UC Berkeley FINAL REPORT COMBINED.pdf
DTNA has the privilege of working with UC Berkeley ’s College of Environmental Design on exploring the nuances of our vision for a Slow Triangle. Part of this work was inspired by a conversation with Hugo Errazuriz, who researched the Duboce Triangle himself in 2002 while a student at Cal. We had a conversation with Hugo about this work then, and here ’s what we learned.
DTNA: Hello Hugo. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hugo: Well, I came to San Francisco in 2000 and after working for a couple of years as an architect, I went to UC Berkeley to get my masters degree in urban design. I went on to work in Asia for more than a decade in the development of complex urban projects, regions and even new cities, mostly in China. In 2019, I moved back to San Francisco and now live on Beaver Street. I work as an urban design principal at the San Francisco office of AECOM, a global engineering and design firm.
DTNA: What was your first impression of the Duboce Triangle?
Hugo: I had walked through the Duboce Triangle many times and found it a beautiful place, but I don ’t remember knowing it as its own neighborhood. It was not until I was studying the urban grid of San Francisco at Berkeley that I started to pay attention to it, mostly because of its very unique location where multiple urban grids and communities intersect.
DTNA: We heard you did a project on the Duboce Triangle when you were at Berkeley in 2002. What was it about?
Hugo: As part of our Urban Design Research Methods class, we studied the relationship between street design and resident satisfaction. We had selected the Duboce Triangle for the research. During that time, we literally went door-to-door to conduct questionnaire surveys and resident interviews. We wanted to see whether a street that was designed to accommodate more pedestrian activity contributed to a higher resident satisfaction and created a deeper sense of community.
DTNA: What were the key things you learnt at that time?
Hugo: We found evidence that streets planned for people rather than cars (wider sidewalks, seating areas, green bulbouts) contributed to a greater sense of satisfaction.
We learned, however, that other factors were also important. For instance, the cul-de-sac conditions, as you find them on Pierce Street or Carmelita Street, were critical for satisfaction and community. These streets did not have bulbouts or seating areas like Noe or Sanchez, yet they scored really high with residents: the fact they did not have vehicular through-traffic created much bigger resident satisfaction and a deeper sense of community. These streets benefitted from pedestrians through traffic. So, unlike traditional dead-end streets that tend to be empty and may feel unsafe, the cul-de-sacs north of Duboce Park had pedestrians, who activated them and made them feel safe. We also witnessed a stronger sense of community in that neighbors on those cul-de-sacs knew their neighbors by name much more commonly than in other streets in the Duboce Triangle. Put differently, even though people on Noe Street were very happy, they didn't necessarily know the names of their neighbors. In sum, the absence of vehicular through-traffic combined with the presence of pedestrian through traffic created a stronger sense of community
DTNA: Any parting thoughts you would like to pass on to neighbors in the Duboce Triangle and DTNA while working on the Vision for a Slow Triangle?
Hugo: The Duboce Triangle is so interesting because it has a small scale and thus potential for a strong sense of community. Yet, one should not forget that it plays an important role in the larger city because of its central location, connecting many different neighborhoods. Therefore, any decisions you make within the Triangle affect a much larger area outside the Triangle.
It will therefore be important to balance the interests of Triangle residents with those of the larger community that may benefit from assets you find within or near the Duboce Triangle. You would want to be inclusive and not exclusive. Concretely, you can think of providing some areas that just cater primarily to the neighbors and others to visitors from neighboring areas.
DTNA: Thank you Hugo. These are very valuable insights.
Hugo: Thank you for having me.
As the pandemic paused commuter traffic, San Francisco rolled out a massive experiment: Slow Streets. Noe Street was selected as one such street, running right through the Triangle. In our Jun/Jul Newsletter, DTNA Land Use Chair Kevin Riley wrote about DTNA ’s exploration of a Slow Triangle “A Slow Triangle is a vision...not a policy, ballot measure, or SFMTA plan. It's an idea.”
To research aspects of the Vision: Slow Triangle, DTNA has been working with the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley. This was originally inspired by a conversation DTNA Board Member Hans Galland had with Hugo Errazuriz, resident on Beaver Street, who had conducted research on the Triangle in 2002 when he was a student at Cal. With Hugo ’s help, Hans secured the support of Dr. Zachary Lamb, Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning, who teaches “Urban Design Research Methods” and helped turn Vision: Slow Triangle into a research project for graduate students.
The goal of this research project was threefold. Firstly, for DTNA to use a participatory approach for residents to explore the complex nuances of a Slow Triangle. Secondly, to create an objective scientific basis for future design and implementation of a Slow Triangle from one of the world ’s most respected research institutions on this subject matter. Finally, it was our hope that this process could become the first chapter in a playbook that other neighborhoods in San Francisco and the world can use for community-driven assessments of Slow Neighborhoods.
DTNA Land Use Committee members kicked off the project on Sunday September 12, 2021 at Duboce Park touring 3 groups of 3 graduate students through the Triangle. DTNA emphasized the importance of exploring the relationship between a Slow Triangle and mobility, environmental sustainability, activation, and equity. Ultimately, the student groups decided to research the following three areas.
Walkability & Mobility. Researching the impact of parking configurations on traffic calming and the public realm. Field work focuses on Sanchez Street and three intersections considered high traffic zones (14th/Noe, Sanchez/Duboce, 14th/Sanchez). The findings can guide the design of future parking configurations.
Sustainability. Researching how characteristics of streetside gathering spaces (vegetation, amenity, size and dimension, location) encourage resident use and contribute to resident satisfaction. The findings can help the neighborhood activate underutilized spaces, promote resident satisfaction, and build more pleasant new community gathering spaces.
Activation. Researching how physical characteristics and vehicular traffic influence the desire of pedestrians to use streets. Field work focuses on 14th Street. Findings can guide design of streets for a more pleasant pedestrian experience, as desired.
Since September 12, 2021, the student groups have conducted multiple visits to the Triangle, attended DTNA Land Use and DTNA General Meetings, conducted observations, resident interviews, and archival research. You may have also met them as they participated at the Phoenix Day Street Fair to gather more comprehensive resident input.
We are very excited to learn about the findings the research has generated during our next General Meeting at 7 pm on Dec 13, 2021. We welcome your participation at the meeting and always appreciate your input and feedback. Please contact us at email@example.com
If you have been to a DTNA Land Use meeting recently, then you have heard talk of a “Slow Triangle,” a concept dreamt up by some of our members who have been inspired by the changes our neighborhood has experienced over the past year. Seeing the way our streets, businesses, and the patterns of our daily lives have adapted to these uncertain times has gotten people thinking about what could be achieved with proactive thinking, rather than just reactive trials.
So what do people mean when they say “Slow Triangle”? It could mean different things for different people. For me, it involves taking the concepts of Slow Streets and Shared Streets and applying them at a neighborhood scale rather than a single street. For Duboce Triangle, the perimeter streets of Market, Castro, and Duboce/Church would continue to act as the primary automobile thoroughfares. The blocks inside the triangle would become a network of Slow Streets - meaning they would have a very low-speed limit and would be shared by all travelers, not just those in a car. Businesses and restaurants could utilize sidewalks and parking spaces to activate the street, as we have seen done so successfully on Noe Street, Church Street, and Market Street. By liberating the public right-of-way from being exclusively for cars, we can create a neighborhood that is accessible to everyone.
This vision may seem fantastical. City-planning, our way of life, and even the American Dream have focused on the automobile since the mid-1900s! It seems impossible to imagine streets that are not for cars. “Go play in traffic” is a common insult, suggesting that the idea of people occupying streets is uncommon and dangerous. But that has not always been the case. The streets of Duboce Triangle were laid out in the late 1800s - many years before the mass production of cars and their incorporation into our daily lives. Our neighborhood was readapted to become car-centric. Historically, people were not restricted to narrow sidewalks and only allowed to cross a road at specified areas, at specified times. If our neighborhood (slowly, and over time) became car-centric, it can become something different again. We can advocate for a new style of urbanism, one that is reminiscent of its historical legacy. Could we get back to a time where children can play safely in the street?
I imagine some of you reading this are not immediately excited by this idea. I’ve heard from neighbors who are frustrated with Noe Slow Street. People are concerned that roads will be closed to them, that there is a stigma against those who drive a car, and access (to your home, to your business, to your community) will be restricted. That cannot be the case. If our neighborhood is to change, it should do so in a way that is inclusive of all uses; we cannot restrict ourselves to a binary conflict between cars and pedestrians. Instead, we have to find a way forward together, which requires letting some of our guards down and listening to each other, rather than being on constant defense for or against change.
A “Slow Triangle” is a vision. It is not a policy, ballot measure, or SFMTA plan. It's an idea. Something new, something different. If we are going to emerge from the past year having learned something, it should be that anything is possible. The whole world can stop and our lives can be turned upside down. In terms of our cities - we can experiment, try new things, and see what happens. A Slow Triangle is a vision that DTNA is interested in exploring. I hope you will join us in making our neighborhood more enjoyable, egalitarian, and safe.
Let us know what you think. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, please attend our monthly Land Use meetings - held at 7pm on the first Monday of every month. Email for a Zoom link!
2261 Market Street, PMB #301, San Francisco,CA 94114