The Central Freeway (Octavia Boulevard) is a multi-use boulevard in San Francisco, California. It replaces a section of the double-decker elevated Central Freeway, which was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. It consists of four lanes to accommodate faster through-traffic and two one-way local lanes (frontage roads).
Project Type:Interchange Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:44,900 Length (mi):4.00
Economic Distress:0.91 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):16200 Population Growth Rate (%):-0.57
Employment Growth Rate (%):-1.16 Market Size:1,403,241 Airport Travel Distance:25 Topography:16
Region:Rocky Mountain / Far West State:CA County:San Francisco
City:San Francisco Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:San Francisco
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:37.769454 / -122.414952
Initial Study Date:1997 Post Constr. Study Date:2007
Constr. Start Date:1999 Constr. End Date:2005
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2005 Planned Cost (YOE $):44,000,000
Actual Cost (YOE $):50,300,000 Actual Cost (curr $):59,998,654
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||1.37||1.04||2.41|
|Output (in $M's)||3.23||2.46||5.69|
Octavia Boulevard is a multi-use boulevard in San Francisco, California. It replaces a section of the double-decker elevated Central Freeway, which was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The boulevard design separates heavier arterial traffic from traffic serving local roads. It is four urban blocks in length, consisting of four lanes to accommodate faster through-traffic, a tree-lined median, two one-way local lanes (frontage roads) accommodating slower traffic, on-street parking, access to alleyways, and tree-lined sidewalks. Octavia Boulevard begins as a touchdown from the US 101/Central Freeway off-ramp at Market Street and extends as a surface-level boulevard through the Hayes Valley neighborhood to Fell Street, ending at a small park. Construction of Octavia Boulevard from Market to Fell Streets began in 2003 and the boulevard opened in September 2005.
Development of the boulevard from 2003-2005 coincided with redevelopment of the surrounding community, which has brought about shift in land uses, created high-end retail opportunities along a commercial strip (located on the north side of the park on Hayes Street), and led to an increase in housing values. Demolition of the freeway left 22 parcels of vacant land. Caltrans paid for the freeway demolition ($26 million), and transferred ownership of these parcels to the City at no cost. The City used proceeds from the sale of parcels, starting in 2002, for the design, engineering, construction, and maintenance of Octavia Boulevard. Of the 22 parcels, the City has sold seven parcels to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and five to private developers. Since 2002, about $25.5 million in revenue has been generated from selling these 12 parcels. From these funds, $24.3 million has been used to design, construct, and maintain the Boulevard. The total cost of the project including demolition and construction was $50.3 million ($2005). The remaining amount and proceeds from future land sales will be utilized for transportation improvements to corridors on or ancillary to Octavia Boulevard. The roadway project has resulted in the creation of approximately 15-20 new service-sector jobs at businesses along Hayes Street (e.g., small, independent retail shops/boutiques, cafes, restaurants) since the opening of the boulevard. Development along the corridor has been primarily residential
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The Central Freeway was originally a one-mile, grade-separated, elevated freeway extending from the Bay Bridge/I-80 split to four of San Francisco's surface streets. The freeway served to funnel motorists in and out of San Francisco, especially from the predominantly residential Hayes Valley neighborhood west of downtown. However, the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 damaged several parts of the freeway, leading to demolition of a section of the freeway.
Prior to the earthquake, the elevated Central Freeway extended beyond Fell Street in downtown San Francisco, but many sections of the highway, including the section between Market and Fell Streets, were demolished following structural damage from the earthquake. Now traffic from the Central Freeway enters downtown San Francisco at Market Street (running east and west) and Octavia Boulevard (running north and south) via exit 434B on US 101. Traffic on Market Street is not allowed to turn onto US 101, but traffic from the freeway may turn right onto Market Street. From Market, Octavia Boulevard crosses four east-west running streets: Haight Street, Page Street, Oak Street, and Fell Street. North of Fell Street, Octavia continues as Octavia Street through the Western Addition, Pacific Heights and Marina neighborhoods to Bay Street, at Fort Mason.
There are three bus lines that run across Octavia Boulevard. The historic streetcar line runs along Market and has a stop at Market and Octavia. Four Metro bus lines run on Market Street past Octavia Boulevard; there are no Metro stops at the intersection of Octavia Boulevard and Market Street. The Hayes Valley neighborhood is accessible from the entire Bay Area via heavy rail service at five nearby Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations, and is also crossed by the city's core street car lines. Octavia Boulevard is just west of San Francisco's Civic Center, an epicenter of governmental and cultural institutions. Civic Center BART provides direct access to the San Francisco International Airport via a 30-minute train ride.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Before the earthquake, the Central Freeway served a mixed-used corridor (Hayes Valley). Hayes Valley traditionally has had a strong residential component, with the freeway corridor linking to arterial roadways that served large neighborhoods to the west and north. With the Central Freeway bisecting Hayes Valley, the neighborhood was blighted for the decades leading up to its removal. The freeway corridor itself was surrounded by lower-income and largely minority neighborhoods. The northern portions of Hayes Valley are occupied by public housing developed in accordance with Urban Renewal plans in the 1950s. The neighborhood surrounding the Central Freeway was impacted by traffic noise, fumes, and blocked views. The removal of the elevated structure from Market Street to Fell Street likely triggered land-use and demographic changes because the freeway's negative environmental impacts were also removed.
In the last 20 years, the Hayes Valley neighborhood has attracted higher-end retail activities, including restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues that have replaced the mercantile-type stores that existed prior to 1990. This change may be the result of gentrification of nearby neighborhoods. Between 1990 and 2000, during the time when the freeway was demolished, the average per capita income in the surrounding area more than doubled. This demographic change triggered by the removal of the freeway along this 4-block corridor was anticipated by local planners. Consequently, a Market-Octavia Neighborhood Plan was developed by the City and adopted in May 2007 to guide planning and public policies aimed at promoting affordable housing and limiting displacement of long-time residents.
After the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Central Freeway, a debate ensued about whether to reconstruction or demolition the freeway. After several ballot measures, San Francisco's electorate finally approved the demolition of the freeway section between Market and Fell Streets in late 1999. Voters also approved the Octavia Boulevard plan, which provided guidance for the building of a surface-level, multi-use roadway to replace the freeway. The Plan included strategies to accommodate 500 units of new housing and improve north-south access for vehicles traveling to and from the Central Freeway. It also identified revenue for transportation improvements on adjacent corridors. The approved Plan required selling portions of the land surrounding the freeway and using the revenue to fund the design and construction of Octavia Boulevard. The parcels of land left by the freeway demolition include prime residential, commercial and mixed use lots that could be used for housing, including much-needed permanently affordable housing. The City required that special consideration should be given to the need for affordable housing in the area. With the focus on optimal housing densities and pedestrian friendly-streets, the boulevard project turned into a major urban-infill project with a master planning initiative for the entire area.
The 2004 estimated project cost for the Octavia Boulevard project was $44.8 million. CalTrans paid the demolition cost of $26 million, and the City paid for the $24.3 million construction cost for Octavia Boulevard. The City funded engineering and construction of Octavia Boulevard with funds raised through the sale of the vacant land created by removal of the freeway. The actual cost for demolition and construction was approximately $50.3 million ($2005.)
Today, the road is a 133-foot-wide Parisian-style boulevard with four 22-feet central through-lanes for fast-moving traffic flanked by two 18-feet one-way lanes for local traffic. There are 99 parking spaces, with 45 spaces on the west side and 54 on the east. Tree-lined walking path medians between the through-traffic and local-traffic lanes and tree-lined sidewalks help to improve safety for pedestrians.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
One of the goals of the Octavia Boulevard was to provide connectivity to Oak and Fell Streets (one-way arterials that connect to the western neighborhoods) as well as to Franklin and Gough Streets (principal north-south arterials) without the negative social and aesthetic impacts caused by the overhead freeway structure. Octavia Boulevard has been designed to allow homes and businesses that are located immediately on the street to be served by quieter, outer roadways and inner lanes allow faster through-traffic. The design of the boulevard may be the primary reason that expected congestion did not appear after closure of the on- and off-ramps at Fell and Oak Streets, and why congestion continues to be managed today - a multi-way boulevard is capable of handling large volumes of relatively fast-moving through-traffic (upwards of 6,000 cars per direction per hour), as well as slower local traffic within the same right-of-way but on separate yet closely connected roadways. Some of the traffic that used to travel on the Octavia Boulevard portion of the Central Freeway now utilizes the surface connector streets that were built specifically to disperse traffic.
In 1995, 93,100 vehicles were recorded traveling the Central Freeway. Since the opening of the Octavia Boulevard and touchdown ramps in September 2005, the number of vehicles using Octavia Boulevard has increased steadily and now stands at approximately 45,000 vehicles a day, representing about half of the volume on the former elevated freeway structure.
Octavia Boulevard and the network of connector streets operate at capacity during peak hours, which has encouraged motorists to use other street alternatives. However, because the boulevard design has limited the number of lanes available for through traffic, the boulevard still does experience traffic congestion as automobiles compete with transit vehicles to get through the corridor. Some congestion during peak hours is mitigated due to commuters utilizing nearby connector streets that were put in place to distribute traffic evenly throughout the immediate neighborhood, while maintaining the links to major San Francisco traffic arterials such as Fell and Oak Streets.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
Development of the boulevard from 2003-2005 coincided with redevelopment of the surrounding community, which has resulted in high-end retail activity and an increase in housing values. One community study noted that the gentrification in the area started when the boulevard was approved, not after construction was completed, suggesting that many land-use changes occurred in anticipation of the freeway removal.
A 2006 study by Cervero that assessed land parcels for the period of 1987 to 2007 along the Central Freeway corridor found that during the years the Central Freeway was in operation (prior to 1986), residential sales prices increased as distance from freeway corridor increased. The study also found that sale prices near the Octavia Boulevard jumped by $116,000 in 2005, the year it opened, likely reflecting an amenity effect created by the boulevard. The study by the Congress for the New Urbanism concluded that before replacement of the freeway with Octavia Boulevard, condominium prices in the Hayes Valley neighborhood were 66% of San Francisco average prices. However, after the demolition and subsequent replacement with the new Octavia Boulevard, around 2005, prices grew to 91% of city average.
About $25.5 million ($2005) in revenue has been generated from selling 12 of the 22 parcels created by demolition of the freeway. Approximately $24.3 million of these funds were used to build the Boulevard. The remaining parcels are being sold to private developers for high-density mixed-use projects. The Office of Planning and Mayor's Office of Economic Development both estimated that 350-400 housing units could be located on available land on the Right of Way; about half these homes have been constructed as of early 2010. The remaining parcels are being sold for mixed-use development that will include commercial uses on the ground floors. Land value for the remaining unsold parcels is currently appraised at $15-18M ($2010.) The San Francisco Office of Planning is expecting to complete a five-year monitoring study, entitled the Market and Octavia Area Plan Monitoring Report, summarizing the economic impacts around Market Street and Octavia Boulevard in early fall, 2010. Between 15 and 20 new retail and service jobs have been created in new and renovated businesses along Hayes Street as a result of the positive development impacts of Octavia Boulevard.
The City's requirement that affordable housing be included in the construction area may have directed investment away from commercial, job-creating uses, thus limiting the economic impact of the project. The planning process adopted by CalTrans and the City, and efforts to involve the community in the revitalization and redevelopment efforts have been instrumental in directing the type of development that has occurred along Octavia Boulevard and in the Hayes Valley.
Department of City and Regional Planning, University of California at Berkely
Department of Urban Design, University of California at Berkeley
San Francisco County Transportation Authority
San Francisco Department of Public Works
San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Economic Development
Case study developed by ICF International