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    18th Street ‘Shared Spaces’ Kickoff Deemed a Success, with Some Lessons Learned

    The Castro Merchants on Sunday, August 23, launched the 18th Street “Shared Spaces” program that established a car-free corridor between Collingwood and Hartford Streets. The launch marked San Francisco’s third Shared Street, with the other two being Grant in Chinatown and Valencia in the Mission. Hayes is set to be the fourth, with more expected in the weeks to come.

    The program makes it easier to use outdoor places like sidewalks, streets, and open lots for business during the coronavirus pandemic. Permits are free.

    Masood Samereie, President of Castro Merchants, informed the San Francisco Bay Times that a permit has already been obtained for 1 pm–8 pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday closures of the mentioned portion of 18th Street, but that the August 23 event was basically a soft launch. The first and final hours are dedicated to closing and reopening the street, although businesses remain open to customers throughout the entire time.

    Samereie himself, along with two other members of his team, monitored the route to make sure that participants—both business owners and customers—were following guidelines. These included social distancing and wearing face masks when not eating or drinking.

    “I walked 9 miles during the event!” Samereie said, having checked his fitness tracker.

    His team’s presence was needed, as some people were not following the face mask guidelines. When told to do so, most gladly complied, but the enforcement still required significant vigilance and effort.

    Another problem, Samereie noted, was certain businesses selling to-go alcoholic drinks that led to some people walking and drinking them in public, which is not covered by the permit. Smoking is also not allowed.

    As a whole, however, the afternoon went smoothly and brought much-needed support to numerous Castro businesses. Please see the latest columns from Donna Sachet and Sister Dana Van Iquity for information on a few of the new drag shows in the neighborhood that added to the festivities.

    The subject of entertainment during Shared Spaces, however, remains in question for a variety of reasons. These include concerns over bringing crowds together, music volumes, and more. The issue is expected to be addressed later this week by the city and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

    Once this matter and others are resolved, Castro Merchants in future plans to expand the program to two days (Saturday and Sunday) before moving to the full permitted three.

    For more information:

    Castro Merchants: http://www.castromerchants.com/

    Shared Spaces: https://sf.gov/shared-spaces

    Published on August 27, 2020