What Will 4th Street Look Like in Twenty Years?

By Sarah Karlinsky, Deputy Director
July 18, 2011
The SF Caltrain station at 4th and King. Image courtesy flickr user Shaffner

The stretch of 4th Street between Market Street and the Caltrain station at 4th and King Street may not be one of San Francisco’s best-known neighborhoods (at least not yet), but it’s an important area for urbanists to be thinking about. Why? Because roughly $1.5 billion will be invested in transit infrastructure here, in the form of the Central Subway. This project will ultimately link the T-Third Street Muni line with Chinatown. Meanwhile, other significant plans in the area will extend Caltrain to downtown and further link the 4th and King Station to the Transbay Terminal using high-speed rail.

Some planner types (including us at SPUR) think that the intensity of development in a neighborhood should be proportional to the intensity of transit infrastructure. In other words, places that have good regional transit (like a BART station) should have more intense development than places that have good local service (like the bus stops along Geary Boulevard). And places that have little to no transit should be thinking about developing a good land-conservation strategy rather than planning for growth.

There’s also quite a lot of evidence to support the idea that regional transit should support job centers, while local transit should support housing. SPUR’s Future of Work report explored this concept in great detail. The upshot? The more jobs located next to good transit, the greater the reduction of vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.

The San Francisco Planning Department has launched a new planning effort focused on the 4th Street corridor. This Central Corridor Study seeks to coordinate transportation and land uses in the area between 3rd and 5th streets from Townsend to Market. This study will make recommendations for the types of uses to be included in the area (housing? jobs? other?), as well as the intensity of those uses (i.e., how big the buildings will be and how many homes or jobs they will hold).

SPUR believes strongly that plans for 4th Street should take into consideration the substantial transit improvements in this area, as well as the need to extend San Francisco’s walkable downtown core. Downtown SF far exceeds other parts of the region in its share of commuters arriving to work using sustainable transportation modes. That’s a trend worth building on.

SF Planning has just launched its Central Corridor Study and completed several days of storefront charrettes, where members of the public were able to walk in to a retail space in the plan area and share their thoughts with planners. What a great way to get input from the public! We look forward to providing our own input, and we encourage you to share your input, too, as the process unfolds.

Read SPUR’s Future of Downtown Report >>

Read SPUR’s Report on 4th and King >>

Learn more about the Central Corridor Study >>