sunset boulevard

New Irrigation, Trees and Native Plants Planned for Sunset Boulevard

By Thomas K. Pendergast

Sunset Boulevard is getting a green makeover, including new trees and plants, as the City goes for more water efficiency and attractive landscaping along the greenbelts lining that major traffic artery. 

A “master plan” released by the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) will include improvements like a new recycled water irrigation system, removal of hazardous trees, adding wild flowers and drought-tolerant plants and repairing the sidewalks.

“The overall plan is to improve the long-term sustainability of Sunset Boulevard by increasing climate resilience, increasing biodiversity along the corridor and providing ecosystem services,” the DPW’s Rachel Gordon explained.

She said the three key components of the plan are to: create recreation areas and design trails that connect to citywide trail networks; plant native species to provide wildlife habitat with a focus on insects, pollinators and birds; and manage storm water through “green” infrastructure and minimize water use through drought-tolerant plants.       

Irrigation sprinklers will run along the east and west sides of the greenbelt from Lincoln Way to Sloat Boulevard and the median strip irrigation will eventually run from Irving Street down to Sloat. They will also use “irrigation bubblers,” which allows water to cover a specific area without spraying because spraying can cause both run-off and unwanted weed watering. They will not, however, be able to get water to every portion of each block with the bubblers. 

Reverse osmosis will be utilized because the process eliminates the maximum amount of salts in recycled water possible. This method forces water through a semi-porous membrane, and is believed to remove 95 percent of the salt from the water. Salts are generally bad for plants. 

The irrigation improvement costs are estimated at $1.26 million, which includes tapping the main water line at five locations, booster pumps, electrical connections and excavation.

Along the greenbelt, 250 new trees will be planted between Judah and Ortega streets, with a total of 100 additional trees between Ortega and Pacheco streets, as well as Lawton and Noriega streets.  Predominantly California native tree species, like Channel Island Ironwood, Monterey Cypress, Coast Live Oak, Willow, Buckeye and Island Live Oak, will be planted. A small number of non-native but “climate appropriate” species may also be included.

Wild flowers will be planted along those same greenbelts in certain areas on alternating sides of the boulevard between Lincoln and Irving, Noriega and Rivera, Santiago and Taraval, and Wawona Street and Sloat. They will be a mix of California poppies, sky lupine, white yarrow, purple needlegrass and blue-eyed grass. 

Tending to all of this will be one dedicated gardener, along with two “public service aides,” according to Gordon. Additional staff will assist with mowing and other work as required.

“Recreation centers” have been installed along each block on the east-side of the greenbelt between Noriega and Taraval, plus new benches are also going in along that stretch.

Sidewalk improvements will include fixing “hazardous” areas first, then degraded granite trails, and assessing pedestrian crossings for safety improvements. 

They will also be installing “rain gardens” along the greenbelts from Irving to Noriega, Pacheco to Rivera and Santiago to Ulloa.    

“A rain garden is an area designed to capture rain water and allow it to percolate into the ground,” Gordon said. “It can be a simple depression area that holds water during a rain event and allows it to slowly percolate into the ground, or it can be more engineered to allow water to also flow off of impermeable surfaces (like the roadway) to capture the flow of water and allow that to percolate down. The Sunset rain gardens are designed to capture rainwater from the roadway as well as direct rainfall. The plants clean the water as it percolates down.”

Link to a previous article with more photos of Sunset Boulevard taken in May, 2019: PHOTOS.

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