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Posts from the "Sunset" Category

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87-Year-Old Louis Van Velzen Killed by Driver on Deadly Sloat Blvd

Sloat and 43rd Avenue, where 87-year-old Louis Van Velzen, a retired SF Chronicle printer, was killed by a driver. Photo: Google Maps

Another life has been taken on Sloat Boulevard — the deadly, too-wide street slicing through SF’s southwestern Parkside and Sunset Districts past the San Francisco Zoo. Louis Van Velzen, an 87-year-old father, was killed by a driver while crossing Sloat at 43rd Avenue at 7:00 a.m. this morning, the SF Chronicle reported. Van Velzen was reportedly trying to catch a bus when he was hit:

Sloat Boulevard has two lanes in each direction, separated by a wide median. The intersection at 43rd has crosswalks but no signal. Police said it appeared Van Velzen was not in a crosswalk when he was hit by a westbound vehicle, and that the dim early-morning light may have been a factor.

That section of Sloat is a wide highway with four lanes, even though it sees less than half the car traffic of two-lane Valencia Street in the Mission. With that much open asphalt, drivers are tempted to speed and too often kill people who are merely attempting to cross the street.

In March of 2013, 17-year-old Hanren Chang was killed in a crosswalk on Sloat and Forest View Drive by drunk driver Kieran Brewer. She had just stepped off a Muni bus to walk home. Brewer was sentenced to just six months in jail.

Van Velzen was reportedly outside of a crosswalk when he was hit. It’s unclear exactly where he was, but crosswalks on that stretch of Sloat only exist on every other block.

Van Velzen’s daughter, Louisa, who didn’t want to give her last name, told the Chronicle “she frequently heard tires screeching from her home on Sloat Boulevard, where she lived with her father and mother. She wants to see a stop sign or traffic light installed at the intersection where her father was killed.”

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Eyes on the Street: New On-Street Car-Share Parking Spots in Action

A pair of new Zipcar spots at 20th Avenue and Irving Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The first in a new wave of on-street car-share parking spaces are on the ground, kicking off the eventual roll-out of 900 spots planned by the SFMTA.

I spotted the pair of Zipcar spots above on 20th Avenue at Irving Street in the Sunset on Saturday, and they were apparently already being used. The first time I passed by, the spots were both empty, but later one car had been returned.

As more locations like these make car-share more convenient and visible, car ownership is expected to decline: each car-share vehicle replaces nine to 13 privately-owned autos, on average. It’s a statistic we’ve continually reported, and it means these spots will make more parking available — but that’s still often ignored by those who call these space conversions “privatization.”

SF has already had a dozen on-street car-share spots in place for a couple of years ago as part of an SFMTA pilot, but now the real proliferation has begun. If you spot others, feel free to share photos in the comments.

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New Muni-Only Lanes Streamline Buses on Haight, Lincoln at 19th Avenue

A new left-turn Muni lane at Lincoln Way and 19th Avenue now provides a quicker ride on the 29-Sunset. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Muni riders have just gotten some sweet new transit-only lanes to speed up their commutes. Red paint is on the ground for two new bus lanes: One at Lincoln Way and 19th Avenue, and another on the east end of Haight Street.

A new left-turn lane, exclusively for Muni buses, went into operation this week at Lincoln and 19th, streamlining the ride for commuters on the 29-Sunset. The new lane and traffic signal mean that northbound 29 buses no longer must endure a car-clogged detour onto 20th Avenue and Irving Street. The block-long detour typically took anywhere from three to seven minutes, according to the SFMTA.

The re-route required a new bus stop inside Golden Gate Park, replacing the former stop where buses would load on the other side of Lincoln, before crossing the intersection. A new sidewalk and waiting area have been built, and the SFMTA says a shelter will be added as well. In the meantime, temporary signs explain the change.

The new stop, which is also now used by buses on the 28-19th Avenue and 28-Limited lines, provides an extended curb so that buses can load in the traffic lane. That speeds up buses, since they no longer have to pull out of traffic only to merge back in. The SFMTA does plan to replicate the new configuration by adding bus bulb-outs at other stops along 19th.

The new left-turn traffic signal is only activated when it detects a bus approaching the intersection, and the signal phase lasts only a few seconds so that other motorists can’t use it.

The new stop on 19th sits inside Golden Gate Park, across the street from the old one. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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SPUR Ocean Beach Erosion Plan Shelves Road Diet for Great Highway

SPUR will not pursue its vision for narrowing Great Highway from four lanes to two, as neighbors fear that traffic will divert onto their streets. Image: SPUR’s Ocean Beach Master Plan

SPUR has set adrift its proposal to halve the size of the Great Highway along Ocean Beach, as the group strives to avoid distracting attention from implementing the other priorities in its Ocean Beach Master Plan. A road diet may be revisited later, once more pressing concerns have advanced.

SPUR calls the OBMP “a comprehensive vision to address sea level rise, protect infrastructure, restore coastal ecosystems and improve public access.” It also includes proposals to remove other sections of the Great Highway that are threatened by severe erosion, in what’s called ”managed retreat.”

One of SPUR’s highest priorities is converting the Great Highway south of Sloat to a trail. Images: SPUR

Ben Grant, SPUR’s project manager for the OBMP, said one of the plan’s most pressing priorities is closing a short, severely eroded section of the highway south of Sloat Boulevard, and replacing it with a walking and biking trail. Car traffic would be re-routed onto Sloat and Skyline Boulevards, which still would see less traffic than they’re built for.

But the “most controversial” piece of the OBMP plan, said Grant, was the proposal to remove two of the four lanes on the main stretch of the Great Highway, as well as adding parking spaces along that stretch to replace those that would be removed south of Sloat. SPUR doesn’t want opposition to those elements to distract from the more urgently needed road closure south of Sloat.

“We’ve gotten quite a few strong negative reactions to this,” Grant said at a recent SPUR forum. “We’re not going to be pushing for it at this time, because we have much more core, transformative projects to consider.”

Nothing in the OBMP is an official city proposal yet, but SPUR’s ideas are being seriously considered by public agencies that will conduct environmental impact reports for them.

“It’s an interesting thing to think about,” said Grant. “What if we take our one major stretch of oceanfront road and think of it not as a thoroughfare for moving through — [but] think of it instead as a way of accessing and experiencing the coast, as a coastal access or park road?”

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Eyes on the Street: Buffered Bike Lanes for Students on Ortega in the Sunset

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This school year, Ortega Street offers parents a safer street to walk and bike their kids on in the Outer Sunset, as seen here at 40th Ave. Photo: SFBC

The SFMTA has installed new bike lanes and traffic calming measures on Ortega Street in the Outer Sunset, bringing a safer commute for parents and students in time for the start of the school year. Ortega runs along Sunset Elementary School and AP Giannini Middle School, which occupy the four blocks between 37th and 41st Avenues.

The improvements, funded in part by a Safe Routes to School grant, include a bike lane with a buffer zone in the uphill direction on the stretch along the school, and a conventional bike lane in the downhill direction. Ortega also has new pedestrian islands, speed humps, continental crosswalks, daylighting, and sidewalk bulb-outs to calm car traffic and make it safer to cross the street. They were previously expected to be installed by the end of 2012, with the bike lanes in by summer of last year, and it’s unclear why the project was delayed.

The safety upgrades were championed by Nik Kaestner, the director of sustainability for the SF Unified School District, who bikes his kids to school on “a heavy Dutch cruiser,” he told the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Asked about the benefits of these projects, Kaestner pointed out that “walking school buses and bike trains also build community and allow students to arrive at school ready to learn… Ensuring that students have a variety of ways of getting to school means that students from disadvantaged areas have the means to get to the school of their choice.”

See more photos after the jump.

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Outer Sunset Kids Urge Drivers to Slow Down Through DA-Funded Program

Kids are out on outer Noriega Street this month urging drivers to “Keep Sunset Slow.” Photo: SNBC

“Keep Sunset Slow” — that’s the message from kids in the Outer Sunset urging drivers to slow down and save lives this month.

Elementary school students held their first event last week, part of a pedestrian safety campaign coordinated by the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center and the Outer Noriega Merchants Association. Though it’s a quiet beachside neighborhood, the Outer Sunset’s streets are notorious for their wide expanses of asphalt that encourage drivers to speed.

“Many of the youth and families in our community have to walk while commuting and it is essential that people feel safe getting around the Sunset,” said Matt Pemberton, director of SNBC, which is a member of the merchants association. The “Keep Sunset Slow” campaign, he said, is intended to “empower [youth] to be their own advocates and encourage community members to take more care while driving by following the speed limit, stopping at stop signs, and yielding to pedestrians when they are behind the wheel in the Sunset.”

“It’s wonderful to see that the merchants have taken upon their own initiative to really try to slow down the traffic in the area,” said District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang. “The area by Outer Noriega has really changed a lot over the past few years. There are now some really great businesses in the area, and it’s brought a whole lot more foot traffic.”

“That’s wonderful,” she said. “Now we need to make sure that drivers are aware and used to that, and that they really exercise caution when using the road.”

The program, planned to run through July, was funded by $3,000 from District Attorney George Gascón’s office, which issued grants from its Neighborhood Justice Fund to 11 community groups last month. The revenue comes from restitution funds collected from Neighborhood Court directives, according to the DA’s office.

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Eyes on the Street: Parked Car Sets House on Fire

Sometimes, internal combustion can become spontaneous combustion.

An SFFD fire truck arrives to put out a house fire started by a parked car. Photo: Aaron Bialick

On the night of May 17, the front of my neighbor’s house in the Inner Sunset caught on fire. Another neighbor said that the fire started in the engine of the car parked in their driveway. No one was hurt, and SFFD responded swiftly and effectively to put the fire out — Station 22 is just one block away, at 16th Avenue and Irving Street. I caught the scene in the video below.

The residents will incur an immense cost in both time and money to rebuild their home, and only because one car engine momentarily failed to control one in the endless series of pressurized explosions that it typically manages to deal with. The off chance of a runaway blaze now becomes yet another in the long list of hazards and nuisances that can result from nearby parked cars.

Given the ongoing debate with SFFD over street width, it was also interesting to watch firefighters in action on a typical Inner Sunset avenue. I’d estimate that the street has about 25 feet of clear space between the parked cars, plus some wiggle room in front of driveways and in unoccupied parking spots. In this case, the firefighters and their trucks appeared to have plenty of room to work with, though they didn’t have to stabilize their truck to set up a ladder and reach above the three-story house.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that it’s illegal to store a car in a ”setback” like that, even though the SFMTA does not enforce that code.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

See the video after the jump.

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Pedestrian Seriously Injured by N-Judah Train at Judah and 16th Ave

The crash scene on Judah, looking west from 15th Avenue. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Updated 8:07 p.m. The SFPD issued this statement:

An outbound N Judah LRV (Light Rail Vehicle) heading W/B on Judah was crossing 15th St. For unknown reason a pedestrian seen standing on the inbound or eastbound Judah line platform walked out and contacted the rear of the 2nd car and then fell to the ground. The pedestrian suffered a head laceration and trauma and is now at SFGH currently in the operating room and should be in ICU later to night. He is listed with life threatening injuries. The pedestrian is a 29 year old male.

A pedestrian suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit by a westbound N-Judah train at Judah Street and 16th Avenue in the Inner Sunset at about 2:12 p.m., according to the SFPD. Police at the scene said they had no information available about the victim, or how the crash occurred.

The N-Judah is currently shut down, and Muni is running shuttle bus service instead.

At the scene, police were investigating the crash, with the train stopped on the uphill crest approaching the N’s 16th Avenue stop, where visibility can be hindered by the sudden change in grade. N-Judah operators often run the three-block stretch between the Funston and 16th Avenue stops at higher than normal speeds, picking up momentum to help the train climb the crest. There are no stop signs or traffic signals on that stretch of Judah, and the train was stopped between the crosswalks at 15th and 16th Avenues.

SFPD said the victim was taken to SF General Hospital.

The train was stopped short of the 16th Avenue stop and crosswalk. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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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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