Agency who can help:

Department of Public Works

Department of Public Works
Bureau of Street Use and Mapping
875 Stevenson Street, Room 460
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 554-5810

Alleys are a potential open space resource in dense urban neighborhoods that can provide a safe, calm, and comfortable refuge for pedestrians and bicyclists. Living alleys transform traditional alleys into shared spaces that prioritize the use of the space for pedestrians and open space – often by claiming street space to create enhanced and active places for landscaping and seating.

Living Alleys typically include special paving, traffic calming, lighting, seating, greening, and other elements to indicate that vehicles are visitors and pedestrians have primacy across the full width of the right-of-way.

See also Shared Public Ways


Living alleys may be installed by community groups, private developers, or the City. Because of their complex nature, they are not typically installed by individual property owners, tenants, or businesses.

Living alleys are large and complex projects and typically require the support of multiple property owners and tenants to design, finance, and construct.  Once completed, the maintenance and liability of the improvement is typically taken over by a non-City entity (except for City-led projects) — typically adjacent owners or the permit holder.

Because of the added responsibilities and changes to the typical use of the street, neighbors or other users of the street may have concerns or issues that need to be addressed in the design or management plan. If you are considering a living alley project, reach out to your neighbors early in the process.

See Building Neighborhood Support

Living alleys typically involve multiple streetscape elements that may impact parking, traffic, drainage, and accessibility. DPW will often streamline the process by combining multiple elements under one permit, typically a Major Encroachment Permit.

See Permit Process



Street Types: Alley; Shared Public Way

Sidewalk zones: All, including entire right-of-way

Most living alley modifications will need to consider:

  • Fire and emergency vehicle access
  • Vehicular driveway access
  • Traffic calming measures
  • Stormwater infiltration and  drainage
  • Universal accessibility
  • Above-ground and sub-surface utilities

See Design Guidelines for Shared Public Ways


With some exceptions, fronting property owners are responsible for the on-going maintenance and upkeep of sidewalk paving as well as all sidewalk elements directly fronting their property, such as trees, landscaping, and streetscape furnishings.

Generally, the City is responsible to maintain roadway paving and other features in the roadway, such as medians.

For community-sponsored living alleys, the permit holder is responsible for maintenance of street improvements. Specific maintenance requirements will be described in your permit. Additionally, the permit holder is also responsible for liability, and must maintain an insurance policy to cover liability.

See Maintenance and Liability

For City-sponsored projects that create a shared public way, there will typically be a division of maintenance responsibilities between the ‘shared roadway’ zone (City responsibility) and ‘pedestrian-only zone’ (fronting property owner responsibility).

For a more detailed description of maintenance responsibilities, see Maintenance