Boat Owners Gripe as Car-Free Marina Path Moves Forward

Attendees at a community meeting last night in the Marina. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A community meeting held yesterday about plans to remove car parking from a stretch of the Marina pedestrian and bike path was attended by just a couple dozen people, most of whom appeared to be boat owners protesting the move. The Recreation and Parks Department does appear to be moving forward with the plan, despite complaints from some well-connected Marina boaters who have delayed the project for months.

Photo: Matt Dove

Several harbor tenants repeated mostly baseless arguments heard at previous meetings, defending the 51 often-empty parking spots by instead complaining about the behavior of people who bike on the path.

This stretch of path along Marina Boulevard, between Scott and Baker Streets, sits alongside four wide traffic lanes. It’s the only segment of the 500-mile Bay Trail that has car access on it. Only two percent of people using the path park cars on it — the rest walk or bike. Most of those biking appear to be pedaling leisurely on rental bikes, and many of them are children.

But that doesn’t jibe with the narrative of menacing road-hogs told by those like Paul Manning, a harbor tenant.

“I think it’s important that, when bicyclists ask for sharing the road, that it be a combination and not an exclusive use of the road,” Manning told Streetsblog. “In this project in particular, they want to obliterate all the cars and have exclusive use for pedestrians and cyclists, which seems unreasonable.”

“That’s their modus operandi,” said Allen Cavey, in response to Manning. “They want everybody off, but they can’t get the pedestrians off because they’re on the sidewalk.”

Cavey, who identified as a harbor tenant since 1963, said he’s long fought efforts to take cars off the Marina path, which “really started” in 1996. Cavey was unabashed in his contempt for the SF Bicycle Coalition and in his celebration of keeping cars on the path.

“As a member of the Harbor Tenants Association, I had to rattle down the testy, belligerent, arrogant Bicyclist [sic] Coalition. We won, we prevailed. And we’re still parking on the esplanade. And we’re going through the same thing again.”

The SFBC “has been advocating to move the parking to a convenient location for visitors and boat owners, creating a beautiful bicycle and pedestrian path for residents and visitors to enjoy,” the organization says on its website.

“The only way to properly meet the Bay Trail standards and provide that experience is by creating a car-free path,” the SFBC’s Janice Li wrote in a support letter [PDF].

Matt Dove of the Presidio Community YMCA’s YBike program, who leads groups of kids on bike rides on the Marina path, says the existence of cars only adds hazards. The section with cars is the only area where kids are at serious risk of a lethal collision with a multi-ton motor vehicle.

“If I were to think about sending my child on a bike ride on a mostly car-free bike path, the fact that there’s that one spot in the middle — that’s the thing I’m thinking of the most,” said Dove. “Being on a multi-use path is already chaotic. It makes it a less inviting space to enjoy.”

There are no known incidences of serious collisions between people walking, biking, or driving on the Marina path. But Newton Kindland, a harbor tenant since 2001, asserted that, “As a point of fact, if you check with the San Francisco Police, there have been 17 documented incidents of cyclists careening with either cars or pedestrians on that stretch of road.”

“Zero number of cars impacting either cyclists or pedestrians,” said Kindland. “Clearly, cars aren’t the problem. It’s uncontrolled cyclists that are the problem.”

We’ll follow up with SFPD to see if there’s any such data to back up that claim, but I’ve never heard it elsewhere. A 2013 SF Chronicle article described the path as a “free-for-all,” based on testimony from two neighbors, but mentioned no such data on crashes or “careens,” as Kindland called them.

As the article noted, the Department of Public Works proposed striping separate lanes for walking and biking after a recent re-paving, but “community input” caused planners to leave the pavement un-striped except for the parking spaces and “shared” driving lane.

Even though the pathway parking spaces sit adjacent to just 91 of the 350-odd total slips in the Marina basin, and parking space occupancy ranges between 40 and 68 percent, boat owners insist that the spots are not only essential but that their $10,000 boat slip rentals entitle them to parking at their doorsteps.

“To even limit parking there, which is part of the Marina from my perspective, is wrong,” Kindland. “We’re the ones paying for that space, we need it to service our boats, some of our members are 70, 80, 90 years old. They can’t cart equipment a quarter-mile to their vessels.”

The parking removal is set to happen in the spring.

  • OK. I call foul. You know I love Streetsblog, but this borders on demagoguery.

    There _are_ older boat owners who need access to load gear. These _are_ people who have enjoyed this parking courtesy of our bureaucracy until now. Boating in the San Francisco Bay is part of the heritage of our city.

    I ask that we stop casting this as some sort of us vs. them (rich white guys) thing, and look for constructive solutions instead of mocking people who are trying to find compromise with phrases such as “…the narrative of menacing road-hogs…” Even if they’ve got clay tongues, at the core they’re asking for some basic access that we really should find ways to grant.

    As noted before, there could easily be curb-cuts on either side of the stop signs with permitted, time-restricted parking so the needs of slip owners could be met.

    And no, I don’t boat. I don’t know anyone who does. I just know when advocacy crosses the line into unfriendly territory.

  • SF Biciclista

    I agree with Upright Biker. I’ve commuted by bike along this stretch for years and have never had a problem with cars parking, parked, or leaving these parking spots. The marina should have some form of parking wherein marina tenants can bring materials to their boats from nearby parking spots. I’m not wealthy, do not boat, am a dedicated SF cyclist who commutes everyday, and I believe a feasible balance can be struck wherein the marina preserves much of their parking so long as a young child can safely navigate this stretch by foot or bicycle. If the marina members cannot accede to this low bar, then they should lose their parking privileges and they can walk from wherever they find parking in the Marina district. Good luck with that.

  • murphstahoe

    ”They want everybody off, but they can’t get the pedestrians off because they’re on the sidewalk.”

    So the thing that they are trying to get the cars off is the sidewalk? If they succeed that will be a first in SF.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    Despite going through past this marina semi-regularly, I have never had any issues with the parked cars. As far as pressing issues around the city go, this one is way way way down the list for me. I’m going to sit this one out.

  • sebra leaves

    And you wonder why people hate bikes? Really?
    Now you have sailors who ride bikes hating the SF Bike Coalition. Way to go. You have made more enemies. Make sure you piss everyone off.
    Going out on the water for a few hours is like camping for the weekend. You never know what you might need so you take a lot of gear, food and water. Some of it is heavy and some of it smells. Working on boats involves hauling heavy tools, equipment and supplies. The slips in the marina do not come cheap. There is a contract and it may include a parking space. I am pretty sure the slip fees just went up cause they did everywhere else.

  • Gilla

    I disagree with most of the comments. For me it’s not an issue of safety, but frankly one of aesthetics. I walk and occasionally bike this route for recreation and when I look towards the water my view is blocked by unsightly cars. At the very least, pedestrians and bicyclists should have first right to the view, not inanimate objects. Sadly, San Francisco does not protect views.

  • murphstahoe

    So The All Powerful Bike Lobby has made 11 more enemies. But has made 1000’s of new friends with a safer pathway.

    I don’t think you are very aware of how things work.

  • murphstahoe

    I don’t have a problem with the cars per se – but the joggers and cyclists and etc…

    But if the cars are gone and there is more space for the joggers and the cyclists and etc….

  • Casey

    Thanks Aaron for the update on this great project. Hope it proceeds, as it would complement the Blue Greenway and Embarcadero Enhancement Project’s efforts to improve the Bay Trail within SF.

    Just a word of caution though: this is hardly the “only segment of the 500-mile Bay Trail that has car access on it,” and in fact there’s not even 500 miles of Bay Trail completed yet to my knowledge, so I’d ditch that speaking point ASAP. There are plenty of shared conditions unfortunately (and I’m looking at you, Peninsula).

  • emceeski

    I’ll say it every time this issue comes up: I have a boat in the SF marina. Usually I bike to my boat, but sometimes I need to haul things like hatches, sails, huge coils of rope, etc which I need parking for loading and unloading.

    It’s ridiculous that the two options are either a huge parking lane or no parking at all. Rip up the tracks, put some parallel parking along marina blvd, and use the space gained by removing the car lane on the sidewalk to make an even nicer bike and pedestrian path.

    Also, I agree with other commentators that this isn’t us vs them; especially when I have interests on both sides of the issue.

  • PropMgr

    The Bicycle Coalition has made tens of thousands of enemies in the past 5-10 years. And many people don’t know how things work, that being; buying off supervisors with campaign contributions to force your own one-sided agenda down the throat of the public as a whole. That’s how it’s been working for the Bicycle Coalition.

  • PropMgr

    As long as your needs get met, I guess that’s all that’s important, right?

  • p_chazz

    So, you would inconvenience boat owners by forcing them to haul heavy coils of rope, hatches and sails long distances just so you don’t have to look at their cars. How selfish of you.

  • Bruce

    Why can’t they add a few parking spots on the north side of the Marina Boulevard roadway itself, to offset the ones on the path?

  • Why can’t they just do the right thing once and for all: a separated parking lane, a separated biking lane, and a dedicated walking path? This ongoing deal with merged biking and walking paths is just dumb. Anyone that’s walked down from the Fort Mason Meadows to the Marina Green could attest to what a great CF that is for pedestrians having to dodge cyclists and practically needing radar to avoid collisions. Granted, most of those cyclists are tourists but I’ve yet to see a native cyclist with a bell. The volume of cyclists is only going to increase.

    Green painted faux bike lines and often ignored painted separation stripes are not the answer. They’re an insult to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike. The lines are more often ignored than not. And how safe is it when bikes zip past you at 15mph with just a painted line as a barrier?

    Everyone has the right to travel along this route in safety. There is so much space down there and yet a single lane of parking for one of the neighborhood’s oldest tenants has to be removed. Because why? Because someone thought it would be a particularly bright idea to place car parking on what is essentially a pedestrian and cyclist path. How much further away could you possibly get from the idea of separating these three types of traffic?

    Here’s an idea: make Marina Blvd. one way, remove two lanes and put the car parking on the street, insert a dedicated AND separated bike lane, and you are still left with a very wide walking path just for pedestrians. Heck, you could probably even make that bike lane a two-way installation. Sure, it’s a bit of a compromise for drivers but wouldn’t it be worth it? Wouldn’t residents of the Marina prefer less automobile traffic?

  • The vast majority of slips don’t have parking spots right next to them. Should we apply this standard of proximity to all of those spots? These 91 slips aren’t set aside for those with the least ability to carry equipment; these parking spaces are arbitrarily placed on the path while the rest of the tenants use the hundreds of other spots in the two huge parking lots.

    Saying that “boating in the Bay is part of the heritage of our city” is not the same as saying, “these parking spots next to these boats are part of the heritage of our city.”

    What it comes down to is this: What is the city’s greater obligation for use of this public space? Is it to provide direct car access to a small subset of boat owners for a recreational activity that’s inaccessible to the vast majority of residents and visitors? Or is it to provide the most safe and attractive place possible for the public to use this valuable waterfront land?

    The tone of my article you point to is aimed at the anything-but-constructive statements about people on bicycles, which have little to do with the plight of elderly boat owners who would end up in the same position of most of the rest of the tenants.

  • NoeValleyJim

    75% of San Franciscans like bicycling and think that is it good for San Francisco. How does it feel to be part of an extremist bike-hating minority?

  • The SFBC is not a lobbyist group with bags of cash for buying off politicians. It does, however, have more members than any other bike advocacy organization on the planet, which suggests something along the lines of public support.

    What is the source for your “tens of thousands” figure?

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