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Posts from the "Scott Wiener" Category

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Castro Street Redesign Breaks Ground, Rainbow Crosswalks Unveiled

The new Castro Street is on its way, with the Department of Public Works breaking ground today on the two-block street redesign, which will include wider sidewalks. One detail of the plan was also unveiled at the event — rainbow crosswalk designs for the Castro and 18th Street intersection.

Supervisor Scott Wiener with planners from DPW, the Planning Department, and reps from the Castro CBD today. Photo: Scott Wiener/Twitter

“This streetscape project will be transformational for Castro Street and for the neighborhood,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who secured $4 million for the project from the Prop B street re-paving bond funds, in a statement. “Castro Street is one of the busiest pedestrian corridors in the city and at the heart of both our neighborhood and the LGBT community. Wider sidewalks and an improved Jane Warner Plaza, which will allow for more street life and neighborhood interactions, will make a great and historic street even better.”

The design of the rainbow crosswalks, largely funded by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefits District, was selected through an online poll of over 4,500 Castro residents and visitors conducted by the CBD, the Castro Biscuit wrote today.

As Wiener mentioned, Jane Warner Plaza at 17th and Castro will get some more permanent fixtures, though we haven’t see what they’ll look like yet. The project will also include new street trees, pedestrian-scale lighting, upgrades to Muni’s overhead wire infrastructure, water mains, and sparkled sidewalks and sidewalk plaques along the Rainbow Honor Walk “showcasing heroes of the LGBT community,” said a DPW press release, which said the work will be completed in October. Construction is expected to halt for the Pride festival in June and be finished in time for the Castro Street Fair, according to the Biscuit.

Image: Planning Department

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Supes Avalos, Wiener Clash on Equitable Spending Strategies for Muni

John Avalos (left) and Scott Wiener (right). Left photo: Paul Chinn, SF Chronicle. Right photo: Dennis Hearne Photography

Supervisors John Avalos and Scott Wiener are sparring over how new revenue for transit should be spent to benefit the Muni riders who need it most.

With tax measures proposed for the 2014 ballot that could significantly increase transportation funds, Avalos introduced a charter amendment yesterday that would “require the city to prioritize investments to address existing disparities in service to low-income and transit dependent areas,” according to a statement from his office.

The Transit Equity Charter Amendment “provides a framework for how the city rebuilds transportation transit infrastructure and rebuilds transit service,” Avalos said at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, explaining that it would also set stricter equity performance metrics and increase oversight by the SF County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of the supervisors. “It will help ensure that our investments are also targeted to address service deficiencies in our low-income and transit-dependent neighborhoods,” he said.

If approved, the amendment — also sponsored by Supervisors David Campos, Jane Kim, Norman Yee, and Eric Mar — would be placed on the November 2014 ballot alongside tax measures to increase funding for transportation upgrades, as recommended by Mayor Ed Lee’s Transportation 2030 Task Force, a 48-member group that has met throughout the year to develop the recommendations.

Avalos, who represents the SFCTA Board on the task force — also known as T2030 — has criticized its lack of representatives of low-income communities. It has reps from a broad range of city agencies, regional transportation agencies, and transportation advocates like SPUR, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and Walk SF, as well as labor groups. It also includes two for-profit tech companies — Google and Genentech.

Representing the Board of Supervisors on the task force along with Supervisor David Chiu is Wiener, who said the Avalos amendment will “undermine Muni service, make the system less reliable, and do nothing to achieve what we need most: to shore up the system and expand its capacity to meet the needs of our growing population.”

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In SF, Bay Area Bike Share’s Bikes Get Almost Three Trips Per Day

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Image: SFMTA. Click to enlarge.

Following an underwhelming start, Bay Area Bike Share now sees an average of at least 2.5 trips per bike per day within San Francisco, according to the SFMTA. Since September 10, the average rate in SF has held mostly steady at about 2.7, and goes as high as 3.7.

For the entire five-city system, the average is about 1.9 trips per bike per day, up from the rate of 0.92 during the first 12 days after the August 29 launch. At two months in, Bay Area Bike Share’s usage exceeds that of DC’s Capital Bikeshare at the same point in time, according to SFMTA Bike-Share Program Manager Heath Maddox, who told supervisors Monday that the usage rate is “gratifying to see.”

Altogether, Bay Area Bike Share has about 2,000 members, and users have ridden 128,161 miles, or “almost five times around the Earth,” said Maddox. The 350 bikes within SF — half the system’s fleet — are used 900 to 1,000 times per day, he said.

The new numbers may not break any records, but Maddox said it’s “a healthy rate” and “a number we’re happy with.”

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Mayor Lee: I Will Have Tickets Issued to Double Parkers Who Block My Car

With the spotlight turned on the dangers and dysfunction that result from the sorry state of double-parking enforcement in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee has staked out a position on the matter that seems to show a tone-deaf windshield perspective on city streets more than an actual commitment to making them safer.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who grilled parking enforcement officials at a hearing on double parking last week, asked the mayor at this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting what he will “do to ensure that double parking enforcement is a priority where it impacts transit riders, pedestrians, and cyclists.”

“What specific goals and metrics do you propose we establish to ensure that the most impactful double parking behavior becomes an enforcement priority for the MTA and the police department?” Wiener asked Lee. “Will your office agree to report back in a year on the city’s stepped up enforcement efforts against double parking?”

The mayor’s prepared response started off with an anecdote about a recent encounter with double parkers who blocked his car while he was apparently being chauffeured around the Mission. The strongest commitment made by the mayor was that “next time, instead of rushing off to my appointment, I will ask my officers in my car to get out and issue those citations, if not strong warnings.”

“You couldn’t even turn the corner,” he said of the inconvenience he experienced when trying to turn off of Valencia on to 16th Street last week. “All three double-parkers were looking at each other as if nothing was wrong.”

Lee went on to mention that double parking creates hazards for people walking, biking, and driving, and that it “literally stops Muni,” and listed the measures the SFMTA has already taken to address it, such as increased enforcement and new loading zones. But while he said it’s “it’s clear we need to do more,” his commitments were limited to “meeting with both the MTA and police department to understand how we can better deal with double parking.”

“Specifically, I will task both of these departments to identify how we can change the culture to make our streets safer for all modes of transportation, while fostering a more transit-friendly San Francisco,” Lee told Wiener. “If it’s a part of a resource issue, I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to address the issue through the budgetary process.”

In the meantime, keep an eye out for the mayor out on the streets, “Carrying forth my personal commitment to you that everywhere I see it, I will stop it myself.”

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Breed Defends Record on Safer Streets for Biking; Plus: Other Supes Respond

Supervisor London Breed has issued a statement explaining her Twitter comments yesterday on safer streets for bicycling which led her to delete her account. Breed had responded to an inquiry sent out by Twitter user Patrick Traughber to every city supervisor and a few other city officials, asking, “In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling in San Francisco?”

Supervisor London Breed on Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

In her initial answer, Breed cited “the bad behavior of some bicyclist,” which led several people to respond in protest. Breed tried to clarify that she’s “not blaming anyone,” and that she’s “been fighting to help make streets safer for all,” but then shut down her account minutes into the discussion. Breed has a record of making abrasive comments on Twitter, arguing with constituents and getting press attention for it.

In her written statement, Breed defended her record of standing up for street redesign projects like Masonic Avenue and Fell and Oak Streets in the face of anti-bike vitriol. Here’s what she had to say:

I suspended my account because I realized twitter can be extremely time consuming and it’s too hard to have nuanced policy discussions in 140 characters. I want to take some time to think about how I use this medium in the future.

With respect to the bike exchange, my record is clear! I have been a consistent and effective advocate for bike projects in our city. I got the Oak and Fell bike lanes implemented well ahead of schedule. I led the effort to fund the Masonic Blvd project which includes dedicated bike lanes, and I’ve voted for every bike project that’s come before the Transportation Authority, including the popular bike share program just implemented in our city.

My point was not that I think bicyclists’ behavior should be an impediment to new projects. My point was bicyclists’ behavior is the complaint I hear most often from those who oppose the projects. So as a practical matter, those behavioral concerns — whether you think they’re accurate or inaccurate, right or wrong — make it harder to get new projects moving, harder to win public and political support. But that absolutely has not, and will not, stop me from fighting to win that support.

I’ve faced a lot of fire, a LOT of fire, over the Masonic blvd project and I’ve stood strong in my support. That’s my record. So it does bother me to see Masonic supporters criticizing me over a twitter post. But it is my fault for being unclear about a complicated topic on an inappropriate medium. That is why I am taking a break from that medium.

Breed deserves a lot of credit for supporting those safety improvements. And judging by her statement, she doesn’t think that policymakers should decide whether San Franciscans get to have safer streets based on the perceived behavior of people who use a particular mode of transportation.

Traughber’s question on Twitter yielded responses from a few other supervisors and District Attorney George Gascón, offering a glimpse into those officials’ understanding of how to make streets safer (or just how willing they are to respond to tweets).

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SFFD Tries to Quietly Nix Supe Wiener’s Ped Safety Reform in Fire Code

The SF Fire Department tried to delete an amendment to the fire code that would allow city agencies greater flexibility in widening sidewalks to improve pedestrian safety, according to Supervisor Scott Wiener, who championed the measure.

The measure was approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors and signed into law by Mayor Ed Lee this summer. However, SFFD and the Fire Commission apparently removed the provision from a routine update to the fire code submitted to the board’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee on Monday.

Wiener told the SF Chronicle that he was “surprised and disappointed” to learn that SFFD had deleted the provision. SFFD’s end-run around the pedestrian safety reform ultimately failed: Wiener’s measure was reinstated in the fire code update passed by the committee and expected to be approved by the full board. While Wiener emphasized his support for the SFFD and the need for fire truck access, he said the department is “on a collision course with the broadly supported goal of pedestrian safety.”

SFFD officials made no mention of the issue in discussions at the hearing, even after Wiener called out the attempted deletion. Discussion of the fire code was dominated by a proposed requirement for firefighter air replenishment tanks in new high-rise developments.

SF Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White was silent on the department's attempt to remove the amendment to minimum road widths. Image: SFGovTV

Contention about minimum road widths has commonly arisen in plans for pedestrian-friendly street redesigns such as the developing plan for a block of Bartlett Street in the Mission. SFFD officials have protested the 14-foot-wide roadway in the plan, which would be narrower than the traditional minimum of 20 feet, claiming that it would impede fire trucks. The new fire code would allow roadways as narrow as 12 feet, so long as curbs are no higher than six inches and free of vertical obstructions, much like the requirements used by many cities around the country. Wiener has called the 20-foot minimum “one-size-fits-all” and “suburban in nature,” and has pointed out that fire trucks successfully navigate narrower San Francisco streets on a regular basis.

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How Will SF Fund the Sustainable Transport System a Growing City Needs?

Within a few decades, San Francisco’s streets will be even more clogged with cars, more dangerous for walking and biking, and Muni will burst at the seams as more people try to get around. That’s the future city officials warned about at a hearing yesterday, painting a grim picture of traffic-choked streets if nothing is done to change the status quo of paltry funding for walking, biking, and transit.

“The growth is coming to San Francisco, the people who are here aren’t leaving, and more jobs are coming,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. “I think we got away for a few decades with not making investments in our transportation system” and other infrastructure, he said, “but we’re beyond a point where we can get away with it anymore.”

As we’ve reported, the city’s transportation and street infrastructure has $3.1 billion in unfunded maintenance needs over the next ten years, $2.2 billion of which is to bring Muni up to a “state of good repair.” Looking at all of the transit systems in the Bay Area, the budget gap is $18 billion over the next 25 years, and that’s just maintenance — adding the capacity to transport a larger population will cost more.

Those numbers don’t include funding to implement the SF Pedestrian Strategy, the Bicycle Strategy, the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, traffic signal upgrades, and other street redesigns, each of which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, said Reiskin. None of the measures currently in the works to increase transportation funding would come close to meeting the projected needs.

Over the next 25 years, San Francisco is projected to add 92,410 housing units and 191,000 jobs, said Planning Director John Rahaim. Those figures come from Plan Bay Area, a strategy to focus regional population growth near transit and job centers that was approved last week by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and is set to be updated every five years.

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Supervisor Wiener Wants to Remove Clutter From SF’s Narrow Sidewalks

As if San Francisco’s sidewalks weren’t narrow enough, they’re often cluttered with objects like newspaper racks, utility poles, street signs, and utility boxes.

Photo: SFDPW

In a hearing yesterday, Supervisor Scott Wiener set out to question the necessity of such structures, calling on city staffers to answer for things like the empty newspaper racks at busy corners like 18th and Castro Streets.

“Whether or not particular street furniture has value, they can all block pedestrian access and reduce automobile and pedestrian visibility,” said Wiener. “It’s essential that we’re very thoughtful and strategic about what we place on our sidewalks and where, exactly, we place it.”

While Wiener noted that his recently-passed legislation should help streamline sidewalk expansions, he questioned the amount of space carved out from existing walkways, which often don’t meet the new sidewalk design standards set out in the city’s 2010 Better Streets Plan. “There are bus shelters where you almost have to walk single file to get past,” he said.

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe pointed to improvements like bike corrals, which add bike parking in the street bed, as a “great example” of how to avoid cluttering city sidewalks.

“For decades, our roads have been designed to create a clear path for vehicles by shoving people over to the edges, where they need to thread their way between poles and empty newsracks and utility boxes,” said Stampe. “We need to widen the space for people to enjoy on foot. We also need to think creatively about how we can start using some of these elements to calm traffic and make the street safer.”

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Wiener’s Proposals to Streamline Ped Safety Upgrades Pass Supes Committee

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A package of legislation aimed at cutting through the bureaucratic red tape that encumbers the city’s progress on life-saving pedestrian safety measures was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee yesterday. The full board is expected to approve the proposals in the coming weeks.

Supervisor Scott Wiener's legislation is aimed at improving coordination between agencies in making pedestrian safety improvements. Advocates hope that would get DPW to save money by adding bulb-outs when tearing up sidewalks, which it failed to do when adding these curb ramps. Photo: SF DPW

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who proposed the legislation, said it’s aimed at reforming several city procedures that often delay pedestrian safety projects, and that it should help the city meet the goal set out in the SFMTA’s draft Pedestrian Strategy: cutting pedestrian injuries by 25 percent by 2016, and by 50 percent by 2020.

“Pledges and good intentions only get us so far, and in fact, money only gets us so far,” said Wiener. “The process we have in place to implement needed pedestrian upgrades is lacking. We don’t have enough inter-agency coordination, and we have outdated codes.”

Last year, police reported that 964 pedestrians were injured on San Francisco streets — “the largest number since 2000,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. Nineteen of those people were killed, and, she pointed out, 20 to 25 percent of trauma victims in SF hospitals are hit by cars. “That’s a huge amount,” she said. “Too often, the projects to fix these dangerous streets just take too long, and the bigger projects often get whittled down.”

Wiener said the legislation would push agencies to better coordinate with one another on street infrastructure projects by creating a Street Design Review Committee. It also calls upon agencies to “modernize street code provisions” and “formulate clear procedures” for coordination. One ordinance in the package would make it easier for developers to implement pedestrian safety projects as gifts to the city in lieu of impact fees, and another targets strict interpretations of the fire code that can limit sidewalk extensions.

The SF Fire Department has resisted the fire code amendment, since it would relax the city’s definition of roadway obstructions, which department heads say could inhibit fire truck and ambulance access. Changes to street widths in California must adhere to a fire code requirement that 20 feet of clear roadway be provided, and under Wiener’s proposal, curbs less than six inches high would not be considered an obstruction by the city.

“We want less people run over in the streets,” said Fire Marshal Thomas Harvey. “But we do have difficulty trying to bridge that gap of what provides the best pedestrian safety and what actually allows for our operational needs and does not limit our fire department vehicle access.”

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Neglecting Muni Costs the Economy at Least $50 Million Per Year

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Every time a Muni train breaks down or a bus is stuck in car traffic, San Francisco pays big time.

City staffers are beginning to tally up the economic toll of Muni delays, and presented [PDF] some alarming figures at a hearing yesterday called by Supervisor Scott Wiener.

In April, riders were delayed a cumulative 86,000 hours, or, as SF Weekly calculated, 19 years and eight months. That amounts to an economic loss of $4.2 million, or $50 million per year, according to the City Controller’s Office. And that’s a conservative estimate — it doesn’t account for delays outside of rush hours or the loss of potential customers who might otherwise use Muni to shop if the system were more reliable, a Controller’s Office staffer said.

“The system’s struggles have real-life consequences for our city,” said Wiener. “When service is unreliable, people are delayed and frustrated in getting where they’re going, leading to negative economic impacts and reduced quality of life.”

Last week, the N-Judah — Muni’s busiest line — shut down twice in two days due to damaged overhead wire equipment, leaving trains sitting on the street for most of a 24-hour period. Such meltdowns not only have internal costs for Muni, like overtime labor to run shuttle buses as a substitute for train service and the cost of repairing equipment. They also cost commuters time, and repeated delays lead them to consider other ways of getting around — or to question whether to make a trip at all.

“The bottom line,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, “is the transportation system matters to people when they’re choosing where to live, where they work, what modes of travel they’re going to use, and how they’re going to allocate their household budget between housing and transportation.”

With Muni being deprived of funding for decades — a situation that’s only getting worse — the system’s outlook is grim. Here are the stats, as reported by Muni and summed up by SF Weekly, since July:

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