sunset boulevard

Community to Evaluate Progress of Sunset Blvd. Landscaping Plan

By Thomas K. Pendergast

After $1.2 million was spent landscaping the median strip running down the center of Sunset Boulevard to make it less needy of water, looking at it  block-by-block, tall grass and weeds on many of the sections are taking over the succulents that were planted.

The issue has drawn the attention of District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar who will hold a meeting on the issue June 6.

In 2011 the Sunset Boulevard Water Efficiency Project (SBWEP) was completed, yet a drive down that key north-south traffic artery shows an inconsistent landscaping management plan.


Weeds dominate the landscaping on the Sunset Boulevard median between Quintana and Rivera streets, across from St. Ignatius College Prep. School. May, 2019.

The contrasts from one block to another can be subtle or dramatic, depending upon which blocks are brought into focus.

In an effort to maximize water savings through conservation measures and innovative practices, in 2011 the SF Department of Public Works (SFDPW)  and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) replaced the landscaping and retrofitted the irrigation system along the center medians and each side of Sunset Boulevard, between Rivera Street and Sloat Boulevard.

The SBWEP replaced one mile of outdated automatic irrigation systems with new, low-flow systems and rain and solar sensors that help optimize water usage. Approximately 161,000 square feet of existing high water usage turf was replaced with native Bent grass, thus requiring half the water of the previous species planted there.

The species of grass selected for the project was intended to conserve water and reduce the costs of maintenance. This grass tends to grow longer than conventional species and its appearance may seem to necessitate more mowing, according to SFDPW.

The native bent grass was expected to grow 8-12 inches but there has been an inconsistent pattern of landscaping along the boulevard. 

As of the end of May, from Lincoln Way south to Irving Street, there was high grass and nothing else; yet from Irving to Judah streets the ground was completely torn up with an excavator sitting on it about two-thirds down the block. 

From Judah to Lawton streets there was no grass at all but plenty of small succulent plants, which were well manicured.

South of Lawton Street, the gravel and succulent landscaping were all neatly groomed, just as there was when the project was first completed.

Between Moraga and Quintara streets flowers start to compete with tall grass that hides the succulents. 

Between Rivera and Vicente streets, the grass gets shorter, the succulents are taller and the different plants seem to be more evenly distributed. South of Vicente the grass has grown up to four feet tall and the flowers are hidden from sight. Rachel Gordon of SFDPW said the department has been doing block-by-block improvements to the median strip along Sunset Boulevard as part of a “Master Plan” for Sunset Boulevard. 

“There have been a number of improvements that have been going on already; we know we’re not at the end of them yet. We have added irrigation from Lincoln to Sloat, but we’re looking at what the different options are that will both help for decreased need for maintenance but also to make it look much more aesthetically pleasing,” Gordon said.

“We have been making these improvements block-by-block on that median with different plantings there. We’re really trying to put in low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants. The most expensive part of landscaping is not planting the plants but it’s maintaining them with watering. And that’s the same with trees. So, we’re looking at different planting pallets we can use that rely less on water and less on high maintenance,” she said.

Gordon said the inconsistencies from block to block are a resource issue. 

“Another challenge we’ve had, across the city, is with the heavy rains this winter. Heavy rains bring lots of new grass, the grass is getting taller, the flowers are coming out, there are more weeds. We do have landscaping crews that are addressing those. It’s been difficult to keep up with the incessant winter rains. The weeds and plants and grasses have just really sprouted and we are struggling to keep up,” she said.

Gordon Mar, who represents District 4 on the SF Board of Supervisors, is holding a community meeting to discuss the Sunset Boulevard Master Plan. The “initiative to reinvigorate” the greenway will be held at St. Ignatius High School (2001 37th Ave.) on June 6 at 6:30 p.m.     


Sunset blvd workers pic 6-19

Workers connecting irrigation pipes on the median of Sunset Boulevard between Judah and Kirkham streets. May, 2019. Photos by Michael Durand.

Sunset blvd pic holes cone SB 6-19JPG

Sunset Boulevard median before landscaping was installed. The holes are for connecting new sprinkler heads to the existing irrigation pipes. Near Kirkham Street, May, 2019.

Sunset blvd landscaping pic old pipe SB 6-19JPG

A new sprinkler head recently connected to old irrigation pipes. May, 2019.


Sunset Boulevard median is mostly pebbles between Kirkham and Lawton streets. May, 2019.


Succulents in bloom on the Sunset Boulevard median between Lawton and Moraga streets. This patch is the closest resemblance to the original design for the landscaping project. May, 2019.


Halfway between Moraga and Noriega streets, landscaping gives way to tufts of overgrown weeds. May, 2019.


Weeds have taken over most of the landscaping project on the median of Sunset Boulevard between Golden Gate Park and Sloat Boulevard. May, 2019.


Photo across Sunset Boulevard near Wawona Street shows the overgrown weeds on the median. May, 2019.


Weeds dominate the landscaping on the Sunset Boulevard median between Quintana and Rivera streets, across from St. Ignatius College Prep. School. May, 2019.


Calandrinia spectabilis, a succulent with pink flowers, grows well in drought conditions. May, 2019. This stretch of the Sunset Boulevard median is the only segment that resembles the original planting. The other succulents that were planted are not faring quite as well. May, 2019.


Sunset blvd mtng 6-6-19


2 replies »

  1. There has been more money wasted
    On all the mediums than has been used
    To PAVE sunset Blvd. also why was
    Sloat never finished from 35 to the
    Taraval is so screwed up now. Taraval
    Police is useless! There is so much
    Congestion, so many parking places
    Removed from important services? Walgreens, banks, restaurants etc.
    there are still soooooooo many
    People walking in front, in between and
    Behind street cars. Where are the
    Police not siting these people? Why
    Are there so many cars and trucks
    Doubled parked? Cause the
    Parking places have been
    Removed. Whom ever thought these
    “Fixes” doesn’t live here, as usual!!
    I live at 40th and Wawona. There are so
    Many stop 🛑 sign runners here, and for
    41st and 42nd Ave. between Ulloa grammar school and south sunset
    Playground, there are many many
    Children and stop signs are being
    Run morning thru nite. Police
    Don’t care. I have lived in the
    Sunset ( the forgotten part of the
    City for repairs). For over 65 years.

    And police are never around. I drove by
    Taraval station one day. There were
    Over 35 cars that I could see were
    Sitting on the street? That means at least
    70 cops not on the streets.
    Noriega is also a mess with all
    Those mediums in the Middle of
    The road that people drive over or into.
    There are many people of all nationalities
    That shouldn’t be driving in the
    First place but these yellow mediums don’t mean a thing to them, one way or
    Another. When are we going to have
    The sunset district back to normal?
    All those bike lanes all over, are for
    2-4 people a day. All the people that
    Have been killed or injured, have
    Pretty much done the damage to
    Themselves. Enough for now.
    Can’t make meetings!!!


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