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Posts from the Tenderloin Category


As Tenderloin Crosswalks Get Safer, KPIX Weeps for Lost Parking Spots

At Jones and Ellis Streets today, drivers yield to pedestrians at a corner clear of parked cars. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA recently implemented a simple measure to improve visibility at crosswalks in the Tenderloin, a neighborhood with very high concentrations of both pedestrian injuries and children.

Corners at 80 intersections got the “daylighting” treatment, which improves visibility by clearing parked cars that obscure sightlines between drivers and people in crosswalks. It’s one of the latest efforts in the city’s Vision Zero campaign, which is targeting the 12 percent of city streets that account for 70 percent of severe and fatal traffic injuries.

To hear KPIX reporter Ken Bastida tell it, these measures to reduce traffic violence are just an annoyance for people who need to find a curbside parking spot right now

Ken Bastida solved the mystery of the "vanishing meters." Image: KPIX

Ken Bastida solved the mystery of the “vanishing meters.” Image: KPIX

“Think it’s getting harder to park in San Francisco? Well, it is,” Bastida said by way of introduction alongside the text, “Vanishing meters.”

Here’s how Bastida explained daylighting (a “fancy word”) in his best muckraker voice: “The curb gets painted red, the meter disappears, and we’re left with what the city calls ‘a safer intersection.'” Truly a devious plan by the city.

Bastida didn’t cite any safety statistics or interview anyone on camera who uses the crosswalks, but he did find a driver to complain about how hard it is to find a parking space. With testimony from that one guy in the bag, Bastida then declared, “Frustrated drivers say they’re all for safety, but they’re quick to point out, visibility is a two-way street.” Apparently, we’ve all got to wear more DayGlo.

What Bastida didn’t mention is that drivers’ failure to yield in a crosswalk is among the top five causes of pedestrian injuries citywide (the other four are also driver violations). That’s according to the SFPD data behind the department’s “Focus on the Five” campaign.

Tenderloin Station is actually the worst SFPD outpost in the city when it comes to focusing enforcement on those five violations. In September, the most recent month for which citation data is available, officers didn’t issue any tickets to drivers violating pedestrians’ right-of-way. However, they did manage to issue 245 tickets — 43 percent of their total — to pedestrians.

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Woman Killed at City Hall’s Doorstep, Right After Ped Safety Ceremony

Priscila “Precy” Moreto, a 67-year-old employee in the City Controller’s Office, was run over and killed by a tour trolley driver within a wide, clearly-marked mid-block crosswalk on Polk Street, leading to the steps of City Hall, at about 11:30 a.m. yesterday.

About 20 minutes earlier and just across the Civic Center Plaza, at McAllister and Larkin Streets, city officials had just wrapped up a groundbreaking ceremony for pedestrian safety upgrades along two blocks of McAllister. In attendance were D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, and SF County Transportation Authority Director Tilly Chang.

None of those who attended the event, myself included, were apparently aware of the death until they heard reports about it later in the day.

“Yesterday morning, the pedestrian safety crisis hit home at City Hall’s doorstep,” Kim said in a statement today, noting that “the central crosswalk in front of City Hall yields heavy pedestrian traffic as constituents, workers and tourists alike travel to and from this historic building.” Supervisors themselves can often be found using the crosswalk.

Moreto was run over by the driver of a tour vehicle designed to look like a cable car on rubber tires, operated by Classic Cable Car Charters, which issued a statement saying “our thoughts and prayers are with the pedestrian and her family.”

Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement saying that “Precy was a dedicated employee who served our city and residents with great distinction.”

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This Weekend: Sunday Streets Returns to the Tenderloin and Civic Center

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Jones Street. Photo: Sirgious/Flickr

It’s been a while, but the Tenderloin and Civic Center will be graced once again with Sunday Streets this weekend. Get out and enjoy this rare opportunity to play on the normally speed-dominated streets of one of the city’s densest neighborhoods.


Taxi Driver Reza Eslaminia Wanted for Vehicular Manslaughter

SF District Attorney George Gascón put out a call today for the arrest of Ezra Eslaminia, the taxi driver who killed 39-year-old Edmund Capalla last August when he caused a car crash at Eddy and Larkin Streets.

Eslaminia's mugshot from the DA's Office.

According to the DA’s office, Eslaminia was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter on March 29, but police have been unable to locate him.

“This case illustrates the dangers in our streets when drivers don’t obey the rules of the road,” Gascón said in a statement. “We are working with SFPD to bring this defendant to justice and we need the public’s help tracking this person down.”

From the DA’s news release:

On August 11, 2012 at around 6:52pm, Eslaminia, a taxi driver for Luxor Cab, was driving on Eddy Street approaching the Larkin Street intersection. He drove through the intersection on a red light speeding at around 35 miles per hour.  As he drove through the intersection, he drove around a bus coming down Larkin Street when his cab was struck by another vehicle on the passenger side in the rear quarter panel. The impact caused his cab to spin out of control clockwise through the intersection and striking a pedestrian in the crosswalk who was walking northbound on Larkin Street.

Eslaminia is being charged with one count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.  The District Attorney’s Office approached this as a felony case and reviewed evidence that included a video, diagrams, witness statements and a subsequent accident reconstructionist report. After a thorough review and evaluation of the case, prosecutors found there was insufficient evidence to meet the burden of proof necessary to show a pattern of gross negligence, which would warrant a felony.

As the Bay Citizen reported in August, Capalla was the father of three young children, and was celebrating his youngest daughter’s birthday on the day he was killed:

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Delayed Again, “Better Market Street” Could Move Bikeway to Mission Street

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Better Market Street project managers announced today that construction will be pushed back another two years to 2017, and one of the three options to be studied will include protected bike lanes on Mission Street instead of Market Street. Images: Better Market Street

The latest news from the Better Market Street project could be a setback for implementing a safe, accessible bike network in San Francisco — not just because construction has been pushed back to 2017, four years past the original date — but because one of the three proposals that planners will study involves building a protected bike lane route on Mission Street instead of Market, while re-routing Muni’s 14-Mission bus line on to Market in the downtown stretch.

The SF Chronicle reported on the proposal today, saying that protected bike lanes on parallel Mission would be easier to engineer and “far safer” for bicycle riders compared to Market. Routing the 14-Mission onto downtown Market, meanwhile, would allow more room for buses than the 9-foot-wide bus lanes on Mission, where Muni drivers today must often occupy two traffic lanes to squeeze through.

But by abandoning Market as a priority bike route, the Mission Street option would go against a primary principle of bike planning: Improving the most direct routes, which people are naturally drawn to use. Market Street, the city’s wide, main thoroughfare, serves as the most convenient and direct east-west bicycling route from downtown to the Wiggle. And with bicycles comprising a significant share of the vehicles on Market, it’s been claimed as the busiest bicycling street west of the Mississippi.

“Bikes are a critical part of the current and future economy, social safety and transportation on Market Street,” said Kit Hodge, deputy director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “The companies that are now moving to mid-Market depend on great bicycling access. It would be odd for the city to roll back its own mid-Market revitalization efforts back by limiting biking.”

As Department of Public Works spokesperson Mindy Linetzky told the Chronicle, “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink and improve San Francisco’s premier street. Market Street is San Francisco’s main street. It should look and work like one.”

So will the vision for San Francisco’s “premier” street include bicycles?

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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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SFMTA Sets Out to Create a Safer, More Convivial Polk Street

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Polk at Geary, where a parklet is hosted by Jebena Cafe. Photo: Scott Sanchez, SFPlanning/Flickr

An effort to revamp conditions on Polk Street for walking, socializing, bicycling, and transit is underway by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, and residents say they’re eager to see calmer motor traffic, wider sidewalks, better bike lanes and more public space along the corridor.

At a well-attended SFMTA community meeting on Wednesday, planners said construction on the redesign of Polk, between McAllister (at City Hall) and Union Streets, could start by early 2015, though a pilot project could also be implemented to test ideas on the ground by the time America’s Cup races return next July. That project will be developed in future community meetings, but it could result in anything from temporarily widened sidewalks, to restrictions on car traffic, to protected bike lanes. Roughly $8 million in Prop B street improvement bonds are already devoted to the pilot, in addition to street repaving funds.

D3 Supervisor David Chiu, who has lived near Polk for 16 years, walks and bikes the street regularly. “It’s an experience that can absolutely be improved,” he said. “This corridor has enormous potential to be a 21st-century model of transit-first living. Whether it be ideas around pedestrian safety, around bike lanes, parklets, or bulb-outs, in ways that allow all for all the modes of transit to be used and builds community, the conversation is very exciting.”

Polk was one of the corridors where Dutch bicycle planners joined the SFMTA on a ride one year ago to re-imagine it as a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly street using methods practiced in the Netherlands, which is known for its exceptionally safe street designs. The recommendations that resulted included expanding pedestrianized areas and providing continuous, parking-protected bike lanes — an idea also called for in the SF Bicycle Coalition‘s Connecting the City campaign as a safe, relatively flat connection linking Market Street to Fort Mason and Fisherman’s Wharf.

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Taxi Driver Who Killed Man in Tenderloin Yet to Be Cited or Charged

Photos: Sally Khim

Police are still looking into whether charges could be filed against the taxi driver who allegedly ran a red light at Eddy and Larkin Streets Saturday, causing a car crash that killed pedestrian Edmund Capalla, the SF Examiner reports. The driver has reportedly yet to be arrested or cited.

“We have to see if he was negligent,” SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told the Examiner. “He may have had a medical emergency, I don’t know.” Esparza called the crash a “heartbreaking accident,” adding that it “could have been prevented if laws had been obeyed.”

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe said “the police should be telling us what actually happened, not speculating on excuses for the driver.”

“We know there was a medical emergency: Edmund Capalla was hit and killed while walking,” she said. “We expect solid information from the police about how this occurred. Walk SF and its members want to see swift action on this case from the police and, if appropriate, from the District Attorney’s office.”

Christina Siadat and Sally Khim were at a store on Larkin when they heard the crash. “We ran outside and saw the red car on the pole,” Siadat told Streetsblog. “We walked around the corner and there was the man lying face down with shattered glass.”

Siadat said a clerk at a corner store confirmed reports that the taxi driver ran a red light when the driver of the red car, who had a green light, hit the taxi, causing it to slam into Capalla, who was crossing the street. “The clerk said that the cab driver was sitting on the curb with his head in his hands,” she said.

The crash occurred just before 7 p.m., during daylight hours. Capalla, who died at San Francisco General Hospital, was the eleventh known pedestrian killed in the city this year.

The driver of the red car, who reportedly entered the intersection with a green light, hit the taxi before running into a pole. Siadat said she and Khim didn't notice the taxi at the time.


Man Killed By Alleged Red Light-Running Taxi Driver at Eddy and Larkin

Eddy and Larkin during the two-way traffic conversion in April. Photo: geekstinkbreath/Flickr

Updated 6:57 p.m.

A man was killed on Saturday evening by a taxi driver who allegedly ran a red light at Eddy and Larkin Streets, the Bay City News reported as published by SF Appeal this morning. He is the eleventh known pedestrian killed this year in San Francisco.

According to the SF Chronicle, Edmund Capalla, 38, was crossing the street just before 7 p.m. when the driver ran a red light, was struck by another driver entering the intersection, and slammed into him. Cappalla was taken to San Francisco General Hospital where he died of his injuries. “Police are continuing their investigation and will pass the results on to the District Attorney’s office which will decide what charges, if any, will be filed against the cab driver,” according to the Chronicle.

Despite that stretch of Eddy being converted to a two-way street in April, which helped calm motor traffic, the Tenderloin continues to see some of the highest rates of pedestrian injuries in the city.

“If you look at the maps that we have of where the most injuries occur to people walking, the Tenderloin is a real hot spot,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. “We need to see a renewed conviction from the city to making improvements that save lives.”

In February, a driver was caught on video running over a man in a crosswalk at Eddy and Leavenworth Streets, two blocks away. The driver was only cited after a show of outrage from pedestrian advocates, and will apparently not face charges since the victim didn’t die.

Assuming the preliminary reports regarding this latest crash are correct, more traffic calming measures and traffic enforcement are clearly needed to curb the amount of dangerous speeding and other violations committed by drivers in the neighborhood.

As information becomes available, we’ll follow up with more details on the crash and any charges that may stem from it.


Eyes on the Street: SFMTA Restores Two-Way Traffic on Ellis

The SFMTA last week restored two-way traffic on four blocks of Ellis Street, from Polk to Jones Streets. It’s the final phase of a project that also converted two blocks of the adjacent Eddy Street last month, bringing humane traffic speeds to what used to be highway-like, one-way arterial streets.

In front of the Tenderloin National Forest at Ellis and Leavenworth. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

Check out more of Frank Chan’s always-stellar shots after the break and on his Flickr account.

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