Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

1 minute read

September 26, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

The alley that has been transformed into the Landing at Leidesdorff. | Google Maps / Leidesdorff at Commercial, San Francisco

A redevelopment project in San Francisco is being touted by local boosters as “a bellwether for the resurgence of a struggling downtown,” writes Patrick Sisson in Fast Company. An alleyway now called the Landing at Leidesdorff, designed by SITELAB, “will feature removable street seating, murals recalling the area’s maritime history as a former wharf, and a village-like atmosphere in the center of downtown, complete with events and programming.”

The project is one effort to revitalize languishing public spaces around office buildings with vacancy rates of up to 31 percent. For Sisson and others, like SITELAB’s Laura Crescimano, the small scale of the project falls short of its grand vision. “Despite a year of work to make it happen, despite the wealth of historic architecture, support from the Mayor’s office and $385,000 in city investment, San Francisco will only pedestrianized a single alleyway as a pilot project (it will be car-free for 16 hours a day).”

But changing the shape of public space in downtowns can be tough. “Cities have traditionally over-indexed on offices because it was a way to make money on property taxes without having to provide the public services, like schooling, that residential neighborhoods demand.” Now, it will take effort to “restore a more diverse ecosystem.”

Saturday, September 23, 2023 in Fast Company

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