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Posts from the "Sunset" Category

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Supervisor London Breed Won’t Fight for Full Transit Bulbs on Irving Street

D5 Supervisor London Breed, whose district includes the Inner Sunset, says that the downsized proposals for transit bulbs on Irving Street and Ninth Avenue are “headed in the right direction,” according to Conor Johnston, a legislative aide.

Photo: Office of Supervisor London Breed

“We are balancing a lot of competing interests,” Johnston told Streetsblog, citing vocal opposition from neighbors and merchants to parking removal.

City surveys showed strong support in the neighborhood for sidewalk extensions to make boarding easier along the full length of two-car Muni trains. They also found that the vast majority of people get to Ninth and Irving without a car, a finding consistent with a number of other commercial districts where travel surveys have been conducted. Nevertheless, to preserve car parking, the SFMTA downsized the bulb-outs to less than half the full-length proposals.

Johnston said the parking-first opponents have been vocal, which largely drove the SFMTA’s decision. ”We’ve been contacted by residents and a number of merchants who didn’t want full-length bulb-outs, a lot of whom didn’t want any changes at all,” he said. “As with any democratic process, it’s a balance, a matter of finding consensus.”

Sure, give-and-take can be positive if it produces a better result — streets that are safer and more efficient. But democracy doesn’t mean catering to the loudest complainers and tossing aside the city’s purported “Transit First” commitment, which is supposed to prioritize the most efficient modes — transit, walking, and biking — in the allocation of street space. Is it more democratic to delay and inconvenience thousands of transit passengers each day so that a few dozen people can store their cars on a public street?

When Supervisor Breed took office over a year ago, she indicated that she gets it. “As supervisor, my goal is to look at data, to look at what’s happening, to look at ways in which we can improve the ability for people to get around,” she told Streetsblog in February of last year. “We have to look at it from a larger scale. We can’t just piecemeal it together.”

Breed’s position is crucial — we’ve seen in many transportation projects that a supervisor’s support (or opposition) can make a real difference, leading city agencies to stay the course on transit and street safety upgrades. She helped face down the naysayers when it came to implementing a protected bikeway on Fell and Oak Streets. In this case, however, Breed is okay with letting a loud and irrational subset of cars-first residents dictate the extent to which transit and walking will be improved.

The Inner Sunset Park Neighbors hasn’t taken an official position on the project. The proposal went to a public comment hearing on Friday and is scheduled for consideration by the SFMTA Board of Directors on March 28.

Update: In the comment section of this article, Johnston said that appeasing opponents is important to ensure support for the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project and the vehicle license fee increase and General Obligation bond measures headed to the ballot in November: “If the MTA or we pushed the 2nd car bulb outs (or anything else) ‘opposition-be-damned,’ it would leave a very bad taste in the community’s mouth and jeopardize much greater efforts. Absent collaboration, public sentiment can turn against not only the TEP but the VLF and GO bonds, all of which need support and are far, far more important to our transit first goals than a 2nd car bulb out in the Inner Sunset.”

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Irving Transit Bulb-Outs Downsized to Appease SFFD, Parking Complainers

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Transit bulbs were reduced to less than half the size in the Ninth and Irving area, compared to the original proposals (shown in the inset).

Sidewalk widenings on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset, proposed by the SFMTA to make it safer and easier for tens of thousands of commuters to board the N-Judah, have been cut down in size to a fraction of the original proposals due to neighborhood complaints about losing car parking and protests from the SF Fire Department.

The plans are scheduled for preliminary approval at an SFMTA engineering on Friday at 10 a.m. The SFMTA Board of Directors must approve the plans at a later meeting.

The changes originally proposed as part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project would have widened sidewalks along almost the entire south side of Irving between Eighth and Ninth Avenues [PDF], both sides of Irving between Fifth and Sixth Avenues [PDF], and the west side of Ninth between Irving and Judah Street. These long bulb-outs would have served full two-car trains at new stop locations planned for the N-Judah, Muni’s busiest line, while providing more breathing room on a busy pedestrian street.

The plan now calls for transit bulbs less than half that size (see all of the proposals here).

“It’s disappointing to consistently see projects that work to reclaim public space as shared space for everyone to enjoy, and that are in our existing plans and guidelines get watered down,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “Whether it’s Irving Street, Potrero, Polk, or Columbus, the time is ripe for the transportation community to show our opposition to mediocrity.”

The transit bulbs on Ninth Avenue and on Irving between Eight and Ninth were shortened to preserve car parking for merchants and neighbors who protested the removal of, at most, 30 spaces, according to SFMTA staff. The new plans remove just 13 parking spaces, including one for a bike corral.

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29-Sunset to Get Muni-Only Left-Turn Lane at Lincoln and 19th Ave

A draft plan from 2007 for a left-turn Muni lane (bottom) at Lincoln Way and 19th Ave./Crossover Drive. The SFMTA says the project will finally be implemented by this summer. Image: SFCTA

Muni’s 29-Sunset line will get an exclusive left-turn lane this summer at Lincoln Way and 19th Ave., allowing buses to skip an egregiously slow detour around the block, which it currently makes before heading north into Golden Gate Park. Left turns at the intersection are currently prohibited, and will remain so for other traffic.

A northbound 29 bus seen crossing Lincoln on to Crossover Drive after completing a loop around the block. With the new left-turn lane, the bus will be able to reach Crossover directly. Photo: MuniDave/Flickr

Ride the 29 northbound today, and you’ll experience how frustrating it can be — at Lincoln and 20th Avenue, the bus turns right, then left onto a congested block of Irving Street, then left again on to 19th, then it makes a stop at Lincoln before heading into the park, where 19th becomes Crossover Drive. The whole thing takes anywhere from three to seven minutes, according to the SFMTA.

The new left-turn lane will untie this time-consuming knot, allowing Muni to make a direct left turn on to Crossover, where the existing stop at 19th and Lincoln will be moved into Golden Gate Park.

This improvement, which is notably not part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project (it precedes the TEP), has been in the works for at least seven years. SFMTA planner Cheryl Liu explained in an email that it faced a series of delays, including being “placed on hold” when the agency made budget cuts in 2009:

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Ped Signal at Sunset and Yorba, Where Man Was Killed, Sped Up by a Year

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Sunset at Yorba, where 78-year-old Isaak Berenzon was killed earlier this month. Image: Google Maps

On deadly Sunset Boulevard, the SFMTA’s plans for a new pedestrian-activated stop light at Yorba Street have been advanced by a year. The signal, originally scheduled to go in by the end of 2016, is now set to be activated by the end of 2015, according to SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose.

Currently, the Sunset and Yorba crosswalk has a push-activated beacon that flashes a yellow signal to warn drivers when someone is crossing. That wasn’t enough to save 78-year-old Isaak Berenzon, who was killed by driver Jenny Ching, 71, on February 4. Ching was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Plans were already underway for a traffic signal at Yorba, but Rose said the project would have taken two years to design and construct, due to a lengthy procurement process and coordination with the Department of Public Works to improve curb ramps and street pole “relocation and consolidation.” Rose said the SFMTA was able to streamline its latest round of signal installations by adding engineering staff.

Last week, “we just started two new junior engineers,” he said. “And we are working more closely with DPW in coordinating our projects, especially with paving.  That said, we are now looking to improve on our project schedule to complete design by December 2014.”

“I’m glad to hear they’re coordinating more, but the fact that they were able to advance the signal by one year overnight raises questions,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “We’re speeding projects up after someone has died on streets that we know see the most pedestrian injuries.”

A similar traffic signal project was sped up last year after 17-year-old Hanren Chang was killed on Sloat Boulevard at Forest View Drive, not far from Sunset and Yorba. DPW advanced the project by nearly a year, installing bulb-outs, more visible crosswalks, street lights, an extended pedestrian refuge median, and a button-activated pedestrian signal, like the one planned for Yorba.

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TEP Update: Muni Behind on Transit Signal Priority, But the N Is Near

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Half of San Francisco’s traffic signals were supposed to have transit priority installed by this spring, according to the ambitious schedule set out by managers of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project two years ago. This may not come as much of a surprise, but the SFMTA isn’t quite meeting its target.

Muni TEP improvements are coming this year to the N-Judah, particularly along Irving Street in the Inner Sunset. Photo: Telesle17/Flickr

Of the 600 signals to be upgraded, the SFMTA expects to have 170 completed in the spring, according to agency spokesperson Paul Rose. Installation of those signals, which are all along the 14-Mission and 8X-Bayshore routes, began last fall, with the N-Judah next in line. The on-board equipment needed for the signals to detect the buses and trains, then turn or stay green, has been installed on the 316 vehicles stored at the Flynn and Potrero Muni yards, said Rose.

There are a couple bits of good news for Muni riders. Transit-only lane enforcement cameras are on track to be installed on every Muni bus by this spring as planned, Rose said. Transit priority signals and bus-mounted cameras “will help to give riders a more reliable ride,” said Jim Frank of the SF Transit Riders Union, which “strongly supports installation of TOLE cameras on all buses and TSP on all signals in the city.”

“Double-parked vehicles and waiting at red lights slows down the bus considerably,” said Frank. “We commend the MTA on being on track with the bus cameras and encourage them to get the TSP program completed as soon as possible.”

The next transit priority signals are set to be installed along the N-Judah, Muni’s busiest line, over the coming year. The signals are part of a package of proposed TEP upgrades for the N, which the SFMTA will explain at a community meeting Thursday in the Inner Sunset. In conjunction with those improvements, the SFMTA also plans to replace rails and other infrastructure in the Sunset Tunnel during 15 weekend closures, which will be the focus of another meeting on Wednesday in the Lower Haight.

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Inner Sunset Organizers Take a Serious Look at Irving Street Public Plaza

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This concept for a plaza on Irving Street at 10th Avenue is intended as a “conversation starter” for the Irving Commons project. Image: Chris Duderstadt

The vision for a block-long pedestrian plaza on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset is taking the next step, with the launch of a community-based study. Dubbed “Irving Commons,” the plaza idea was warmly received by neighbors when it was presented two years ago at Inner Sunset Sundays, a street party organized four times per year on the block of Irving between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.

Chris Duderstadt, an organizer of the Irving Commons Project, at Inner Sunset Sundays last weekend. Photo: Inner Sunset Sundays via Facebook

The Irving Commons Project is being led by a group of local organizers, including Adam Greenfield, an organizer of Inner Sunset Sundays and president of the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors board. He emphasized that the study is not necessarily a campaign for the plaza, but simply an examination of its potential. “We started to realize that doing the occasional street event was so limited in what we could do, so the idea started coming out: What if this were a permanent gathering space?”

Taking cues from successful plazas in SF and other cities, organizers say the location appears to meet all the right qualifications. It’s right next to the bustling neighborhood hub of Ninth and Irving, where four transit lines, including the N-Judah — Muni’s busiest — either pass through or stop nearby. But the block itself has no transit lines or garage entrances. Meanwhile, it’s home to a variety of businesses and gets a lot of walking and biking traffic.

The vast majority of the block, however, is essentially a parking lot. Lincoln Way, one block over, serves as the main thruway for drivers.

“It’s definitely worth a study,” D5 Supervisor London Breed told Streetsblog at Inner Sunset Sundays last weekend. “I think it’s a great idea, and I love the fact that they’re coming together to talk about it, and they’re not trying force anything down anyone’s throat. They’re saying, we want to see what’s possible.”

The plaza study is intended to flesh out traffic impacts (with help from city planners, organizers hope) and the potential benefits to nearby businesses. It will also survey how people get to the street. Surveys done on similar commercial streets like Polk, Columbus, Geary in the Richmond, and Irving west of 19th Avenue have consistently found that the proportion of people arriving without cars is roughly around 80 percent.

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Swapping Parking for Public Space on Irving: Merchants May Have Warmed Up

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Most merchants on central Irving Street in the Sunset may have come around to the idea of turning 12 parking spaces into sidewalk extensions with greenery and stylized seating fixtures.

A proposed concept for a bulb-out and “resting area” at Irving Street and 22nd Avenue. Image: DPW

At an open house community meeting last week, the opposition to the proposal seen at the previous meeting in August seemed to have largely dissipated, based on reports from some city staffers and merchant association members. Any remaining concern apparently comes from owners of businesses that front the small chunk of parking spaces that would be replaced with the bulb-outs, though they might actually stand to gain the most as their part of the street becomes a more attractive place to be.

“It’s going to bring tourists, people who have never been around Irving Street,” said Awadalla Awadalla, owner of Irving Pizza, located just off 19th Avenue. “It’s more business for us, more jobs.”

The plan for Irving between 19th and 27th Avenues presented at the open house by the SFMTA and Department of Public Works was essentially unchanged from the proposal shown at the previous meeting. That seems to indicate that complaints about losing a small slice of the 400-some parking spaces on or adjacent to Irving didn’t carry much sway.

As we’ve reported, a small, unscientific poll of 30 respondents on Irving, gathered by DPW from door-to-door visits and an earlier public meeting, found that most people didn’t drive to get there — a result similar to those of more comprehensive surveys done in several other SF neighborhoods.

In addition to the sidewalk extensions, the plan will include more visible, patterned crosswalk markings, along with new trees and a re-pave of the street’s notoriously dirty sidewalks.

“If you come in the afternoon, around 22nd and Irving, there’s no room to walk around. You just want to get out as fast as possible,” Awadalla said of the only intersection in the proposed plan to get bulb-outs on all four corners, which planners and merchants have deemed the focal point of the commercial stretch. “If you take out a couple spots, and make the sidewalk bigger, people will feel better. They can walk around, get a drink, sit down, and chat. It’s going to be more ‘homey.’”

As a neighborhood resident, it sure is refreshing to find that not all merchant groups are dominated by a hidebound obsession with car storage.

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Without Traffic Calming, Sunset Blvd. Project a Missed Chance to Save Lives

Sunset Boulevard at Ortega Street. Photo: Google Street View

Six-lane Sunset Boulevard is one of the city’s most dangerous streets to cross, but that won’t change under plans being developed by the SF Public Utilities Commission.

Intersections along Sunset where pedestrian deaths and injuries occurred between 2005 and 2010. Image: SFDPH

The SFPUC’s Sunset Boulevard Greenway project is aimed at replacing the underground sewer system and re-landscaping the corridor’s grassy medians, which are half a block wide and separate the motorway from parallel streets, to better absorb stormwater. While traffic and safety improvements aren’t the focus on the project, digging up the street — a rare and major city investment — offers a chance for the SFMTA to make changes that could reduce pedestrian injuries, says Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe.

“The SFPUC’s current greening designs fail to address the conditions on this wide, fast street that make it so deadly,” said Stampe. “This is a real missed opportunity.”

Between 2005 and 2010, 28 people were hit by cars on Sunset – many suffering severe injuries, according to data from the Department of Public Health. Three victims were killed, including an 83-year-old man at Taraval Street in 2005, a 20-year-old woman at Vicente Street in 2008, and 81-year-old Yee-Sung Poon, run over in a crosswalk at Santiago Street in January, 2009.

Poon’s death was deemed nothing more than “a tragic accident” by police, according to the SF Chronicle.

But such tragedies can be prevented with smarter design. Stampe suggests removing two of Sunset’s six traffic lanes, which would help tame car traffic. The only change made to Sunset in recent years was the installation of a traffic signal at Quintara Street, which, unlike redesigning streets for slower speeds, doesn’t necessarily make streets safer.

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Irving Merchants Riled by Proposal to Turn 12 Parking Spots Into Public Space

A proposed concept for a bulb-out and "resting area" at Irving Street and 22nd Avenue. Images: SFDPW

Once again, a merchant group is contesting a proposal that would improve walking and public space on a San Francisco street. At a community meeting on plans to add greening and sidewalk corner extensions on central Irving Street last week, merchants balked at the idea of removing 10 to 12 parking spaces to extend eight sidewalk corners and create spaces where people can rest.

When the number of parking spaces was first mentioned by a presenter from the Department of Public Works, one merchant exclaimed, “Oh my god.”

Irving between 19th and 27th Avenues, where the improvements [PDF] are proposed, has more than 400 metered on-street parking spaces on or adjacent to the street, according to the SFMTA. Recent surveys on Geary Boulevard, Polk Street, and Columbus Avenue have all revealed that a large majority of people arrived without taking car. A small, unscientific poll of 30 respondents on Irving, gathered from door-to-door visits and an earlier public meeting, likewise found that most people didn’t drive to get there.

Merchants in other neighborhood are clamoring for parklets, and a 2012 study by the Great Streets Project found that merchants reported no loss in business at three parklets that removed parking. Still, a number of Irving merchants insisted that removing any car parking would make it too difficult for customers and workers to drive to their stores, while dismissing the impact of making the street more inviting for people to spend time on.

Angela Tickler, president of the Outer Sunset Merchants Association and owner of the Hard Wear Store, said “the removal of parking — replacing it with parklets and things — is one of the biggest concerns of our association.”

“Understanding that 10 to 12 parking spaces out of 400-something is a very small percentage, we’re perhaps asking that you still be open to any other possibilities for creating open space,” Tickler told a DPW staffer.

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DPW Looks to Add Some Green to Car-Clogged Central Irving Street

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Irving Street at 20th Avenue. Photos: Aaron Bialick

Most of the space on the busy commercial stretch of central Irving Street in the Sunset serves as a clogged parking lot, with rampant double parking and drivers circling the easternmost block to work around 19th Avenue’s left-turn bans. But while the car traffic and angled parking spots that eat up public space may not disappear any time soon, the Department of Public Works held a recent public meeting to field input on how to make the street more livable with new trees, re-paving, a median with greenery, and a few corner bulb-outs.

Irving, between 19th and 27th Avenues, is slated to get the improvements using $3 million from the Prop B street improvement bond.  However, planners said it likely won’t be enough for any significant sidewalk expansions.

Sam Kaleh, owner of Lucca Foods at Irving and 20th Avenue, said crossing the street at the corner can be dangerous, and hopes to see crosswalks made more visible. He’s considering applying for a parklet in front of his store to provide more space for people than the narrow sidewalk currently provides, though he’d prefer a bulb-out because he’s concerned a parklet would invite homeless people to sit in it. (That’s a concern that prevails among some merchants and residents, even though it generally hasn’t been a real problem at the 38 parklets installed around the city.) “I’d like to see people be safe and happy about shopping on the street,” said Kaleh.

Irving at 19th Avenue.

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