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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Measuring the effectiveness of San Francisco's planning standard for pedestrian wind comfort


In 1985, San Francisco adopted a wind comfort standard in its Downtown Area Plan in response to increasing concerns about the city’s downtown public open spaces becoming excessively windy. After 30 years of implementation, this study revisits the standard and examines its effectiveness in promoting pedestrian comfort. 701 valid samples were collected from 6 months of field study, which combined surveying pedestrians and on-site collection of microclimate data. Statistical analysis and an assessment using the physiological equivalent temperature (PET) show that 11 mph (4.92 m/s), the comfort criterion in places for walking, performs as an effective determinant of outdoor comfort in San Francisco. This study sheds light on climate-resilience of cities as they have become key urban challenges today.

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