the full article click here.

Lessons from Delft: An Urban Ideal

Delft, Netherlands is a great model of a calm, healthy, car-light environment, and should be used as inspiration for other cities. Moreover, Delft was one of the first cities to implement a traffic circulation plan with a border for livable streets and the first city to establish a cycle network. Its design has created a more equitable city overall, where even people who can’t afford a car or can’t drive have the freedom to move about safely, and is more accessible to the elderly, the disabled, and children. This city truly takes pedestrian and bicycle safety to the next level.

As previously mentioned, The East Cut’s recent Folsom Streetscape project was a great first step towards the radical prioritization of people over cars in San Francisco––all parking was removed, sidewalks and crosswalks were widened, and so much more. Looking ahead in the district, the upcoming Harrison Streetscape will also improve the pedestrian experience through the addition of bulb-outs at intersections to make pedestrians more visible, new street trees and sidewalk planting, pedestrian street lighting, and roadway lighting, bike racks, and trash cans!

For a link to the full article click here.

‘Greenway Stimulus’ Could Bring Boom in Biking and Walking Trails

Many advocates believe that the time has come for a “Greenway Stimulus”. In an effort to expand the idea of greenways across the nation, about 200 environmental and active-transportation organizations are stepping up pressure to carve $10 billion out of the Biden administration’s prospective American Jobs Plan, or corresponding infrastructure-related bills, to help complete hundreds of proposed walking and bike trail projects around the country. The ultimate goal is to render a nationwide network similar to the interstate highway system, but for cyclists and walkers instead.

While the bike network in The East Cut is very strong, we hope that such accessibility could eventually extend to the rest of San Francisco and connect throughout the city. In general, San Francisco is lacking the right infrastructure especially in southeastern neighborhoods such as Bayview and Hunter’s Point. With biking and walking, and other such alternative modes of transportation, becoming more prevalent and important, San Francisco needs to prioritize them in all of its communities––and The East Cut will continue to do so, as well

For a link to the full article click here.

Vibrant Public Spaces

15-Minute City Model Fan? Try The 1-Minute!

The 1-minute city is a recent revolutionary trend in Urban Planning, similar to the 15-minute city, but with a focus on serving a specific street’s needs, such as cafe seating, exercise, play, or bike storage. Effectively, the planning model seeks to challenge the idea of streets as places to move and store cars but rather critical connecting spaces for any given community leveraging street furniture, in particular, to meet these needs.

Just imagine if San Francisco had this modular street furniture in development before the pandemic; suddenly, Slow Streets could be leveraged to include everything from exercise stations to play sites! Read more about this revolutionary new urban planning concept via the link below.

For a link to the full article click here.

Cities Across the U.S. Leveraged Public Spaces in 2020 to Promote Civic Life

Many cities across the United States have used the pandemic to activate public spaces in order to best serve local communities. In Memphis, the City closed the downtown thoroughfare, which increased park attendance, and the riverfront transformed into an outdoor active space for training lessons, runners, and skaters. Overall, citizens reported feeling safer, more active, and more connected to their City’s park.

Learning from project implementation successes and failures is a key goal of the CBD in 2021 so that it can advocate for efficient, value-adding public space activations this year and for the foreseeable future. The CBD’s restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic, so an innovative and practical use of public space by the Georgia city of Macon, highlighted in this article, resonated with us. Picnic tables were brought into median parks to encourage the use of take-out offerings by nearby restaurants. This initiative, combined with an open-container policy, encouraged safe socialization while helping to sustain local businesses. The CBD has experienced success with lunchtime and weekend food-centric activations in the past and feels leveraging the Temporary Transbay Terminal for this sort of effort is an excellent idea to increase socially distanced socialization and economic vitality central to our district.

For a link to the full article click here.

Avoiding Failure in Activating Public Spaces

In this article from 2018, CityLab examines the link between public spaces and public space activation, with the latter serving not as a complimentary feature but an essential one for a public space to succeed.

One insight that resonates with the CBD is the notion that activating a space can help it be “seen.” A previously passed-by plaza, no matter how thoughtfully designed, can go unnoticed by residents for years until programming encourages people to interact with the space. Additionally, since activations are not permanent like fixtures are, they can evolve to meet the community’s needs seasonally, or over years!

Mechanic’s Plaza (at Market and Battery) is an example here in our own city of a space where a simple swap in furniture and the addition of an interactive component dramatically increased use. The plaza previously had fixed benches that were installed in parallel rows that did not attract visitors. As a result, Public Works removed the benches and added a steward, moveable tables and chairs, and a big checkerboard. These interventions transformed the space, which pre-COVID was bustling during business hours each weekday! 

There is a clear connection between public space, design components, and stewarded activations when optimizing for public use. We hope to employ these learnings towards the temporary activation of the Temporary Transbay Terminal, and in the future at Under Ramp Park!

For a link to the full article click here.

Successes in Temporary Activations Support Economic Vitality

Union Square’s Winter Walk was awarded the International Downtown Association’s Downtown Achievement Award of Excellence in 2019 for its level of innovation, excellent urban place management delivering real value to the city, and an exemplary response to a community challenge. Winter Walk SF was a pop-up holiday pedestrian plaza combining decor, mobile food and beverages, a communal beer garden, family-friendly activities, art, live music, and interactive experience over five festive weeks in the heart of Union Square. The project truly improved the image and vitality of downtown San Francisco. 

The East Cut feels that it has the potential, between large public open spaces and interesting alleyways, to ideate and implement similar seasonal activations, building on last year’s Emperor Norton’s Bazaar. Furthermore, the CBD looks for opportunities to reclaim the Public Right of Way through temporary street closures, showcasing to residents and City Officials alike how these spaces, once exclusively dedicated to vehicular traffic, may better serve the community when repurposed.

For a link to the full article click here.

Successes in Temporary Activations Support Economic Vitality

Palo Alto is one example of utilizing art to transform public spaces and help a city define itself and what it aspires to be. With this mission in mind, new sculptures and murals have sprouted up all over Palo Alto, and the city began a rotating series of temporary installations at City Hall’s King Plaza. Some of the Plaza’s previous public art installations included bright blue painted trees and a Bucolic Labyrinth, a winding design of artificial grass by Paz de la Calzada. Elise DeMarzo, the city’s current public art program director, hopes to stimulate an ongoing public conversation through the rotating public art.

Similarly, San Francisco has a “1%-for-art program” that requires large downtown projects to provide public art that equals at least 1% of the total construction cost. This initiative works to beautify and enrich public spaces throughout San Francisco, including many spaces within The East Cut. For example, Ugo Rondinone’s sculpture trio entitled, “Moonrise” located at 555 Mission draws the attention of passers-by to explore and contemplate the work. Viewers often take photos or selfies, sit near the sculptures, and converse on their meaning with companions.

To get a better idea of the public art throughout our district, stay tuned for our upcoming East Cut Public Art Tour, taking you around to some of the best projects in our neighborhood!

For a link to the full article click here.

From Boarded Up Storefronts to Public Art

Some things have become synonymous with the pandemic: masks, lines at the bank, take-out, and in downtown districts, plywood covering many storefronts shut down since spring 2020. As we experienced here in San Francisco, many cities and neighborhoods engaged with local artists to decorate these wood walls with murals or branding for the building they protected. But what will happen when the wood comes down?

In this article by Linda Poon, creative repurposing of plywood boards by nonprofits and community groups sparks a conversation around art, community, and healing. Poon examines efforts by various nonprofits to get wood into the hands of local government agencies and groups able to put them to good use. From voter registration booths to animal enclosures to street furniture, there is much good that can come out of repurposing these materials.

In our district, we have a number of bars in particular that are boarded. With the possibility of activating the Temporary Transbay Terminal, what might a cache of wood boards do for our community? A community mural wherein residents can add their own art and messages over a weekend, perhaps? Picnic tables for outdoor socializing? There are many possibilities!

For a link to the full article click here.

Activating Vacant Retail Spaces

Vacant Retail, An Opportunity for Any Downtown!

The Link2Lift team notes that city centers used to be constantly buzzing and bustling with movement––but that started to change with the emergence of e-commerce. Nowadays, people have less incentive to drive downtown and spend time and energy shopping at multiple locations. Unfortunately, this has created many vacancies in downtown spaces, slowly taking the life out of city centers. Urban planners, however, have been coming up with creative temporary uses as a way to draw people in and activate these spaces, reviving cities and communities, socially and economically.

With that in mind, since early 2017, The East Cut CBD has been turning vacant retail space into places for the community to gather through pop-up art shows and events, partnering with local artists and developers in the neighborhood. These events have proven successful in enlivening empty commercial space and showcasing the potential for storefronts in the district. What’s more, they promote an increase in foot traffic, which acts as a natural buffer against crimes of opportunity; something which has been an increasing issue in San Francisco since March 2020.

For a link to the full article click here.

Activation of Ground Floor Retail: Improved Neighborhood Safety

Store break-ins are on the rise in San Francisco with some district merchants reporting tens of thousands of dollars in damages. In this article by the San Francisco Chronicle, security challenges across the City are examined with particular attention paid to the investment by small businesses to mitigate damages and the financial burden the spike in these break-ins has placed on them.

In our own district, we have seen dormant small businesses affected by this increase in crime. Natoma Cabana alone has experienced two break-ins in less than a month. Of particular note are the timings of break-ins; rather than sticking to the cover of night, burglars are become more brazen, breaking into cars and businesses during the day (as was the case for Natoma Cabana).

This reveals that desperation by certain groups combined with the reduction in daytime foot traffic makes certain districts particularly vulnerable. The CBD’s security ambassadors patrol 24/7, however, they cannot be everywhere at once. A vibrant street life is one of the most impactful ways to promote street safety. Busy streets encourage accountability, and a bustling neighborhood and its residents and daily visitors act as a natural buffer to crime. The CBD views fostering street vibrancy as essential to supporting the district’s recovery, and as a result, is paying particular attention to temporary activations of public and vacant retail spaces.

For a link to the full article click here.

From Vacant Space to Pop-Up Social Infrastructure

The Boston nonprofit CultureHouse is physically using vacant storefronts to create pop-up public spaces, hosting non-commercial events such as game nights, ping-pong tournaments, movie screenings, and more. By partnering with local resources and bringing these vacancies to life, businesses are supported, and people are given a reason to stay in an area.

With similar intent, the East Cut CBD is hosting several pop-up events with local businesses that foster art, culture, and community, and activate underutilized retail spaces in the neighborhood. Our activation with Problem Library (opening this week) hosted by the Mira is an example of a rent-subsidized space to offer community members access to art activations in a previously vacant retail space. 

The Temporary Transbay Terminal activation is our best, upcoming example of an activation that combines social infrastructure like sports courts and picnic tables with the representation of local merchants via food trucks and a beer garden. The addition of a flex space further provides social engagement via potential movie screenings and other event-activations. What’s more, if the CBD is able to bring in an affordable farmer’s market, it will be able to support local growers and also the need for affordable, fresh produce. 

Finally, one could also argue that the development of the area in and around Folsom Street, which subsequently prompted the rebuilding of the streetscape, supports all of these activations. These improvements promote civic engagement by providing a more useable space for pedestrians and merchants via wider sidewalks, along with an overall upgraded visual experience that increases foot traffic. 

Overall, it is clear that organizations like a CBD help to take a holistic look at the needs of a given community and can serve as a linchpin to connect the needs of residents and visitors with projects being promoted, proposed, and considered by city agencies and developers.

For a link to the full article click here.

The Post-COVID City

What Will City Centres Look Like Post-COVID?

Planners are saying that the social interaction aspect of city centers will become even more important post-COVID. The changes brought about by COVID-19, such as empty offices due to work-from-home policies, or vacant retail spaces due to closing businesses, have pointed to the effectiveness of creating hybrid spaces. Urban planners are urging landlords to focus on enriching an area culturally rather than solely economically. It is becoming more and more imperative that retailers think to create multi-format spaces, to allow for economic and social prosperity in the city.

If society, in general, goes to, for example, a three-day-in-the-office workweek, the downtown economy will need to adapt. Suddenly there will be a hybrid approach. Businesses will likely adapt to a schedule that may be fairly consistent across industries, with workdays and work-from-home days lumped together, respectively. How will the ground floor retail spaces also adapt to this new fluctuation in neighborhood population? These spaces will need to cater to the work crowds and residential crowds alike. The East Cut is poised to act as a beacon for this type of cultural shift, with a healthy mix of office and residential population. More to come as the pandemic evolves.

For a link to the full article click here.

Amazon’s ‘Helix’ and the Shape of the Post-Pandemic Office

The future state of cities in the post-pandemic world is uncertain, but perhaps Amazon’s upcoming HQ2 complex in Virginia will provide a glimpse into what to expect in regards to office shapes and designs. Moreover, the ‘Helix’ will be a 350-foot-tall tower shaped like a conch shell that will feature meeting spaces, indoor gardens, and more. With rising inequality, climate change, and COVID-19 gradually disrupting normal living and working patterns, the Helix could very well not be an evolution of the city but rather an escape from what the city has become.

The design of the Helix truly looks back to nature for inspiration, replicating natural forms, such as a twisting DNA structure, and emphasizing fresh air and outdoor access in the office space. While the pandemic has shifted the nature of cities, technology, nonetheless, has the power to transform cities, as well. That being said, as a global influence, Amazon is responsible for and capable of pushing the technological envelope of design and planning, especially at a time like now. Technology can change cities, and cities can change people’s lives; the Helix may be the first big step towards this important urban shift.

For a link to the full article click here.

Why CityLab Believes the City Will Live On

As the pandemic gradually comes to an end, it is natural to wonder how cities will recover from empty downtown offices, shuttered restaurants and stores, rising crimes and taxes, and more. A survey was sent out to 1,200 residents from the country’s six largest metropolitan areas regarding their attitudes toward urban and suburban life, and how they feel about where they are living during the pandemic. The results depict an image of urban strength in crisis as city residents remain committed to cities and responses show no evidence of a long-term urban exodus.

Furthermore, a recent report showed that rents have started to increase in San Francisco, a sign that vacancy rates are going down. Major corporations have announced a schedule to return (at least in part) to the office and traffic levels in the Bay Area are at almost 90% of pre-pandemic levels. All of this suggests life as we knew it, in some form, is returning. One point of concern for the CBD specifically regarding traffic levels is that current levels do not correlate to the percentage of commuters back at the office. This suggests Bay Area residents are choosing to drive over taking public transit, which could spell troubling signs for air quality, transit revenue, and general traffic congestion.

For a link to the full article click here.

Where the ’15-Minute City’ Falls Short

While the idea of the 15-minute city, a post-pandemic design in which residents live within a short walk or bike ride of all their daily needs, is objectively appealing, it may not be easily translated to every urban context. Moreover, the notion does not take into account a neighborhood’s history of urban inequity, patterns of segregation, or other realities of marginalized communities; simply inserting the design into a city does not eliminate the underlying conditions embedded in its fabric.

Nonetheless, the 15-minute city is being implemented in many European cities, which are well-suited to the notion given that many of the cities were planned before the invention of the automobile and are thus designed around people rather than cars. On the other hand, many American city designs center around cars and highways rather than people, contributing to the creation of deep social divisions within communities. Ignoring these divisions and implementing uninformed planning policies could further alienate marginalized communities.

In the East Cut, we have a number of projects in the works that will draw from this approach to successful community development: Under Ramp Park, the development of Blocks 2, 3, and 4, and the East Cut Landing temporary activation. The CBD prides itself on engaging community stakeholders and actively seeking resident feedback to ensure designs and programs reflect both the current needs of area residents and the interests of visitors to support the local merchant population. At top of mind for the CBD is the successful implementation of feedback towards programming and refined site plans at the Temporary Transbay Terminal; the CBD sees itself as the body best positioned to ensure outside groups respect the needs and wants of community members as this much anticipated temporary activation is realized.

For a link to the full article click here.

One Feature of the Pandemic Cityscape that San Francisco Should Keep

With shops and restaurants closing down during the pandemic, parklets flourished, and deservedly so; parklets offered economic lifelines for restaurateurs, gave the streets some ‘visual flair,’ and increased foot traffic in otherwise slow commercial districts. There has been a recent push by San Francisco Mayor London Breed and at least four supervisors to make the temporary initiative to expand parklets permanent. Overall, the dining parklet may be an innovation induced by the pandemic, but expect it to also persist in the post-pandemic city.

A Program in The East Cut that we hope will bring a similar vibrancy to street life is the East Cut Seats (table and chairs) program, which has the objective of helping neighborhood businesses participate in the new form of outdoor dining. The program will assist local businesses, increases neighborhood sociability, and strengthens identity throughout the district!

For a link to the full article click here.

Placemaking and Wayfinding

Seven Examples of Placemaking in San Francisco and the Bay Area

Placemaking is the fine-grain detail cities deploy to create a stronger sense of community and identity, one the Bay Area leverages in many forms. From signage that provokes curiosity and street art that incites change, to urban greening projects and parklet programs that rapidly flourish in a neighborhood, San Francisco and surrounding Bay Area cities continue to evolve and form unique identities.

The parklet program, one great placemaking example, was born in San Francisco and is now a staple of streetscapes across this city and others around the globe. Another placemaking initiative in San Francisco is Sunday Streets: events where parts of streets are closed off and turned into temporary public spaces for walking, cycling, and other community activities.

The East Cut, with its own Sunday Streets blocks and an expanding parklet program, still sees a great opportunity at the now-vacant Temporary Transbay Terminal site. We envision activation on the block that will infuse new vibrancy into our neighborhood. Moreover, these initiatives deepen community bonds and facilitate community building, support local residents and retailers, and strengthen the overall identity of our district.

For a link to the full article click here.

Home Designs That Define Our Global Cities

Cities are often defined by the people and the culture that they encompass, and sometimes by their aesthetic. However, a lot can also be said from a city’s home design. More specifically, floor plans of homes can actually help explain the way people in a city live and how they have shaped the design and architecture of the surrounding neighborhood. Or, perhaps even vice versa: how the design and architecture in a city have shaped the way its people live. Digging even deeper, the interior architecture and floor plans of homes can also work to reflect a city’s history. One example is the steep staircases in Amsterdam that reflect the city’s long history as a merchant port, in which maximizing floor space to store goods was common. That being said, in most places, specific floor plans tend to recur again and again; this gives a city its character and even helps in molding the concept of what a home should look like in a certain area.

In the same regard, San Francisco can be defined and characterized by its city pattern and home designs. Along with the city’s well-known architectural styles, such as Victorian townhouses and Gothic Revival skyscrapers, the interior plan of these buildings can also point to the city’s history as an earthquake-prone location from the way buildings are structured, among other things. Overall, San Francisco and other cities definitely have distinct and telling features both from the outside and from the inside.

For a link to the full article click here.

Examining the Art and Science of Placemaking

True placemaking connects to the culture of the community, provides benefits that can enhance a population’s health and happiness, and grants people a tangible sense of belonging. People––their experience and well-being––should be at the forefront of any changes; listening to the community and prioritizing their voices is key in effective placemaking. This also includes supporting local talent and local businesses in neighborhood projects, creating a feedback loop with the stakeholders. Additionally, making sure to honor the geography and culture of a neighborhood enables a space to reach beyond the purely aesthetic.

The East Cut’s current landmark activation project of the Temporary Transbay Terminal through East Cut Landing Partners takes in feedback collected via surveys, emails, and calls, and synthesizes this with the engagement of area merchants to foster an activated space that reflects the needs and character of our unique district. The CBD was well-positioned to collect this data having conducted rigorous solicitation of community feedback for its SoDA project. The depth and quantity of feedback the CBD collected both allowed for a proposal to OCII that truly reflected the community’s needs but also, now that the project is moving forward, that has allowed the CBD to weigh suggestions from external stakeholders against the needs expressed by residents and merchants to best advocate for all.

For a link to the full article click here.

COVID-19 Redefines and Increases the Importance of Placemaking

With citizens across the country finally receiving vaccinations and communities gradually coming back to life, placemaking takes on an even greater role in the design and implementation of growing developments and the need to turn communities from places to destinations. An interesting shift sparked by the pandemic is the sudden move out of city centers; many are moved out of the comparatively pricey and densely populated metropolitan areas to suburban areas. These changes are likely to be long-term, if not permanent, so the importance of placemaking is increasing and cities will be striving to implement full-scale placemaking projects. Walkable communities with housing, public transportation, parks, restaurants, shopping, career opportunities, healthcare, etc, are one way for cities to take our new circumstances and create greater opportunities for people who want to live, work, and play in their neighborhoods.

In our own neighborhood, The East Cut CBD continues to work on important placemaking initiatives. For those living outside the district, projects such as the activation of the Temporary Transbay Terminal, promotion of local retail, vacant retail activations, public art installations, and more as part of The East Cut’s unique culture further reinforce this concept of destination placemaking. For those in-district, daily parks programming, walkability to retail, the community garden, POPOS, public space activation, and more reinforce the ease of living in a community where there is something for everyone “right outside your door.”

For a link to the full article click here.

Active Parks, Green and Privately Owned Public Open Spaces

Green Spaces Will Remain Popular in Post-COVID Residential Construction

The abrupt arrival of COVID-19 forced people to rethink the use of green spaces; once known as a mere amenity, an outdoor green space is now seen as an essential part of any design. The pandemic renewed people’s desire to spend more time outdoors and brought to light the importance of accessible green spaces for both physical and emotional wellbeing. This shift can be seen in new urban residential developments as firms will now prioritize the integration of green spaces in their projects. By incorporating lush, landscaped courtyards, vertical landscaping systems, accessible outdoor spaces, and more into building designs, residents will have an easier way to connect with nature. Also, of course, green spaces are an effective means of filtering out pollutants and carbon dioxide––win-win!

Speaking of green spaces, The East Cut has many of them! From our parks, including Salesforce Park, Emerald Park, and Guy Place Mini Park, to our numerous POPOS, there are green spaces all throughout the district to enjoy. Check out our online POPOS inventory at to see what’s nearby and explore some of our hidden neighborhood gems!

For a link to the full article click here.

How to Create an Urban Oasis

Outdoor open spaces and parks, especially in dense, urban areas, are rather essential for the vitality of a city and community. However, you can’t just plop down a patch of lawn between two buildings and call it a park; a successful open space requires ongoing activation to keep it safe and desirable for everyone. It has been observed that many people in lower-income communities are not using their local parks––mainly due to a lack of investment and activation in them. That said, it is important to use the infrastructure of parks as a way to build community. Often, people don’t know how to interact with their parks and need to be incentivized to reconnect with them, which can be done through programming and other forms of activation.

There are many open spaces and parks to enjoy in The East Cut, including our most recently opened Guy Place Mini Park, which offers a relaxing respite from the hustle and bustle of the city and is open from 8am to 8pm daily. As has been previously advertised, the new park at the Temporary Transbay Terminal site will add yet another great open space to the neighborhood. In the interim, the Temporary Transbay Terminal Activation project will serve as a test case for future programming in the project’s permanent park. Make sure to check them out and all of our other wonderful parks and open spaces!

For a link to the full article click here.

The Importance of Public Spaces

A public space can come in various shapes and sizes, but there are a few key factors that make a public space truly successful. These factors include, but are not limited to, the accessibility of the space, the comfort of the space, and the sociability of the space. Firstly, it is important for a space to be welcoming and inclusive of the diversity of groups present in cities; disability access is important in creating an inclusive space, for example. Comfortability is another significant factor, which encompasses the ability for people to be themselves in the public realm. One way this can be achieved is through public art; art tends to create a very comfortable atmosphere for people to express their true selves and interact with the objects around them. Finally, the social aspect of a public space can really make or break it. It’s important to have a space for public activities and social events to get people to engage with one another––this creates an intricate connection between the space and the people in it.

Public spaces are very important in The East Cut, as well. Our district holds an array of wonderful public spaces, including parks, pockets, and plazas! Our POPOS (Privately Owned Public Open Spaces) have various amenities, from greenery, seating, and art, to food, water features, pet friendliness, and more for all to enjoy. Check out our online POPOS inventory at to see what’s nearby!

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Parks and Green Spaces Helped Us Through the Lockdown––But Not Everyone Has Equal Access

Research has shown that inequality in the use of green spaces definitely exists. For example, in some countries, such as the UK, many people were spending less time in green spaces than before the lockdown––likely due to feelings of anxiety when venturing out of the house, especially for the elderly or those with health issues. Moreover, inequalities in the use of green space are likely associated with an occupation. For instance, less than 10% of manual laborers worked from home during the initial lockdown, while 75% of managerial and professional workers worked from home, giving them more opportunities to visit green spaces. When parks and outdoor spaces lack amenities such as seating and toilets or have high crime levels and too much litter, residents become less likely to use the space. This discrepancy goes to show that green spaces must be protected and prioritized to ensure that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable do not lose out on the amazing benefits of outdoor public space.

The East Cut is filled with great parks and green spaces. Whether it’s a park, a plaza, or a sun terrace, there are spaces all across the district to enjoy some greenery and get a breath of fresh air. Our open spaces also come with a variety of amenities, including seating, restrooms, public art, food, etc. More importantly, our open spaces are accessible to people of any economic status. The East Cut strives to be diverse and inclusive, from our public open spaces to affordable housing and more.

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Urban Parks are Far More Than the ‘Lungs’ of a City

While urban parks definitely act as the lungs of a city, they also do a bit more than that. The creation and adaptation of large green areas have become a constant on the agenda of local governments of cities, especially as a means for social interaction and cohesion. Moreover, urban parks are great spaces for social and cultural events or just places to relax, play sports, or meet up with friends and colleagues. Other benefits are that they reduce ultraviolet radiation, lessen noise from road traffic and machinery, and create a sort of oasis for both plants and animals––and humans.

One of San Francisco’s largest urban parks, found in The East Cut, is Salesforce Park. Seventy feet above the Grand Hall, the Park runs the entire length of the Transit Center’s nearly four-block stretch. It’s home to 600 trees and 16,000 plants arranged in 13 different botanical feature areas and is for the benefit and enjoyment of all. After a slow year during the pandemic, the park is finally up and running again with an array of amazing programs, from yoga and fitness bootcamps to photography, knitting, garden education, and more! Make sure to check them out at

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Urban Agriculture

Grocery Stores Anchor Communities and Every Neighborhood Needs One

Grocery stores are vital components of a successful community, and the COVID-19 pandemic further proved that through unprecedented sales and increased reliance on neighborhood markets. That being said, not every neighborhood has access or the means to provide a grocery store. Indeed, the areas that need grocery stores the most are also the hardest places to find available infill land to build expansive aisles for produce and other items; these areas tend to be dense, urban communities with less access to fresh food. Building a grocery store in an urban environment also comes with a lot of design challenges with regard to parking, shipping, loading, storage space, and aesthetics. Nonetheless, with the right design, tailored to each individual community’s needs, grocery stores can truly be engines of economic change in local economies.

In The East Cut, we hope to see a more affordable grocery store option in or nearby the district in the near future. A potential location for a future grocery store may be right outside of the district at Seawall Lot 330. That being said, The East Cut CBD sent a letter to the Port of San Francisco urging the lot’s chosen developer to include a grocery store in the parcel, and we will report back on any developments on that front. Read more about proposed plans for this lot here.

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War-Era Victory Gardens Make a Comeback

During WWII, an estimated 20 million ‘Victory Gardens’ were planted in backyards and on fire escapes and rooftops, producing 40 percent of all of the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States. In 2020, the National Garden Bureau encouraged a Victory Gardens 2.0 movement, urging people to grow their own food due to the spike in food insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 42 million Americans expected to experience a lack of consistent access to food in 2021. Gardening has been more popular than ever during the pandemic and has really gone to show that small contributions in the collective can have an enormous impact. More specifically, gardens are a wonderful strategy to increase community-based food security as well as provide people with healthy and diverse produce.

In a similar effort, The East Cut CBD is building a community garden in the district, located at 29 Essex Street. The garden will include a tool shed, a lemon tree, wood garden plots, compost bins, and much more. This will be a great place for residents to garden, grow fresh foods, and socialize with neighbors! We hope that this community garden will activate a vacant parcel in the community for East Cut residents, as well as give the neighborhood yet another way to work together and strengthen the community.

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A New Farm in Bayview Aims to Take a More Equitable Spin on Farm-to-Table Cuisine

A sunny plot of land in Bayview that used to be a neighborhood dumping ground is now being transformed into an invaluable community resource: an urban farm. The founders of this urban farm hope that residents in need will be able to pick up affordable organic greens within walking distance of their homes, and are also in the process of connecting with local chefs in hopes of building a version of farm-to-table California cuisine.

The East Cut CBD hopes to bring these benefits to our own neighborhood through our upcoming community garden. The garden will be a great place for residents to garden, grow fresh foods, compost, and socialize with neighbors! A local restaurant has even approached us about wanting a space in the garden to grow food, which may perhaps inspire future farm-to-table cuisine in the neighborhood!

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