Portsmouth Square is located in Chinatown and serves as a public park and cultural space. Because of its role in the community as a gathering place, Portsmouth Square has become known to some as “Chinatown’s Living Room.”
In 2018, Transportation Authority Board Chair Aaron Peskin (District 3) asked our staff to analyze existing conditions around Portsmouth Square and to engage the community in identifying how best to improve access to the square and to Chinatown as a whole. The Transportation Authority conducted the study through our Neighborhood Program, partnering with Chinatown Transportation Research and Improvement Project with the goal of improving safety, circulation, and access to Portsmouth Square.
In November 2020, the Transportation Authority Board adopted the Portsmouth Square Community Based Transportation Plan, a report that details how people access Portsmouth Square, identifies needs and challenges in this dense area, explores potential solutions and improvements, and provides recommendations.
The planning process brought residents, community organizations, and transportation agencies together to set goals and develop strategies to address the neighborhood’s most pressing transportation needs in this busy area.
Recommendations include pedestrian safety improvements like corner curb extensions and retrofitted traffic signals, sidewalk widenings and medians, shared street designs, accessibility improvements for people with disabilities, and loading improvements to support business needs.
The Portsmouth Square study follows several efforts to improve safety and circulation in Chinatown including the Chinatown Neighborhood Transportation Plan, District 3 Pedestrian Safety Improvements Study, and the Chinatown Pedestrian Safety Needs Assessment and Plan. It was also developed in coordination with the SF Recreation and Parks Department’s Portsmouth Square Improvement Project, which includes a redesign and reconstruction of Portsmouth Square itself and is currently under environmental review.
This study was funded in part by the Transportation Authority’s Prop K Neighborhood Program and in part by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Community-Based Transportation Planning program.
Potential funding for many of the plan’s recommendations may come from the Prop A Health and Recovery Bond that San Francisco voters passed in November 2020. That measure includes funding that will be available for the redevelopment of the square, pending environmental clearance. Funding for recommendations not included in the square redesign could come from other local, state, or regional funds.