Although the latest redesign plans for San Francisco Plaza were given to the city two weeks ago, no one except city staff has seen them. According to Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, they will be made public after they have been reviewed by planning staff and historic district officials.
This is not good enough for the merchants in San Francisco Plaza, who are demanding that they see the plans immediately and be part of the discussions at city hall.
The controversy is not new. According to El Mercurio, there have been seven serious attempts to renovate San Francisco Plaza since 1956 and all have failed, mostly because of opposition from vendors who occupy most of the plaza.
Most of the opposition, now as then, stems from efforts to make the plaza more accessible to the public, which means relocating or consolidating vendors.
City planning chief Esteban Orellana says that the plans delivered by University of Cuenca architects in September are under review by his staff as well as the staff of the city’s historical areas and heritage committee. “There may be changes and we need to determine these before the plans are made public,” Orellana says. “There is no need to meet with the merchants until our review is complete.”
One of the major issues, with both the city and merchants, is vehicular access to the plaza. The city wants to restrict access, turning two streets adjacent to the plaza to pedestrian malls, while merchants want no changes to current traffic flow.
Jaime Guerra, consultant to the project, says that the primary criteria of the redesign is to create an open space to be shared by the public as well as vendors. “It should not be controlled by the merchants as it is now. We are looking at it from a historical perspective too,” he says.
The delay is unacceptable to Jhon Gonzalez, president of the San Francisco Plaza merchants association. “We are demanding access to the plans. We want to meet with the mayor to discuss this since it involves our livelihoods,” he says. He is threatening to go to court if he doesn’t hear back soon from the city.