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SFMTA Unveils 6th St. Proposal With Road Diet, Bike Lanes, Wider Sidewalks

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Sixth Street today, and as envisioned in the new proposal. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA unveiled a proposal last week to redesign northern Sixth Street by trimming traffic lanes from four to two, widening sidewalks, and adding unprotected, green-painted bike lanes. Intersections on the stretch between Market and Howard Streets could also get features like raised crosswalks, speed tables (like speed bumps, but wider), and textured pavement to tame driving speeds.

“This is super exciting,” said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim. While the plan already calls for converting many curbside parking spots to pedestrian space, Kim would like to see the plan for Sixth go farther, especially between Market and Mission Streets, because residents complain that parked cars are often used to obscure illegal behaviors like drug dealing. “Our residents don’t have cars, so they don’t feel the need for the metered parking,” she said.

Adam Gubser, project manager for the SFMTA, said environmental review on the project is expected to begin in January, which will flesh out how the redesign would affect street safety, car congestion, and the diversion of traffic to other streets. That process is expected to take 16 to 18 months, but there’s no firm construction timeline set yet.

When asked about including parking-protected bike lanes in the plan, SFMTA planners said the unprotected lanes in the proposal should be sufficient since traffic will be calmer and much of the lane will be curbside. They also said greater separation from motor vehicle traffic could potentially be added in the future if more parking is removed on Sixth.

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SF’s First Painted Sidewalk Extensions Come to Sixth Street

Six new curb extensions were installed using temporary materials, as seen here and Sixth at Mission Streets. Photos: Aaron Bialick

A deadly stretch of Sixth Street received the city’s first painted sidewalk extensions last week, created using low-cost, temporary materials to help make pedestrians more visible. The SFMTA implemented the pilot project between Market and Harrison Streets — four blocks dense with residential hotels and shops — to help curb injuries while the agency develops plans for a road diet.

The six sidewalk bulb-outs replace car parking spaces, marked using a red and white gravel surface and plastic posts, with boulders and portable concrete planters set inside. The measures are expected to make pedestrians more visible to drivers as they enter crosswalks, and send the signal that the street isn’t just an extension of the freeway, but a gateway to a dense neighborhood street that drivers are expected to share with residents.

“We’re hoping that pilot programs like this can be a model for the city, knowing that [pedestrian safety] is an issue for every corridor,” said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim. “People are already, anecdotally, talking about some safety improvements from these very affordable pilot designs that we’re putting out just to see what we should be doing to make Sixth Street safer.”

Sixth is designed primarily to speed drivers between the Tenderloin and the 280 highway through the dense SoMa neighborhood. Between 2005 and 2010, 93 pedestrians were injured and five were killed by drivers on this stretch, according to data from the Department of Public Health.

“If we don’t make our streets safer, if we don’t have proper enforcement, if we aren’t designing our streets to be shared by multiple users, people actually die or lose important parts of their body,” said Kim, who noted that in District 6 alone, pedestrian injuries have racked up a cost of $13.5 million in the last five years in costs for medical treatment and emergency services.

Although many pedestrian injuries occur while drivers are making a turn, neighborhood residents also say pedestrians are often hit on multi-lane streets like Sixth when, as they make their way through a crosswalk, some drivers stop to yield the right-of-way, but others attempt to pass, apparently not expecting a person to be in their path.

“It is not a pretty picture when you see a senior citizen going up in the air and coming down,” said ”Mother” Elaine Jones, a senior tenant organizer who lives at a single resident occupancy hotel at Howard and Sixth. “You’ve got some people laughing. They’re not caring. Enough is enough.”

Sixth and Market Streets.

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Woman on Bike Killed by Truck Driver on Folsom: Charges Off the Table?

Photo: Will Tran via hhttp://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Bicyclist-killed-in-SoMa-crash-with-truck-4731657.phpSFGate

An unidentified 24-year-old woman was killed while bicycling on Folsom at Sixth Street this morning when she was hit by a big rig truck driver, according to SFPD and media reports.

The victim is the third bicycle rider killed in San Francisco this year, and each death has involved a truck driver. Although the driver seemed to be at fault in each case, none have faced charges.

Here are the details on this morning’s crash, via SFGate:

The crash happened as the truck tried to make a right turn at 7:07 a.m. at Sixth and Folsom streets, police said.

Both the bicyclist, a woman about 30 years old, and the truck driver were headed east on Folsom. When the trucker tried to turn south onto Sixth, he hit the bicyclist, said Officer Bryan Lujan.

The woman died at San Francisco General Hospital. Neither her name nor the name of the trucker has been released.

The truck driver stayed at the scene and was interviewed by police. He has not been cited. The truck was later towed away.

As police investigated the crash, the woman’s crumpled blue, road-riding bicycle lay at the southwest corner of the intersection. A bike helmet was nearby.

Police have already determined that the truck driver won’t face any charges, according to a tweet from KTVU reporter Brian Flores, who also specified the victim’s age at 24.

SFPD spokesperson Dennis Toomer said he couldn’t confirm those reports, however. “This is still an on-going investigation and I cannot confirm if charges are pending for a later date or not,” he said. Toomer said state law also prevents SFPD from releasing information about the victim or driver at this time.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, called the crash “another tragic reminder of what can happen when bikes and large trucks mix on our city’s high-speed corridors.”

Folsom, a street designed as a one-way, high-speed motorway — common in SoMa — has a painted, unprotected bike lane at the site where the victim was killed. “Folsom Street is one of the city’s few designated bike routes to downtown,” said Shahum. “Still, this street feels intimidating. This core route sees thousands of bike riders every day, yet large trucks travel next to these bike riders — completely unprotected.”

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Central Corridor Plan Envisions Transitways and Safer Streets for SoMa

Fourth Street. Photo: San Francisco in 15 Weeks

The Central Subway is coming, like it or not, and that means Fourth Street will get Muni Metro service starting in 2019. With that in mind, the SF Planning Department recently released the draft Central Corridor Plan, which sets the stage for upzoned transit-oriented development near new stations and street improvements to accommodate a growing population in a rapidly changing section of SoMa.

“The idea is to support development here because it’s a transit-rich area,” said Amnon Ben-Pazi of the Planning Department’s City Design Group. “Between BART, Caltrain, and the new light-rail, you have as much city and regional transit as you can get.”

The Central Corridor Plan, which encompasses one section of the broader Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, is aimed at creating a more people-friendly SoMa — a district which was primarily industrial until recent years. Streets that have served as car traffic funnels since the mid-20th century would be overhauled with improvements like protected bike lanes, new crosswalks, wider sidewalks, transit-only lanes, and two-way traffic conversions.

The Central Subway route along Fourth Street. Image: SFMTA

SoMa’s streets “were designed in a really specific way to accommodate large volumes of very fast traffic and trucks,” said Ben-Pazi. “While that may have been appropriate when this was an industrial area, it’s certainly not appropriate now with what we know about pedestrian safety and how the design of streets really affects the behavior of drivers.”

“If we’re going to go in the direction of having more people live and work here,” he added, “relying on the streets for their everyday circulation, we really need to address what these streets are designed as.”

Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich said the plan seems to be mostly on the right track, though it should include greater restrictions on new car parking that are more in line with the plan for the adjacent Transbay District adopted last year. “With as much development as is planned, and with a desire to reclaim SoMa’s mean, traffic-sewer streets for people and sustainable transportation, the plan has to be truly transit-oriented,” he said.

The plan calls for reducing traffic lanes and on-street car parking to make room for improvements to transit, biking, and walking. Ben-Pazi said the environmental review process for all of those projects would be completed as part of the plan, which is currently set to be adopted in late 2014.

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Supes Find Compromise in West SoMa Plan’s Housing/Transit Tussle

City supervisors have reached a compromise on a contentious measure in the zoning plan for the western South of Market District that would have diverted some developer impact fees away from transit and street improvements to fund affordable housing.

Trinity Place housing development at 8th and Mission Streets, just outside the border of the West SoMa Plan. Photo: sftrajan/Flickr

By increasing the number of subsidized affordable apartments that residential building developers will be required to provide in large projects, an amendment introduced by Supervisor Jane Kim removed the 33 percent cut in developer impact fees for transportation upgrades originally proposed in the West SoMa Plan, while also satisfying residents’ calls to increase the amount of affordable housing for low-income residents in the area. The plan was passed unanimously by the Land Use and Economic Development Committee yesterday, and the full Board of Supervisors is expected to consider it in the coming weeks.

Kim, who introduced the amendment that settled the housing/transit tussle, said the solution makes more sense now than it did during the plan’s eight-year development, when the real estate economy was in worse shape. At the time, planning participants thought that imposing more costly housing requirements would dissuade developers from building new housing at all. But with today’s development boom, those requirements are expected to be more palatable. “After doing some number crunching” with community members and housing advocates, she said, ”we were able to get some consensus.”

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West SoMa Plan May Direct Funds to Affordable Housing at Transit’s Expense

A provision in the new zoning plan for the western South of Market District has come under scrutiny by city supervisors because it would direct a larger share of developer fees for some projects to go towards affordable housing at the expense of transit and street improvements.

An affordable housing development at 8th and Howard Streets. Image: David Baker + Partners Architects

When the West SoMa Area Plan went up for approval by the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee on Monday, it originally called for one-third of some developer impact fees that normally go toward transit, streets, and open space to instead be spent on affordable housing. An amendment from Supervisor Scott Wiener has tentatively scuttled that provision by setting the revenue levels closer to those in the larger Eastern Neighborhoods Zoning Plan. The plan is set to return to the committee for approval on Monday, where Wiener’s amendment could still be rescinded. After committee, it must be approved by the full Board of Supervisors.

Wiener said that while he’s a strong proponent of raising subsidies for affordable housing, an increase in population will come with an added strain on the transportation system at a time when transit is already woefully starved of funding. “To me it’s very counterintuitive, and I don’t think it’s good policy, to reduce transit impact fees when we’re increasing population,” he said. “Whether it’s transit, or it’s pedestrian safety upgrades, our capital needs are so dramatic.”

Jane Kim, supervisor of District 6, which includes West SoMa, said she sees the need to increase transit funding, but stood by the original provision because it was agreed upon by a majority of residents who participated in the plan’s development. She sees it as “a net gain for the city.”

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Will Deadly Sixth Street Finally Get the Pedestrian Safety Fixes It Needs?

A map of pedestrian injuries between 2005 and 2010 using data from the Department Public Health.

The deadly stretch of Sixth Street between Market and Howard Streets in the South of Market District may get some long-overdue pedestrian safety fixes. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency kicked off the first of several community planning meetings on Tuesday for a project that could add pedestrian bulb-outs, marked crosswalks, and other measures that could make for a more livable street.

Sixth Street, designed to speed drivers between the Tenderloin and the 280 highway through a dense SoMa neighborhood, has an alarming rate of traffic violence. According to data from the Department of Public Health, 93 pedestrians were injured by drivers between 2005 and 2010, including five people who were killed.

“Right now, the design of Sixth Street prioritizes fast car travel to the freeway instead of the safety and comfort of the people who live and work here,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. “It’s time for that to change.”

On a recent walking tour of the neighborhood organized by the SF Planning and Urban Research Association, D6 Supervisor Jane Kim noted that her district, which sees nearly 30 percent of the city’s pedestrian crashes, “has the most collisions in the entire city.”

“San Francisco has one of the worst vehicle-pedestrian collision rates in the country,” she said. “It’s the worst in the state of California, worse than New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and a lot of major cities. We have some work to do.”

Sixth and Mission Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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Diana Sullivan, 48, Killed on Bike by Cement Truck Driver at Third and King

King at Third Street, where reports indicate Diana Sullivan was killed. Image: Google Maps

Updated 3:00 p.m.

Diana Sullivan, 48, of San Francisco, was killed while bicycling on King Street at Third Street Saturday at about 9:30 a.m. According to media accounts, Sullivan was run over by a cement truck driver. The crash occurred in front of the AT&T Park, where crowds of pedestrians were headed to a Giants event at the time.

Diana Sullivan. Photo via SFGate

Police say they’re still investigating how the crash occurred, and the driver hasn’t been cited. SFPD Sargeant Frank Harrell told KTVU, “You do have a big cement truck with a big wheel base and preliminary reports are that she was curbside on her bike, riding, and somehow became entangled.”

One commenter on SFist who claims to have witnessed the incident said Sullivan was stopped at the red light on westbound King at Third along with the truck. When the light turned green, the truck driver pulled forward, ran her over, and caught her leg in the wheel well.

“She took a revolution and was caught between the wheel and the wheel well of the truck and then as the wheel continued to roll she landed on the street,” she said. “The trauma to her right leg, the part of her body that was caught between the wheel and the wheel well, caused her femoral artery to be severed. She bled out very, very, quickly.”

“The most awful thing I’ve ever seen,” the commenter added. “I cannot get it out of my mind.”

King has a painted bike lane in the westbound direction, but it suddenly disappears halfway between Second and Third Streets at a mid-block pedestrian crossing. At the point where Sullivan was killed, bicycle riders are thrown into mixed traffic with motor vehicles.

Sullivan's bike after being run over by cement truck driver. Photo: CBS 5

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Melissa Kitson, 44, Killed in Two-Car Crash in SoMa

Seventh and Howard Streets. Image: Google Maps

Last Friday, two drivers ran over and killed 44-year-old Melissa Kitson of San Lorenzo at 7th and Howard Streets, the second pedestrian fatality in San Francisco this year.

Melissa Kitson. Photo via LinkedIn

According to press accounts, the crash occurred at about 5:45 p.m. Police say the investigation is ongoing, and there are few details available on how it occurred. Both drivers reportedly stayed on the scene, and we’re waiting to hear back from the SFPD about whether either of them will be cited or charged.

As the Chronicle reported, Kitson worked for RedBricks Media, located on Folsom Street just east of 7th, and may have been on her way home when she was hit and killed instantly. Elliot Easterling, the ad firm’s CEO, told the Chronicle, “She was a very sweet and superb person. She was a good worker.”

“Two people have already been killed while walking this year in San Francisco,” said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF. “When she was hit by two cars and killed, Melissa Kitson was likely walking home from work. That shouldn’t be a life-threatening activity, especially in San Francisco.”

The wide, one-way streets in the South of Market district continue to function as speedways for drivers, and the rate of  pedestrian injuries and deaths in the area will remain disproportionately high until Mayor Ed Lee and SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin make traffic calming measures there a priority. “We need leadership and commitment from the city to fix dangerous streets and prevent more bewildering tragedies,” said Stampe.

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Will CPMC Pick Up the Slack for Street Safety in the Neglected Tenderloin?

Jones at Turk Street. Photo: pbo31/Flickr

Despite living in one of the city’s densest residential neighborhoods with one of the lowest rates of car ownership, Tenderloin residents have endured some of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets for walking since traffic engineers turned most of them into one-way, high-speed motorways in the 1960s.

In a BeyondChron article yesterday, editor and Tenderloin Housing Clinic Director Randy Shaw spotlighted the city’s longstanding neglect of safety improvements and traffic calming on Tenderloin streets, even while such projects come to other neighborhoods. The SF County Transportation Authority’s Tenderloin/Little Saigon Transportation Plan, which was adopted in 2007 and calls for two-way street conversions and other upgrades for pedestrians and transit, has seemingly remained a low funding priority for the city, wrote Shaw:

While the city finds money for streetscape improvements on Divisadero, Upper Market, the Marina and other affluent neighborhoods, the city has not funded a single major Tenderloin pedestrian safety or streetscape improvement program in over thirty years…

San Francisco is actively creating more livable streets for pedestrians, bicyclists, local businesses and neighborhood residents. It’s a terrific development.

But what’s not terrific is denying the Tenderloin its fair share of transit funds. It is a blatant example of the city discriminating against low-income residents.

There is hope that most of the improvements in the Tenderloin Plan could be funded by California Pacific Medical Center in a development agreement with the city for its plans to build the massive new Cathedral Hill Campus at Geary Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue. However, with a revised agreement being negotiated behind closed doors that will likely be downsized from the original one, it’s unclear whether the new version will retain a requirement for CPMC to provide nearly $10 million in funding for street improvements to mitigate the impacts of inundating the Tenderloin with car traffic. ”Not only do the traffic impacts caused by the project require it,” wrote Shaw, “but transit planners still have no plans to allocate public dollars for calming traffic, improving streetscapes or doing anything else along Eddy and Ellis Streets” beyond the few blocks that have been converted to calmer, two-way traffic flow.

“Randy is rightly cross about the slow pace of implementing the Tenderloin transportation plan,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. ”San Francisco’s traffic patterns tend to impose the greatest traffic burdens on neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, Mission, and SoMa — generally denser, poorer, and whose residents generate the least car traffic. The bureaucratic foot-dragging around reclaiming traffic sewer streets like those in the Tenderloin is both unjust and unsustainable.”

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