Mission Families Accuse Audi of Endangering Children, Elderly

Audi parks its cars illegally, abuses disability placards, and takes cars on high-speed test drives on neighborhood streets where children play

Advocate Taylor Ahlgren leading Saturday's protest against Audi of San Francisco. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Advocate Taylor Ahlgren leading Saturday's protest against Audi of San Francisco. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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.

Veronica Rodriguez, mother of two small children, lives in the Mission, around the corner from Audi of San Francisco. She’s had several close calls with people test-driving cars. “Sometimes I drive onto Natoma Street and they speed; they make me feel really unsafe,” she told Streetsblog Saturday morning during a protest at 14th and S. Van Ness, in front of the dealership.

Rodriguez was one of some 20 people who came to pressure the car seller to stop parking cars on sidewalks and in red-zones and to stop using neighborhood streets as a test-drive track. The demonstration was led by advocate Taylor Ahlgren, seen in the lead image, who also lives in the neighborhood.

It was a year ago that Ahlgren came across Russell Franklin, near the BMW dealership a couple of blocks away, just after the 65-year-old man was hit in a crosswalk by a motorist. Franklin would later die of his injuries. After that incident, SFMTA’s ‘rapid response’ teams eliminated parking spots with safe-hit posts and helped “daylight” that crosswalk, to make it safer. Ahlgren believes the streets around Audi are similarly dangerous, made worse by its illegally parked cars obstructing sightlines at the intersections. Saturday’s protesters hope their actions will convince Audi to show more concern about safety and for SFMTA to do street improvements before another tragedy.

Vanessa Gregson and Parker Day both live in the neighborhood and joined the protest
Vanessa Gregson and Parker Day both live in the neighborhood and joined the protest

As previously reported, neighbors in the area have long complained about Audi’s sales staff and their unsafe behaviors, including driving down sidewalks and going the wrong way on one-way streets. “Were lucky they haven’t hurt anyone yet,” said Beatriz Mero, who also lives in the neighborhood and was at the protest. She said she’s narrowly avoided getting hit on several occasions.

Veronica Rodriguez with one of her small children. She afraid for their safety thanks to Audi using her street as a test track
Veronica Rodriguez with one of her two small children. She’s afraid for their safety thanks to Audi using streets as a test track

The protesters chanted “What do we want: safe streets! When do we want it: now!” in English and Spanish. They held signs that said “stop speeding,” “Audi the streets are not race tracks,” and “Keep our Streets Safe for our Children.”

“We live in the neighborhood. Audi isn’t following the rules. They’re blocking intersections, abusing handicap placards,” said Vanessa Gregson, also at the protest.

“We want to talk about public safety. That’s more than talking about break-ins. It’s also about having a healthy, productive relationship with a corporate neighbor, not being held hostage by them,” said Chesa Boudin, candidate for District Attorney.

Almost to highlight the dangerous conditions, this Prius very nearly right-hooked a cyclists at the protest location
Almost to highlight the dangerous conditions, this Prius very nearly right-hooked a cyclist at the protest location. An illegally parked dealer car, just out of frame to the right and blocking sight-lines, was probably a factor

Streetsblog walked the neighborhood around the dealership and confirmed much of what the protesters were complaining about. Audi employees (and the Volvo and other dealerships on the corners, apparently all under the same ownership umbrella) were driving on sidewalks, parking on sidewalks, parking in driveways, and using disabled placards on cars with dealer plates.

This car was parked at an unpaid meter with this disabled placard and dealer plates.
This car was parked at an unpaid meter with this disabled placard and dealer plates.

During the demonstration, an SFMTA enforcement officer ticketed the car dealer for parking two vehicles on the sidewalk.

This SFMTA officer tickets Audi during the protest
This SFMTA officer tickets Audi during the protest

But apparently Audi considers this part of the cost of doing business, as Ahlgren noted on twitter shortly after the protest broke up:

Dave Marwick was one of some 50 passers-by who stopped to see what was going on. He signed a petition demanding action by the city and Audi. The father of two said he bought an Audi at the dealership some years ago, but, concerned about the environmental damage done by cars, he later sold it in favor of a cargo bike. “I’m disappointed to hear they will not make a safe environment for our neighborhood and our kids,” he said.

“We don’t want another pedestrian death,” added Gregson.

The protesters have created an online petition page, demanding that Audi stop speeding “near children, elderly, & disabled folks” on 14th Street, Minna Street, Natoma Street, and Division Streets, parking illegally in the red zones and using disabled parking placards, and driving and parking on the sidewalk, among other violations.

  • Bruce

    SFMTA needs to start towing the vehicles illegally parked on the sidewalk and in the red zone. Let’s find out if Audi will tolerate $600+ per tow as “the cost of doing business.”

  • elephants on acid

    Junkies passed out on the sidewalk are a bigger problem

  • crazyvag

    Daylighting a crosswalk is like adding a sharrow for bike safety. SFMTA needs to share the schedule for adding proper bulbouts.

  • mx

    Many years ago, I was really considering buying a car, and went to what was at the time Royal Automotive’s VW dealer on that corner. The dealership was completely devoid of people. I picked up some brochures, wandered around for 15 minutes, shouted out to see if someone was in the back, never saw a single employee. I never ended up buying a car.

    So thanks to Royal Automotive for their assistance in helping me stay car-free.

  • DrunkEngineer

    Given the amount of sales tax they pay the city, Audi probably has special immunity. If a Mom-n-Pop business engaged in this behavior, Code Enforcement would revoke their business permit.

  • crazyvag

    You’re right. Dealerships pay a huge amount of sales tax to the city, so cities will take their side. More of a reason for SFMTA to make changes to intersections vs just writing tickets.

  • tiabgood

    I have never had a junkie come at me with a 2 ton weapon.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

An SFMTA worker installing safe-hit posts at Baker and Fell late this morning. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless otherwise noted.

Eyes on the Street: Action at Baker and Fell

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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. An SFMTA crew installed official safe hit posts today to make the intersection at Baker and Fell safer. The posts compliment painted bulbouts that […]