A very small car-free street plan just got smaller, as the SFMTA voted this week to keep one block of Hayes Street car-free on the weekends, but with much more limited car-free hours.
The pandemic-era car-free Hayes Street has not generated near the gnashing of teeth of the car-free JFK Drive or car-free Great Highway debates. That’s probably because it’s only one car-free block. What started as a three-block closure of Hayes Street to cars in August 2020 was reduced to just the one block in Hayes Valley between Gough and Octavia streets earlier this year, and only on weekends at that.
City Hall abruptly decided to discontinue even that limited car-free arrangement in July, but they backtracked and extended it a few months after blowback from local merchants. And we reported in September that a movement to make that block permanently car-free was “picking up steam.”
Well, it did not pick up enough steam to make it permanent (not yet, at least). But the Examiner reports that on Tuesday, the SFMTA voted unanimously for a year-long extension of car-free weekends on that one block of Hayes Street, but they lopped Sundays off the program, so it’s only car-free for portions of Fridays and Saturdays.
WE DID IT! Measure just passed. Hayes Street will be car-free on Friday evenings and Saturdays for the next year. Thanks everyone for all the support! 👏 pic.twitter.com/k06rgkVqAd— HVNA (@hvnavoice) November 7, 2023
The Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association considers this compromise measure a win, as seen above. That association’s president Jennifer Laska told the SFMTA board “We had a robust conversation last month and came to a good compromise.”
The previous arrangement made that block of Hayes Street car-free on Fridays from 4-10 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. The new arrangement makes it car-free for the same hours on Fridays, but only from 1-10 p.m. on Saturdays, and not at all on Sundays.
The permanent car-free Hayes Street idea is not dead yet. Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association board of directors member David Robinson asked that SFMTA “staff look into full-time closure of Hayes Street,” and added that “the restaurants and the shops along that corridor benefit greatly” from the removal of car traffic.
The district’s supervisor Dean Preston said in a statement to the Examiner that “While we are disappointed that the MTA voted to reduce the hours, thanks to community activism and support from our office, we were able to save two of the three days and secure a commitment to study a permanent street closure for Hayes Street and report back in six months.”
The new hours for car-free Hayes Street between Gough and Octavia streets start this weekend, and continue until Oct. 19, 2024.
Image: @hvnavoice via Twitter