Eyes On The Street: Potrero Median Fence Is Partially Built

Potrero_Fence_1.jpgPhotos by Matthew Roth

A five-foot tall median fence that some advocates fear will actually make the area more dangerous for pedestrians is now being installed on Potrero Avenue between 25th Street and Cesar Chavez. As my colleague Matthew Roth has reported, DPW and MTA are erecting the fence to to prevent people from making "illegal and unsafe crossings" in the middle of the block between Rolph Playground and Potrero del Sol
Park. Some neighbors and advocates pointed out the city reopened the park, which has become wildly popular, without any consideration for pedestrians who want to cross back and forth. The fence idea was initiated after the Mayor noticed people were crossing in the middle of the block.

After protests from advocates about the lack of a community process (the fence was planned to go up without any public input or outreach), a meeting was held March 25th. At that time, the Planning Department presented a conceptual design for a permanent mid-block ped-activated signal, crosswalk, and pedestrian refuge, which garnered strong support from advocates. The signal and crosswalk would cost between $150,000 to $300,000.

For now, the fence will be completed and remain up until the agencies can agree on a long-term solution, backed with funding. In an email, Fran Taylor of CC Puede said she still very concerned:

I think it
will encourage people to cross at the most dangerous point, at the southern end
of the fence close to the offramp onto Potrero, where cars will be traveling
fastest and have the least time to see someone and slow down. I also think
agile young people can jump it, but while they’re stuck on the median,
now they’ll have only half the space on either side of the fence that
they did before The meeting did produce some near-consensus
that a broader solution involving traffic calming should follow what everyone
seemed to recognize was a stopgap measure.

She added, "I hope no one gets hurt because of this
fence, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone does."

Potrero_Fence_2.jpgThe unfinished portion. DPW says it’s awaiting 13 fence panels to complete the project.

  • Why not some traffic calming measures? Speed bumps, flashing light, a mid-block crosswalk?

  • And let’s not pretend the existing crosswalk at Potrero and C Chav is even remotely safe:


    The East leg of the three-leg crossing is a barely marked crosswalk across a blind corner of the off-ramp, where cars are still going 50 MPH or so. How is it even remotely acceptable to have children cross there?

  • The nasty Cesar Chavez crossing came up at the March 25 meeting. Neighbors asked what discussion had taken place with the mayor’s office about this dangerous crossing. We were greeted with a blank look and told that no such discussion at all had taken place. This lack of concern for genuine pedestrian safety and access shows that what the mayor really cares about is not inconveniencing drivers getting on and off the freeway with pesky jaywalkers crossing at a natural spot.

  • John Nuno

    Wait. So what’s wrong this fence? I’m confused. I think this will stop 95% of the young kids and teenagers here from crossing into speeding traffic. I take my son here a lot and I’ve seen a few close ones already.

  • SimonSays

    @John Nuno don’t you know that pedestrians (and cyclists) do nothing in this city? Cars are to blame for everything, mmmkay?

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    The problem, John Nuno, is it’s a ridiculous instance of urban design. They build two parks across the street from each other, but you can’t walk between them because of the freeway ramp that runs down the middle. When faced with the induced demand for pedestrian crossing, they should accommodate it with a crosswalk, not block it with a fence.

  • Gillian Gillett

    But a crosswalk where? I take my kids to Rolph Playground and alternate between watching the jaywalkers and watching my kids. People jaywalk to avoid the Chavez/Potrero (non) crosswalk as they are trying to reach Bayshore and points east, to get from park to park, and to avoid the (non) southern crosswalk at 25th & Potrero where drivers are looking north at oncoming traffic (not at crossing pedestrians).

    I think Jeffrey is right in calling out that this is less than optimal urban planning. To design two youth-oriented recreational open spaces across freeway ramps from one another and only then “treating” the pedestrian environment is a wake-up call.

  • Pat

    $300,000? I bet I could set up a better crossing then they are planning with a couple dudes at around midnight costing probably $100. Widen the curbs just before the crossing to slow traffic, raise the crossing area by around 5 inches and put blinking lights on the ground… Done!

  • John

    From the responses here, I think understand where the anger is coming from, but I think I understand the fence too. There is the poor urban planning for sure and the two parks were not built at the same time. Rolph Park has been there for as long as I can remember and Potrero Del Sol formerly known as La Raza Park was built in the early 80s. It wasn’t a skate park and had no playground that I can remember and it rather quickly devolved into a filthy camp for the homeless and drug addicts and peddlers. So back then, making cross walks and such wasn’t on anyone’s mind. Now though, you’ve got kids on skateboards, many freshly baked on weed -neither of those factors being a good combination with an existing freeway exit and onramp. @Pat $300,000 is not nearly enough to do all things that you suggest. Plannings, hearings, materials, labor, environmental. It all adds up rather quickly. And it takes what is most vital in this situation- time. Planning and building the perfect solution takes a lot time and money. Maybe I’m naive but I think the fence there now, in the meantime, will prevent kids from getting killed. As a parent myself, that’s what important to me. What really frightens me is seeing many immigrant families crossing the street with their baby strollers and small children. So yeah, the fence is ugly and won’t stop everyone but I think it is the best solution for now.


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