SAN FRANCISCO – The city’s Sunday Streets program returns for the weekend of April 9-11. The program began in 2008 with an attempt to expose the Franciscans to the myriad cultures and activities of different parts of the city. It was launched by former San Francisco Mayor and current Governor Gavin Newsom as a climate change fighter and public health initiative.
The Sunday streets will take place in Bayview this weekend. The streets will be closed to vehicles and residents will have to ride bicycles or walk the neighborhood streets.
The program was discontinued when the COVID-19 pandemic began last year. It will be in a smaller format with fewer people walking around and fewer street facilities. In a normal year the program would be similar to a street fair, with resource and information booths scattered across the streets of a neighborhood providing details and background information about the neighborhood.
Community groups work with small agencies to close 1 to 4 square miles of a neighborhood.
“It’s less of an event and more about experiencing a new neighborhood,” said Katy Birnbaum, assistant director at Livable City, a nonprofit that helps oversee the Sunday Street program.
The program has become an integral part of the San Francisco community, according to Birnbaum, who served in her position for over six years.
“Everything that has survived 12 years shows how important it is for the community,” said Birnbaum. “It’s a San Francisco institution that enables residents to come together to celebrate their community in an authentic way.”
The program has expanded in recent years to include more retail services and grocery sellers. The commercial aspect of the program is barely the focus as it focuses more on “taking in the neighborhoods a little slower than usual,” Birnbaum explained.
Group bike tours are a popular event that the program organizes.
In Chinatown, Chinatown Walkway Weekends are held every Saturday and Sunday through the end of June from 11am to 5pm on Grant Avenue between California Street and Washington Street.
Bayside Saturdays are held on Hunters Point Boulevard every Saturday in April from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to celebrate the opening of the Bayview Quick-Build walk / bike trail.
The Sunday Streets will run every weekend starting April 9, with the hope of having standard events and crowds by fall 2021. Bayview, Chinatown, Tenderloin, SoMa, Mission District and Excelsior will be the neighborhoods featured in this year’s Sunday Streets program.
Birnbaum stated that these neighborhoods are all “opportunity neighborhoods,” defined as areas with high concentrations of low income or a large minority population.
Birnbaum stated that Livable City has no plans to expand the program out of San Francisco, but they are keen to offer help to nonprofits in other cities that might want to start their own Sunday Streets program.
For more information, residents can visit sundaystreetssf.com.