NOPNA Survey Confirms Support for ‘Boulevard’ Redesign of Masonic Ave

"The Boulevard." Image: SF Planning Department's City Design Group

North Panhandle neighbors gave significant support once again for a complete re-design of Masonic Avenue in an online survey completed by 377 residents. Of the total, 87 percent favored the Boulevard option as the best way to make Masonic a safer street for all users. The plan offers a complete package of traffic calming measures, including a fully-landscaped median, bus bulb outs, a separated bicycle lane, improved traffic lane configurations, and sidewalk upgrades for pedestrians.

To make the improvements, the Boulevard proposal removes parking from both sides of Masonic between Geary and Fell. The other option, dubbed the Gateway, would employ less extensive measures to improve safe travel on Masonic. Compared with the Boulevard’s 87 percent support, the Gateway garnered significantly less with 54 percent preferring it. The North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) released the results of the survey along with the raw data Saturday.

In an executive summary, NOPNA President Jarie Bolander noted that “the vast majority of respondents want to see Masonic safer and feel that something must be done.” He added that most survey respondents (66.4 percent) had not attended the community meetings organized by the SFMTA last year. Thus, the NOPNA data reflect the preference of a great many residents not previously tallied and indicates even greater support for the Boulevard plan.

At the conclusion of last year’s Masonic meetings, 76 percent of participants who completed a SFMTA survey chose the Boulevard over the Gateway option. Based on that input, city staff recommended adoption of the Boulevard measures in a final report completed in January. The proposal has already been endorsed by the Ewing Terrace Neighborhood Association, a majority of University Terrace Neighborhood Association members, and Fix Masonic. The NOPNA board previously stated that they wanted to undertake the survey to obtain greater input from members before deciding what action to take.

In addition to the decided preference for the more ambitious street design, the NOPNA survey revealed other information pertinent to the discussion. Of the 373 who completed the survey, the greatest number of Masonic area residents heard about the proposals from three sources: the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) (46.9 percent), the NOPNA newsletter (41.4 percent), and BIKE NOPA (36.2 percent). More than 58 percent of respondents indicated they live within the NOPNA boundaries (Fell, Turk, Divisadero and Masonic) while 80 percent reside within or just one block beyond these streets.

Of the 477 residents who started the survey, 45 live on Masonic, and 81.8 percent of them strongly like or somewhat like the Boulevard proposal compared to 44.1 percent for the Gateway plan. Of the 127 who self-identified as being NOPNA members, 86 percent strongly liked or somewhat liked the Boulevard versus 59.9% for the Gateway.

When it comes to discussions about driving and biking in NOPA – as in other neighborhoods — residents sometime adopt an “us vs. them” approach, suggesting that motorists don’t care about road safety for others, that bicyclists only favor improvements for themselves, or that peoples’ modes of travel define their identity and affiliations. But the NOPNA survey shows much the opposite. Although the vast majority of respondents indicated that they belonged to the SFBC and 43 percent identified themselves as NOPNA members, a very high number (42 percent) actually belong to both groups. Other group affiliations mentioned include Fix Masonic (14.2 percent), NOPA+ (12.6 percent), Wigg Party (7.1 percent), and WalkSF (7.1 percent).

The removal of street parking for a safer Masonic was included in both proposals, although the Boulevard takes away parking on both sides of the street, while the Gateway removes it from just one side. Not surprisingly, those who support the Boulevard largely like the plan’s removal of parking to allow space for improvements. But Gateway advocates are almost evenly split on liking or disliking removal of half the parking.

The strong feelings of residents about changing Masonic are apparent in the large number of written comments for each proposal and for the overall situation. Nearly 300 comments were added to the survey. As can be expected, observations cover the range from enthusiasm to dismay for the proposed changes, but the tone was generally more positive than not. The plea of one neighbor is especially poignant:

Please fix Masonic. I’ve lived at Fulton and Masonic for less than a year and I regret moving here every day. The noise and speeding vehicles and honking horns is overwhelming. The crosswalks are terrifying. I drive occasionally and something about this street encourages aggressive behavior.

This story is republished from BIKE NOPA, a website that’s “all about bicycling and livability in San Francisco’s North Panhandle neighborhood.”