Second Sleeping Man Killed by a Driver at the Same Driveway

For the second time in two years, a homeless man was run over and killed by a driver exiting the same garage exit on Third near Bryant Street in SoMa.

Drivers have struck and killed two people lying on the sidewalk in front of this garage in the last two years. Photo: Google Maps

The SF Chronicle reports:

Randy Jacobs, 53, fell asleep Friday night in the driveway of a private apartment garage at Third and South Park streets, in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, before a vehicle leaving the complex ran him over about 6:40 p.m. Jacobs was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said the driver of the SUV was not negligent, so charges are not likely to be filed in the case.

“When the vehicle was exiting the garage, he was unable to see the guy sleeping there,” said San Francisco police Officer Grace Gatpandan. “The car was exiting and just ran over the victim.”

The driver, a 55-year-old man, failed to see the victim in front of his car and killed him “accidentally” as far as the SPFD is concerned. Not “carelessly” or “negligently.”

A similar scenario played out in November 2012, when a 28-year-old woman was absolved of any responsibility when she drove forward and ran over 55-year-old Elvis Presley. The report on Friday’s incident didn’t say whether the driver was also pulling forward.

Let’s remember that this driveway is also a sidewalk. Falling asleep there isn’t a smart move, but that’s beside the point. It’s the person driving across the sidewalk who needs to exercise caution and make sure that the path is clear. But it seems clear that running over a person lying on a sidewalk is “not negligent” in San Francisco, where the rule is cars over people.

  • gneiss

    This is sick. Any other civilized culture would have figured out a engineered solution to prevent this from happening after the first person died here. I don’t see why the property owners aren’t being sued by the city to come up with a way to prevent this from happening. Maybe if they had a gate at the entrance before the alcove this wouldn’t happen? At the very least, they should be required to post a sign that says, “If you sleep here, you will be killed by our tenants”.

  • theqin

    Is the SFPD investigating the entrance? Is an exit alarm correctly installed, or maybe the lighting is sub par? It seems like if it happens once it could be coincidence, but if it happens twice there must be something wrong that can be corrected.

  • p_chazz

    Encountering sleepers in one’s driveway is not a reasonable expectation, consequently, no fault rests on the driver. Yes, a driveway is also a sidewalk, but sidewalks are for walking not sleeping. Let’s hope the homeless get the message and find someplace other than a driveway to bed down for the night.

  • p_chazz

    It is the job of building inspectors, not the SFPD to inspect entrances; and in any event, alarms are to alert pedestrians of exiting vehicles. There is not a light bright enough nor an alarm loud enough to waken someone who has passed out.

  • gneiss

    “Lets hope the homeless get the message”… Yes, how exactly is that supposed to happen? If you haven’t noticed, people who are homeless aren’t exactly rooted to their neighborhood, nor are many of them exactly totally mentally competent. A better solution would be to come up with a way to prevent this from happening in the first place.

    You don’t have any sympathy that another human being was killed here? Really, you are worse than Marie Antoinette.

  • More proof that a driver’s license is a license to kill.

  • emceeski

    This article and the commentators are too harsh on drivers. Yes, there’s a ton of problems with cars in an urban environment, but this isn’t one of them.

    Driveways literally serve one purpose–cars move in and out of them.

    These drivers bear no more responsibility to check for somebody sleeping across a driveway as a train conductor would have for somebody sleeping on the tracks at the exit to a tunnel, or a ferry captain for somebody sleepy in a dingy tied up to the ferry pilings in the dark, or a Safeway truck driver backing into somebody sleeping under the loading dock, or a pilot crushing somebody stowed away in the landing gear…

    Yes it is tragic, and yes it is a symptom of SF’s widespread chronic homeless problem, but there are too many sane, careful people being mowed down every day for this to be an issue to latch anti-car bias on to.

  • theqin

    The light would be for the drivers to see the sleeping person.

  • gneiss

    You analogies happen to be completely ludicrous. In no way can you compare a train, ferry, or airplane to a car. And let’s remember all the ways those modes are designed to prevent people from getting killed. In the case of trains, there are deafening horns and bells and the brightest lights on the planet, not to mention in grade separation and fencing to prevent access. Likewise for ferries, you have dockhands who are posted as lookouts during docking operations. For planes, we have some of the most stringent security to prevent people from getting access to them. As for a Safeway truck, we have backup alarms and bright lights at loading docks that provide an audible warning and good visiblity, not to mention, no overhangs adjacent to the loading docks underwhich people could sleep.

    In this particular case this is the *second* time someone was killed here. I could maybe accept that one time was a tragedy, but twice in two years is a design failure. Why can’t the building owners put in a gate that prevents access to the overhang? Or maybe bright lights so people could see someone under the overhang?

  • p_chazz

    When something bad happens, it’s tempting to bang the virtual pulpit, sanctimoniously demand that “something must be done!” and start blamestorming for culprits. But if the bad thing happened due to an individual’s own actions, then it’s just so much canting rhetoric.

  • gneiss

    This is a design flaw not an “accident”. Why can’t you believe that two deaths at the same exact place in two years isn’t just a fluke, but represents a serious problem at this particular driveway. We force manufactures of faulty products to recall them even if *no one* is killed, just someone *might be killed* yet here we have two death in two years and you just go, “eh, nothing to see here”.

  • SF_Abe

    “Driveways literally serve one purpose–cars move in and out of them.”

    Driveways are part of the sidewalk, so they literally serve two purposes: cars move through them AND people move through them.

    If you can’t see that the path is clear, you shouldn’t proceed. “I didn’t see him” is not an excuse, it’s an admission of negligence.

  • murphstahoe

    No kidding. Don’t get me started on those toddlers who walk in back of their parents cars!

  • p_chazz

    Only this person wasn’t moving.

  • Steve

    Exactly. The onus is on pedestrians to never stop moving, otherwise they forfeit their preference not to be driven upon.

  • Erica_JS

    I wonder if your reaction would be different if it was a dog or cat that got run over, as opposed to a homeless person. No one “expects” an animal to be sleeping in their driveway, but if someone ran over a dog and offered the excuse that they weren’t expecting it there, the owner would rightly say it was their fault and be extremely angry with them for not looking where they were going.

    But the chronically homeless are not as cute as dogs, so we hold drivers to a lesser standard?

  • p_chazz

    The onus is on pedestrians to not curl up in a driveway for a nap.

  • p_chazz

    My reaction would be no different. It’s regrettable, but no criminal liability would go to the driver. The owner of the cat or dog would be able to file a civil lawsuit for the death of their pet, just as the relatives of the homeless person would be able to file a civil lawsuit against the driver.

  • andrelot

    It is probably difficult to see what is beneath the receded overhang, but there are simple solutions to take care of that: extremely bright lights (brighter than street), a second gate that closes the area so no one can sleep there etc.

  • KWillets

    Garage door openers have electric eyes to prevent the garage door from closing on top of someone. A simple interlock mounted in the doorway would have prevented the door from opening.

  • KWillets

    Maybe not reasonable, except the second time in two years.

  • SF Guest

    A sign warning no parking and no loitering could have prevented these tragedies.

  • p_chazz

    Somehow I doubt that a homeless person would obey a no loitering sign.

  • davistrain

    If the dog was a stray, vicious, pitbull mix, many of us would say, good riddance. And most “critters” would get up and move when the door opened.

  • davistrain

    On what grounds would the city sue the property owner? Would the doorway qualify as an “attractive nuisance”? And would “any other civilized culture” tolerate the number of winos and weirdos wandering about their town? Should we bring back the “county poor farm” where vagrants could be sheltered and fed and provided with sanitary facilities? These two cases remind me of the “residentially challenged person” who found a cozy spot to sleep on top of a BART elevator car. Everything was OK until the first passenger of the morning got off the train, walked over to the elevator and pushed the “UP” button. The sleeper learned the hard way that there’s not enough room between the top of the car and the top of the shaft, and the passenger may still have nightmares about this experience.

  • SF_Abe

    “Only this person wasn’t moving.”

    I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. The driver of the car was moving, they drove over someone.

    If you mean the homeless person wasn’t moving I don’t see how that matters– nobody should drive over blankets/debris/whatever this person appeared to be, for exactly this reason.

  • p_chazz

    You said “driveways …serve two purposes: cars move through them AND people move through them.” only this person was not moving and was located at the extreme margin of the driver’s field of vision. It’s sad but understandable that the person would be run over, since his presence would be unexpected.

  • p_chazz

    I wonder if they were trying to commit suicide. People lay down on subway tracks and wait for trains to kill themselves. Why not driveways?

    But even if they just flopped down in an alcoholic stupor without realizing they were in a driveway, it doesn’t change the fact that people must be accountable for their own actions. We are too busy blamestorming others–the drivers, the building architect, to accept the uncomfortable truth.

  • SF_Abe

    Thanks for the clarification. There’s a well-known saying that I think is particularly fitting when it comes to San Francisco, and the people who make it up:

    Expect the unexpected.

  • Gilla

    Given that this has happened twice now, as a designer I have to wonder what about the design of the driveway both encourages people to sleep there and drivers not to be able to see people. I suspect the building owner is the real guilty party.

  • SF Guest

    There’s never a guarantee for any solution involving human decisions. The CalTrans yard at Bryant/Beale has homeless sleeping there but not in front of the parking entrance with a similar sign.

    This cheap fix could go a long way, and it’s worth a try. At the very minimum it would serve to alert passersby this is a driveway. Based on google maps it may not be so obvious at night, but it is apparent it has an enclosure which could attract homeless stayovers. There are many more driveways with signs than ones without so the absence of such a sign can fool homeless into believing the area is safe to hang out.

  • I agree to a point. This particular driveway apparently needs a physical intervention to communicate to the homeless/would-be dwellers that this is no a good place to sleep. I don’t know what that might look, but perhaps this building–by virtue of its location–needs a proactive design intervention.

    In good conscious, I can’t direct guilt toward the building owner. Of all the design considerations, is this an expected interaction that architects consider? This is an unreasonable expectation for a driver [that someone is just sleeping there].

  • Anthony R

    Is there any instance in which you could envision a driver being at fault for killing a homeless person through the operation of their motor vehicle? If this does not make “the homeless get the message” how many more would you like to see die for that to happen. 3? 4? How many is too many or can you not even imagine a number too high?

  • p_chazz

    I don’t want to see anyone die. I just think that people, homeless people included, need to take a reasonable precaution to insure their safety, which includes not sleeping in driveways.

  • Folicle

    It may be a line of sight issue rather than an illumination issue. If the exit changes grade as you leave, it may be impossible to see someone or something on the ground immediately ahead.

  • Anthony R

    But you don’t think it is anyway incumbent upon drivers or owners of the building to take steps to ensure people aren’t killed in the public space of the sidewalk as they pass through it even after 2 people have been killed under identical circumstances there. Have I in any way misrepresented your view?

  • NoeValleyJim

    Wealthy car drivers are entitled to run over as many poor people as they like.

  • p_chazz

    Whether a person lays down on a railroad track, in a driveway or in the fast lane on the freeway, that person is using the space in a manner inconsistent with its intended use, consequently assuming all risk for any misfortune that might happen. The building owners and the drivers who enter and exit from the garage are not obligated to make any change in their behavior as a result of the inconsistent use of the driveway. Any act that they choose to make to safeguard the well being of the homeless is a charitable act that goes above and beyond what is required of them.

  • Kevin Smith

    Note to p-chaz… everyone dies

  • Kevin Smith

    Do all freeways have similar signs?

  • I happened to walk by last Wednesday, and saw that they have now put down a surface dappled with protruding stones (see pic). Seems like it’ll “help” with discouraging people to sleep here, but obviously it won’t do anything for the people who’ve already lost their lives, or help fix the bigger issues with homelessness.

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