In a typical San Francisco street, both of these transitions [parking lanes and stoops] are absent or compressed. Curb cuts often preclude trees, curbs, and parking, exposing pedestrians to traffic and preventing the definition of a distinct pedestrian space. Buildings often lack a setback, reducing the privacy of residents and the comfort of pedestrians. Stoops and entry stairs are usually articulated inward, creating deep, cave-like spaces with poor security and no social use.
And, as San Francisco has a deeply ingrained relationship with its past, it seems unable to break the pattern.
The thoughtless and precipitous upheavals of mid-century urban renewal have made San Franciscans especially protective of the past. But the historic patterns of this city’s residential neighborhoods don’t offer especially good models for livable streets. And to a surprising extent, these patterns continue to be replicated in new construction as designers, developers and policymakers look to the city’s older neighborhoods as points of reference. Even as architectural styles, building codes, parking requirements and other parameters evolve, the urban fundamentals have remained surprisingly unchanged. It’s as if this pattern is woven into the city’s DNA, as if we are a city congenitally predisposed against good streets.