Skip to content

Posts from the "Central Freeway" Category


Sena Putra, 47, Killed by Truck Driver at 13th and Folsom

Photo: Google Maps via SFist

Forty-seven year-old Sena Putra was killed by the driver of a gasoline tanker last Thursday at 13th and Folsom Streets under the Central Freeway. He is the seventh pedestrian killed in the city this year.

According to the SF Chronicle, police said Putra was in a crosswalk on 13th Street at 12:55 p.m., crossing with the green light, when the northbound truck driver turned right and hit him. The driver stopped and “cooperated with investigators.” No arrests or citations have been reported. It’s unclear how fast the driver was going and why he or she failed to yield to Putra.

Putra was returning from lunch to his job as an accountant for UCSF’s Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital, according to the Chronicle. He had just become a U.S. citizen after emigrating from Indonesia almost 10 years ago. Colleagues told the Chronicle he was looking forward to voting in the U.S. for the first time.

Under the shadow of the Central Freeway, 13th Street is dominated by high-speed motor traffic that divides SoMa and the Mission. Many neighbors have lamented the reconstruction of the traffic-inducing freeway less than ten years ago at the insistence of Caltrans, despite the city’s proposal to replace it with a street-level boulevard.

“The biggest tragedy is that this could have been prevented if this city prioritized safe streets for walking,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. ”This intersection and the whole area are built around freeways, not around people. But people still need to cross, just like Sena Putra did.”

“It’s time to put people’s safety first.”

Pedestrians rush across 13th Street at Mission (where it becomes Duboce Avenue). Photo: Aaron Bialick


Eyes on the Street: SFMTA Stripes the McCoppin Hub Bikeway

The bikeway runs alongside the end of the Central Freeway. Photos: Aaron Bialick

New markings are on the ground delineating the short two-way bikeway linking the Market and Octavia intersection to Valencia Street and the future site of the McCoppin Hub plaza.

SFMTA crews made the improvements two weeks ago, according to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The pedestrian and bicycle shortcut has existed for years, but the new center line, bike markings, and signage should help increase its visibility and discourage blockage by parked vehicles.

The bi-directional bikeway is by my count the third to be marked in the city, after the Panhandle and Duboce Street.

The improvements also mark a step towards shaping the McCoppin Hub plaza, which is currently being designed. The project’s latest concept renderings show the bikeway slightly wider than it was in the first draft, and it now includes a public bike pump and an ample row of bike racks.

Construction on the plaza is expected to begin next summer. More pics after the break.

Read more…


McCoppin Street: From Streetcar Hub to the Central Freeway

The Central Freeway in 2003 missing the damaged upper deck. Flickr photo: geekstinkbreath

Eight years ago, the Central Freeway fell, and the sky didn’t. The neighborhood long obscured by the structure came up for a year-long breath of air during its reconstruction.

Author Carol Lloyd described the transformation in a 2003 San Francisco Chronicle article:

The buildings are familiar, but they look brighter, prettier, somehow. There are big swooshes of empty land, open views down Valencia all the way to Market Street, and a lovely glimpse of the new Victorian/postmodern Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center, perched on the corner of Market and Waller streets. Sunlight is falling on asphalt that has been steeping in urine and shadows for decades. The air doesn’t smell anymore, nor does it vibrate with trucks rattling overhead.

“It was awesome,” said resident Alison Miller. “There was sunlight, and people started to really know their neighbors. You’d look at Valencia Street and think, how could they think of covering up this potentially vibrant neighborhood in the middle of the city?”

For fifty years, the motor-dominated streets around the Central Freeway have felt dangerous and forbidding to walk on, leaving a rift in the Market-Valencia commercial corridor. Even naming the ambiguous cross-section of districts has been a challenge for San Franciscans, who have called it “North Mission,” “SoMa West,” “The Valencia Bottoms,” and even ”Deco Ghetto,” though nothing has really stuck.

Read more…


McCoppin Street Residents to Get Overdue Public Spaces

A preliminary vision for the "McCoppin Hub" at McCoppin and Valencia Streets. Image: Boor Bridges Architecture

Residents just north of the Mission District who have lived in the shadow of the Central Freeway are beginning to see a glimmer of light. The city appears poised to move ahead with plans to bring street improvements and green space to the area, including a public plaza at the end of McCoppin Street that abuts the Octavia freeway onramp.

The neighborhood has long been stifled by a lack of inviting places to gather as well as traffic noise and danger from the domineering freeway.

“Our neighborhood is not cohesive,” said Lynn Valente, resident of McCoppin Street, which lies just south of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, and runs for a few short blocks from Otis to Valencia Streets before it stops at the wall of the freeway ramp. “It has a lot to do with the freeway,” she said.

The long-awaited improvements were planned after Caltrans rebuilt the damaged stretch of freeway through the neighborhood in 2005.

Read more…


Doctor in Shuttle Van Killed in Big Rig Crash at Octavia and Oak

Photos: Aaron Bialick

52-year-old Dr. Kevin Mack was killed while riding a UCSF shuttle van at about 6:20 am this morning when it crashed with a big rig truck at the intersection of Octavia Boulevard and Oak Street, said San Francisco Police Lt. Troy Dangerfield.

Mack was apparently ejected from the van and killed instantly. His body was removed from under the truck at 10:00 am. The driver of the shuttle van and two of the 15 passengers were also injured.

Mack, an associate professor at the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, was headed to San Francisco General Hospital where he was based.

“He had a strong commitment to global health and to medical education in resource-poor settings,’’ said Dr. A. Sue Carlisle, associate dean of SF General Hospital, and CEO Susan A. Currin in a joint statement. “He was an exceptional role model and inspiration for all of the educational community at UCSF.’’ He is survived by his husband and two children.

Police are investigating the cause of the crash, but the truck was traveling northbound on Octavia and was found at the scene veering across the divider into the local traffic lane. The van was traveling east on Oak Street. It’s the second fatal crash involving a UCSF shuttle since a woman was killed in the Tenderloin last November.

Read more…


Building a Farm Where a Freeway Used to Be

mulch_3.gifMoving mulch on the old Central Freeway on-ramp that is becoming Hayes Valley Farm. Photo: Matthew Roth
A few weeks ago in San Francisco, a number of urban farmers opened a gate in a chain-link fence at Laguna Street, between Oak and Fell Streets, and entered an overgrown lot that has been unused for nearly two decades. The farmers brought with them steaming piles of mulch, which they cast over the edge of the ramps formerly used by cars to enter and exit the elevated Central Freeway spur above Octavia Street, arranging the soil in rows for planting vegetables and filler crops.

Since the Loma Prieta earthquake made the Central Freeway unsafe for travel, leading to its eventual removal and the re-design of Octavia Boulevard, those ramps have been one of the more poignant reminders of a distant vision of San Francisco, with freeways crisscrossing the urban environment, whisking motorists above the unfortunate city dwellers below. 

The new Hayes Valley Farm (HVF) inverts the paradigm and reclaims the space for city dwellers, if only temporarily. "We call it 'freeway to food forest,'" explained Chris Burley, Project Director for HVF and former organizer of My Farm. Burley was joined by nearly fifty volunteers at a HVF work party Sunday. "We're trying to create a successful, sustainable urban farm in the heart of San Francisco."

Burley and several other organizers were approached by Mayor Gavin Newsom's Office of Economic and Workforce Development (MOEWD) last year with the idea to transform the unused lot into a farm. The HVF received a $50,000 grant from MOEWD for the first year of the project, money that comes from the operation of parking facilities along Octavia Boulevard. Burley expected to work the farm for between two and five years, depending on when the economy turns around and the land is developed.

While the city owns the property, the MOEWD has selected Build, Inc, to develop it when they secure their financing. According to Richard Hillis at MOEWD, the site will be broken into ten parcels and built as 50 percent affordable homes, 50 percent market rate. Because the housing construction market is so bleak right now, said Hillis, the city worked with the neighborhood groups to develop a plan for activating under-utilized lots, starting with this very visible one.

In addition to the community benefit of a farmers market and mobile food vending, the city benefits from having the lots used by the farmers. "It helps us save money on cleaning them and maintaining them," Hillis said.



NoPa Neighborhood Fights to Calm its Residential Freeway

Fell_street_4.jpgCars regularly block the bike lane on Fell Street near the Arco Station. Photo: Bryan Goebel

In a city where people and cars regularly jostle for space, it's not uncommon to have speeding traffic just inches or feet from pedestrians, homes, and parks. This spatial conflict is especially pronounced on Fell and Oak Streets, which serve all at once as de facto residential highways, major bike thoroughfares, and densely built-up residential and commercial streets, their sidewalks bustling with people on their way home or visiting the Panhandle.

For years, even decades, residents have fought to calm traffic along the corridor. Cars routinely speed down Fell and Oak, which were converted to three-or-four-lane one-ways half a century ago as a compromise with planners who wanted to build an east-west freeway, linking the Central Freeway to the Golden Gate Bridge, by demolishing the homes between them and wiping out the Panhandle. The compromise saved the homes and the park, but has left the neighborhood plagued with freeway-like traffic.

Now, some neighbors worry that new overhead information signs for drivers, which are being installed as part of the city's SFgo traffic-management program, will encourage speeding on the already fast one-way couplet. Residents are wary of anything that contributes to a freeway mentality on the street. Earlier this week, a 24-year-old San Francisco woman was killed by a driver while crossing Fell Street at Broderick.

"It's been treated as a freeway by the city, much to the peril of everyone who lives along the densely-packed residential corridors that are Oak and Fell," said Michael Smithwick, chair of the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association's transportation committee. "They're obviously not designed for freeway use, and have kind of been force-fed" the high traffic volumes.

The Nowtopian 27 Comments

Revisiting the San Francisco Freeway Revolt

Editor's note: This piece was written for Shaping San Francisco and is now incorporated into the new wiki version, your best place to research San Francisco history,

Ecology1_freeway_protest_embarcadero.jpgProtesters march along Embarcadero in early 1960s, stump of Embarcadero Freeway ends behind them at Broadway.
Photo courtesy San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library

In the 1950s, the California Division of Highways had a plan to extend freeways across San Francisco. At that time the freeway reigned supreme in California, but San Francisco harbored the seeds of an incipient revolt which ultimately saved several neighborhoods from the wrecking ball and also put up the first serious opposition to the post-WWII consensus on automobiles, freeways, and suburbanization.

Fwy_NBeachIntx.jpgEarly plan for 8-lane freeway to cut under Russian Hill on its way from the Embarcadero to the Golden Gate Bridge.



Mayor Newsom, Caltrans Announce Plans to Remove Portions of I-280

fireball_2.jpgA controlled explosion from the filming of the TV series "Trauma," on a closed portion of I-280
Mayor Gavin Newsom yesterday announced one of his most ambitious plans for re-shaping San Francisco, telling reporters at a press conference with Caltrans Director Will Kemption and Caltrain Director Michael Scanlan that the city would move forward with plans to tear down sections of I-280 through San Francisco.  

"As we saw this weekend with the filming of the new TV series 'Trauma,' we can close a section of 280 and it doesn't back up all the way to San Bruno," said Mayor Newsom.  "I'm committed to actively looking for projects where we can transform our streets into public open space, especially in neighborhoods that have so little of it.  Show me another project that gives back more space to our great city than this."

Mayor Newsom painted a grand vision of a ribbon park in the footprint of the current freeway and said the city would rezone much of the area for residential development, much of which would be affordable housing, he claimed.  "Think Rock Creek Park for the next century," said Mayor Newsom.  "If New York City can convert an old rail line through Manhattan into the Highline Park, surely we can transform our outdated infrastructure into green space."

Caltrans' Kempton said that the agency had considered various freeways that underperformed their transportation function after the successful removal of segments of the Embarcadero Freeway and Central Freeway to Market Street, but said that they weren't seriously thinking about this section of I-280 until Mayor Newsom approached Governor Schwarzenegger late last year. 

"We've understood that it was possible to make changes to further segments of the Embarcadero Freeway," said Kempton, "but we didn't see it as a priority until Mayor Newsom made it so.  Now, we're only committing to study it, but we know the Obama administration is looking for innovative transportation projects, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are unspent federal stimulus funds from other states that we can apply for in six months, a year from now."

"Highway de-construction can be just as shovel-ready as highway re-construction," said Kempton.



San Francisco’s Unbuilt Freeway Network Revisited

Picture_4.pngSome of San Francisco's unbuilt freeways

Hunter College student and photographer Andrew Lynch recently posted Google Map mashups of the unbuilt freeways that made up many of the master plans in cities around the country in the 1950s and 1960s.  San Francisco, New York City, and Boston avoided the worst of automobility, while the map of Los Angeles freeways was pretty well paved.

The maps are a stark reminder of how devastating the plans would have been to San Francisco's livability had the public not revolted against the master planners.  I'd currently be huffing fumes from the Mission/Bernal Heights freeway, there'd be no Panhandle, and North Beach and the Marina would likely have much lower property values.  But you can imagine the pleasure of motoring past Ocean Beach at 70 mph without forced stops at traffic signals!

Alternately, can anyone tell me why the upper portion of Market Street where it becomes Portola Drive still has elevated segments?  I would think the value of new development with those views would have trumped the convenience of speeding through that neighborhood with limited stop lights.