Powell Street upgrade includes dramatic lighting, wider sidewalks

Powell Street is one of San Francisco's most recognized thoroughfares.

The Union Square Alliance, along with city leaders, is pitching a new plan to transform the street to make it more welcoming to visitors and locals alike.

Organizers released renderings of what Powell Street could look like. Based on the photos, street parklets would be replaced by wider sidewalks and cafe-style dining, new dramatic lighting would be installed, and running through the center of Powell Street would be the city's iconic cable cars.


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"This is a live, open air museum. These are historic landmarks going back and forth behind me. This is our iconic gateway to San Francisco," said Marisa Rodriguez from the Union Square Alliance, referring to the cable cars running behind her.

The Union Square Alliance and the city are proposing the changes, trying to reimagine how the area could resume its place as one of the nation's preeminent streets. Backers of the plan said Union Square is one of the city's top tourist destinations and should be transformed to welcome visitors back.

"We want this to look and feel like the community and this city we all love, right," asked Rodriguez. "We want to put our best foot forward."

The price tag for the upgrade is between $20 million and $30 million.
Officials said $3.5 million of that is already available, but backers are asking San Francisco residents to approve a November bond measure that would add to the needed funds and allow the project to flourish.

"Once that gets approved, the ball is going to be rolling because we're already geared up," said Rodriguez. "We're ready to make some changes, and we're really focused."

John's Grill sits in the area, and John Konstin Jr. says the historic restaurant would benefit from a more welcoming Powell Street.

"There's so much business that this restaurant, John's Grill gets just from being right here next to Powell Street," Konstin said. "I know that to be true for every other business here and having a beautiful, beautiful mainstay Powell street, where everybody wants to come and hang and eat lunch, will elevate this city beyond words."

San Francisco residents can get a preview of what the upgrades to Powell Street would look like starting Wednesday to help them decide how to vote on the bond measure.