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Hallidie Plaza: Ground Zero or San Francisco’s Gateway?

Picture of rending of what Hallidie Plaza could look like with successful activations and architectural upgrades.

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August 10, 2018
Press Release

Hallidie Plaza: Ground Zero or San Francisco’s Gateway?

July 2, 2018

As visitors from all over the world journey to San Francisco through the Powell Street BART station via
Oakland or San Francisco International Airports, many are often underwhelmed and made
uncomfortable by what is supposed to be our City’s gateway, Hallidie Plaza. Just beyond Hallidie Plaza is
Union Square, an engine for our local economy and the #1 most visited area home to luxury retail,
unique hotels, exquisite dining, and fun entertainment. And don’t forget about the famous Cable Car
Turnaround.

When Mayor Farrell dedicated a new sign last week to San Francisco’s nineteen Sister Cities, Hallidie
Plaza was referred to as “ground zero” during the press conference. In many ways, Hallidie Plaza is
emblematic of our city’s tolerance for inappropriate street behaviors and quality of life issues. No one
should have to dodge aggressive panhandlers or sidestep human waste to enter our city. Sadly, this
reality has become routine for the millions of visitors and workers traveling to San Francisco, but it
doesn’t have to be.

As the Union Square Business Improvement District (USBID), we are on the frontlines everyday
improving the community experience through clean and safe services. Positive public realm activation
gives those traveling internationally to San Francisco a unique sense of place and life-long memories
with their families. Imagine Hallidie Plaza as a warm, welcoming, and vibrant front door to San Francisco
instead of a sunken pit of despair in the heart of our City.

Thanks to a group of local property owners, businesses and stakeholders from around the Union Square
community, a Hallidie Plaza working group was launched in early spring of 2018 with fresh ideas on how
to revitalize this important space. To us, Hallidie Plaza is a blank canvas for the community to come
together and envision an inclusive environment for everyone who lives, works, and brings their families
to San Francisco. Many ideas have been floated to include specialty food carts, a beer garden, various
retail options, interactive art exhibits, and much more. Minimal infrastructure improvements could cost
between $200,000 and $500,000, while major enhancements to the space could run up to $3.5 million.
Working with San Francisco Public Works and our Police Department, we can ensure a clean and safe
public space like this.

We know best the needs of this community. Public-private partnerships like ours embody stewardship
on a hyper local level. We know what it takes to change public perception of an otherwise unattractive
space. Union Square property owners and businesses understand the economic and community value of
positive activations. We aim to go further as we renew our organization for another term by enhancing
the public realm through community art installations and other activations while increasing clean and
safe services that benefit everyone.

We have even gone above and beyond to create the Union Square Foundation, a 501c3 dedicated to
raising vital resources to maintain a clean, safe, and beautiful environment for the enjoyment of San
Francisco’s residents and visitors.

We ask all stakeholders to call on our Mayor-Elect and other City officials to implement a long-term plan
that brings Hallidie Plaza up to street level through infrastructure investments, and to partner with us,
the community, to illuminate this opportunity that is hidden in plain sight.