Melissa Kitson, 44, Killed in Two-Car Crash in SoMa

Seventh and Howard Streets. Image: Google Maps

Last Friday, two drivers ran over and killed 44-year-old Melissa Kitson of San Lorenzo at 7th and Howard Streets, the second pedestrian fatality in San Francisco this year.

Melissa Kitson. Photo via LinkedIn

According to press accounts, the crash occurred at about 5:45 p.m. Police say the investigation is ongoing, and there are few details available on how it occurred. Both drivers reportedly stayed on the scene, and we’re waiting to hear back from the SFPD about whether either of them will be cited or charged.

As the Chronicle reported, Kitson worked for RedBricks Media, located on Folsom Street just east of 7th, and may have been on her way home when she was hit and killed instantly. Elliot Easterling, the ad firm’s CEO, told the Chronicle, “She was a very sweet and superb person. She was a good worker.”

“Two people have already been killed while walking this year in San Francisco,” said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF. “When she was hit by two cars and killed, Melissa Kitson was likely walking home from work. That shouldn’t be a life-threatening activity, especially in San Francisco.”

The wide, one-way streets in the South of Market district continue to function as speedways for drivers, and the rate of  pedestrian injuries and deaths in the area will remain disproportionately high until Mayor Ed Lee and SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin make traffic calming measures there a priority. “We need leadership and commitment from the city to fix dangerous streets and prevent more bewildering tragedies,” said Stampe.

  • mikesonn

    2-way SoMa ASAP.

    Can we start a campaign?

    Let’s toss in 20 is plenty as well.

  • Anonymous

    Such a tragedy, I hope this can help make SoMa safer for walking and biking and would like to find out more details about the crash and how something like this could happen. Killing people shouldn’t be an “accident.” 
    The worst part about suggesting making SoMa/Market streets safer is commenters at sfgate, etc. like to point out that there are drunk and/or homeless people in the area and therefore no changes should be made or any problem is their fault. The blatant classism/racism is bad enough, but here we see that a blasé attitude towards having such dangerous streets hurts everyone, including sober commuters. It also shows that addressing the built environment south of market is also going to mean confronting critics that constantly evoke racism and classism to defend the status quo.

  • Anonymous

    Anything would likely be an improvement in SoMa, but I’m still not fully convinced that 2-way is a real solution (left turning drivers are scary!) and and I think one way (ideally narrow) streets make some out of towners more reluctant to drive in SF, but I also get the one way arterials lead people to speed as well…

  • Anonymous

    I imagine interest in this story is pretty high, and it’s good to cover it so that authorities realize the public is becoming more and more concerned about pedestrian/cyclist injuries and fatalities.  But I would plead with everyone to wait for the investigation’s results before any of us suggests changes.  When we understand the causes, we can advocate for the targeted changes (speed, turning, blind corners, width of street, etc.), if any, that would have prevented this incident.

  • Anonymous

    Knowing what happened is important, but this isn’t the first time that someone’s been killed in SoMa. I live in SoMa and work downtown so I’m pedestrian and cyclist there all the time and in general it’s miserable. Even the alleys in SoMa are used for speeding and there are barely any crosswalks connecting alleys so you’re forced to walk on the arterials. Whether or not changes could have specifically prevented Melissa’s death, changes need to happen, and her death shows us how much is at stake if we leave the status quo. 

    I remember when Sena was killed at Folsom and 13th late last year, SFMTA had just put in a pedestrian counter signal which made it safer to cross for bikes and pedestrians, but that didn’t stop the truck driver from failing to yield to the pedestrian in the cross walk and striking and killing him. That doesn’t mean the signal was insignificant or that more needs to be done to make people safer.

  • Anonymous

     coolbaby, I agree that walking the South of Market neighborhood is mostly a miserable experience and downright dangerous for the elderly, children, and the disabled.  (The woman killed was under four feet tall, btw.)  Just walked yesterday on an errand from Union Square to the foot of Portrero Hill.  I was able to use alleys with sidewalks and less busy streets with sidewalks much of the way.  But the alleys were often choked with trash, and they would be dark and dangerous at night, forcing people to walk the more trafficked main streets.  So I agree that the whole area needs to be re-worked for pleasant and safe walking and biking.  But I also know we want to advocate for the most important safety features first.  Knowing how the most recent fatal collision occurred would help safety advocates to push for the things with the most impact.

  • Jmjenn

    I knew Melissa, my husband worked with her and we were friends outside of work, something must change now! I live in the city and am raising a skateboarding teen here 15 1/2 to be exact and I am pulling my hair out with stress and anxiety over this mess. Words cannot express how sad this is, she was a really cool person and I cared for her………………sickened!!!!!!!!!

  • Jmjenn

    I am going to try to honor your memory Melissa by not forgetting how sweet and funny you were! I hope you are some place better!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    It took me a while, but I’ve finally learned to ignore sfgate comments. Most commenters live outside the city and want SF to be their little (car-centric) playground/workplace and could care less about actually making it livable. There are rarely any comments of value there just the sad display of what happens to the garbage people say when they are anonymous.

  • Cityzen

    I drive professionally in the City and there are too many aggressive drivers for sure. But that combined with the complete disregard for adherence to obeying walk and don’t walk signals I see so many pedestrians engage in creates a near chaotic atmosphere. Jaywalking is dangerous enough but with a iPad or cell phone?? Pedestrians must take better care of themselves!!

  • Howard and Folsom should both be two-way streets.  There is absolutely no reason for either of them to be a one-way arterial speedway – Harrison and Bryant already serve that purpose, and given the geometry of the freeway interchanges this is unlikely to ever change.

    7th Street can also easily be made two-way south of Mission Street, if not all the way to Market (it’s already two-way between Market and McAllister, but southbound traffic must turn right at Market).  The same goes for 8th Street, but northbound traffic on 8th would have to turn right at Market, unless Hyde were also converted to two-way traffic.  The freeway ramp intersections at 7th and 8th would have to be reconfigured slightly, but this shouldn’t be a problem.

    This would leave only 3rd/4th, 9th/10th, and Harrison/Bryant as the only one-way arterials in SOMA.  Give the drivers their space, and let all the rest of SOMA be much more inviting for peds and cyclists.

  • mikesonn

    Slow the drivers down first. And “jay-walking” didn’t exist until the auto lobby created it.

  • Anonymous

    driving is dangerous enough, but with an iPad or cell phone!? 

  • Anonymous

    this does sound like a much nicer SoMa, but what about the two schools at 4th and harrison and 7th and harrison? Those students not only breath the exhaust from the highway, they have dangerous streets to get to and from school (and a lot of the students walk, I see them in my neighborhood). Wider sidewalks and a 2-way protected bike lane on Harrison would do a lot for safety and people powered movement.That’s my dream for SoMa at least.

  • Anonymous

    I agree about sfgate, but I often find discussion of safety quickly turn into vilifying pedestrians no matter where the discussion is taking place. Whether it’s for jaywalking, being poor, being inebriated, using a smartphone, etc. and so through anecdotal observations, people behaving badly is seen as the problem, not the built environment. 

  • Seedsinthecity

    Melissa was 4’7″, Voltairesmistress. That is over four feet.

  • Anonymous

    @587c5acaec5acb9bdff5f19981eafb08:disqus You do realize though, that if you were driving through a narrow, medieval European street, you would feel very different, right? Why? Because the infrastructure in that case is designed around people not around cars and motorists would be moving slowly and constantly aware that the streets are really for pedestrians (and cyclists) and so would be on the lookout. When you design around cars, it is completely hostile to pedestrians. Sure, pedestrians should pay attention, but they shouldn’t have to DIE because they didn’t! Do you at least see that that is, at the essence, the problem? There is absolutely no reason 4,000 lb cars traveling 40 mph should be anywhere near people, and there certainly shouldn’t be 4-5 lanes of such traffic (like in SOMA) that a pedestrian has to cross in any city.

  • Anonymous

     seedsinthecity, I read an SFgate comment from a friend of Melissa’s who said she was just under 4 feet tall. To me, that suggested how wrong the streets may be configured, if a shorter person or a child cannot cross the street and be easily seen by drivers. If I or they are wrong about Melissa’s actual height, I ‘m sorry, but that’s where I got that information.  Her friends and family also wrote that she hated the term “little person” and preferred to call herself “fun size” — a wry, self-deprecating comment that seems to reflect her humor, love of life, and courage.  Indeed, I wish we did not have to lose people in order to hear their amazing and inspirational stories.

  • Justin

    @coolbabybookworm:disqus , there may actually be crosswalks at the “alleys” by law — pretty much every intersection has “crosswalks” even though they may not be painted: In SF, an alley can be any street less than 25 feet wide (not sure of the width of those streets):

    This may be splitting hairs, but there are countless intersections in SF where the City chooses not to paint the crosswalks, to the detriment of pedestrians. Of course, drivers will not stop for you at these unmarked crosswalks, and you are likely to get harassed or run over if you try to use them. My point is that this is yet another way SF favors cars over people, despite being a Transit-First City on paper. My numerous requests to have SFMTA paint crosswalks at particular intersections have been either ignored or denied, telling me to go to the nearest stoplight to cross instead. 

  • Gary Keim

    In the rest of the country, pedestrian crossing are car-free when the pedestrian has the light. Not here. Pedestrians get to hope some driver waits for them to cross before turning. Nobody has a problem with that?

  • guest

    I was deeply saddened to learn of Melissa’s death. She was a vivacious and energetic woman.To have her life cut short in this manner is unaceptable. Her absence will be greatly felt by all who knew her.

    Mayor Lee you need to make your city safe for all pedestrians. NOW!

  • Courtney

    And 3 months later the drivers of BOTH cars have been charged with anything! Who is the victim my sister in law Melissa Kitson or the drivers! Also no toxicology test done on either drivers! Never been given any respect from investigators. I’m fighting for you missy since SFPD aren’t!

  • ktasker

    Courtney, I knew your sister personally from working with her at MRM. She was such a pleasure to be around and always made me smile. So intelligent, so much fun and so inspiring. My heart goes out to you all as I just discovered this news recently.

  • mikesonn

    So no charges here?

  • SOMA is a scary place to be on foot or bike. Vehicle? No problem. You can kill someone & drive away.

  • Is this true? Neither driver has been charged? No toxicology tests? Outrageous! We must get on SFPD and city officials.


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