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A New Leland Avenue | Existing Conditions Memo
Leland Avenue is the neighborhood 'main street' for Visitacion Valley, a diverse neighborhood in the southeastern part of San Francisco. Stretching approximately four blocks from Bayshore Boulevard to Cora Street, the Leland Avenue commercial district contains many neighborhood-serving businesses and civic uses such as a post office and library; however, there are many underutilized sites and retail vacancies, and the street has an undistinguished visual environment.
Leland Avenue is adjacent to the new Third Street Light Rail line on Bayshore Boulevard, and will connect to the Schlage Lock site across Bayshore Boulevard, which was the subject of the Visitacion Valley/Schlage Lock Strategic Concept Plan in 2002. The Concept Plan calls for the extension of Leland Avenue through the Schlage Lock site, which could be developed with 600 to 800 new housing units as well as new community-serving retail, including a grocery store.
Leland Avenue in the section between Bayshore Boulevard and Schwerin Street contains a number of community-oriented institutions and services, including: a post-office located on the North side between Bayshore Boulevard and Alpha Street; the Visitacion Valley Clubhouse at the corner of Cora Street; the Visitacion Valley Elementary School at the corner of Schwerin Street; and a public library at the corner of Desmond Street. The public library plans to build a new facility at the corner of Leland Avenue and Rutland Street to replace the existing facility. The Visitacion Valley Greenway, extending five blocks from Tucker Street, terminates on Leland Avenue at Hans Schiller Plaza at the intersection or Leland Avenue and Peabody Street.
These institutions and public spaces give Leland Avenue within the project site a civic character, in addition to its use as a neighborhood shopping street. Additionally, there are many residential buildings and residential units above businesses on this stretch of Leland Avenue, adding a residential presence to the street.
Leland Avenue is well-served by transit facilities. Within ½ mile walking radius, roughly equivalent to a 10-minute walk, there are several bus lines, two 3rd Street Light Rail stations (opening soon), and the Bayshore CalTrain Station.
The 3rd Street Light Rail, scheduled to open in 2006, will have stations on Bayshore Boulevard at Blanken Avenue and at Sunnydale Avenue. Although there will not be a Leland Avenue station, each of these stations will be within a 5-minute walk of Leland. The 3rd Street Light Rail is planned to extend to the CalTrain Bayshore Station as well, approximately ½ mile walking distance from the intersection of Leland and Bayshore.
Additionally, the 9, 9X, 15, and 56 Muni bus lines run in the vicinity of Leland Avenue. These lines cross Leland at Bayshore or at Rutland Street, where there are Leland Avenue stops. The 9X and the 15 lines also run along Visitacion Avenue, one block south of Leland, in the west bound direction, and on Arleta, two blocks north of Leland Avenue, in the eastbound direction.
Microclimate and Drainage
Leland Avenue generally enjoys pleasant, sunny weather as the Visitacion Valley neighborhood is generally protected from the traditional fog affecting other San Francisco neighborhoods. However, due to its east-west orientation, Leland Avenue can often experience windy conditions.
Stormwater drainage in Visitacion Valley generally occurs in a northwest to southeast direction, with the Greenway open space system developing along a pre-existing water conduit from the top of the hill on the Northern side to the intersection of Peabody Street and Leland Avenue. The Greenway incorporates an open dry creek bed that acts as an active, natural drainage system during the rainy season. Leland Avenue slopes gently from the west to the east, meaning that water drains in the direction of Bayshore Boulevard.
Buildings and Storefronts
Leland Avenue has a pattern of narrow lots of 25 feet in width, typical of most San Francisco neighborhoods. Buildings generally front on the sidewalk without significant setbacks. The small lot width means a high frequency of storefronts along the street, leading to visual variety and activity from the coming and going of business patrons. However, the retail density is not as great as in many neighborhood commercial districts because there are many residential frontages interspersed among commercial storefronts. Additionally, there are a few vacant lots and deep building setbacks, which disrupt the continuity of the streetwall and retail businesses.
There are a number of businesses on Leland Avenue providing a wide range of goods and services tailored to the needs of the local community. However, many storefront facades are covered with window bars and are in need of improvement. Most stores are oriented inward and don't generally use the sidewalk space for seating and displays. A few Leland Avenue businesses have taken to use the sidewalk space for signage or outdoor displays. Stores are generally open until the early evening, meaning the street is not active after dusk.
Sidewalks on Leland Avenue have a width of 12 feet, a good standard width for creating a healthy pedestrian environment. There are few trees on Leland Avenue, and many of the existing trees are not in optimal conditions or good health. The one location with mature, healthy trees is on the north side of the street adjacent to the Bank of America. There are a number of curb-cuts along the street accessing residential or commercial driveways, which restrict potential locations for new trees.
There is also a lack of pedestrian amenities such as pedestrian lighting, trash receptacles, informational markers and bike racks. Currently, the street lighting consists of cobra heads mounted on the utilities poles, which tend to light the roadway but do not provide sufficient light for pedestrians on the sidewalk.
Crosswalks are not consistently marked at all intersections and they appear to be in need of substantial improvements, especially at key locations such as Hans Schiller plaza, the public library and the clubhouse.
Leland Avenue is cluttered with overhead wires attached to the existing telephone poles; these wires create visual blight on Leland Avenue.
Traffic and Parking
Leland Avenue has a 58-foot wide right-of-way from building face to building face; the roadway is 34 feet wide, and has parallel parking on both sides and one travel lane in each direction. Traffic speed is relatively slow, and the right-of-way does not present major congestion, except for double parking in front of some stores, the bank, and the post-office, mostly due to unloading and quick pull-over stops by post office customers.
There are a total of 72 metered parking spots in the project area; these appear to be used at less than full capacity. There is also a surface parking lot owned by the Bank of America building at Leland and Bayshore that serves Bank of America customers; there is no public off-street parking.