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Car-free Valencia Street is back this weekend after two months off

Sofia Manzari, 11, peddles and her sister Nina, 6, walks down the middle of the 900 block of Valencia Street, which is closed to vehicle traffic on weekends for the city's Slow Streets program, in San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. | Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

For the first time in two months, pedestrians, shoppers and bicyclists can enjoy car-free blocks of Valencia Street starting Friday.

The blocks of Valencia St. from 16th to 17th streets, and between 18th and 21st streets will be closed to car traffic on Friday Sept. 30 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. And on Saturday from 1 p.m to 10 p.m.

The street closures—known as Shared Spaces—will continue every Friday and Saturday until Oct. 29, after which a new permit would have to be issued.

The additional foot traffic gained by removing cars is welcome for small businesses in the street.

Manny Yekutiel, owner of Manny’s at 16th and Valencia streets, said he pushed for the return of the closure because of the benefits to small businesses, but also because allowing more space to walk and ride is nice.

“When people can expand out there’s just this atmosphere of civic pride,” Yekutiel said.

Yekutiel sits on the MTA Board of Directors and is a member of the Valencia Corridor Merchants' Association. 

He said the closure permit was not renewed after July 30 due to conditions issued by the fire department—the fire department and the SF Municipal Transportation Agency dictate conditions for issuing Shared Spaces permits.

Fire department officials had asked the merchants’ association to staff closed blocks so that emergency vehicles could get access. Yekutiel said the association could not provide that level of staffing but a compromise has been reached—association staff will assist at the busiest block of Valencia St. from 18th to 19th streets—allowing the permit to be issued. SFFD have been contacted for comment.

Police vehicles will also have access to Mission Street Station at Valencia Street between 17th and 18th streets.

Urban transit activist Luke Bornheimer praised the return of car-free Valencia Street, he said: “The Valencia Shared Space is an amazing contribution to our city, creating a community space for people to gather, connect, and build community while patronizing local merchants along Valencia and throughout the Mission.”

Visitors can expect local artists showcasing their work along car-free Valencia Street from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. next Saturday, Oct 8.