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Castro and Hayes Valley Fully Close Streets, Trading Cars for Restaurant Seating

The neighborhoods join Valencia Street and Chinatown’s shutdown for socially-distant cafes and street fair vibes

Valencia Street closed in July to allow more room for outdoor dining, now Hayes and 18th Streets will follow suit
Patricia Chang

Two more San Francisco neighborhoods will say “no” to car traffic and “yes,” to tables, chairs, and diners this weekend, as SF officials confirm that streets in the Castro District and Hayes Valley will completely close to vehicles this weekend so restaurants in the area can stretch out into the roads.

The closures are part of the city’s Shared Spaces program, which launched in early June. Through the program, restaurants can apply to take over sidewalks, adjacent parking lots and plazas, and nearby parking places for outdoor dining. Those permits were approved quickly, with tables and chairs replacing parking for so-called “shared spaces platforms” that have received mixed reviews from aesthetics critics and an enthusiastic response from businesses and diners.

Also touted at the Shared Spaces’ launch was an application to completely close streets to allow outdoor dining, and that, too, was embraced by businesses, with scores applying for full-on car denials in the programs first few days. But approvals came slowly, perhaps unsurprising given the number of stakeholders (the SFMTA, SF’s Planning Department, and the Fire Department, to name just a few) that have to agree on what streets can shutter and which must remain open.

A few blocks in Chinatown and on the Mission District’s Valencia Street were first to get the nod, with weekend closures kicking off in July. A plan to close 18th Street in the Castro was announced shortly thereafter, then stalled, after SFFD officials voiced concerns about emergency access, and a month passed without any additional closures, fueling the frustration of business owners hopeful that adding more outdoor seating could provide them with the lifeline they need.

That closure impasse apparently ended this week, as Hoodline reports that Planning approved the Castro closure this week, albeit for extremely limited hours. As the program stands now, 18th Street will be closed between Hartford and Castro Streets and again between Castro and Collingwood Streets on Sundays from 2–7 p.m., starting August 30.

Also launching on Sunday is a major closure in Hayes Valley, SF Weekly reports. Hayes Street will close to cars from 4–10 p.m. on Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, between Franklin and Laguna Streets, as well as a short block of Octavia Street from Hayes to Ivy Street.

The Hayes closure, too, was far less ambitious than what was originally proposed: The Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, which sponsored the closure application, wanted a seven-days-a-week shutdown of the roadway, but neighborhood opposition tanked that plan.

All these street closures are expected to run until the end of the year, but there’s already talk of extending the programs, if the ban on indoor dining — which, ha ha, was supposed to launch in SF on July 13, remember that? — continues.

It goes without saying that you might want to forgo outdoor dining if San Francisco’s air quality continues to register dangerous levels of particulate from the local wildfires. Before you head out, check current conditions here, then choose a road to roam from this rundown of all the city streets currently closed to vehicles but open to diners:

  • Mission District: Valencia between 16th and 17th Streets and 18th and 19th Streets (between 17th and 18th is open to “local traffic” and deliveries). Thursday through Sunday from 4–10 p.m.
  • Castro District: 18th Street between Hartford and Castro Streets and Castro and Collingwood Streets. Sundays from 2–7 p.m., starting Sunday, August 30.
  • Chinatown: Grant between California and Washington Streets, and Commercial between Kearny Street and Grant Avenue. Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Hayes Valley: Hayes Street from Laguna to Franklin Streets, with cross-traffic allowed at Gough Street. Octavia Street is also closed from Hayes to Ivy Street. 4–10 p.m. on Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, starting Sunday, August 30.