With the Market Street Prototyping Festival right around the corner, we reached out to Kelli Rudnick of the Better Market Street project for an interview.
I was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I earned my undergraduate degree here in San Francisco and then left for Los Angeles, Seattle and New York City where I went to graduate school for landscape architecture. In 2012, I returned to San Francisco to take a job with San Francisco Public Works on the Better Market Street project.
What do you think is unique about Market Street?
Market Street is both a street and a place in the way no other street in San Francisco is. It is the first place people mention when remembering San Francisco from their youth. The length of Market Street, from the Embarcadero, through the Financial District through Civic Center and up to the Castro really covers the wide range of San Francisco and all San Franciscans consider it their street. It expresses what is going on in the City at large and serves as the City’s civic and commercial corridor. Market Street is the MUNI and BART transit spine in the City more people visit Market Street than any other street in the City.
What are the biggest challenges to make a Better Market Street?
The Better Market Street project is planning the reconstruction of Market Street to better serve all of the desires people have for Market Street as a public space and a transportation street. The City’s Make Your Market Street (MYM) initiative aims to open the sidewalks of Market Street to the creative people of San Francisco to activate the urban place of Market Street during the time before Better Market Street construction begins. We are finding opportunities and challenges in both the near-term activation and the redesign of Market Street.
Through projects like MYM’s Night Market, Fridays at UN Plaza, opening for its second season Friday April 10, and the redesign of Mechanics Plaza, we have been identifying opportunities in the public spaces on Market Street to build on the existing activities to make Market Street a more inviting place for people who want to come and spend time. Our intention is balancing the new and the existing, retaining the neighbors, businesses, and organizations who make this place rich while welcoming new ideas and neighbors. The idea is that public space is just that, public. These spaces should be equally available to everyone and that is what we are supporting along Market Street.
Because Market Street is many things to many people, balancing all of the desires for what Market Street should be, a great public space, civic and commercial boulevard, the City’s biggest bicycle street and the key to a great transit system, is the biggest challenge for the Better Market Street project. In our research of other civic boulevards we have not found one that compares to Market Street’s role as a civic boulevard and primary transportation thoroughfare. It is the central role Market Street plays in our City that offers the wonderful opportunities and the challenges.
What have you learned working with the community and stakeholders on Market?
Everything! I’m kidding and I’m not kidding. But the truth is that at every step in the process from the early days when we asked the community what was important to them to the culmination of the conceptual design phase where we gathered public input on the three conceptual design options, the public is always the source and sounding board for the project. From our outreach we’ve learned that the desire for a vibrant public space is the most important to people and that safety for pedestrians and cyclists is essential.
Your favorite thing about living in San Francisco?
I have two favorite things. First, the incredible beauty of the City within the gorgeous Bay Area landscape. I love the integration of the city with wilderness, being surrounded by the ocean and the bay and the dramatic topography. And second, having recently returned to San Francisco, I am very interested in how the city is changing and the complexity of the issues. This is a dynamic time and decisions are being made that will shape the future of San Francisco and the region.
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
I am a city person so I enjoy urban explorations and visiting my favorite public spaces. In San Francisco you don’t actually have to chose between the city and wilderness because of how much wilderness there is within the urban. A walk in Glen Canyon where they are building great new trails or along Heron’s Head Park where something happens. And I am a total film lover so a dark movie theater is one of my biggest pleasures.