San Francisco’s Richmond District is blessed with stunning vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, but its street grid has turned its roads into feeder freeways, a fact that bedevils residents and pedestrian and bicycle advocacy organizations and has prompted calls for traffic calming and beautification.
To that end, this past Saturday District One Supervisor Eric Mar convened a town hall meeting with residents, city planners, DPW employees, Richmond District Police Captain Richard Corriea, and representatives of the SFBC, Senior Action Network, and Walk SF to discuss traffic issues and suggestions for streetscape improvements.
Though there were suggestions from participants for streetscape improvements, which staff for Supervisor Mar collected and hope will be incorporated
the Planning Department’s Better Streets Plan and the Department of Public Works’ Great Streets Program
(GSP), the overwhelming concern was dangerous traffic.
“We need to start doing something to make the city more pedestrian friendly and more family friendly, “ said Anthony Lazarus who lives near 24th and Anza. “I’m not patient anymore.”
"When I think about better streets, I think about making them safe for my 9-year-old daughter," said Supervisor Mar. "I also think about my close to 90-year-old mother. I want to make sure the streets are safe for her when she’s walking."
Another town-hall participant, Pam Tau-Lee, said, “Every morning I take my life in my hands to cross [Fulton Street] to catch the bus,” “There are rear-enders because people are not looking as I’m crossing the street.”
SFPD Captain Corriea noted that a decision had been made decades ago not to put commercial enterprises on Fulton Street, leaving it for Golden Gate Park, residences and four lanes of traffic – which led it to become what resident Karen Willman described as the “Fulton Freeway.”
Another street of concern, according to Corriea, is 43rd Avenue, a steep, recently repaved hill that links Geary Boulevard and Chain of Lakes Drive, used frequently by motorists traversing Golden Gate Park. There was a hit-and-run collision on 43rd not long ago. The young victim is still hospitalized, and a warrant has been sent out for the arrest of the driver, who may have been intoxicated at the time.
MTA traffic engineer Adam Gubser explained three “E’s” for improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists: education, enforcement, and engineering – obstacles that might slow down traffic while beautifying the streetscape at the same time. Corriea noted that officers have issued 4,200 traffic citations in the Richmond so far this year, up about 1,000 over the same time last year.
“I think the traffic stops are educational,” he said, noting that people slow down when they see other drivers pulled over. He was also open to moving his station’s speed trailer – an electronic sign that flashes the speed limit – around to where people thought it was necessary. “We think people slow down when the see it,” he said.
Some participants voiced support for installing stop signs at 24th Avenue and Balboa, and at Clement Street and 5th Avenue to improve pedestrian safety. Another resident who lives near 8th Avenue at Fulton noted that traffic at 8th Avenue has increased since the loss of the 10th Avenue entrance into and out of the park.
Cassandra Costello, a resident of 4th Avenue, mentioned the possibility of “greening” parts of the triangle of pavement between 7th Avenue and Arguello and Cornwall and California, and the hope to create tree-studded medians like the one on 23rd Avenue, between Fulton and Cabrillo, in other parts of the district.
Kay Voydovich, of the Boulevard Neighbors User Group for the Park Presidio Community, recommended turning the dirt paths on the west side of Park Presidio into a bicycle or a disability access trail, and the dirt paths on the 14th Avenue side into pedestrian paths. All these paths would connect Mountain Lake to the Rose Garden and the de Young Museum.
I took a spin through the fog on Sunday afternoon and photographed a number of intersections and streetscapes that were mentioned as sites for beautification and traffic calming, including Park Presidio, Fulton Street, 43rd Avenue, and Clement at 5th Street – and I added one of my own: Arguello between Golden Gate, Cabrillo, and McAllister, three streets that feed into Arguello (there are no stop signs on Arguello there) near a grocery store and a popular café.
While I was on 43rd Avenue, I witnessed an officer cite a driver for flying through a stop sign without stopping. At 43rd and Fulton, I captured the Fulton Freeway experience as cars, and even an electrified 5-Fulton bus, whipped past me so quickly I could feel a non-ocean breeze. At the aforementioned intersection of Arguello without stop signs, I snapped pictures of shoppers pushing baby carriages across the street.
At least one bicyclist at the meeting had expressed an affinity for the thick, slow traffic on Clement at 5th Avenue, traffic that he thought was self-regulating. In fact, I took pictures of pedestrians navigating comfortably through oncoming traffic at that intersection, just as if they were New Yorkers at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue near Port Authority. But all the while I was wondering what that intersection must be like for Jeanne Lynch, a woman at the meeting who uses a walker and who had expressed a desire for a stop sign; I took a picture of one middle-aged woman assisting her mother with a walker cross 5th Avenue from the east to the west side — but I know they would not have dared cross Clement itself.