aside Lower Polk Alleyways District Vision Plan Is Here!

The Lower Polk Alleyways District Vision Plan (LPA-DVP) is a comprehensive vision and strategy document for the Lower Polk alleyways that incorporates our community’s ideas and aspirations for the future of our neighborhood. After over a year of your enthusiastic input and design support, we are happy to post the final (adopted) version above.

We would like to thank you – our neighbors, for attending the numerous meetings, design workshops, and submitting your comments. Without your proactive engagement, this document would not have ben possible.

The vision plan was commissioned by the Lower Polk Neighbors in the Spring of 2015 to embark on a 12-month process to create a new vision for the 12 blocks of alleyways located within the boundaries of its neighborhood.  In the summer of 2015, LPN contracted with INTERSTICE Architects to assist and facilitate the community-driven process which has resulted in this community-initiated set of strategies and guidelines for the future of the LPN Alleyways.

Initiated by the residents and merchants of the District, LPA-DVP reflects the principles and values set forth by the LPN community, thereby characterized by a single, overarching factor:  it is a community-led project.

The result of a year-long process of discussions and meetings with neighbors, merchants, business owners and community stakeholders,  workshops and community meetings, comments and suggestions –  all distilled into a vision that reflects the input and priorities of the Lower Polk Neighbors themselves.


Since the LPN was founded in 2003, the LPN membership and its numerous partners in the community have worked to develop and improve the pedestrian experience of this neighborhood.  The Alleyways are recognized as a distinct element of the neighborhood, while at the same time the function and use of the Alleyways by pedestrians has long been a concern and point of focus for the LPN.  Given the neighborhood’s location in an area of the city with few parks and public open spaces, these smaller and less vehicle-friendly Alleyways represent an untapped opportunity to fulfill the District’s growing need for higher quality, pedestrian-oriented public space.  The LPN considers the Alleyways as a crucial component to creating enjoyable civic places that are dedicated to high-quality pedestrian experience within the neighborhood, as well as contributing to a healthier city.  The premise that the Alleyways will no longer be “Back Streets” is a significant change in point of view that is broadly supported both by the LPN and the City.  The Alleyways now need to take front stage, and therefore, the focus has shifted towards the creation of a “Lower Polk Alleyways District.”

“… this has to be a vision that reflects the input and priorities of the Lower Polk residents and merchants … in the hopes of creating a better place for those of us who live, work and visit here now, and for all those who will walk the streets of Lower Polk far into the future.”


The Lower Polk Alleyways District Vision Plan represents a set of guidelines and planning goals for improvements to a pedestrian-prioritized area of the city that is defined by the Alleyways in order to create a high-quality, people-focused network within the dense urban grid of the City of San Francisco.


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.  Street life is busy and activity extends late into the evenings.  Street-life and activity is characterized along Polk Street by neighborhood-owned “heritage merchants,” entertainment, and retail experiences.  This activity is coupled with and supported by increasingly dense housing which is growing rapidly in this transit-rich area of the city.

Six Alleyways extend from the Polk Street corridor, west to Van Ness Avenue, and east to Larkin Street to form the Lower Polk Alleyways District.  Each alleyway is composed of an East and West block that converge at Polk Street.  The Alleyways District is framed by Pine Street to the North and Ellis Street to the South.  This District has a smaller boundary within those defined by the LPN and CBD official boundaries.  The Austin and Frank Norris Alleyway blocks are the northernmost in the District, and the alleyways continue within each block to the south until Olive (East and West), the southernmost Alleyway in the Alleyways District. Considered as a “network,” these individual Alleyways offer opportunities to enhance public open space in the neighborhood and to become exemplary Living Alleyways for the greater city.

The LPN Board has long identified the priorities related to improved public space, and in 2015 decided that there was a dramatic need to understand the Alleyways, not as singular back-streets, or isolated funding needs, but instead to consider them as a whole – as a District.  Thus, the Alleyways have become integral parts of a broader neighborhood initiative.  Each alleyway is a unique part of the greater district and should be individually addressed and integrated to form an interconnected, high-functioning amenity for the neighborhood as a whole. 

The Lower Polk Alleyways District brings neighbors, individual merchants and business owners together to leverage funding made available through several sources including the development of the California Pacific Medical Center’s (CPMC) Van Ness and Geary Campus within the neighborhood, the newly formed Lower Polk Community Benefit District, and other private developers, to actualize long-awaited street improvements and to enhance pedestrian experience.  The Vision Plan concentrates and prioritizes projects alleyway by alleyway, in addition to those that are district-wide, and creates the ground for new initiatives and provides support to initiatives already underway.  The Plan encourages new public-private partnerships, and advocates for additional corporate and private funding sources.   


  1. Great job! Really speaks to the character of each alley and incorporates that into the designs. I am very excited but I will speak to my concerns/ideas regarding Olive Alley East: I love the idea of hosting events with food trucks/restaurants/markets but I fear that installing permanent structures for seating/leaning will encourage and increase the number of people who, unfortunately, already frequent this alley to use drugs and loiter.

    I have seen people use anything possible to sit on so I feel this a valid concern.
    Please keep that in my mind and consider what effects any kind of permanent structure will have on the alley as they will undoubtedly be used for illicit activities. On another note, we should try to take of advantage of the Great American Music Hall in terms of outdoor concerts. They are one of the premier venues in the city and hosts world class and local acts, that would be an added bonus to any meal or activity in the alley. Thanks for all your hard work and willingness to listen to the community


  2. I think that you should have a re-cap meeting to notify all residents/businesses as to what has been placed on the draft table, just to refresh everyone’s mind. There may have been some who, for whatever reason did not attend the “alley” workshops, or newcomers to our neighborhood, and should be given the opportunity to express their thoughts into “our alleys”.


    • Great idea! I agree; the more people and voices we have the more inclusive and significant this project can be. Any plan should be a representation of the communities that are most affected. Let’s listen to the voices that have relevant ideas, critiques and support


  3. Ummm… whats the plan??? I hear a lot of talk, but there really isn’t anything being said! What are the plans… when what and where?


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