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Weekend Roundup: SFMTA Update on Valencia, Help Save Great Highway Park Again

... and Transit Riders director steps down

3:38 PM PST on February 2, 2024

A Dutch-style lane bending around a parklet on the section of Valencia between 15th and Market. The center-running lane starts south of here. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Here are a few Streetsblog news nuggets to start your weekend.

SFMTA continues laying foundation to replace Valencia's center bike lane

MTA did an email blast and blog post committing to release data on the Valencia center-running "pilot" at the agency's February 20 board meeting. Also in the post, the agency set out a clear pathway for replacing the "innovative" lane with conventional, Dutch-style curbside protected lanes. From the post:

... in early 2020 we proposed a protected side-running bike lane between the sidewalk and cars parked on the street. We had already installed a short stretch of protected side-running bike lanes in 2019 between 15th and Market streets (where the street is wider). This was a huge success. And then Covid happened. 

Dozens of Shared Space parklets were installed along the corridor and were a lifeline to businesses who were hanging by a thread. Demand for curb space exploded as food deliveries surged in popularity. The side-running bike lane proposal suddenly became more complicated. To install curbside bike lanes without disrupting parklets, the lanes would have to weave around parklets, wiping out a lot of parking and loading spaces. So, to support our small businesses, we looked to an underused segment of the street -- the median. 

But of course businesses hate the center-running bike lane even more than the overwhelming majority of cyclists. SFMTA is now spelling out options for building curbside lanes that will either bend around the parklets or go between the parklets and the curb. Also from the SFMTA's blog post:

We'd love to move back to the original side-running plan. This could work if parklets were moved from the curbside to “floating” parklets with a bikeway running between them and the sidewalk. 

Floating parklets are common in New York and can be found on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, but they are more complex. We will be exploring this option with Valencia merchants and talking through the mechanics, including accessibility requirements and how staff and customers will cross the bike path to access the parklets. We know that moving a parklet will cost money and we’re looking into how this could be funded. We also know that it won't work for every merchant, but we are learning from case studies around the country. We believe it could work on Valencia too! 

SFMTA is also preparing designs for bending around parklets, as seen in the lead image in front of Four Barrel Coffee's parklet (on the section from 15th to Market which got conventional, curbside protected lanes in 2019) and in the above diagram from the blog post.

Car brains want a new "compromise" to turn the Great Highway Park back into a 24/7 traffic sewer

Advocates fighting for the idea that, you know, maybe there shouldn't be a surface-level freeway cutting off the shoreline from San Francisco are fighting off yet another attempt to allow cars back on the Great Highway, even on the weekends. From their thread:

Park opponents have appealed a Coastal Commission permit allowing the weekend compromise - if they win their appeal, we could lose the park entirely. But wasn't the pilot already voted on, you ask? Yep! The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to approve the weekend pilot through 2025. And already, three million visits to the pilot park have been logged. However, some people are so opposed to a coastal park promenade that they’re searching for any way to attack it. Their latest effort is to appeal a permit issued by the Planning Commission approving the pilot. The permit is required under the California Coastal Act for changes in use of spaces close to the coast. The goals of the Coastal Act are to ensure public access to the coast and preservation of coastal habitat.

To push back, advocates are asking everyone to email the relevant supervisors. Take a minute and urge them to "Keep the Great Highway Park weekend compromise. Reject appeals 23-062, 23-064, 23-065."

San Francisco Transit Riders executive director resigns

Executive Director of the San Francisco Transit Riders, Vinita Goyal, announced Tuesday that she is stepping down. From her statement:

I am writing to share with you that after two and a half years of serving as Executive Director at San Francisco Transit Riders, I will be leaving the organization on February 8. I am so grateful for the opportunity to partner with and support the passionate transit advocacy community in San Francisco, the broader region, and nationally in advancing a just future for residents and riders alike.

Also from her statement:

Together we have secured wins, including state budget allocation for transit, Prop L expenditure plan, the withdrawal of the proposed Charter Amendment, and no new Muni fare increases among others. We have also secured new partnerships while strengthening existing ones, Transit Month, Voices for Public Transportation, inaugural Safe Routes to School, and (forthcoming) community-led initiatives in two equity neighborhoods in the city.

Goyal added that she is moving into "... a new role in a non-profit incubation space that is experimenting with true alternatives to capitalism by building local, regenerative, and restorative economies that center needs of underserved communities."

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