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Posts from the "Chinatown" Category

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SFPD Arrests Driver for Killing Pei Fong Yim, 78, at Stockton and Sacramento

Image: CBS 5

SFPD arrested an SUV driver, 40-year-old Calixto Dilinila, for killing 78-year-old Pei Fong Yim in a crosswalk Saturday at Stockton and Sacramento Streets, outside the Stockton tunnel.

Calixto Dilinila. Photo: SFPD

Witnesses told CBS 5 that Dilinila was making a left turn from Sacramento onto Stockton when he ran Yim over, as she made her way across Stockton during what family members described as her routine daily walk. Dilinila was arrested for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and for failing to yield to a pedestrian.

In January, SFPD’s Traffic Company Commander said a policy change initiated in 2013 allows officers to arrest drivers in fatal crashes where there appears to be “probable cause.” This marked a departure from SFPD’s earlier failure to penalize reckless driving when drivers were neither intoxicated nor fled the scene.

Ever since that policy change, and beginning with two arrests in separate crashes on December 31, four drivers (including Dililina) have been arrested for killing a pedestrian while sober and while also staying on the scene. Out of the 13 pedestrian deaths this year, Dililina is the second such arrestee.

Police Captain David Lazar told reporters that officers are still investigating Saturday’s crash. “We’re going to make a determination as to what signal lights were green, and if there was a red hand up,” he told the SF Chronicle. “On some of the blocks on Stockton Street, the light may be green, but the hand is up.”

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To Boost Shopping in Chinatown, SF Brings Back Ban on Car Parking

In San Francisco’s Chinatown, removing car parking is great for business.

Last year’s week-long trial removal of parking on five blocks of Stockton Street was so popular, in fact, that Mayor Ed Lee announced today that the program would return for another two-week run. The parking removal will make more room for vendors and the influx of shoppers during the Lunar New Year shopping season. “This is a great opportunity for the local businesses and their customers in the heart of Chinatown to enjoy the celebratory Chinese New Year season,” Lee said in a statement.

Like last year, the city will erect barriers along what are normally parking lanes to designate the space for vendors and pedestrians during business hours. While occupying much of the curbside space with merchandise displays doesn’t necessarily do much to accommodate the pedestrian overflow from the sidewalks, merchants and community leaders say re-purposing some space from automobiles in the densest neighborhood west of the Mississippi is good for business.

“Sidewalk shopping is a long Chinese tradition to welcome the New Year,” said Pius Lee, chair of the Chinatown Neighborhood Association, in a statement. “This initiative is a win for the community.”

The program’s success makes sense, since transit and walking, not driving, account for most travel to and within Chinatown, and the neighborhood has the city’s lowest rate of car ownership. Along with customer intercept surveys and successful pedestrianization projects, the temporary parking ban on Stockton counters the misconception among merchants that in urban neighborhoods, reclaiming space devoted to cars will hurt business.

“This is a great example of how reclaiming streets for people can boost the local economy,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. “We hope the city will continue to expand this excellent program to give folks more space for walking in Chinatown. So many cities in other countries have a much more vibrant street life than San Francisco — Chinatown is the perfect place to start, to show how we can breathe more life into San Francisco’s streets.”

The program will run from this Saturday, January 26, until February 9.

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Sunday Streets Returns to Chinatown (But Not North Beach) This Weekend

Sunday Streets returns to Chinatown this weekend with a car-free route running along Grant Avenue and east toward the Embarcadero. It’ll be Sunday Streets’ second run in Chinatown, following a highly popular event last year, but the route will be different: Rather than running into North Beach all the way to Coit Tower, it’ll turn east at Jackson Street toward the waterfront.

Sunday Streets organizer Susan King said the route was changed to avoid disrupting Muni service on Columbus Avenue, which will help accommodate the crowds headed to the America’s Cup yacht race this weekend. On a block of Battery Street, where the route jogs over from Jackson to Washington Street, King said a temporary transit-only lane will be created to allow Muni and Golden Gate Transit buses to run through. “I am curious to see if this helps speed transit up since there are no cars to compete for road space with,” she said.

However, while King said organizers would aim to include North Beach in the following years, the neighborhood’s exclusion from the event was a surprise and a disappointment to local residents and merchants, said Mike Sonn, head of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Parking and Transportation Committee.

“Sunday Streets provides an excellent opportunity to experience a great neighborhood in an exciting new way and to expose our unique collection of local businesses to thousands of visitors and residents alike,” he said. “We look forward to working with Sunday Streets in the future to ensure that North Beach becomes a staple in the annual line-up.”

To be sure, folks from around the city will be coming to the area for the usual abundance of activities, including the annual ping pong tournament at Portsmouth Square, Tai Chi classes, a preview exhibit of the new Exploratorium, and, of course, free bike rentals and bike riding lessons for kids. Unlike last year, bicycle riding will be allowed along the entire route.

See you out there.

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SF Planning Unveils Design for a More Ped-Friendly Broadway in Chinatown

A rendering of the plan for Broadway at the east tunnel entrance. Images: SF Planning Department

The SF Planning Department this week unveiled its final design for pedestrian improvements on a stretch of Broadway in Chinatown.

The design, which was narrowed down through an extensive community planning process, would add sidewalk extensions, crosswalk improvements, trees, seating, lighting, and bike sharrows between the Broadway Tunnel and Columbus Avenue.

The plan [PDF] would not reduce any of the four traffic lanes or include bike lanes, as was originally proposed in other design options, but those changes could still come in the future. Lily Langlois, the lead planner on the project, said workshop participants showed little support for bike lanes until substantial bike improvements are made in the frightening Broadway Tunnel, which would most likely require re-purposing a tunnel lane for bicycles in each direction. (A bike-activated beacon signal was installed, then upgraded, by the SFMTA, but few, if any, bicyclists seem comforted by it.) She said the real estate for conventional bike lanes outside of the tunnel could come from a westbound traffic lane, though the bulb-outs seem to make a potential protected bike lane more difficult to implement.

Also dropped from an earlier proposal was a pedestrian scramble at Stockton. Langlois said staff determined that the intersection was too wide for a scramble, but that corner bulb-outs should sufficiently reduce crossing distances, which she said was the primary concern at the intersection voiced by participants.

The improvements in the current project are expected to create a more welcoming environment for people on the three blocks of Broadway between the east opening of the tunnel and Columbus Avenue. The project is the fourth and final phase of a 20-year effort to improve Broadway following the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway. The intent is to make the street “a destination, as opposed to a freeway connector, and a place to pass through,” said Deland Chan, senior planner at the Chinatown Community Development Center.

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Chinatown Businesses Thrive During a Week Without Car Parking

What would happen if, one day, the city decided to make better use of the car parking on a commercial corridor like Stockton Street in Chinatown?

“What about the businesses?” opponents might exclaim. “Where would their customers park?”

The myth of the urban driving shoppers was debunked again over the past week or so, when community leaders in Chinatown repurposed parking lanes on the most crowded blocks of Stockton to make more room for merchants and shoppers during the busy Lunar New Year season. If the still-overcrowded sidewalks were any indication, the parking didn’t seem to be missed.

“If anything, we’ve benefited from it,” said Brian Kan of Pacific Seafood Trading Company, who was selling groceries from a stand off the curb like many other merchants. “We think it’s brought us a lot of business, actually, instead of losing business. And it’s a great way for us to interact with the people walking around, too.”

While giving public parking spaces to private businesses may not necessarily achieve the same goals sought by public space expansions like parklets and plazas, the experiment highlighted the competing demands for street space in the densest neighborhood west of the Mississippi. In Chinatown, a disproportionate amount of real estate is devoted to moving and storing cars despite having the city’s lowest car ownership rate of 17 percent. According to a Department of Public Works press release, a study by the SFMTA estimated the corridor sees about 2,000 pedestrians per hour — and that’s on an average day.

The temporary transfer of space was a coordinated effort between Chinatown neighborhood and merchant associations, the mayor’s office, and a slew of city departments “to enhance and improve the experience in Chinatown during this peak holiday time,” said D3 Supervisor David Chiu in a statement. “Chinese New Year is celebrated by thousands and we want to provide an environment that supports the small business community and improves pedestrian flow along Stockton and connecting streets. We are creating a public space that meets the growing needs of this community and beyond.”

Cindy Wu of the Chinatown Community Development Center said that drawing shoppers to linger on already congested sidewalks didn’t necessarily help the crowding problem, but she believes the street needs some changes. She wants to explore how to allocate more space on Stockton for merchants and pedestrians in a way that is most beneficial to the neighborhood.

“There are so many competing uses of the street, and parking plays a role in that,” said Wu, “but we need to figure out, for however many feet from storefront to storefront — Stockton Street is wide — what is the use that benefits the most people at one time, or what is the right balance of use?”

See more photos after the break.

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Stockton Bus Riders Take a Back Seat to Central Subway Construction

Photo: Howard Wong

As if squeezing onto the 30-Stockton wasn’t already undignifying enough, Muni riders on Stockton Street soon face a four-year detour to make room for the construction of the Central Subway project.

Beginning January 21, southbound buses on the 30 and 45 Muni lines will be detoured off of Stockton Street at Sutter Street — a change likely to exacerbate delays on one of the city’s most heavily-used transit corridors already notorious for its slow, overcrowded bus service.

The Central Subway, a $1.6 billion project which the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) says is necessary to serve the needs of transit demand along the Stockton/Fourth Street corridor, isn’t expected to open for at least eight more years. But while riders take a back seat during its construction, the agency has yet to indicate any interest in improving existing transit on the surface — one of the major criticisms leveled against the Central Subway over the years.

Last July, the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury blasted the project in a report calling on the SFMTA to redesign it “to better serve the San Francisco population.” The major problems cited included poor connectivity to major destinations and transit stations and a lack of ”plans to address existing problems on the Stockton corridor before project completion.”

“The problems have been noticeable, predictable, and no solutions have ever been offered,” said Howard Wong of Save Muni, a “volunteer group of transit experts, public transportation supporters” which has lobbied the SFMTA to pursue surface transit improvements as a more useful and cost-effective alternative to the Central Subway to meet transit needs on the corridor.

The 30-Stockton, which runs through San Francisco’s densest areas of Chinatown and Union Square, is widely known as one of the most overcrowded and slowest-moving buses in the city. A 2007 San Francisco Chronicle article cited its average speed at 3.6 mph between Market and Sutter Streets, and while more recent official data weren’t immediately available, service doesn’t seem to have improved. In the San Francisco Examiner’s recent ”Man vs. Muni” series, it was the first — and last — bus to be raced at a walking pace by transportation reporter Will Reisman. (Reisman won the second round.)

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First Walking Sunday Streets a Hit in Chinatown and North Beach

Thousands of people enjoyed a car-free Grant Avenue through Chinatown, North Beach and Telegraph Hill yesterday. Photos by Bryan Goebel.

San Francisco’s Grant Avenue, the city’s oldest street, was opened to pedestrians only yesterday in a milestone Sunday Streets event that drew thousands of people to the historic neighborhoods of Chinatown and North Beach on a sunny, 74-degree day. The city’s first walking Sunday Streets on a thoroughfare that seems like one of the most ideal streets to pedestrianize was clearly a hit.

“It’s a fantastic event. The weather is gorgeous and it’s nice to have Chinatown and North Beach connected in this way,” said Tom Radulovich of the non-profit Livable City, which sponsors Sunday Streets.

Unlike fairs in Chinatown and North Beach that typically line the street with outside vendors, the car-free event that spanned more than 20 blocks was organized to give neighborhood residents, locals and merchants a taste of what Grant Avenue can look and feel like without cars on a typical Sunday.

“I like having no cars,” said Lisa Mai, a North Beach resident who took a break from jump roping with other teens from the YMCA, a Chinatown fixture since 1911. “When you’re in a car it’s like you’re really rushing, but when you’re walking, when you walk along Grant, you see all these people coming out to enjoy it.”

From the Chinatown Gateway to Coit Tower, people filled the narrow street on foot, and shopped, sipped tea, snapped photos, hula-hooped, painted, enjoyed live music and other activities without the anxiety of automobiles.

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Planning Department Releases Tentative Street Redesigns for Broadway

Option C. Image: SF Planning Department

The Planning Department, working with the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC), the SFMTA and SFDPW, recently released three options for dramatically improving the pedestrian environment on a two-and-a-half block stretch of Broadway, a high-volume two-way arterial that cuts through North Beach and Chinatown, a neighborhood that is “the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan.”

Chinatown has the city’s lowest car ownership rate, and yet its residents — mostly low-income, elderly and monolingual immigrants who primarily walk and take Muni — have to deal with some of city’s worst automobile traffic. Broadway between Columbus Avenue and the Broadway Tunnel is lined with bustling grocery stores and restaurants, including some that have been fixtures in the neighborhood for decades, along with community-based organizations and Jean Parker School.

CCDC, the Planning Department’s outreach partner on the Chinatown Broadway Street Design project, stressed that Chinatown’s 15,000 residents have been historically underrepresented in transportation planning. As an environmental and social justice issue, CCDC has undertaken a collaborative process with the city to bring about a street redesign with strong community input. The effort is part of a Caltrans environmental justice grant.

“There’s some institutional biases going on in terms of planning processes in general, and that’s part of our goal, is to balance a little bit,” said Deland Chan, the senior planner at CCDC. Working with Planning, she said, another objective has been to make the process engaging for Chinatown’s residents, and the materials easy for the non-planner to understand.

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The Broadway Tunnel: One of SF’s Meanest Streets for Biking and Walking

IMG_2145.jpgThe Broadway tunnel's pedestrian path. Photo: Michael Rhodes

The Broadway tunnel, stretching from Hyde Street in Russian Hill to Powell Street in Chinatown, is one of the scariest places in San Francisco to ride a bike, and it's no walk in the park for pedestrians, either.

With two wide lanes of auto traffic in each direction of the double-bore tunnel and not a single stop sign or light for five blocks, even many experienced cyclists fear it. The amplified roar of traffic alone is enough to leave a pedestrian on the narrow side paths shaken.

"If I was actually in the street, this would be the worst, probably, because it's just so closed," said Caroline, a bike commuter who rides on the side path to avoid the treacherous road. "If there was an accident, there's nowhere to go. You can't try to get off the road. You'd be crushed. It'd be pretty terrible."

Chris Whitacre, a seasoned bike messenger who rides all over the city in the course of his work, felt the same way. "Oh yeah, it's sketchy," said Whitacre, who rides on the side path on his way uphill -- westbound -- through the tunnel, and braves the street on his way downhill, when he can keep up with traffic.

Neither cyclists nor pedestrians are thrilled with that arrangement, since the side paths are already very narrow for people on foot or in wheelchairs. While the city has big plans for other bike network improvements, major upgrades to the tunnel remain the stuff of dreams.

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Dreaming of Pedestrian Heaven on San Francisco’s Oldest Street

IMG_1981.jpgEnjoying a car-free Grant Avenue at Noodle Fest. Photo: Michael Rhodes

Could San Francisco's first and oldest thoroughfare become the city's first true pedestrianized street?

Since the day in 1835 when William Richardson drew the first map of Yerba Buena that included just one street, called "Calle de la fundacion" -- Foundation Street, which ran along the lines of present-day Grant Avenue, the city's oldest street has gone through several transformations. First, it was renamed Dupont Street, in 1847, then Grant Avenue, in 1886. But the coup de grâce to the old Calle de la fundacion was the 1906 earthquake, which leveled everything but the hills.

On a bright afternoon last Sunday, less than a block from where Richardson first made his home in 1835 near Grant and Washington Street, there were signs Grant might be ready for another transformation. This time, the center of the transformation was not fire or renaming, but noodles.

Thousands of people packed into a few blocks of Grant Avenue where it intersects Broadway, the traditional boundary between Chinatown and North Beach. Noodle Fest 2010, put on by the Chinatown Community Development Center and the North Beach Merchants Association, sought to bridge two neighborhoods that four lanes of traffic on Broadway have long kept apart.

Merchants reaped the benefits of a lot of extra exposure, while everyone got a tantalizing look at what a pedestrianized Grant Avenue could look like.

"For the merchants who participated in Noodle Fest, they were extremely happy to see all the attention their restaurant received by so many people who hardly venture into either neighborhood," said CCDC's Vivian Chang, who helped organize the event.

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