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Open Access Publications from the University of California

From elevated freeways to surface boulevards: neighborhood and housing price impacts in San Francisco


Freeway “deconstruction” marks an abrupt shift in urban policy. Priorities are shifting away from designing cities to enhance mobility toward promoting livability. This paper investigates the neighborhood, traffic, and housing price impacts of replacing elevated freeways with surface boulevards in two corridors of San Francisco in California, USA: Embarcadero along the city’s eastern waterfront and Central Freeway/Octavia Boulevard serving a predominantly residential neighborhood west of downtown. Using informant interviews, literature reviews, and statistical analyses, the research suggests that freeway conversions generally gentrifies neighborhoods, although policies like affordable housing mandates can temper displacement effects. Empirical evidence on residential sales transactions reveals that the disamenity effects of proximity to a freeway have for the most part given way to amenity benefits once roadways are converted to landscaped multiway boulevards. It is concluded that freeway-to-boulevard conversions have yielded net positive benefits without seriously sacrificing transportation performance.

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