Larkin Street Lighting is a new initiative to make the Larkin Street corridor more vibrant, attractive, and safe with art and design that uses light as a creative medium.

The Tenderloin Community Benefit District is proud to announce Larkin Street Lighting - a new project to help make Larkin Street one of the most inviting corridors in the heart of the city. The project aims to create a stronger connection between Civic Center Plaza and Little Saigon using new light-based art that builds on Larkin Street’s rich cultural history.
After an Open Call for proposals was issued in April 2016, three Finalist teams were selected to receive stipends and develop their proposals further with input from the local community. After a six-week engagement process, Synesthesia was selected as the winning design to develop a Final Proposal.

Congratulations to Synesthesia!

From three Finalists, our Final Jury selected Synesthesia as the winner of Larkin Street Lighting.

The team will receive $2,000 to develop a final design (including budget and timeline) that will be the basis of a fundraising campaign for the project beginning in Fall 2016.


Meet the Selected Finalists!

These projects were selected by our jury to proceed to the second round.

From June 6 - July 13, 2016, they worked to refine their initial concepts based on feedback from the local community and leading design experts.

Moon Shine

Moon Shine

Arup Lighting + Eleanor Pries

A multi-component installation activated by wind and drawing on traditional Vietnamese lantern design.

Moon Shine Website


Andrew Thurlow, Andrew Doyle, Herman ter Hennepe

A series of monolithic light structures that provide viewing portals through the streetscape and dramatic illumination at night.

Monolith Website


Annie Atura, Tyler Bushnell, and Jason Sauers

A network of lights that registers the moods engendered by certain sounds, capturing the natural ebb and flow of activity through the streets.

Synesthesia Website


There are two phases to the project.

Phase 1 (Design) includes an Open Call for proposals, artist selection, community outreach and input, and development of a full proposal for design and implementation of the project.

Our City was selected by TLCBD to act as lead implementation partner for Phase 1 only.

Phase 2 (Implementation) includes fundraising, permitting, additional community engagement, installation, and the launch of the project.

A lead implementation partner for Phase 2 has not been selected - this process will begin near or after the completion of Phase 1.

Download Open Call PDF for Reference

Phase 1 Timeline


Open Call

April 6 - May 20 2016

Open call for artists and designers to reimagine the Larkin Street corridor with light as artistic medium.


Selection + Input

May 21 - July 13 2016

Three artists selected by a jury publicly present their ideas in the community to gain input and feedback from local residents, businesses, and visitors.


Full Proposal

July 14 - August 8 2016

One or more of jury-selected designers/teams develop a complete proposal including final design, budget, and timeline.



August 2016 - 2018

Permitting, fabrication, and installation phase of final selected project(s).

Synesthesia was selected as the winning Finalist on July 14, 2016.

The three selected Finalists were announced June 3, 2016.



Design Considerations + Constraints

Design Considerations

Submissions should take into account the following design considerations:

  • Demonstrate consideration and planning for long-term maintenance
  • Be publicly visible from the sidewalk, ideally from several blocks away
  • Incorporate one or more forms of public interaction
  • Automatically adjust to daylight/time of day

Additional technical considerations and guidance can be found via the City’s Living Innovation Zones Program. The Program’s Manual can be downloaded here, and includes many helpful principles and resources for creating similar projects in public space. The requirements in the Living Innovation Zones Manual are not strict requirements for your Larkin Street Lighting proposal - however, keeping them in close consideration will improve the feasibility of your proposal as-designed and demonstrate to the jury that you understand how to implement these types of projects.

Design Constraints

Submissions should take into account the following design constraints:

  • Withstand thousands of user interactions
  • Withstand up to several years in public space with minimal maintenance, including potential inclement weather
  • No attachment to fire zones or hydrants or public utilities including water, power, or sewer
  • Maximum power needs: 110/120V and < 1500 watts
  • Maximum noise level: 50 dBA at a distance of 10’ from sound source

The Site: Larkin Street

The Larkin Street Corridor is identified by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development as one of 9 Action Zones targeted for strategic investment through the Central Market Tenderloin Strategy (Action Zone H) (–market/). The goal of the Strategy is to harness new investment in the area to create a diverse, healthy, mixed-income neighborhood that offers safety and well-being to all who live, work and visit the area.

Over three decades ago, Southeast Asian immigrants began settling in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Larkin Street, a unique business corridor in the area features many Vietnamese-owned restaurants, shops, tailors and various services as well as organizations offering financial, immigrant and social assistance programs. In 2004, the city of San Francisco designated Larkin Street between Eddy and O’Farrell streets as “Little Saigon”. A vibrant place, the corridor and its adjacent streets offer unique cultural and commercial opportunities. Yet, while statistics show that business has increased in the area since 2006, there are a variety of challenges facing the small businesses in this corridor.

Among these challenges are public realm cleanliness and safety, the physical condition of storefronts, and the weak connection between Civic Center Plaza (McAllister) and its civic and art institutions and Little Saigon, which begins on Larkin at Eddy Street. The Larkin Street blocks between McAllister and Eddy are dominated by the inactive, monolithic sides of large public and private properties, including the Earl Warren Building (350 McAllister), Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building (455 Golden Gate), the Phillip Burton Federal Building (450 Golden Gate), the retaining wall of the parking lot of the Phoenix Hotel, and the PG&E Larkin sub-station1. This several block long, often, windswept distance discourages connection and commerce.

Larkin Street Lighting’s aim is to aid in the vibrancy of the corridor and to act as a magnet and gateway to attract and engage visitors to the area through creative artistic development that compliments the dynamics of this neighborhood and community.

Potential Project Sites

There are four potential project sites along Larkin Street, shown in the map below. Proposals could address one specific site, or propose a design with components at some or all of the sites. The points shown on the map are approximate. Exact limitations related to each site are not yet known, so proposals could be flexible. It may be helpful to explore the sites in person or via Google Street View.

Selection Process + Criteria

Selection Criteria

Submissions were scored, judged, and selected based on the following criteria:

  • Ability for design to directly address stated project goals (Connection, Activity, Culture)
  • Strength of community engagement in design, production, and on-site experience
  • Quality, durability, and feasibility of design and construction
  • Aesthetic beauty and visual impact of design

Selection Process

A jury comprised of local residents, business owners, artists, and neighborhood stakeholders selected three preliminary designs. Selected Finalists received an honorarium of $500 to develop their proposals further and present them to the local Tenderloin community.

  • Three Finalists were selected to further develop their proposals
  • Finalists received an honorarium of $500 for this phase
  • Finalists were notified the week of May 30, 2021

Eligibility + Requirements


Individuals and teams of designers and artists from anywhere in the United States were encouraged to apply. Preference was given to local artists living and working in the Bay Area, specifically San Francisco and the communities in and around the Tenderloin neighborhood.

Applicants could only submit one application per year. However, applicants may be listed as a partner on one (or multiple) application(s) and submit a separate application for a completely different project.

Application Requirements

Project Name
Contact and Eligibility Information
Cover Letter (750 words maximum)
Proposed Project Description + Narrative
Proposed Maintenance Plan
Proposed Project Budget
Project Team Members + Bios + CV’s
Two Professional References
Proposed Project Sketches/Images/Renderings

Download Open Call PDF for Reference


TLCBD has contracted with Our City to support Phase 1 of Larkin Street Lighting. Our City’s role includes developing project collateral and materials, managing the Open Call, gathering community input on selected projects, and supporting the selected teams in developing their final proposed designs.

The Tenderloin Community Benefit District is proud to announce Larkin Street Lighting - a new project to help make Larkin Street one of the most inviting corridors in the heart of the city. The project aims to create a stronger connection between Civic Center Plaza and Little Saigon using new light-based art that builds on Larkin Street’s rich cultural history.
Our City empowers residents to imagine and build the future of their communities. We help governments, cultural institutions, and individuals make their cities better together, through imaginative public design festivals, workshops, and installations. Our City is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California and works with cities everywhere.
Contact Us