When Streets Are Torn Up, SF Agencies Are Failing to Build Them Back Safer

Even after this corner at 19th and Dolores Streets was torn up, a five-year-old plan for sidewalk extensions was not implemented. Photo: Tom Radulovich

Opportunities to expand sidewalks and make streets safer go to waste too often when the pavement is torn up in SF. A year ago, the city announced efforts to improve coordination between agencies so that when a street undergoes repairs, safety measures are added, saving time and money in addition to saving lives.

But agencies still haven’t got the hang of it. Even longstanding safety proposals for at least two streets in the Mission have sat on the shelf while sidewalks are torn out.

Livable City Director Tom Radulovich pointed out an especially egregious case this week at 19th and Dolores Streets, a major entrance point to Dolores Park, where plans for sidewalk extensions to make it safer to cross the intersection were adopted in the Planning Department’s 2010 Mission Streetscape Plan. The sidewalk on the southeast corner was recently re-done for the conversion of a church into an elementary school, but the refurbished corner doesn’t have the curb extensions called for in city plans.

Radulovich brought up the wasted opportunity in an email to several city department heads:

I noticed that the curbs, gutters, and sidewalk had been completely removed.

Mostly I knew better, but some part of me hoped that my City might have seized the opportunity reconstruct an important street corner to the Better Streets standards and in so doing implement one of its own plans, and that we might see a long planned and hoped-for pedestrian safety improvement at this heavily-traveled intersection. Alas no; this morning, a new curb had been laid in the exact same location as the old one, without the bulbouts or any other improvements called for in the Mission Streetscape Plan.

This is all incredibly disappointing.

Radulovich referred to the citywide Better Streets Plan, also adopted in 2010, which calls for sidewalk bulb-outs to be standard at most intersections whenever the opportunity arises to install them.

The plan for bulb-outs at 19th and Dolores in the 2010 Mission Streetscape Plan.

The 19th and Dolores case is far from the largest such missed opportunity. One block away, “deadly and high-speed Guerrero Street was resurfaced and its street corners removed and rebuilt, but no bulb-outs or other pedestrian safety or traffic calming improvements were installed,” Radulovich wrote.

The Department of Public Works is currently undertaking a massive street re-paving effort, thanks to the 2011 Prop B bond measure, but few of those streets have curb extensions when they’re completed.

As far back as 2005, the city adopted the Complete Streets Ordinance, which mandated the coordination of safety improvements with other street work. In recent years, Supervisor Scott Wiener has pushed the SFMTA, DPW, and the SF Public Ulitiies Commission — the primary agencies responsible for implementing sidewalk extensions — to do a better job of adhering to such mandates. But progress thus far has mostly amounted to lip service.

There have been some cases of better coordination for larger projects initiated by the SFPUC, on routes like the Wiggle, where streetscape redesigns have been rolled into plans to overhaul utilities.

A 2010 City Controller’s Audit [PDF] specifically recommended that city agencies “consolidate meaningful streetscape planning and delivery resources to guide private developers and community partners.” That may help ensure that projects like the church conversion come with planned sidewalk upgrades.

Neither DPW Director Mohammed Nuru, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, nor other city officials who received Radulovich’s email have responded to it.

“If it was never the city’s intention to implement the Mission Streetscape Plan,” Radulovich wrote, “then it’s just another cruelly broken promise to this community by the city. If it is the City’s intention to implement this plan, then this is a huge missed opportunity, and a vast waste of money, time, and the earth’s resources.”

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

DPW, SFMTA Finally Streamlining Construction of Safer Intersections

|
Poor coordination between city agencies has led to many a missed opportunity to build pedestrian safety measures when crews are already digging into a street corner for maintenance purposes. With the Department of Public Works ramping up its street re-paving work thanks to the Prop B Street Improvement Bond and upgrading many corner curb ramps […]

Wiener’s Proposals to Streamline Ped Safety Upgrades Pass Supes Committee

|
A package of legislation aimed at cutting through the bureaucratic red tape that encumbers the city’s progress on life-saving pedestrian safety measures was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee yesterday. The full board is expected to approve the proposals in the coming weeks. Supervisor Scott Wiener, who proposed […]

Making 18th Street More Bike, Pedestrian and Commerce Friendly

|
Flickr photo: tacopoet99 The crowded sidewalks on 18th Street between Dolores and Guerrero in the Mission are usually packed with foodies inching their way into renowned eateries like Tartine Bakery and Cafe or Delfina Pizzeria and Restaurant. Couple that with a high volume of bikes and a scarcity of bike racks and the block screams […]

Parking-Protected Bike Lanes, Ped Safety Upgrades Coming to Division at 9th

|
Bike lanes on the block of Division Street between 9th and 10th Streets will get some much-needed protection this fall. Earlier this week the SFMTA Board of Directors approved a design that will put people on bikes between the curb and parked cars. The massive 9th and Division intersection will also get safety improvements like large painted curb […]

SFMTA Plans to Install Painted “Safety Zones” at 40 Intersections This Year

|
The SFMTA has ramped up its roll-out of painted curb extensions, which the agency calls “safety zones,” at some of the city’s most dangerous corners. Twenty-one have been installed at at least 11 intersections, and the tally should reach 40 intersections by the end of the year, said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose. Painted bulb-outs are a low-cost […]