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Posts from the "CC Puede" Category

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Cesar Chavez: A Traffic Sewer Transformed Into a Safer Street

As part of the newly-completed redesign of Cesar Chavez, there’s a new plaza at the corner of Mission and Capp Streets. Photos: Aaron Bialick

Western Cesar Chavez Street has been transformed after decades as a dangerous motor vehicle speedway that divided the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods. City officials cut the ribbon today on a redesign of the street, nearly nine years after residents began pushing for safety improvements.

Cesar Chavez was widened in the 1930s and 40s at the expense of safety and livability to serve as a thoroughfare from the 101 and 280 freeways to a planned Mission Freeway that was never built. As a result, it became a virtual no-man’s land for walking and biking, and crossing the street was a huge risk.

Fran Taylor speaking at the ribbon cutting today.

Fran Taylor speaking at the ribbon cutting today.

“Our neighborhoods were cut in two by this dangerous street that was in no way worthy of the man it was named after,” said Fran Taylor, who helped found CC Puede to push for a redesign of the street. “It’s taken a long time, and the efforts of many, but we finally have a Cesar Chavez Street to be proud of.”

With the redesign, the six traffic lanes on Cesar Chavez (known as Army Street until the nineties) were reduced to four. In place of those two lanes are unprotected bike lanes, bulb-outs with rain gardens, and a center median lined with palm trees. With fresh pavement and markings like continental crosswalks, the treatments have made the street calmer and more habitable for people.

The ribbon cutting was held on Si Se Puede! Plaza, which was created at the northeast corner of Cesar Chavez and Mission Street, where Capp Street ends. Drivers can still pass through at the end of Capp, but permeable, textured pavement raised to sidewalk level signals that they are guests.

“We finally have a street that’s going to protect families and reflects what we value, which is safety, first and foremost,” said D9 Supervisor David Campos, whose district includes Cesar Chavez. “It took longer than it should have.”

The project snowballed from a simple re-paving planned by Department of Public Works into a full redesign as residents pushed for safety improvements, and city agencies sought to coordinate those changes with the re-pave to save costs. Andres Power was the project manager for the Planning Department until 2012, when he became an aide for Supervisor Scott Wiener.

“On one hand, it’s unbelievable that it takes this long to get anything like this done. On the other hand, it’s such a transformative project, and I think the wait was well worth it,” said Power. “We wanted to do something that was not just a street project, that was about bringing the neighborhood together, and encouraging people to use the street outside of their cars.”

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Neighbors Welcome a Calmer, Greener Bryant Street Near Cesar Chavez

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Residents are enjoying a more livable outer Bryant Street since the city implemented a road diet last month, reducing four traffic lanes to two (plus left-turn bays at some intersections) between 23rd and Cesar Chavez Streets. Neighbors joined Friends of the Urban Forest on Sunday on the block between 26th Street and Cesar Chavez to add trees and plants to two new medians — visual signals that drivers should slow down as they enter the neighborhood from the 101 freeway.

Friends of the Urban Forest joined neighbors Sunday in planting two new medians that were installed along with a road diet on Bryant Street between 26th and Cesar Chavez Streets. Photo: Dan Sherman

The project, part of a bigger slate of traffic calming improvements planned for the neighborhood, has made the intersection of Bryant and Cesar Chavez much safer for pedestrians, said Fran Taylor of CC Puede. ”For me, the most important improvement has been the elimination of the double left-turn that used to feed traffic from southbound Bryant onto eastbound Cesar Chavez and the freeway ramp, making the pedestrian crossing on the east side of Chavez a death-defying experience,” she said. “The median, especially now that it’s landscaped, makes the street feel smaller and cozier.”

In its 2010 Mission Streetscape Plan, the Planning Department noted that Bryant had “far more roadway space than is needed for the amount of traffic that uses the street,” which led to ”fast-moving traffic and neighborhood cut-throughs, and… a landscape that is dominated by asphalt.”

To calm car traffic, planners removed traffic lanes, added medians, and re-arranged some on-street parking spaces to be perpendicular with the curb, narrowing what used to look like a wide-open roadway.

The plan also calls for more midblock sidewalk extensions (also known as chicanes) along Bryant, including a “landscaped plaza” between 25th and 26th, but those improvements are included in the long-term phase. And that’s not set for implementation for ten or more years, due to the limited funds available for such projects.

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Cesar Chavez Street Redesign Plan Headed to SFMTA Board for Approval

Image: SF Planning Dept's City Design Group

Image: SF Planning Dept's City Design Group

An SFMTA hearing room erupted into applause Friday, November 19, when John Newlin, a hearing officer at the SFMTA, ruled that the massive Cesar Chavez Street redesign should move on to the full SFMTA Board. Supporters of the plan, led by CC Puede, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and other community groups, swamped opposition. The hearing was the proposal’s first formal test.

If the plan continues to sail through approvals, Cesar Chavez from Hampshire Street to Guerrero will soon slim down from three vehicle traffic lanes in each direction to two, with the freed-up space going to bike lanes, strategic turn pockets, and a wide landscaped median. Extensive corner bulbouts, additional greening, and stormwater capture enhancements round out the design elements. Work should begin next summer, following sewer replacement construction. Crews are scheduled to start ripping up the street at Hampshire in February, then move west. The streetscape improvements will shadow the sewer work, with workers zipping the street back together as the sewer dig moves on to the next segment.

Though city officials had expressed early support for the plan, initiated in early 2006 by a neighborhood petition drive, and several large community meetings over the past few years had unearthed little protest, tension arose just before the hearing when some parents at the Leonard Flynn Elementary School on Cesar Chavez and Harrison raised objections. They were upset at the removal of the left turn option onto Harrison from westbound Cesar Chavez, which some parents use to drive their children to school.

Ironically, parents had rallied for safety at that very corner in 2003 to protest the traffic, not efforts to contain it. Two Flynn students, a brother and sister, were hit by the driver of a pickup truck running the red on Cesar Chavez at Harrison. Both survived, but the girl missed a year of school. At the time, the intersection lacked even a “Walk/Don’t Walk” signal, and the city was dragging its heels about installing one. After the demonstration, implementation sped up, and a countdown signal appeared.

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The Nowtopian 7 Comments

Technology and Impotence

oil_spill_may_17_nasa.jpgNASA satellite image of Gulf oil spill, May 17, 2010.

The BP oil spill goes on. And on. We watch the oil on live web cam pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. And we watch. Political rage is muted, practical responses even more distant. What to do? How do we “take action” on something like this? How can individuals meaningfully respond to this catastrophe? Stop driving? Boycott one brand of gas? Stop buying things made of plastic? Let’s not flatter ourselves. A few folks I know are planning to go to a local ARCO gas station (owned by BP) to protest, which will surely be a big moment for the minimum wage employee in the cash booth, and probably an irritant to the half dozen or more motorists waiting to fill their cars.

The numbing impotence we feel is painfully calibrated to our inability to affect what’s happening. Consumer choices we might make will have zero impact on this disaster, and can’t shape the larger dynamics of a globe-spanning, multinational oil industry either. Just listen to Democracy Now on Friday morning to hear how Chevron has destroyed thousands of square miles of the Nigerian delta in its incessant exploitation of the oil there, or how the Ecuadoran Amazon too is covered in vast lakes of spilled oil.

The deeper questions about technology and science are far from our daily lives. The world we live in is embedded in complex networks of technological dependencies, which none of us have chosen freely. Nor do any of us have any way to participate directly in deciding what technologies we will use, how they will be deployed, what kind of social controls will be exerted over private interests who organize and run them for their own gain, etc. (supposedly the federal government regulates them in the public interest, but that is clearly false as shown YET AGAIN by this disaster). The basic direction of science is considered a product of objective research and development, when it has always been skewed to serve the interests of those who already have economic and political power. Public, democratic direction for science and technology is not only non-existent, we really don’t even discuss it as a possibility!

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Cesar Chavez Street Redesign a Test Case For Better Agency Coordination

Cesar Chavez Mission image small_1.jpgConcept for Mission and Cesar Chavez intersection redesign. Image: Planning Department

It appears 2010 is the year the stewards of San Francisco's streets have marked to figure out how to cooperate with each other to design and build a better realm. While the much touted Better Streets Plan synthesizes best practice principles and standards for street design, the release of a new City Controller report (weeks early!) outlined how the city family has historically failed to work together to better our streets [PDF], reminding us of the distance each agency has to bridge before the public sees any concrete improvements.

The Controller's report recommended the city shoul "create and institute an efficient and thorough project design process to increase the consistency of proactive outreach by project managers to City experts and public stakeholders during the project concept phase." The report also recommends consolidating streetscape planning and delivery resources to inform developers and community partners.

Perhaps anticipating the Controller's study, project managers from the Planning Department, MTA, Department of Public Works (DPW) and Public Utilities Commission (PUC) yesterday gave a progress report at SPUR's weekly lunchtime forum on the redesign of Cesar Chavez Street between Guerrero and Highway 101, arguing that the past two years of coordination on the project was the new standard for designing, funding, and building a world class street.

"Each agency has its charge and our projects get programmed that way, they get planned that way with that mission in mind," said Kris Opbroek, project manager for the DPW. "One of the things that's shifting is all the agencies are thinking of the public right-of-way as a whole, not just a sewer project, or just a transit project."

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San Francisco Starts Building Green Streets For Stormwater Management

Without question, Portland's Greenstreets program is the benchmark for American cities seeking to manage storm water and runoff from the street level before it enters the sanitation system pipes. Now, San Francisco is on its way to constructing its first on-street stormwater facilities in two places in the Bayview and Visitation Valley, pilots that should be instructive for the city going forward with the Better Streets Plan.

Leland_Avenue_overhead_small.jpgClick image to enlarge: Leland Avenue intersection overview.
Leland Avenue in Visitation Valley, which is already under construction, adopts various green-street treatments along the four-block commercial stretch that is being re-designed. Primarily an effort to revitalize business along the corridor, the Leland Avenue redesign incorporates some innovative treatments, including planted bulbouts, permeable pavers and stormwater drainage in parking lanes, high visibility crosswalks, and connections to the city's greenway network.

The Planning Department's Andres Power lauded the Leland Avenue improvements, and said the reconstruction of the street was the first step in a process the city hopes will become codified in every street redesign moving forward through the Better Streets Plan. He pointed to a new project, however, in neighboring Bayview as the benchmark for how San Francisco is innovating street design. Power is the project manager for the Model Block pilot on Newcomb Avenue in the Bayview, a project designed around stormwater treatment. The Newcomb project is situated on the 1700 block, just off of 3rd Street between Newhall and Phelps, and will employ a cocktail of street treatments, including stormwater planters and bulbouts, planted traffic calming chicanes, permeable pavement at on-street parking spaces, landscaped sidewalks that absorb runoff, raised crosswalks, and new street trees.

"Newcomb will be the first true green street in San Francisco," said Power, who noted that over the last few years movement from within the city on these matters has been quite positive. "From a policy and design perspective, there has been a sea change; it is infinitely easier to be able to talk about this stuff. Good design feels much less like an impossibility."

The cost to remake the Newcomb is $1,251,421, half of which comes from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, nearly $500,000 from the U.S. EPA, and the remainder from San Francisco Mayor's Office of Housing Community Challenge Grants. The Redevelopment Agency, as part of the expansion of its Model Block single-family home rehabilitation program, will provide financial assistance to low-income families on Newcomb in conjunction with the renovation to refurbish their dwellings.

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Eyes On The Street: Potrero Median Fence Is Partially Built

Potrero_Fence_1.jpgPhotos by Matthew Roth

A five-foot tall median fence that some advocates fear will actually make the area more dangerous for pedestrians is now being installed on Potrero Avenue between 25th Street and Cesar Chavez. As my colleague Matthew Roth has reported, DPW and MTA are erecting the fence to to prevent people from making "illegal and unsafe crossings" in the middle of the block between Rolph Playground and Potrero del Sol Park. Some neighbors and advocates pointed out the city reopened the park, which has become wildly popular, without any consideration for pedestrians who want to cross back and forth. The fence idea was initiated after the Mayor noticed people were crossing in the middle of the block.

After protests from advocates about the lack of a community process (the fence was planned to go up without any public input or outreach), a meeting was held March 25th. At that time, the Planning Department presented a conceptual design for a permanent mid-block ped-activated signal, crosswalk, and pedestrian refuge, which garnered strong support from advocates. The signal and crosswalk would cost between $150,000 to $300,000.

For now, the fence will be completed and remain up until the agencies can agree on a long-term solution, backed with funding. In an email, Fran Taylor of CC Puede said she still very concerned:

I think it will encourage people to cross at the most dangerous point, at the southern end of the fence close to the offramp onto Potrero, where cars will be traveling fastest and have the least time to see someone and slow down. I also think agile young people can jump it, but while they’re stuck on the median, now they’ll have only half the space on either side of the fence that they did before The meeting did produce some near-consensus that a broader solution involving traffic calming should follow what everyone seemed to recognize was a stopgap measure.

She added, "I hope no one gets hurt because of this fence, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone does."

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DPW Agrees to Delay Pedestrian Median Fence on Potrero Ave

Van_Ness_Fence.jpgDPW says the Potrero median fence will resemble this one on Van Ness
In a closed meeting of agency staff this morning, the DPW agreed to delay the construction of a median fence on Potrero Avenue between 25th Street and Cesar Chavez until they conduct further community outreach in conjunction with Supervisor David Campos' office. 

As the DPW and MTA told Streetsblog yesterday in a conference call, they think the fence is needed "to prevent people from making an illegal and unsafe crossing" in the middle of the block.  DPW spokesperson Christine Falvey said there were serious safety concerns and the near-term options were to build the fence or do nothing, and hope for the best.  The latter was not a real consideration for DPW, she said.

Falvey said they had received complaints about pedestrian safety at the median a year ago and presented their project to the East Mission Improvement Association and the Lower 24th Street Merchants Association in January.  There has been a tremendous increase in pedestrian and recreational activity since the reopening of Rolph Playground and Potrero del Sol Park.  

"It is a little disconcerting that they would not do outreach to groups that are specifically concerned about pedestrian safety like CC Puede and Walk San Francisco," said Walk San Francisco Director Manish Champsee.  "I'm just talking about a simple email saying here's what we are thinking, what are your thoughts?"

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Mission Neighbors Upset Over Proposed Pedestrian Fence

Skaters-on-median_1.jpgA group of skaters stopped on the Potrero Avenue median half-way between 26th and Cesar Chavez
Some community members in the Mission are upset that the MTA has proposed building a fence along a median on Potrero Avenue between Cesar Chavez and 25th Street to prevent jaywalking.  

Owing to the success of the recently reopened Rolph Playground and Potrero del Sol Park in the Mission, the first with playing fields and basketball courts, the second with a popular skateboard park, pedestrian traffic has burgeoned. Though the closest crosswalks are a block in either direction, the most direct route between the two destinations is a straight line across six lanes of traffic, some of which speeds as it enters the Highway 101 on-ramp.

The MTA, the Department of Public Works (DPW), and several other agencies will discuss the proposal  Thursday at a meeting of the Transportation Advisory Staff Committee (TASC), which serves to resolve transportation issues across multiple agency jurisdictions.

Fran Taylor of the community group CC Puede sent out an alert to the group’s listserv asking why the MTA doesn’t transform the de facto crossing point into a formal crosswalk with a pedestrian signal.  

“It’s a long distance between the crossings at Cesar and 25th, so people are crossing at the point where 26th Street would be,” Taylor said. “Instead of helping people cross by doing a crosswalk, the response by Jack Fleck is to build a fence.  It seems more like pedestrian apartheid, rather than making it easier for pedestrians.”

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Unclogging the Cesar Chavez Traffic Sewer

cc_median_after_small.jpgA 14' median with trees will be added to Cesar Chavez when the bicycle injunction is lifted
One of the many casualties of the bicycle injunction has been the community led plan for reconstruction of Cesar Chavez Street between Guerrero and the 101.  Over the past five years, community groups led by CC Puede, the Precita Valley Neighbors (PVN), Mission Antidisplacement Coalition (MAC), Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), and PODER have participated in workshops and charettes that produced a plan to transform a traffic sewer into a livable street with greenery, a bike lane, wide sidewalks, and safe pedestrian crossing times. 

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