Photo of Linden Living Alley
Downtown/Civic Center

Market Octavia Living Alleys

Project Status: Completed

The Market Octavia Plan identified alley improvements as a means of creating shared multipurpose public spaces – traffic calmed environments that contrast the heavy traffic on the surrounding arterial streets. The plan also called for the development of prototypes and a process where residents can participate in the design and implementation of improvements to their alley.

The Market and Octavia Living Alleys Program will take advantage of underutilized alleys to provide pedestrians with a respite from heavy urban and regional traffic to create a secondary pedestrian network in the Market and Octavia neighborhood.

What is a "Living Alley?"

A Living Alley may be defined as a narrow, low-volume traffic street that is designed to focus on livability, instead of parking and traffic. Typically, this means creating a street primarily for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as space for social uses. Vehicles are typically still allowed access but with reduced speeds.


The main goal of Market and Octavia Living Alleys Program is to enable residents to engage in place making -- to create a public realm that strengthens the community, creates a sense of identity, and makes a more useful, safe, and attractive neighborhood.

Part of the strategy is to make alleys more usable and connected in many ways: for active and passive recreation, socializing, walking and bicycling to name a few. To do this the Planning Department, working closely with community members, CalTrans, San Francisco's Department of Public Works and the Municipal Transit Authority, envisions the following steps:

  • Design three conceptual living alleys as prototypes;
  • Identify and ally with organizations, property owners, and other community partners that may fund, collaborate, and participate in the design and implementation of a living alley network;
  • Create a tool kit of design elements, relative costs, and maintenance guidelines;
  • Develop an Implementation plan that includes cost estimates and funding sources;
  • Identify opportunities for mid-block alley crosswalks that link the living alleys together.


This toolkit is a resource for community members and designers to develop and implement living alleys. The toolkit includes 20 design tools and well as example prototypes, to give community members a range of options and inspiration for creating living alleys in the Market Octavia Plan Area, though much of this information is applicable to alleys throughout San Francisco. In addition to the design tools, constraints and opportunities are discussed so project designers and residents can understand the full breadth of the project.

Since 2013, we have worked with community members to design and implement a network of Living Alleys in the Market Octavia Plan Area. This toolkit was created to give members of the community an understanding of the design elements and processes involved in creating your own living alley!