Freeways Without Futures

San Francisco, CA

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Freeways Without Futures: A panel discussion considering the removal of highway 280 

Throughout the 20th Century elevated freeways were created in many American cities. They cut huge swaths across our urban landscapes, devastating the fabric of neighborhoods, strained the connection to our rivers and bays, and polluting our cities. Now, many of these highways are being torn down. In Seoul, South Korea Cheonggyecheon Stream, now daylighted, occupies what was once an elevated highway. In Portland, Oregon Harbor Drive was removed, creating a waterfront park along the Willamette River. In San Francisco, the Embarcadero and Central Freeways have been removed to create the Embarcadero and Octavia Boulevards. The removal of these freeways has reconnected San Francisco’s waterfront, enabling the renovation of the ferry building and piers supporting cultural organizations like the Exploratorium. Octavia Boulevard has been re-imagined both temporarily and permanently; supporting Envelope A+D’s Proxy project, Hayes Valley Farm, a thriving public art program as well as the long-term vision of the Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan.

San Francisco now has another opportunity to take down a freeway while creating major trans- portation infrastructure improvements in an important area of the city. Currently, the stub end of Interstate 280 creates a barrier between the developing Mission Bay neighborhood and Potrero Hill. At the same time, the Caltrain railyard — 19 acres stretching from Fourth Street to Seventh Street between King and Townsend — forms a barrier between Mission Bay and SoMa. The obstruction will only get worse if current plans for high-speed rail proceed, forcing 16th Street and Mission Bay Boulevard into depressed trenches beneath the tracks and the elevated freeway.

The Studio for Urban Projects invites you to join us for a panel discussion re-imagining San Francisco without the 280 freeway. Our speakers will include Gillian Gillette, Mayor Ed Lee’s transporation policy director and the champion of the current effort to tear down portion of I-280; John Norquist, currently the President and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism where he advocates for city planing efforts to replace freeways with boulevards and the former Mayor of Milwaukee where he received widespread recognition for removing a .8 mile stretch of elevated freeway; and Douglas Burnham, the Principal and Founder of Envelope A+D, architects that designed Proxy along Octavia Boulevard. The evening’s panel will be moderated by Tomiquia Moss, the Community Planning Policy Director for the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR.

This program is presented in collaboration with the AIA San Francisco as part of the Architecture and the City Festival. It is held in conjunction with the Center for Architecture and Design competition “Reimagine. Reconnect. Restore. What if 280 came down?.” John Norquist’s participation is generously supported by the Seed Fund.