North of Panhandle Meeting Stressed Data and Parking Parking Parking

Supervisor London Breed talking at the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. Photo: Roger Rudick
Supervisor London Breed talking at the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. Photo: Roger Rudick

Thursday night, I was exhausted from covering so many stories in this crazy city that I love. So I grabbed my laptop and headed out to my favorite Divisadero coffee shop to catch up on Facebook and maybe look at some funny cat videos.I walked in the door, ordered, and heard: “Hey Roger! So glad you could make it!”

It was Janice Li, Advocacy Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. She’d given me a tour of bike projects on Market Street and the Wiggle just the week before.

In my attempt to escape, I’d walked into the monthly meeting of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. No sooner had that registered, when I turned around and found myself face-to-face with SFPD Park Division Captain John Sanford. Janice started to introduce us. “I know who he is. Glad to meet you Captain,” I said, shaking his hand. “I’m the new editor of Streetsblog.” I wondered if he’d read my piece where I jokingly compared his bicycle crackdown logic to the Spanish Inquisition.

Sanford and Captain Greg McEachern gave presentations about policing and crime levels in the area. They both asked that residents contact them immediately about any “quality of life” problems. They also talked about crime stats. McEachern mentioned that they’d start a foot beat on Divisidaro. It seemed odd there wasn’t one already on such a busy street, but I’d already heard that SFPD is not big on getting out of their cruisers.

Cathy DeLuca, Policy and Program Manager for WalkSF, gave a great presentation about Vision Zero and their goals for making streets safer. First, she helped get the audience up to speed on the current situation.

“At least three people walking every day get hit in this city,” she said. “One-quarter of all trauma patients are pedestrians hit by cars.” She explained that by focusing on the most dangerous activities on the most dangerous streets, the police and SFMTA can start to bring those numbers down.

“The city has gathered data and crunched the numbers: six percent of city streets are responsible for 60 percent of crashes. The top five things that cause injuries and deaths are speeding, not yielding, not stopping at stop signs, not stopping at red lights, and improper turning,” she said. “They’re not accidents. They are predictable events.” Above all, she stressed the importance of using data to dictate policies for law enforcement, speed limits, and street designs.

Next, Oliver Gajda, a planner from SFMTA, presented on the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project, which is slated to start construction in a few months. The project will add a landscaped median, bus stop enhancements and raised bikeways. But instead of talking about the great things the project will bring, he focused on how the city will make up for lost street parking on Masonic.


Raised bike lanes and landscaping will eliminate street parking. Image: SFMTA
Raised bike lanes and landscaping will eliminate street parking on Masonic. Image: SFMTA

To add more parking, the city is considering blocks of nearby Turk, Central, Lyon and other streets for 90-degree, angled parking. An audience member brought up that she doesn’t like angled parking, because it’s hard to see oncoming cyclists. At that point, I chimed in. It occurred to me that if they’re re-configuring parking, why not add a cycle path between the curb and the parked cars, to created a simple protected bike lane? It would require blocks to make sure cars don’t pull up too far, but that’s cheap. Not exactly a ground breaking idea, so I thought.

Gajda was emphatic that there wasn’t room, and besides, they were building a bike lane on Masonic. I kept pointing out that building a raised bike lane on Masonic, as part of a relatively complex and expensive street improvement project, is not an argument for not building a simple parking-protected bike lane on another street. After all, the city is spending the money to reconfigure the parking regardless. Somewhere between 90 degree parking, which the city is considering, and parallel parking, there has to be an angle that will make enough room for a bike lane along the curb without blocking the car lane, even if that costs a handful of parking spots.

“You should suggest that,” said another representative from MTA.

“I just did,” I answered.

It’s unfortunate, but much of SFMTA is in a mindset that all safety improvements are necessarily complicated. They’re not. The agency also thinks safety improvements can only happen if the overall number of parking spaces is maintained. That’s an attitude that has to go. After that, Supervisor London Breed talked about the housing crisis. I was going to make a suggestion that if the city didn’t allot so much land to parking, there would be more for housing. But I decided it was time to move on to funny cat videos.

My takeaway from my first, impromptu community meeting: San Francisco is a city full of super smart, wildly dedicated, and truly awesome people. And Streetsblog, WalkSF, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and other groups for street safety have their work cut out for them.

See you tonight, Monday, Jan.25 at the Streetsblog Happy Hour at Virgil’s.

  • gneiss

    If there’s any cow more sacred than free on-street parking spaces in this city, I haven’t seen it yet. The city is deathly afraid of being sued over EIR deficiencies by community groups, and it probably ranks up there as the second biggest “quality of life” concern that oldster residents write letters and file complaints to their city politicians.

    During the last on-street parking space removal project on Oak and Fell, the city was quite successful in placating the north of panhandle neighborhoods by adding additional angled parking and helping them create additional RPP zones to make up for losses on those two streets. They are simply following from that playbook preemptively, knowing that this will forestall a last minute community group lawsuit.

  • murphstahoe

    “An audience member brought up that she doesn’t like angled parking, because it’s hard to see oncoming cyclists”

    That’s why the angled parking is supposed to be back-in angled parking, but she probably doesn’t like that because socialism

  • shanand

    I agree with your observation about SFMTA being set up for large scale, expensive projects. I think the city would be so much better served by empowering field leadership to try stuff on trial basis. We started this with parklets, and seemingly stopped this with parklets.

    Liveable streets needs cultural change to try and make the facts on the ground better and safer, and quickly and cheaply.

  • Roger R.

    Fixed. Thanks.

  • gb52

    SFMTA/DPW are willing and able to design smaller projects, but I feel the largest impediments is the fear of change from neighborhood groups and especially merchants. I hear the parking parking parking chorus everywhere, without any understanding of where people are coming from. From neighbors i’m dismayed how much they are looking for car storage in these areas. When they return they want to take up commercial space for their personal car storage.

    There used to be a time when people used their private garages for storing cars. But I understand that as rental rates have gone through the roof that we have more people living at these properties… But not every person NEEDS a car. If there’s no parking, learn to share.

    Anyway, back to the core of things… because these groups oppose change, they bully SFMTA and threaten lawsuits and all those regressive tactics that harm the process, water down projects, and overall waste taxpayer money rather than use it for productive discussions. However if SFMTA makes too bold a move, the whole house of cards may come tumbling down. SO it takes some finesse to get things done, but I think they can hold a harder stance representing those who have been pushed into the shadows for far too long.

  • sebra leaves

    The neighbors would SFMTA put the bike lane on a side street
    and left Masonic along. That would make everyone a lot happier,
    especially the poor commuters who will not know what hit them unless we
    get the news out. Go ahead and convince them it will fit and we can talk about moving it off of Masonic.

  • Bet the neighbors on Masonic St wish SFMTA would move the vehicular traffic off Masonic.

  • gneiss

    @sebraleaves:disqus there is no “side street” route that can be used to go all the way through from the panhandle to Geary. In point of fact, the route that was proposed by opponents is three blocks away to the east on Baker and does not connect you to Geary, except by going in a very roundabout way through Anza Vista.

    As for the redesign not fitting, that’s completely untrue. The only thing that “doesn’t fit” is a number of parking spaces, which, as studies have shown, are typically underutilized by the local community. And as for neighbors not supporting it, that’s also untrue. I live one block away on Central and support it.

  • p_chazz

    Since when is it bullying for a neighborhood group to express the will of the people represents? And how is it even possible for agency like SFMTA to be bullied by a neighborhood group? Stop playing the victim and realize that if you want change, you will need to build a consensus in favor of it, not ram it down the neighbors’ throats.

  • gneiss

    It’s bullying because these neighborhood groups are *not* expressing the will of the people. The SFMTA has gone through multiple workshops, outreach efforts, revisions and has developed a consensus for these changes. Most of the people who showed up at these meetings were supportive, because it would mean that the street would no longer be a raceway. Let’s remember that people have been advocating for change on this street for the last 10 years! First, they asked SFMTA to put in 25 mph speed limit signs. When that didn’t work to enhance safety, they altered the light timing, but still, drivers didn’t slow down. Not the city is finally getting serious and re-designing the street to slow down cars to make it safer and work better for all users.

    What is happening, is that a small group of opponents are using process to slow down and otherwise delay an already agreed upon project. To say that “neighbors” are the ones opposing this measure totally fails to account for all the other people in the neighborhood (the majority) who support these changes.

  • SFnative74

    The people on and around Masonic developed all the plans and eventually voted for it. Clearly not every single person voted for the same plan, but it was a pretty democratic process.

  • p_chazz

    It’s been my experience that the people who attend SFMTA workshops are SFMTA groupies who agree with the proposals, so they are preaching to the choir.

  • gneiss

    It’s been my experience that neighborhood groups are dominated by a small minority of older property owners who have vested interests in having nothing change around them.

  • dat

    SFMTA groupies? There has to be a story there in just that…

  • dat

    …and time for endless meetings and letter writing.

  • Closing the street to cars / moving the high-volume traffic was on the table?

  • p_chazz

    Typically, SFMTA sends out meetings that people cannot come to except for aforesaid groupies. Then, when people finally find out that something is actually going to happen, they turn out in droves.

  • dat

    Oh! That’s how the “sneak in” road changes and such right? Send out notices, hold meetings and the WHAMO! “I had no idea… the SNUCK it in!!!”

  • p_chazz

    The operative phrase is: “that people cannot come to”, which means that people may be aware that meetings are happening, but because they have to pick kids up at daycare or care for an elderly parent, they cannot necessarily attend. Then, right when it’s going to happen, they show up, because it’s now or never.

  • dat

    I remember the Masonic redesign. People were at the final meeting grumbling about how the city was trying to “sneak this in”. One of the civic planners went through all of the outreach that they had done but the complainer said they didn’t do anything until the very last meeting. Sheesh.

  • City Resident

    The SFMTA invites and encourages public participation in many ways, including public meetings but also online surveys. Comments from the public can be submitted by email, etc. All SFMTA proposals are announced years in advance. Few, if any, public processes are more open.


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