Outer Richmond prepares for a facelift


It looks like the Outer Richmond is finally getting some TLC.

A $2.3 million plan, known as the Balboa Streetscape Improvement Project, aims to spruce up the neighborhood with a refurbed landscape that includes fresh vegetation, updated street lights and sidewalk improvements.

With construction beginning next month, the project’s focus will be on Balboa Street’s business corridor between 34th and 39th Avenues, home to numerous restaurants, retail shops and the historic 1926 Balboa Theatre.

For some, the improvements have been a long time coming.

Brandon Clark, co-owner of retail shop Mixed Nuts at 3243 Balboa, told SFBay he can only see good coming from the facelift:

“The city is always changing, but this neighborhood doesn’t change. It’s been very sluggish in its evolution.”

Construction is expected to take eight months, and will include new curb ramps, revised parking layouts and sidewalk bulb outs along Balboa to increase pedestrian traffic and reduce drag racing.

Part of the existing 15-feet wide sidewalks will be dedicated to planters and rows of pointy, palm-like Cordyline australis trees.

The trees, approved by community meetings in 2006 and 2007, were chosen for their “ability to survive San Francisco’s harshest climates” — making them perfect for the Outer Richmond’s grey, cool days.

To help establish a neighborhood identity, gateway monuments will be erected to mark when visitors have entered the Balboa business corridor.

Clark, who has lived in the Outer Richmond for almost four years, said he expects the aesthetic changes will help usher a new beginning for the area with new businesses and foot traffic:

“First the visual change occurs, then the neighborhood builds itself around it.”

Along with the Streetscape project, a new mixed-use development was recently announced to fill a vacant lot at Balboa Street and 36th Avenue. The four-story building will include condos and 3,900 square feet of commercial space below.

Solomon Habtu, whose father owns a local corner store, said the changes will make the friendly neighborhood even friendlier:

“I think the changes will draw attention from people from other neighborhoods [to come visit.]”

The project is funded by SAFETEA, a multi-year federal transportation bill, and local matching funds. Similar projects are already taking placing all over the city.

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