If you had told Sunday Streets director Susan King back in 2008 how successful her project would be, she wouldn’t have believed you. Finding funds, receiving permits, and even getting people on board proved difficult. It took serious work (and the backing of then-Mayor Gavin Newsom) to get the program up and running.
King was caught off guard by the initial opposition to Sunday Streets. “It’s so mundane,” she argues. “It’s like apple pie and baseball and kittens!” But King and her team rallied for support. Sure, she already had Newsom on her side, but the biggest help came from smaller voices. “It was the families,” says King. “The people who I would say deserve the most credit are the participants and the regular folks who just showed up.”
Eventually, Sunday Streets was born. The premise is simple. “We take the cars away from the streets for a few hours and let people enjoy the space,” explains King.
And enjoy it they have. Today, S.F. Sunday Streets celebrates its 50th event since the program started. Valencia Street offers a beautiful public space with the breezy, free-to-be-me attitude that San Francisco is all about. And it’s catching on like wildfire. “Now it’s kind of sweeping the nation,” Kings states excitedly. “A lot of people want them.”
After six productive years, the time is right to take open streets to the masses. King will be leaving the organization this year to bring Sunday Streets to the rest of California. Who better to take the program statewide than the woman who built it from the ground up?
Creating an event that inspires change across the state is not a small feat for anyone. King says, “When I think back on it I think, ‘Yeah, that really was kind of amazing.’”