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Eyes on the Street: To Transform an Intersection, Just Add Color

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Preliminary concepts for Bartlett and 22nd proposed last year. Image: SF Planning

At the most recent Sunday Streets in the Mission, Walk SF demonstrated how a little chalk can give a sense of place to an intersection. Just holding back the cars allows the community to add its own flair through color, transforming an asphalt expanse into a calmer, more people-oriented space.

“It helps to calm traffic. It signals to drivers that there’s a community here, to expect kids, to expect families, and to slow down,” executive director Nicole Schneider said on a car-free Valencia Street at 22nd Street. ”It helps to bring the community together around a sense of place.”

Schneider’s chalk demo was just a short block away from the intersection of 22nd and Bartlett Street, where SF’s first permanently-painted intersection is set to arrive sometime next year, as part of a pedestrian-friendly revamp of Bartlett. Community-designed, painted intersections have been installed in recent years in cities like Portland and Seattle, Schneider noted.

People at the event asked Schneider whether cars can still drive over the murals — the answer is yes. So the murals shouldn’t result in a political furor, unlike many other suggestions to re-purpose any space that’s used to move and store cars. Painting the streets to create a safer and more convivial place seems like a low-cost no-brainer.

“I have gotten so much positive feedback,” said Schneider. “It’s just fun.”

A painted intersection in Portland. Photo: Jonathan Maus/Bike Portland

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Neighbors Celebrate the New “McCoppin Hub,” Dog and Skate Park

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The McCoppin Hub, along Valencia near Market Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Neighbors near McCoppin Street recently celebrated the completion of the McCoppin Hub, a plaza created from a street stub that sits against the Central Freeway ramp towards Market Street. The plaza, a nearby dog run, and skate park have been in the works for years as a package of newly depaved public spaces planned after the freeway’s partial reconstruction.

“We couldn’t be happier,” said Lynn Valente, a neighborhood activist, at the plaza last month. “This was a true grassroots effort. The neighbors worked on this for ten years with the city to have some amenities in our neighborhood, for pedestrians and traffic and bicycles… It would kind of mitigate the effect of the Central Freeway ramp which goes over the neighborhood.”

“I couldn’t be prouder, because it was a lot of people really sticking to it and making sure we got these amenities,” she added.

Waiting for the spaces has certainly required patience among neighbors. When we wrote about the neighborhood in July 2011, the projects were already considered a long overdue follow-up to the freeway’s completion in 2005. At that time, construction on the McCoppin Hub was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012.

Other improvements in what’s officially called the SoMa West Improvement Projects included traffic-calming revamps of side streets like Elgin Park and Stevenson Street, as well as greenery, bike lanes, and raised crosswalks along McCoppin Street.

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Why 24th St Merchants Ditched Sunday Streets: High Fees, Too Many Events

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Sunday Streets on 24th Street in 2011. Photo: geekstinkbreath/Flickr

People enjoying Sunday Streets in the Mission last weekend may have wondered why the route no longer ran on 24th Street, the most crowded street of any that see the event. Instead, the car-free Valencia Street route was complemented by an east-west leg on residential 18th Street, which saw sparse use compared to 24th.

Despite the boon to business Sunday Streets brings, it was 24th Street merchants who asked Sunday Streets to be taken off of their corridor.

Erick Arguello, president of the Calle 24 Merchants and Neighborhood Association, said merchants no longer wanted to pay high permitting fees to serve food outside, and that residents felt there are just too many events held on 24th.

“Twenty-Fourth Street has the highest concentration of events of any corridor in the city,” said Arguello. “There were some complaints from residents, and it was tougher for their customers to get there, [because] Sunday’s usually [the merchants'] busiest day. But mainly it was the cost.”

As we’ve written, organizers of Sunday Streets and other car-free neighborhood street events get slammed with questionably high fees from a slew of city agencies, including the SFPD, SF Fire Department, and the Departments of Public Health and Public Works.

“Although the route along 24th Street was incredibly popular, group members requested the event continue through the Mission on other streets in 2014,” said Beth Byrne, co-director of Sunday Streets for Livable City. “The challenges working with so many events that take place in the neighborhood throughout the year were overwhelming, and they decided to focus on other events and initiatives along the corridor.”

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Appeals Board Reverses Vote to Downsize Parking-Free 1050 Valencia

The San Francsco Board of Appeals voted yesterday to reverse its decision to downsize the long-embattled condo project at 1050 Valencia Street in the Mission. The project includes no car parking and one bike parking space for each unit.

Image: Architect Stephen Antonaros via Mission Local

The vote restores the full 12 units approved by the Planning Department and Board of Supervisors. The Appeals Board had voted in December to chop off one of the building’s five floors, removing three units, two of which would be subsidized affordable housing. The downsizing was intended to appease vociferous neighbors opposed to the perceived increase in noise, shadows, and competition for curbside parking spaces, since new residents wouldn’t have off-street parking. (Studies show that residents who move into a home without a dedicated parking space are less likely to own and drive cars.)

Housing development advocates successfully challenged the Board of Appeals vote on the grounds that it violated the California Housing Accountability Act. The Housing Action Coalition explains in a press release:

Under the California “Housing Accountability Act,” for a local agency to condition approval of a housing project on reducing its density to less than that allowed by law, the agency must make findings that the project would have a “specific adverse impact on public health and safety” unless the density is reduced.

HAC Executive Director Tim Colen argued to the Board of Appeals that, in fact, restricting the amount of desperately-needed housing in transit-oriented projects like 1050 Valencia is what’s harmful to public health and the economy. “Among the consequences are discrimination against low-income and minority households, lack of housing to support employment growth, imbalance in jobs and housing, reduced mobility, urban sprawl, excessive commuting, and air quality deterioration,” he said.

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DPW Tallies the Vote Before Committing to More Ped Space on Potrero

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A DPW rendering of option 1 for Potrero between 22nd and 24th Streets, which has been selected after receiving the highest number of votes from the public.

The Department of Public Works has selected a design option for the two most heavily-contested blocks of Potrero Avenue following a vote by attendees of two public meetings. Of the three choices presented for the section between 22nd and 24th Streets in front of SF General Hospital, the most popular was Option 1, which will allocate street space to wider sidewalks and a center median with plantings — not a bike lane buffer or car parking, as in the two other options, according to DPW.

By November, DPW had settled on the plan for the rest of Potrero, between 17th and 25th Streets, which will include a planted center median (south of 20th Street), pedestrian bulb-outs, and green-painted buffered bike lanes. It also calls for moving the existing red-painted transit lane from the northbound side to southbound side and extending it a few blocks. No other section will get a full sidewalk widening other than the one side of the two blocks that the public voted on.

Although DPW originally proposed widening four blocks of Potrero’s eastern sidewalk, planners downsized that part of the proposal after some people agitated to retain parking and traffic lanes for cars. However, according to DPW, in the vote on options for the two blocks between 22nd and 24th, only 25 percent of attendees voted for option 3 — the one that prioritized car parking.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider said the organization “is thrilled that DPW did not choose option 3, a plan to maintain sub-par sidewalks in front of a hospital.” The improvements in option 1 “can cut the number drivers that hit pedestrians in half,” she said.

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SFMTA Abandons Parking Meter Plans in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill

The SFMTA has given up on its neighborhood-scale plans to install parking meters in the Dogpatch and Portrero Hill, while parking meter approvals in the northeast Mission move forward at a snail’s pace. After two years of tangling with the city, the defenders of dysfunctional free parking have effectively caused a huge setback for progressive transportation policy – meaning more traffic and slower transit in the future. Hooray for San Francisco.

Potrero Hill and Dogpatch will continue to be saddled with car traffic circling for free parking spots for an indefinite period of time. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Potrero Hill and Dogpatch will continue to be saddled with car traffic circling for free parking spots for an indefinite period of time. Photo: Aaron Bialick

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told the Potrero View this month, “Any parking changes in the [Portero and Dogpatch] area are likely to be ‘small in scope and iterative, with the goal of addressing parking on the busiest of commercial blocks, where customers are currently having a challenging time finding parking spaces. A comprehensive approach is not likely.’”

Rose told Streetsblog that down the road, the SFMTA will try to incorporate comprehensive parking management into longer-term area plans such as its Waterfront Transportation Assessment, a guide for development and transportation planning in areas near Dogpatch and Potrero Hill. “We are taking a step back to better work with the residents and merchants in the area to implement necessary changes,” he said. “While every block will not be considered at once, we do want to implement more efficient strategies that address parking on the busiest of the commercial blocks where customers are currently having a challenging time finding spaces. We received significant feedback requesting that any parking discussions occur in the context of other major transportation and development projects in or near the area.”

As for the parking-crunched northeast Mission, the first of the three neighborhoods where the SFMTA initiated its drawn-out parking outreach, only a small fraction of the planned meters are moving through the approval process — nearly half a year behind the schedule presented at a public meeting in March [PDF]. The initial meters were delayed even further by meter opponents who protested the wrong hearing ordinance.

The baby-steps approach “should help create pockets of availability in some otherwise parked-out areas of the neighborhood, making it easier for visitors, customers, employees, and residents to find spaces,” the SFMTA said in its latest email update on the plan. “Although this approach is a significant reduction in scope from previous parking proposals, it will still help open up some key spaces around the neighborhood. The changes outlined in this approach will give the SFMTA and neighbors the opportunity to see how a few blocks of parking meters and extended [residential parking permit] work and evaluate their effectiveness over time.”

Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, said the SFMTA shouldn’t have abandoned the neighborhood-scale planning approach in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, as it “makes a lot of sense.”

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Artist Kurt Dalen, 30, Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver on Valencia Near Duboce

Kurt Dalen, a 30-year-old Mission District artist, was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Valencia Street south of Duboce Avenue at about 2:45 a.m. last Thursday.

Kurt Dalen. Screenshot from a 2009 video about his work on Vimeo.

The SF Chronicle, describing Dalen as “a painter whose work has been heavily influenced by the Mission’s street culture,” reported Friday:

He was struck near Clinton Park, an alleyway, by a dark, four-door sedan that fled the scene, police said.

He was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he later died of his injuries.

Investigators have been looking for leads, but the driver and his whereabouts remained unknown Friday, said Officer Gordon Shyy, a police spokesman. Police have not detailed exactly how Dalen was hit.

According to SFist, a friend of Dalen’s said he had “left a nearby bar and was trying to hail a cab when he was hit in the street.”

Dalen is the 14th pedestrian known to have been killed by a driver in San Francisco this year. Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider pointed out that Dalen is one of six people hit and severely injured or killed by a driver in the past two weeks.

“Unfortunately, the holidays will mark a time of mourning, rather than celebration, for too many families this year,” Schneider said. The city shouldn’t wait to build out the permanent safety infrastructure called for in the SFMTA’s Pedestrian Strategy before taking action, she added. Walk SF is “calling on the city to step up efforts to protect people who walk by building more temporary projects on our most dangerous streets that prevent traffic crimes now.” Last month, the SFMTA installed the city’s first sidewalk extensions using paint and other temporary materials on Sixth Street.

Dalen went by the name ‘Vote’ in street art circles, according to SFist, and his moniker can be seen on memorials placed on Valencia. The Chronicle continues:

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Potrero Ave. Safety Redesign Limps Toward the Finish Line

A DPW rendering of option 1 for Potrero between 22nd and 24th Streets, which appeared to be most favored by attendees.

Updated 11/14, 2:34 p.m. with response from Supervisor David Campos below.

Design options for the embattled plan to improve safety Potrero Avenue have come down to the two blocks between 22nd and 24th Streets in front of SF General Hospital.

According to a vote via stickers placed on a board, most attendees at a public meeting last week seemed to favor Option 1, with a landscaped median and widened sidewalk — not the preservation of car parking that project opponents want.

Option 1 would retain the most important expansion of pedestrian space, but it’s still half the size of the four-block sidewalk expansion the city originally sought before the parking-obsessed opponents exerted their will. The rest of the project area, which covers Potrero between 17th and 25th Streets, is now set to receive a landscaped median and buffered bike lanes, a longer transit lane than the one that exists (moved from the northbound side to southbound), and no sidewalk expansions, instead retaining parking and traffic lanes for cars.

“I know people that work here that have been injured just coming to work, and I’m concerned that we need to do more to protect people,” said Sasha Cuttler, a nurse at SF General who has helped organize support among hospital workers for bolder safety improvements on Potrero. “As someone concerned with public health, I’m concerned about the fact that there’s a disproportionate impact on San Francisco, and specifically on the poor, densely-populated parts like the Mission.”

For the blocks between 22nd and 24th, city planners have left it up to the public to vote for one of three choices: Options 1, 2, and 3. Options 1 and 2 would both include a wider east sidewalk, with a fraction of the road space allocated to either a planted center median (Option 1) or a two-foot buffer for the bike lanes (Option 2). Option 3 would forego sidewalk widening to preserve 26 car parking spaces and include a bike lane buffer, but no planted median. Another meeting on the project will be held on November 21 where the public can weigh in.

City planners have solidified the plan for the rest of Potrero between 17th and 25th. It calls for the landscaped center median, two-foot bike lane buffers, and a colored transit-only lane southbound from 18th to 24th Streets. Aside from some expansions at street corners and bus stops, sidewalk widenings on those blocks are now off the table to preserve car parking. Originally, Potrero’s eastern sidewalk was in line for a four-block widening instead of two blocks.

“We were willing to make the trade-offs because we still got widening in strategic locations where we needed it the most,” said Cristina Calderón Olea, project manager for the Department of Public Works. “This bus stop is always overflowing,” she said, pointing to an illustration of the plan for a bus bulb on the west side of Potrero at 24th, which would only require the removal of one parking space.

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Tonight: Balance Out Pro-Parking Extremism and Support a Safer Potrero

Tonight’s open house meeting at SF General Hospital is your chance to show support for wider sidewalks and safer walking on Potrero Avenue. City planners, swayed by parking-obsessed extremists who are fighting wider sidewalks and disseminating misinformation about the project, will present new, heavily-watered down options that cut out sidewalk expansions to preserve car storage.

DPW's rendering of one design option for Potrero Avenue.

Whereas the original proposals for Potrero would have removed 100 parking spaces for safety upgrades, the Department of Public Works will only present two options tonight: Option A and Option C, which would remove 58 and 28 spaces, respectively.

Option A would only widen the eastern sidewalk to 14 feet between 22nd and 24th Streets (downsized from the originally proposed four-block expansion). Option C would widen no sidewalks at all, but include some corner bulb-outs. The proposals also fail to include protected bike lanes or add a transit-only lane.

Nonetheless, foes of safety improvements that encroach on parking are rallying opposition by telling residents that the plans would “make Potrero a high-speed transit link.”

The open house will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the SF General Hospital cafeteria, located on the second floor, at 1001 Potrero.

You can also sign an online petition in support of wider sidewalks on Potrero.

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Supes Narrowly Reject EIR Appeal Against Car-Free Condos at 1050 Valencia

The proposed parking-free, 12-unit condo and retail development at 1050 Valencia Street narrowly cleared a hurdle Tuesday after a 6-5 vote by the Board of Supervisors, which rejected an appeal that contended the project should be required to have a full environmental impact report.

A rendering of the 1050 Valencia project. Image: Stephen Antonaros via Curbed

The project, approved by the Planning Commission more than a year ago, has faced continued opposition for several years, organized by the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association and the neighboring Marsh Theater. LHNA contends that new residents will own cars despite the lack of dedicated parking — even though a growing body of research shows otherwise – and take up street parking spots. Meanwhile, the Marsh’s protests focus on potential noise and shadows.

The latest appeal protests the Planning Department’s determination that the project does not require a full EIR under the California Environmental Quality Act because it complies with the zoning of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, for which an area-wide EIR was already done. Five supervisors voted to uphold the appeal — David Campos, John Avalos, Malia Cohen, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim. It next goes to the Board of Appeals.

Stephen Williams and other LHNA reps argued that the project’s location on Valencia at Hill Street, between 21st and 22nd Streets, was not a “transit-rich” area where residents would be able to live without cars, though studies show that residents who move into units without dedicated parking are less likely to own cars, and about half of residential parking garages in the Mission aren’t used for car storage.

“What does ‘transit-rich’ mean? No one knows,” Williams said in response to Supervisor Scott Wiener, who pointed out that the location is within one block of Mission Street, which has some of the most frequent Muni service in the city, and less than half a mile from BART’s 16th and 24th Street stations. Valencia is also one of the most heavily-traveled streets for bicycle commuting, and the building will have indoor parking for 28 bikes.

“I don’t think anybody should consider that transit-rich,” Williams said.

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