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Supes Narrowly Reject EIR Appeal Against Car-Free Condos at 1050 Valencia

The proposed parking-free, 12-unit condo and retail development at 1050 Valencia Street narrowly cleared a hurdle Tuesday after a 6-5 vote by the Board of Supervisors, which rejected an appeal that contended the project should be required to have a full environmental impact report.

A rendering of the 1050 Valencia project. Image: Stephen Antonaros via Curbed

The project, approved by the Planning Commission more than a year ago, has faced continued opposition for several years, organized by the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association and the neighboring Marsh Theater. LHNA contends that new residents will own cars despite the lack of dedicated parking — even though a growing body of research shows otherwise – and take up street parking spots. Meanwhile, the Marsh’s protests focus on potential noise and shadows.

The latest appeal protests the Planning Department’s determination that the project does not require a full EIR under the California Environmental Quality Act because it complies with the zoning of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, for which an area-wide EIR was already done. Five supervisors voted to uphold the appeal — David Campos, John Avalos, Malia Cohen, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim. It next goes to the Board of Appeals.

Stephen Williams and other LHNA reps argued that the project’s location on Valencia at Hill Street, between 21st and 22nd Streets, was not a “transit-rich” area where residents would be able to live without cars, though studies show that residents who move into units without dedicated parking are less likely to own cars, and about half of residential parking garages in the Mission aren’t used for car storage.

“What does ‘transit-rich’ mean? No one knows,” Williams said in response to Supervisor Scott Wiener, who pointed out that the location is within one block of Mission Street, which has some of the most frequent Muni service in the city, and less than half a mile from BART’s 16th and 24th Street stations. Valencia is also one of the most heavily-traveled streets for bicycle commuting, and the building will have indoor parking for 28 bikes.

“I don’t think anybody should consider that transit-rich,” Williams said.

Read more…

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Civic Center Bike Station Delayed Another Year, Riders Left Crossing Fingers

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Photo: Bryan Goebel

The bike station that was supposed to be installed at Civic Center Station in June won’t come for at least another year, according to BART Bike Program Manager Steve Beroldo. No word yet on what’s caused the delay, but Beroldo said the station hasn’t even been fully designed yet (it’s at “95 percent”). BART does have full funding to build the station, however.

The delay is sure to be a big disappointment for BART and Muni Metro riders looking for a bit more peace of mind when leaving their bikes at the station. Streetsblog SF’s founding editor, Bryan Goebel, would’ve been one of the latest victims of theft this week, had BART police not saved the day.

Goebel had parked at Civic Center to take BART to Oakland to report on the agency’s labor hearings. When he returned, he found that BART officers caught a thief stealing parts off his bike and others parked at the racks, which are accessible to anyone inside the fare gates.

In the thief’s bag, Goebel said police found his rear bike light along with ”items which lead them to believe he’s been picking parts off other bikes.” The thief was arrested and will reportedly be charged with burglary.

Goebel noted that it’s “frustrating” that the only options for getting to the East Bay by bike and BART are to take his bike on the train or bike to Embarcadero — the farthest station on the east side of Market, and SF’s only BART stop with a bike station — to find secure parking. Bike stations, like those at the Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART stations, are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed.

“Having [a bike station] at Civic Center will be so convenient when I need to go the East Bay,” Goebel said.

Until then, BART might want to consider trying to scare off thieves with a cardboard cutout of one of its officers. Seriously.

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Revamped Bike Parking Requirements Clear Final Hurdle at Board of Supes

A citywide overhaul of bicycle parking requirements for new development will be adopted after the Board of Supervisors approved the legislation unanimously on Tuesday.

Bike parking at Zynga. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

The ordinance will, by and large, increase bike parking requirements for new residential and commercial buildings, which have been put in place on a piecemeal basis since 1996. Planning Department staff said the legislation will set consistent, stricter standards that are more in line with those set in cities like Portland, Vancouver, and New York.

Whereas the guidelines adopted about a decade ago generally required one bike parking space for every 50 tenants, the new ordinance will help provide “infrastructure to support bicycling for the 21st century,” said Supervisor John Avalos, who sponsored the legislation.

The overhaul would apply to new construction and building expansions, and bike parking requirements would vary according to a building’s size and type. Residential buildings with four or more units will be required to provide one secure bike parking space per unit. Smaller buildings would only have to meet the standard of providing indoor storage space, like inside a garage.

Commercial developments would also have to provide more bike parking for customers and employees. For example, under the old planning code, a new grocery store of 30,000 square feet would have been required to have only three bike parking spaces, be they provided with secured lockers or cages (“class one” spaces), or outdoor racks (“class two”). Under the new requirements, such a store must have at least four class-one spaces and 12 class-two spaces.

A new office building of 100,000 square feet would have previously only needed 12 bike parking spaces. Under the new regulations, it must provide 100 class-one spaces and 22 class-two spaces.

Existing city-owned and -leased buildings and parking garages will be required to retrofit facilities to accommodate bikes. ”We want the city to be a model in providing bicycle parking,” said Kimia Haddadan of the Planning Department at a recent supervisors hearing on the ordinance.

Developers can also pay a fee in lieu of providing some of the required class-two parking spaces, said Haddadan. The fee is $400 per space (or $800 per rack), which would go toward a citywide bike parking fund managed by the SFMTA.

“We need to help people live and work in our urban environments,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “That is the way of the future, and we need to think diversely about how we’re moving people.”

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Maker Faire: A Model for Encouraging Car-Free Transportation to Big Events

Bike Valet Parking at Maker Faire.

Space for parking up to 2,000 bicycles was provided at Maker Faire this year. Photos: Andrew Boone

The runaway success of Maker Faire, the annual San Mateo festival that celebrates do-it-yourself technology and crafts, has led organizers to get creative in encouraging attendees to come without a car and avert a traffic mess.

Fire Sculpture at Maker Faire

One of the ever-popular fire sculptures on display at Maker Faire.

Since Maker Faire’s debuted in 2006, organizers have developed a model program for managing traffic demand for the growing number of attendees — estimated at more than 120,000 this year — who flock to the two-day event to see the eccentric and occasionally practical inventions of 1,000 “makers.”

At this year’s event, held last weekend at the San Mateo County Event Center, the valet bicycle parking lot “had 735 bikes at 1 p.m., and about 1,000 bikes at 3:30 p.m., which was about the peak,” said bike parking organizer Gladwyn de Souza.

“It’s also part of the attendee experience. We want people to have a good time, so we want to provide them with choices that don’t involve driving,” said Katie Kunde, Maker Faire’s senior sales manager.

Maker Faire’s website provides comprehensive details on how to get to and from the event by transit, bicycle, walking, car-share, driving, paratransit, and even combinations of those modes.

Maker Faire also coordinates with local bicycle clubs to organize group bike rides to the event on Saturday from San Francisco and San Jose, and gives riders free copies of Momentum, an urban cycling magazine along with a free “I Rode My Bike to Maker Faire 2013″ patch. Read more…

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Planning Commission Approves Higher Bike Parking Requirements

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New buildings in San Francisco will be required to provide more secure bike parking under legislation approved by the Planning Commission yesterday. The ordinance is expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors next month.

Employee bike parking at Atlassian. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

As we reported in December, the ordinance will overhaul bike parking requirements for new residential and commercial buildings citywide, which have been put in place on a piecemeal basis since 1996. Planning Department staff said the legislation will set consistent, stricter standards that are more in line with those set in cities like Portland, Vancouver, and New York.

“We need to make sure that new buildings will provide secure bike parking for today, tomorrow, and the future,” said Marc Caswell, program manager for the SF Bicycle Coalition. Until now, the planning code only required building owners to provide bike parking for about 2 percent of tenants, he said. With bicycling already exceeding 15 percent of commute trips in some neighborhoods, the legislation will help ensure new buildings are designed with the increase in bicycling in mind.

Debate at the commission was mainly focused on a provision in the legislation that would have defined bicycle parking as an “active use” — the same category that a storefront, apartment, or lobby would fall under. Josh Switzky of the Planning Department said that measure was intended to make it easier for architects to include bike parking on a building’s ground floor. Because the planning code allows only “active uses” within 25 feet of a building’s frontage, a special permit is currently required to provide space for bike parking in that area.

The Planning Commission voted to remove the “active use” provision, so providing bike parking within 25 feet of the front of a building will still require a permit. The alternative is to place the bike parking closer to the rear of a building or on a different floor.

The strongest opponent of re-defining bike parking as an active use was Commissioner Katherine Moore. While she fully supported the rest of the ordinance, she said that a parked bicycle “is an inanimate object, not an active use.”

Switzky pointed out that providing secure, dedicated bike parking in buildings is key to making bicycling a normal, everyday means of transportation. “The extent to which we treat bicycle facilities as an afterthought in building design and require cyclists to find marginalized ways of storing their bikes, whether it’s stuffing them under stairwells, squeezing them in their small apartments and dank basements, or on balconies and decks, that marginal treatment is often reflected back in the way that cyclists view their status in society,” he said.

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As Bike to Work Day Booms, Some San Mateo County Cities Lead the Way

Commuting to work on Gateway Boulevard in South San Francisco. Photo: Andrew Boone

Among the record-breaking 9,000 bike commuters celebrating Bike to Work Day in San Mateo County on Thursday, County Supervisor Dave Pine led a convoy from downtown Redwood City to the Oracle energizer station, crossing Highway 101 using the Ralston Avenue bike-pedestrian bridge in Belmont.

Dave Pine and Diane Howard - Bike To Work Day 2013

San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine and Redwood City Council candidate Diane Howard at the Oracle energizer station. Photo: Andrew Boone

“We really have to look at bicycling as a viable and important part of the transportation network and not just a recreational pursuit,” Pine said. “The county needs to take more of a leadership role to publicize bike routes and get cities to work together to construct practical bicycle infrastructure so that people can get to work more easily.”

Bike to Work Day is booming throughout San Mateo County, with ridership increasing 33 percent since last year, and more than doubling since 2011, according to the Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance.

Commuters were greeted with 37 energizer stations along popular bike commuting routes, where volunteers from the PTCRA and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition helped them fuel up with coffee and snacks. Nearly 1,000 cyclists enjoyed an outdoor breakfast at Oracle’s energizer station at the company’s headquarters in Redwood Shores, which lies along the Bay Trail, a route favored by many bike commuters for its long sections of off-street bicycle and pedestrian paths and beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay.

Each year, more Silicon Valley employers — from tech giants like Genentech, Facebook, and Google, to other major businesses like Kaiser Permanente (which partnered with Whole Foods) and Food Service Providers — are holding their own events to encourage participation in Bike to Work Day as a way to promote employee health and reduce traffic congestion.

“Bike to Work Day provides an opportunity for people who are considering biking to work to try it along with thousands of others, while being cheered on at the energizer stations along the way,” said PTCRA Executive Director John Ford. “Once people try cycling to work, many of them make it part of their regular commute.”

While improvements to make bicycling in San Mateo County safer and more convenient have been hampered by a lack of bureaucratic coordination between cities, a few are starting to take the lead. The city of San Mateo is currently planning safer crossings over and under Highway 101: a bike-ped bridge at Hillsdale Boulevard, and a bike-ped path along the 16th Avenue canal under the freeway.

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Bike Station Coming to Civic Center BART/Muni Station Next Summer

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A BART bike station at Embarcadero. Photo via Oakland Local

BART and Muni Metro riders who bike to Civic Center Station would have less reason to worry about getting their wheels stolen if a planned bike station is installed next June, potentially adding a sectioned-off parking area and a fix-it-yourself repair station.

The bike station, which is currently being designed, would add 150 to 175 bike parking spaces outside of the paid areas, allowing it to be used by both Muni and BART passengers. The number of regular bike racks inside the paid BART area would also be expanded.

“The existing facilities are at capacity, and projections for demand just keep going up and up,” said Maria Lombardo of the SF County Transportation Authority in a recent presentation to the agency’s board of directors.

Currently, Civic Center Station has 63 bike racks, which can be reached by anyone inside BART’s paid fare gate area. Muni Metro riders, who aren’t allowed to bring bikes aboard trains, have no bike parking available in the station.

Bike stations, which are typically accessible only by electronic card or key and are sometimes staffed, already exist at Embarcadero Station as well as Downtown Berkeley, Ashby, and Fruitvale BART Stations in the East Bay. BART also plans to open a bike station at 19th Street in Oakland by the next Bike to Work Day in May.

Existing bike racks at Civic Center are located inside BART's paid fare gates, but still leave bikes susceptible enough to theft to deter many would-be bike commuters. Photo: bsii/Flickr

Expanding secure bike parking is a key piece of BART’s recently-adopted Bicycle Plan [PDF], which sets out to double bike-to-BART ridership in the next ten years. BART surveys [PDF] show that the existing bike stations are one of the system’s largest draws for bike commuters. Surveys at Downtown Berkeley and Fruitvale stations revealed that 17 percent of bike station users would bike to BART less often without the security offered by a bike station, while another 19 percent said they wouldn’t bike to BART at all. Twenty-one percent said they would instead bring their bikes on BART trains, which are already regularly at capacity.

The Civic Center bike station is expected to cost $830,000 and to be funded with BART Prop 1B Lifeline funds, Prop K sales tax funds, and the Prop AA vehicle registration fee.

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Planning Commission Approves Parking-Free 1050 Valencia Project

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A rendering of the 1050 Valencia project. Image: Stephen Antonaros via Curbed

A car-free, 12-unit condo and retail development was approved unanimously yesterday by the SF Planning Commission, despite opposition from some residents. The project will include no car parking and 28 bike parking spaces.

The building at 1050 Valencia Street will be targeted toward residents seeking the kind of car-free lifestyle that’s increasingly popular in neighborhoods like the Mission District, which is short on housing but among the most walkable, bikeable, and transit-rich parts of San Francisco. The building will be located on the corner of Valencia and Hill Streets, along one of the city’s most heavily-traveled bicycling streets and business corridors. It’s also close to the 24th Street BART station and several major Muni lines. Currently, the site hosts a restaurant space.

Since 2009, opponents have attacked the project on a number of grounds, including the assertion that residents moving into the building will own cars and compete with existing neighbors for street parking, even though residents in units without dedicated parking are less likely to own cars, and about half of residential parking garages in the Mission aren’t used for car storage.

“The reality is that until there is an alternative, people will need cars and a place to park them,” said Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association representative Risa Teitelbaum, who wanted the project to include some car share spaces. ”The residents of this building will be no different.”

Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition, argued to the Planning Commission that the project follows the goals set in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan — to build denser, less car-dependent neighborhoods. Two of the project’s 12 apartments will be priced below market rate. “This is a way to get housing more affordable and more accessible to the folks who we say we want to live here,” he said. ”We want to see less emphasis on cars — private auto use. This project does it.”

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The Outside Lands Transpo Crunch: Bringing 65K People Per Day to GG Park

For the fifth year, San Francisco’s transportation system will absorb one of its largest floods of travelers when 65,000 daily attendees descend upon Golden Gate Park this weekend for the three-day Outside Lands music festival.

With festival goers traveling from near and far, promoters have tried each year to curb the number of people arriving by car, providing shuttles, bike valet and rows of bike racks, while “strongly encouraging” visitors on the event’s website to come by means other than driving.

Still, with many driving from across California and beyond, thousands of cars will inundate the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, and Muni vehicles will be packed. Although little data on mode share is available from the organizers (they’re apparently slammed preparing for the event), a representative said they expect close to 20 percent of people to come by shuttle or bike. That leaves about 52,000 people either driving, taking transit, or walking to Golden Gate Park.

Despite shuttles provided to and from Civic Center, as well as extra Muni service, the N-Judah, 5, and 71 lines are expected to be packed throughout the day. During the first event in 2008, Muni added 118 buses over the weekend, according to SFist, which reported that some riders waited 45 minutes just to board. This year, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said Muni will add limited-stop buses on the 5-Fulton from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. each day of the event, as well as inbound N-Judah Express buses on Friday night from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Rose said Outside Lands organizers “have offered to fund at least some of the extra service,” though the specific plans for service haven’t been finalized yet. Muni staff will also sell off-board tickets at the Civic Center and 4th and King Caltrain stations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to speed up boardings.

Outside Lands’ distant location from downtown (its name derives from the formerly undeveloped expanse of dunes) means it lacks the advantage of being within walking distance of BART and Caltrain, which other major events enjoy.

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Driver Plows Through Bike Corral at Duboce and Valencia, Injuring Man

A car driver plowed through a bike corral on Saturday in front of Zeitgeist, a bar on the corner of Duboce Avenue and Valencia Street. The driver reportedly stopped and cooperated with police after crashing through 10 of the 11 curbside bike racks, breaking a man’s leg, and wrecking at least a dozen parked bikes, according to the Uptown Almanac, which posted photos of the carnage.

According to reports, the driver wasn’t intoxicated, and the cause of the crash is unclear. However, Duboce acts as a speedway whisking drivers through the neighborhood off the nearby Central Freeway. According to Uptown Almanac commenter P.D. Bird: “The driver of the car said that she lost control and was even using the emergency brake to try to stop. Also, not sure if she wanted to pull over, or her car could not go any further from the damage…This does nothing but prove that we need ALOT [sic] less cars and much more traffic slowing (calming).”

SFPD couldn’t say whether the driver will be cited. The victim’s injuries were reportedly non-life-threatening, and he is expected to recover.

According to police data, there were 11 crashes at the intersection in 2011, with 16 people injured. Four of those were driver-bicyclist crashes, and two of them were driver-pedestrian crashes. In one of those cases last July, a driver hit two pedestrians. Another crash was between a driver and motorcyclist, and the rest involved only automobile drivers and passengers.

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