Another thing that we’ve implemented in San Francisco that we should keep and expand is the Slow Streets program. With so many people cooped up and isolated in the city due to pandemic precautions, all needing to exercise and enjoy fresh air safely, this is a program whose time has come.
The SFMTA’s Slow Streets program is designed to limit through traffic on certain residential streets and allow them to be used as a shared space for people traveling by foot and by bicycle. Throughout the city, nearly thirty corridors have been implemented as a Slow Street.
SF launched an outdoor dining/business program called Shared Spaces to offer some relatively safe outdoor dining activities, and to support safer pick up for delivery services from food service companies. While I want the sidewalks to be kept clear for pedestrian use full time, especially for the unimpeded use of the disabled community, the approach of using car parking space for public enjoymentis a better, higher value, higher density use of public street space than storing privately owned cars, and so I zealously support it.
When I say that this offers a relatively safe outdoor dining, I mean that it is very relative based on how the space is configured. I’ve walked past some of these arrangements, and they vary widely. I won’t sit with unmasked strangers from other households while they eat within a high-walled area with a tent or overlapping umbrella roof.I wouldn’t sit that close to them surrounded by an enclosure if they were smoking, so there’s no way I would sit near them when they MAY have a highly contagious and potentially fatal virus! Those configurations aren’t “outdoor” enough for me.
“Outdoor” dining has become less and less outdoors as we move into our “winter” in North America, and that’s the safety issue:
If you are looking for a really GOOD outdoor dining set up, visit the Park Chalet at the west end of Golden Gate Park, which has an large lawn and can space tables 12 feet apart easily. Or visit any Parklet in the Mission District that is outside a cafe, where the walls are low, the air moves freely, and there is a decorative element that adds to the character of the street.
My hope is that the Shared Spaces approach for using street space for human uses – rather than car storage uses – will be implemented extensively and in the long term; and also that the execution of these spaces will be improved and measured against new, fit-for-purpose standards to ensure safety and appropriate air flow even beyond the pandemic.
San Francisco & California Regional Precautions & Restrictions
Here is how we here in San Francisco will be using California’s strictest regional approach through early January, in an attempt to hold down the ICU capacity numbers before the multi-week delay makes that impossible:
San Francisco, CA – Mayor London N. Breed and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax today announced San Francisco will join counties across the Bay Area to impose significant restrictions across the region in an effort to mitigate the current surge in COVID-19 cases.
The regional stay-at-home order from the California Department of Public Health is here:
What is especially discouraging for San Franciscans, who had kept the numbers so low until recently, is that we had some incremental service / business expansions which required extensive planning and infrastructure investment. There has been so much effort on the part of locals, businesses, and the City to allow those to succeed. But the infection rate has climbed dramatically, and so we can’t continue as if it hasn’t.
The big question as we challenge restrictions on things like outdoor dining or museums at 25% capacity is: which activities are causing the spike? Indoor dining DEFINITELY contributes to infections, based on reports from other regions, and we can follow that science. Meanwhile, the data on unenclosed (truly outdoor) dining, outdoor playgrounds with managed capacity, outdoor retail, and similar approaches is lacking. That lack of data is frustrating! We want to adapt, and we need that data.
San Francisco was assigned by the state to the most restrictive reopening tier (Purple) according to California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. This was due to an aggressive surge in COVID-19 cases. Our daily cases have nearly quadrupled in the past month.
Our county is tiny, so the idea of avoiding travel outside of SF is kind of wild. I haven’t left SF since March, so it is obviously totally do-able, but it’s still kind of a shock.
If you feel sick or you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, get tested.The City has issued a travel advisory urging residents not to travel outside of the county and recommending a 14-day quarantine for anyone who traveled outside the state or engaged in higher risk activity.
…as San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Services cheerfully reminded me today via text message. 😀
Yes, I remember EXACTLY where I was when it occurred: near a very large, floor-to-ceiling glass wall just outside of a classroom on the main campus of City College of San Francisco. My reflection VISIBLY distorted as the glass bent. My classmates inside looked up; I made a rolling wave gesture as they started to exit the room; and then there was a POP and the power went out.
As someone who has grown up with benign earthquakes, all I could think was: “Now I don’t have to go to calculus class!”
I wasn’t used to people DYING in local earthquakes – fatalities were uncommon in our area in my lifetime. Earthquakes broke old brick walls that hadn’t properly been reinforced, but little else. And while this particular quake was long and rolling where I was standing, it didn’t feel like a big deal at the time. It took a while for the news to come in, and some of it wasn’t plausible…
Anyway: this is a public service announcement to remind you to have an earthquake kit refreshed and ready to use. Admittedly, at this point in time, this kit may also include your wildfire GO BAG, but should also contain 72 hours’ worth of food and water. And some extra masks to protect you from the pandemic and/or PM2.5 wildfire smoke particles. And two tiny women to help you soothe, summon, and manage Mothra.
Whether you’re just starting out or a preparedness pro, gathering your emergency supplies is easy. A good rule of thumb is to have supplies for about 3 days, or 72 hours. You’ll be surprised at how much you already have.
First off, I’d like to give a general shout out to my local department of public health for doing such a great job of data sharing. The website (sample above) is clear, and there is lots of data about how this has played out neighborhood by neighborhood, zip code by zip code. This information has really helped me think about my relative risks and make informed decisions.
Next, I have to give praise to the people of my beloved hometown, San Francisco. A city of 800,000+ people still managed to keep the infection rate very low. I LOVE YOU PEOPLE!
The City is still adjusting what services are safe based on infection rates around the state. (SoCal keeps messing things up for us.) The current version of the game plan is here:
We are gradually reopening to keep our City safe and healthy.
My museums are writing to me with some excitement about their October re-openings, which will provide a new experience: uncrowded, carefully timed exhibit viewings! That’s… actually rather appealing. (I can’t sit to draw, but I can live with that.) I’m contemplating that now, and the complex logistics of getting around.
(Transit service was reduced dramatically to ensure compliance with the safety precautions, while providing minimum support for essential workers. This was hard on the essential workers! This resulted in stable access to everything for people who drive everywhere, and less access for socially responsible, environmentally concerned transit riders. 🙁 Yes, that is [sad face].)
The first iteration of the campaign was unveiled during Martin Luther King Jr. Week in January 2020, with 40 large-scale ‘COME TO YOUR CENSUS, S.F.’ posters-in the four official languages of San Francisco: English, Chinese, Spanish, and Tagalog-on JCDecaux kiosks along San Francisco’s Market Street corridor, and at the SF COUNTS 2020 Census launch with Mayor London N.
With so many of our streets largely deserted by cars, and people desperate for some fresh air, why not give the streets back to HUMANS?
That’s the idea behind Slow Streets, which also helps local businesses by providing space for customers to wait outside their businesses in safely spaced lines, while other people can safely walk through the area. It is a clever adaptation, and a good one to see!