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February 16, 2018

The city wants to know what you think it should do with Civic Center

Survey about beautiful but troubled public space runs through March 16

San Francisco’s Civic Center has, at best, always felt like a work in progress. But these days City Hall is finally in mind of cleaning up its own front yard with the creation of a Civic Center Public Realm Plan that will hopefully turn the area around Grove and Larkin into a more human-friendly space.

The city describes the upcoming plan a “a unified vision for medium and long-term improvements to Civic Center’s plazas, streets, and other public spaces.” But what should those improvements actually be? That’s where the rest of us come in.

In an online survey running through March 16, the city wants to know what the average San Franciscan thinks should be done. It’s a simple quiz that takes less than ten minutes and yields some small insight about what the Civic Center of the future may look like.

Some of the questions are simple but a bit on the open ended side: “What best describes your relationship to the Civic Center area?” (It’s complicated.)

Others float potentially tantalizing possibilities like gigantic mosaic sidewalks, light art, or even just basic accommodations sorely lacking these days, like bathrooms and places to sit.

More granular questions can get people pondering the ins and outs of basic urban design:

Think about the amount of paving and planting space you’d like to see in each of the following spaces. Generally more paving can provide more flexibility for large events but a less varied experience day-to-day. More planting generally can provide a more varied experience (e.g, more permanent landscape features) but less flexibility for large events.

While others can make survey takers feel like they’re on some sort of weird Mystery Date game show trying to figure out which city department is your perfect match, like “What is your preferred tree type for Civic Center spaces?”

Either way, it’s a quick and simple way to help shape the face of the city of tomorrow, although only the first of many workshop and public outreach attempts that the city will make.

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