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What Are Sustainable Streets?

Within the context of a street,  the term “green streets” is often used to describe streets that have green infrastructure built into the sidewalks and roadways, allowing water to soak into the land rather than drain straight to the bay or ocean.

There are many competing needs and uses for our streets, especially with respect to mobility, safety, and community comfort and livability. Transportation planners refer to streets that are designed with enhanced bus stops, cycle tracks, pedestrian-oriented road-crossings, and other improvements to facilitate mobility of all users of the road as “complete streets.” Taken together, green infrastructure and complete streets can maximize the benefits of each and lead the way towards what we call “sustainable streets.” 

Plants and shrubs for stormwater capture in between concrete
Burlingame: Carolan Ave.

In fact, the benefits of green infrastructure extend well beyond cleaning and managing water. Rain gardens, stormwater curb extensions, green roofs, and street trees (among other green infrastructure types) can also directly enhance pedestrian and bicycle mobility and safety, contribute to traffic calming, add urban green space and wildlife habitat, enhance neighborhood livability, help deepen residents’ sense of connection with the natural environment, and control localized flooding and heat island effects. Most communities in San Mateo have a complete streets policy to help create safer and more comfortable street environments for everyone, and many are developing or have developed sustainable streets policies or green infrastructure plans to sustainably manage stormwater.

Sustainable Streets Master Plan

Plants and shrubs for stormwater capture in between concrete
San Mateo: Humboldt St. and College Ave.

To take the leap toward sustainable streets throughout the county, the San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program is creating a San Mateo County Sustainable Streets Master Plan. This long-term planning effort builds on years of watershed modeling and stakeholder input, and will take a closer look at how and where to build sustainable streets in San Mateo County that integrate stormwater management with local priorities, like bike and pedestrian mobility, transit improvements, climate change adaptation, and more. The plan will also use down-scaled climate data to anticipate future changes in rainfall and how we need to account for climate change with respect to sustainable streets planning, design, and construction. To learn more about the Sustainable Streets Master Plan, check out the Sustainable Streets Design Tool Kit and find opportunities to get involved with the plan here.

Take a look at the Countywide Stormwater Resource Plan for background information and to learn the nuts and bolts of how green infrastructure planning got started in San Mateo County.

To see what’s happening in our county already, view the map above and click on individual green infrastructure projects throughout San Mateo County to learn more about local green infrastructure projects in your neighborhood – and take a look next time you’re out for a stroll!

To see what’s happening in our county already, view the map below

Demonstration Projects In San Mateo County

The San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program has also helped advance green infrastructure and sustainable streets in the county through local funding initiatives. Below are several demonstration projects that were funded through local vehicle registration fees, a portion of which supports stormwater management and San Mateo County. For more information, click on each project below.