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General Meeting: Harvey Milk Plaza/Castro Transit Station; Port of San Francisco Waterfront Resilience Program Erik Honda

9 Aug 2021 11:37 PM | Robert Bush (Administrator)

DTNA General Meeting Notes August 2021 (Virtual Meeting due to Covid-19 pandemic)

Kimyn started by giving Kevin a bit of time to talk about Land Use issues. He reported on the progress on 14th Street and the Slow Triangle process.

Pat asked about the Duboce Triangle Historic District. David Troup reported that the historic content statement is complete. David and Dennis Richards have reviewed and sent their feedback. They are scheduled to do a walk around in the next couple of weeks that will determine what will be the historic district, what buildings are eligible for landmark status, etc. He will report at next Land Use or send info to Kevin to report.

At 7:10 Kimyn handed over to Bob to facilitate the Harvey Milk Plaza discussion. Bob laid out the agenda and that there would be a 5-minute question period after each of three presentations – city architect, Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, Advocated for Harvey Milk Plaza. Kevin will monitor the questions, Bob explained how to do that in the chat and in the Q and A  function on Google Meet.

Bob gives background – the transit station opened in 1980, the plaza was dedicated to Harvey Milk in 1985. He outlined the problems with the current station – accessibility, weather protection, and lack of fulsome dedication to Harvey Milk. The City has gotten funds to improve the accessibility, including an elevator and a canopy. That is an opportunity to re-envision the plaza. City will present the accessibility, then presentations on how to improve the other elements, one with a completely new design, one not.  

Alita Sweat from SFMTA, and Jane Chan, DPW project architect, presented the City’s plans. Jane said the project was initiated in 2016, but has been moving along very slowly. Project is now ready for bid, will be ready in the next few months, will start construction in early 2022.

Jane showed the plans for the new elevator, which will be accessible both from Market Street and from Castro. Street level improvements include widening the now very narrow sidewalk along Market to make it safer. Plan is to replant the garden, including removing current plants as it will be a staging area. But they will save the palms. Will replace the poles along Market and replace brick paving with concrete to aid wheelchair users. They are also planning to replace parts of the terrazzo paving for the same reason (it’s slippery). They are re-fencing the area to create an arrival/lobby area separate from the plaza. There is a plan to re-fabricate the Harvey Milk Memorial signage and enlarge them, and hang in a similar space. Jane explained there will be a safer bus on and off-loading space. The elevator will be glass, fully transparent, which will aid in safety and structurally independent of the plaza. Annette Williams, director of accessible services explained the need for the elevator.

Q and A: Pat asked if the elevator will be wheelchair accessible, A: yes. Pat: Some sort of guard rail to protect from cars? A: Railings are usually on back side of space, there will be a wall there, can’t do a rail at the curb as that prevents bus egress. David asks if the lower plaza will be closed when the MUNI station is closed. A: Yes, that’s why they added the new fencing. At night the plaza will be open, station will be fenced and closed. Kevin asked about the replanting, will the planting be brought up to street level? A: No, not part of this project. Will existing elevator will remain, as well as existing staircase and elevator? A: Yes, all will stay in operation during construction. Bob asks about a canopy over the escalator and the stairs, was that considered for Castro? A: Has been in discussion, but is not in this project. Canopy projects on lower Market were done in conjunction with BART. They will let us know. Bob thanks them for their work.

Next presenter is Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, who envision a new plaza that will improve on the weaknesses of the current design. Brian Springfield, Executive Director and Daniel Cunningham of SWA consulting (former Triangle resident), presented.

Brian thanks MTA for listening to the community – they made the elevator have four stops not three, including one on Market Street. Brian says that the idea of how to honor Harvey Milk more fulsomely is the main thing the community is concerned about and wants to see that move forward. Brian emphasizes that the project is still in iteration and they can still take more input. He went over the same slides he did at Land Use (see August Land Use notes for more details), with a history of Harvey Milk’s life and the aftermath of his death. He went over what the community wants, given the input they have gathered. 1) Public space 2) Safety issues addressed, but most importantly 3) Honor Harvey Milk and portray his significance. He also went over the history of Friends community outreach and polling which has been significant, especially when compared to that of the Advocates.

Daniel Cunningham explains what they asked the community and what the results were. For locals, or the world? A: Both. Design is based on Hope and Action. Uses the Grace Paley quote again – “the only recognizable feature of hope is action.” SWA has a cohesive, narrative design. Moves staircase west to allow more space for gathering, includes canopy that was requested earlier. Pedestal is a space for people to get up and speak, but does not block the historic façade of the B of A building. Lighting focuses back to the pedestal and a has a nod to the candlelight vigil after Milk’s death. They want to raise the sunken plaza (the 1970s-flavored part of the current design) to allow for more gathering space, and also provide sight lines all the way along. The want to emphasize the garden by bringing it up to grade. They want to have a Harvey Milk historic mural on the concourse level, and a skylight in the garden will allow for a soundscape with Harvey’s hope speech, and for more modern and updated voices too. Have figured a way to make the pedestal accessible. The elevator would be upgraded with a digital programming that would both honor Harvey and be updated to cover neighborhood issues.

Q and A: Kevin thanked them for addressing a question from Land Use about accessibility (speaker’s pad is now accessible). K says questions in the chat about why do all the demolition and change, why not just put in the elevator? Brian says that just upgrading the elevator does not allow for increased honoring of Harvey Milk. In 2016 when MTA said they were doing construction, Friends of Harvey Milk was created as a response to that. January 2017 were the first visioning sessions, and community was thinking big. Hans asks about the possibility of activation, like food and beverage stands, other things that would bring folks in and make them stay? A: Yes, please. Lyric Youth could run that.

Last HM presenter. Bob introduces Howard Grant, the plaza’s original architect, founder of Advocates for Harvey Milk Plaza. Denies responsibility for nooks and crannies that have been neglected. Says he is supportive of Friends desire to honor Harvey Milk. Says that Harvey Milk Plaza is eligible for listing as a historic place. Says that Harvey would want the community together. Points out that the station is a busy transit hub and is functioning well. Worries about the limited access to the station during construction. Shows some examples of possibilities like a transparent canopy that could include some art spaces, but generally presents few new ideas. His presentation is more of a “No, leave it as it is”. There were no questions.

Moving on, we finished with a presentation by Matt Bell Civil Engineer from the Port of San Francisco, who gave a Waterfront Resilience Program update. He explained that seismic resilience and sea level rise are the major issues they are working on.  Prop A bonds covered the part of the waterfront from Hyde Street pier to the ballpark. The seawall is 100 years old, and there is a seismic risk in a big enough earthquake - the wall could fail.  Studies will run through 2025, but some projects are already out to bid, the first construction will start in 2026. The port is in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers. If the Corps thinks it is good, federal money could pay up to 65% of the cost. As far as sea level rise they have learned the problem gets really bad and far inland at 2 to 3 feet which could happen this century and cause $30 billion in damage and destruction through 2100, so acting now is worth the investment. Matt showed a slide of the Army Corps study which goes further inland, and includes for example all of South of Market. He had some slides with examples of mitigations, like the wave wall that protects South Beach harbor.

Prop A was a significant investment, but they are looking at more – State funding, federal funding. Looking at key things to protect, the Ferry Building, the ballpark, the sewage treatment plant. Erik points out that there is a concern that if we "harden" our shoreline we will push the problem to somewhere else (other Bay communities). Q: What managed retreat or natural (wetlands) strategies are we considering to avoid that risk?

A: Embarcadero is already hard, so we are not adding to it.

Bob asks how they are coordinating with other Bay stakeholders (other cities)? A: Not really. The Bay Conservation and Development Commission says SF is farther along, so we get to do what we want, other cities will learn from us.

Bob: Any specific projects? A: Yes, 20, just haven’t figured out which ones to do.


Bob and Kimyn wrapped up the meeting at 8:33.

Board Members 2021

1.President: Kimyn Braithwaite - Sanchez Street

2.Vice President/Advertising Manager: Bob Bush - Beaver Street

3.Land Use Chair: Kevin Riley - Sanchez Street

4.Secretary: Erik Honda - Henry Street

5.Newsletter Editor: Rose Linke - Noe Street

6.Treasurer: Nikolai Sklaroff - Castro Street

7.Board Member/Membership Coordinator: Paige Rausser - Beaver Street

8.Board Member: Hans Galland

9.Board Member: Frank Tizedes

10.  Immediate Past President: Vacant

11.  Board Member: Vacant

Board Attendance: Kimyn, Bob, Kevin, Erik. 4/9 Board members attended

Attendance: (Including board members and presenters): 23


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