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ASLA-NCC

American Society of Landscape Architects
Northern California Chapter

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2017 Awards

Research, Planning, Analysis and Communication

Honor Award

Lower Polk Alleyways District Vision Plan
San Francisco, CA
INTERSTICE Architects
Client: Lower Polk Neighbors/Andrew Chandler

Frank Norris is a critical alley in the master plan, as it contains both an elementary school and a retirement home. Future improvements to this alleyway are meant to improve the pedestrian experience through traffic-calming, planting, wider sidewalks and lighting.
By providing the lighting, aesthetic appeal and a sense of safety, this project will remove the current barriers of access, allowing residents and the public to be able to enjoy their community 24 hours a day.
Austin Alley is an example of one of the six alleyways included in the document. With a brand new residential development under construction, the LPN has already teamed up with the developers, the Community Benefit District, Supervisor and SFDPW to redesign the entire alley based on these guidelines.
Each alley has a strong sense of existing character. For every alley, a unique set of guidelines were developed to enhance the
existing character and develop a defined identity.
Example of one of the three District Nodes. These intersections are orientation points, thresholds, and so can act to focus attention. They can be like gates or plazas, welcoming locals and visitors to the unique alleyway experience.
District Unity Guidelines promote the use of the alleyways as an interconnected network of pedestrian corridors. This is focused on engaging the community on a larger block-to-block scale to ensure distribution of uses and activities across the district.
A toolbox was established within the document to act as a legend for the different elements that could be utilized to help enhance the alleyways. The toolbox consisted of different traffic calming elements, lighting options, signage elements, potential art installations and murals; furnishing suggestions, and planting ideas for each of the alleys.
A toolbox was established within the document to act as a legend for the different elements that could be utilized to help enhance the alleyways. The toolbox consisted of different traffic calming elements, lighting options, signage elements, potential art installations and murals; furnishing suggestions, and planting ideas for each of the alleys.
A map of each alley (Frank Norris pictured here) overlays community input and data collection to map existing conditions. These maps form a comprehensive resource and important backbone to the document for future projects.
Community workshop comments were compiled, which integrated place-specific comments that refl ect both the problems and opportunities, or positive attributes of the alleys.
The highest priority of the development of this plan was to form a document that was driven by individuals of the community. Three design workshops were held. Community outreach was an ongoing process throughout the formation of the document.
The first step to understanding the alleys was to observe them—to walk them, measure them, record how they were being inhabited
day to day—always with an eye to relate them together to a larger whole.
Lower Polk is uniquely positioned as a convergence point between diverse neighborhoods and four Supervisional Districts. The neighborhood has conspicuously few public open spaces, exacerbated by the access barriers such as the 101, the topography, and the physical distances to public parks.
The LPA-DVP is a comprehensive vision and strategy plan for the Lower Polk Alleyways District that assembles and organizes the present community’s ideas and aspirations for the future of the neighborhood.

The Lower Polk Neighborhood is a distinct and vibrant part of the unique collection of neighborhoods that characterize San Francisco’s celebrated urban heritage. It is a diverse, richly textured mixed-use neighborhood with an unusually porous fabric of Alleyways that are underutilized midblock open-spaces. This “found ground” was the impetus for the Alleyway District Vision Plan. By reframing the perception of these alleys from “backstreets” into active contributors, these smaller streets are re-scripted and physically re-programmed to support the busy street-life activity that extends late into the evenings. Six alleys extend outward from the Polk Street commercial spine forming a finer urban grain at the core of this changing neighborhood, which has no access to open space. Reclaiming them as “living streets” was a crucial component to creating enjoyable civic places dedicated to high-quality pedestrian experience within the neighborhood, as well as contributing to a healthier city. The Alleyways now take front stage, shifting the focus from “back of house” access-ways to a new green infrastructure of ‘place’ at the heart of the district.