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Apathetic Audi Blocks Safety

S.F. Audi continues to illegally park cars in the red zone–blocking sightlines at the intersection of 14th and S. Van Ness–with total impunity. Image: Google Earth

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Safe street activists are pushing to get the Audi dealership at 14th and South Van Ness to stop its illegal parking practices. The car sellers, say advocates, are creating a safety hazard by habitually leaving vehicles in red zones, which blocks sightlines at the intersection.

"My neighbors and I have witnessed regular crashes and close calls at this intersection, but Audi refuses to stop using public space illegally to lower risk of injury or death," wrote Taylor Ahlgren, a safe-streets advocate, in an email to Streetsblog.

Readers may recall Ahlgren has good reason to fear for the safety of people near the mess of dangerous streets at the Mission/SoMa boundary. Last September, he tried to help Russel Franklin, a cyclist who was struck by a driver at a crosswalk in front of the BMW dealership. Franklin would later die of his injuries. That crash was caused, in part, by a truck blocking sightlines. Day-lighting crosswalks and intersections, by banning parking near the corners, is a proven way to reduce deadly collisions.

That's why the streets approaching the intersection of 14th and South Van Ness have no-parking zones, which the Audi dealership continues to ignore. Earlier this month Ahlgren confronted Robert Topalyan, sales manager for the dealership, and posted video about the interaction on twitter:

In the video, Ahlgren points out that blocked sightlines from illegally parked cars get people killed. "If it [a death] happens here we'll revisit," was Topalyan's answer.

Audi also uses spots reserved for disabled motorists with apparent impunity.


Ahlgren has written a letter to Supervisor Ronen and Supervisor Haney, whose districts border near here.

He also emailed Streetsblog with this update today:

I talked to the Director of Sales, David Kalustov, on Sunday evening. I shared with David about my experience witnessing a fatal crash at Howard and S Van Ness, and David shared with me about his friend who was paralyzed getting hit in a zebra crossing when he was 9 years old--his friend ended up committing suicide two years ago. I proceeded to share that they way Audi uses the public right of way illegally puts children, seniors, and people with disabilities most at risk. He said they would continue using the red-zone daylighting, but put hazard lights on, stopping for only 5-10 minutes at a time, "not parking there." David started arguing that the City just recently made this zone red and before there was a metered parking spot. I explained that the idea was to make the intersection safer, and that the standard for crosswalk daylighting is 30 feet before the intersection... He just shrugged and said they are doing their best.

Even under pressure from advocates, Audi continues to park cars illegally. Photo: Parker Day
Taken today. Audi continues to park illegally in the 30-foot daylight zone. Photo: Parker Day
Even under pressure from advocates, Audi continues to park cars illegally. Photo: Parker Day

Streetsblog has an inquiry in to SFMTA to find out if any action, citations, or street changes are planned.

Meanwhile, since safety isn't enough to change behavior, Ahlgren wants to hit them in their wallets, hoping that a demonstration can rain down some bad publicity. "Hold the date of 24 August at 11 a.m. (busiest time of the week for Audi) for an action in front of Audi with my neighbors at the center, supported by all relevant groups."

In addition, maybe, with enough pressure, SFMTA will install bollards or other safety improvements before someone dies. But Streetsblog fears this may follow the same pattern as other street improvements: there will be another death, followed by a vigil on the steps of City Hall, recriminations, more calls for action, and then, finally, only when it's too late, a city crew will install some bollards.

Again, the action is planned for August 24, 11 a.m., at 14th and South Van Ness.

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