Leland Workshop 1

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Citywide Home  > Better Streets Program  > Leland Avenue Street Design Project > Leland Workshop 1

A New Leland Avenue | WORKSHOP #1

Summary of Public Comment

The first community workshop "A New Leland Avenue" took place at the Visitacion Valley Elementary School on October 22, 2005. Over 50 participants attended a visual presentation by the consultant team and then broke into 7 groups for hands on exercises with facilitators

The discussion resulted in the ideas summarized below.

Existing Conditions

Workshop participants described existing conditions on Leland Avenue as improving but still "stark, drab and uninviting, with neither color nor green;" the street's look is perceived as "run-down." Participants identified vacancy and litter problems as causes of this perception.

Participants said they use the street mostly to fulfill daily needs, utilizing businesses such as bakeries, markets, cafes, other "one-stop errands," the post office, and the library. The produce store is highly used and residents enjoy its outdoor displays. However, the street is not perceived as a place to stroll down or hang around.

The public resources such as the library or Schiller plaza are seen as often unavailable; according to most participants, library hours should be longer and the plaza should be more open to the public.

The evening hours are not active along Leland: many participants pointed to the "unattractive lighting" and lack of appropriate pedestrian lighting as contributing to the street's perceived lack of safety. Participants also noted that businesses close too early (6:00 or 7:00 pm) and there are no destinations to attract people at night.

In spite of some of the above negative connotations the street is still positively considered as the center of Visitacion Valley, "the gateway to the neighborhood," known for its "metal work, greenway and artwork."

General Concepts

Several broad themes emerged at the workshop for the design of Leland Avenue, including:

  • The use of sustainable paving materials and plantings to manage stormwater run-off.
  • A design palette for Leland Avenue that is unique, "artistic, expressive," that will use colors and motifs taken from the existing art of the Greenway and the metal gate of the clubhouse; some people mentioned the colors of the Third Street rail as another potential source of inspiration.
  • Some participants mentioned the need for consistency of tree planting and a lively design that expresses activity on the street and will be integrated with the future development of the Schlage Lock site.
  • A design that creates "destinations" and is developed around "little pockets of activities."
  • A design that promotes a "village feel," and reflects the idea of "people, cultures and parts of the neighborhood" coming together, celebrating diverse ethnicities.
  • Street improvements should be coordinated with economic development.
  • People would like to use Leland Avenue as a community space.
  • Create a self-sustaining, walkable area with all services and stores nearby.
  • Continue the efforts of the Greenway.
  • Engage the existing youth population.

Identity Slogans

Participants were asked to come up with a 'slogan' for a redesigned Leland Avenue. The slogans they came up with include:

  • Downtown Visitacion Valley
  • A River of Green in the City
  • Visitacion Valley's Main  Street
  • Vis Valley Village
  • Going Downtown Leland!
  • Bring Back Leland!
  • Living on Leland!
  • Leland Avenue: an inviting family and community resource
  • In addition to a slogan, one group suggested creating a logo as an identity symbol for the new Leland Avenue.

Model Street Examples

Some groups suggested looking at other similar streets or areas in San Francisco or the larger Bay Area to get ideas about character, style, or activities. Other streets participants used as examples included:

  • Cortland Street, which has an anchor store and associated small stores
  • 24th street in the Mission district; however, it was noted that 24th street has a greater public transit presence than Leland Avenue.
  • Noe and Market Streets
  • Grand Avenue, in Downtown South San Francisco
  • West Portal
  • Embarcadero Farmers Market

Management and Programs

In addition to design considerations, many participants mentioned management strategies and programs that would improve conditions on Leland Avenue. These include: 

  • "An organized cleaning effort" that can happen on a regular schedule.
  • An active, creative programming of Schiller plaza, including: weekend programs, a "Children's Art Sale with proceeds going to children's charity," a music calendar, and/or a farmers market.
  • A "Merchants' Street Fair" event that could happen with a temporary closure of the street.

Design Ideas

Planting and Trees

Sustainable techniques for water management and for creating a sustainable street were mentioned, including:

  • Storm drain management
  • Porous sidewalks
  • Environmentally-certified street paving materials

Trees were seen as an important element of greening. Participants suggested "native trees," trees with thin canopies, and trees that can block the wind. They also suggested to "plant trees in clusters" at corners to create small public spaces, and to choose tree and planting types that reflects the landscaping of the Greenway. 

Some participants expressed the potential concern of planting trees whose roots will break sidewalks.

Other forms of planting were mentioned, such as "continuing the planter box program," introducing trellises with 'instant plants," or adding a planted strip at the sidewalk edge. Groups stressed the idea of maintaining new plantings and trees once installed.

Participants mentioned that tree grates could be used as opportunities for art.

Sidewalks and Paving

Participants showed interest in having bulb-outs at specific locations. Potential key locations were indicated as Leland and Cora, Leland and Rutland--defined as the most problematic and unsafe of the intersections of the project area--and Leland and Bayshore Boulevard.

All groups agreed that repaving the sidewalk would make a great difference; some added that mosaics by children, historic markers and other art installations could enhance the design of the street.


As many people defined the lack of appropriate lighting as one of the biggest concerns for the avenue, they also recommended that pedestrian lighting be introduced along the avenue as part of the new streetscape.

Participants generally felt that the new lighting needs to be "attractive", at pedestrian level and that it would probably encourage businesses to stay open late and would promote a sense of safety. One group mentioned Ocean Avenue as a nice model for pedestrian lighting. 

A few groups suggested installing lighting on buildings and in the sidewalk at specific locations.


Many participants agreed with the need to provide seating, especially at specific locations such as bulb outs, "in front of cafes and in front of the library."

Some participants were nervous that benches would attract loitering. A few suggested anti-loitering benches.

Overhead Wires/ Undergrounding

Workshop participants stated the urgency of undergrounding the existing overhead wires and stressed that timing with the streetscape is crucial. They felt that no streetscape construction should happen before the undergrounding of the utilities.

Pedestrian Circulation/ Bicycles

People generally felt that crosswalks were poorly marked and that they were in need of repaving. Many participants mentioned adding color to crosswalks as a way to beautify the street.

Mid-block crosswalks were not seen as needed, except in front of the library and in front of the school.

Bike racks were seen as a way to encourage bicycle riding along Leland but people generally agreed that there is no need for a bicycle lane. One group mentioned providing a shuttle services for seniors who have problems walking.

Traffic Flow

Few major changes to traffic flow were discussed. However, one group considered the option of a one-way street with Raymond as opposite one-way.

Another group asked considering closure of first three blocks of Leland, mentioning that temporary closure of such blocks could also be an alternative.

Participants generally favored exploring traffic calming ideas, and felt that cars should respect pedestrians more than they actually do. In particular Rutland was seen as a very dangerous intersection, "with buses and fast cars."

The Post Office was identified as "the most congested spot along the avenue;" one group asked if a drive-through post office box could be a possibility.


Almost every group stated that there is no parking shortage today on Leland Avenue. However, some felt that residents should be encouraged to parkion side residential streets to allow stores clientele to use the meter parking.

A few groups saw parking consolidation as a possibility ("reutilize Bank of America parking lot"), especially after the Schlage-Lock development and the new library will be built.

Some felt that double parking (especially in front of the post office) and parking on the sidewalk are current problems and that they should be addressed in the new plan.

A few groups mentioned introducing perpendicular parking on one side of Leland Avenue, or along Peabody Street, especially if the street will be turned into a one-way street. Some objected that perpendicular parking might not be safe on Leland.


All groups saw public art as a way of creating "uniqueness of place." People proposed involving local artists and children in the creation of the artwork and integrating the artwork into the amenities of the proposed streetscape design.

Gateway Treatment

Many participants suggested a gateway feature to give a distinct identity to Leland Avenue. It was suggested that the gateway feature "should be visible from the train." History and diversity of ethnicity were identified as way to express identity and potential themes for street fairs or festivals.


Businesses are generally perceived as a resource and as a crucial element to the success of the design and management of a new, revitalized Leland Avenue.

Currently, vacancies and security bars are a source of frustration for many residents; workshop participants identified these as one of the causes behind the perceived lack of safety and attractiveness of the street. Some merchants however feel that loitering and other illegal activities are threatening their businesses and that iron gates are one of the answers to these problems.

Some new businesses have recently open and have become popular, and are praised for their outdoor displays and signage. One workshop participant pointed out that permit fees for displays and sidewalk seating should be streamlined to help merchants use the sidewalk space.

Generally, however, participants thought that stores on Leland do not have enough presence or visibility on the street. Participants suggested that "businesses use more of the sidewalks" with outdoor displays and signage, and should "stay open until late." There was a common interest in attracting new businesses such as a "bookstore" and new restaurants with "ambiance" and more cafes and "places you can sit and talk to friends." Other stores that were mentioned were those targeting daily needs such as a butcher, a hardware store, a nursery, a flower shop, a theatre, an ice cream parlor, a clothing store and a video rental shop. Participants mentioned that "no liquor stores or cannabis stores" should be allowed in the neighborhood. The existing library site was identified as a potential site for a grocery store once the library moves up the street. One group suggested placing a commercial space adjacent to Schiller Plaza in order to activate the space.

One group suggested associating a training program to new restaurants to create jobs for the local population. Another group suggested putting "art in vacant storefronts" as a temporary, transitional solution to the problem of neglect and perceived or real lack of safety.

A Business Improvement District (BID) was seen as a way to manage merchants programs. Merchants should also "attract new businesses with local economic development programs and street improvements." Participants mentioned that outdoor seating policies, outdoor displays and other amenities such as magazine racks could be organized by a BID.