“Keep Sunset Slow” — that’s the message from kids in the Outer Sunset urging drivers to slow down and save lives this month.
Elementary school students held their first event last week, part of a pedestrian safety campaign coordinated by the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center and the Outer Noriega Merchants Association. Though it’s a quiet beachside neighborhood, the Outer Sunset’s streets are notorious for their wide expanses of asphalt that encourage drivers to speed.
“Many of the youth and families in our community have to walk while commuting and it is essential that people feel safe getting around the Sunset,” said Matt Pemberton, director of SNBC, which is a member of the merchants association. The “Keep Sunset Slow” campaign, he said, is intended to “empower [youth] to be their own advocates and encourage community members to take more care while driving by following the speed limit, stopping at stop signs, and yielding to pedestrians when they are behind the wheel in the Sunset.”
“It’s wonderful to see that the merchants have taken upon their own initiative to really try to slow down the traffic in the area,” said District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang. “The area by Outer Noriega has really changed a lot over the past few years. There are now some really great businesses in the area, and it’s brought a whole lot more foot traffic.”
“That’s wonderful,” she said. “Now we need to make sure that drivers are aware and used to that, and that they really exercise caution when using the road.”
The program, planned to run through July, was funded by $3,000 from District Attorney George Gascón’s office, which issued grants from its Neighborhood Justice Fund to 11 community groups last month. The revenue comes from restitution funds collected from Neighborhood Court directives, according to the DA’s office.
“The Neighborhood Justice Fund is empowering communities to get engaged and take action to improve neighborhoods, our youth, and pedestrian safety,” Gascón said in a statement last month.
Three of the grants were for pedestrian safety education programs. In addition to the “Keep Sunset Slow” campaign, one grant went to the Livable City Pedestrian Fund for “pedestrian safety trainings and walk audits in areas with a high concentration of injuries to pedestrians,” focusing on neighborhoods in the Mission, Tenderloin, and Southern police districts.
A third grant went to the Portola Neighborhood Association for a pedestrian safety outreach campaign on San Bruno Avenue.
DA Gascón has charged very few drivers who have killed people walking and biking, unless they were drunk or fled the scene. Even Kieran Brewer, who killed 17-year-old Lowell High School student Hanren Chang in a crosswalk on Sloat Boulevard, received just six months in jail.
Pedestrian crashes in the Outer Sunset tend to happen mostly on streets designed for high-speed, high-volume car traffic like Sloat and Sunset Boulevard. On Sunday evening, two women were hospitalized by a driver in a crosswalk while carrying groceries at Sunset and Moraga Street.
It’s more than can be said for Mayor Ed Lee, whose car was spotted last week blocking the crosswalk at Noriega and 46th Avenue, one of the intersections where kids are out in yellow vests, calling on drivers to keep them safe.
Supervisor Tang said outreach isn’t enough to make the Sunset’s streets safer, and that they’ll need to be improved with physical changes. She said her office has pushed the SFMTA to install a stop sign at Noriega and 45th Avenue, though research shows those don’t necessarily lead to safer conditions the way that physical changes that narrow a street’s geometry do.
“We’ve hit a a little bit of a road bump there, but we still want to push for that for the safety of everyone in the area,” said Tang.