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West Portal

Supervisor Melgar Betrays Promises, Sells Out Family Killed in West Portal

Well that didn't take long

Cars continue to speed through the crosswalks and transfer areas of West Portal.

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.

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, in a statement issued Friday, followed the example of her predecessor, Norman Yee, and again put the brakes on plans to make West Portal safer. This comes a month after an errant driver wiped out a family of four that was transferring from a train to a bus to get to the zoo.

Supervisor Myrna Melgar with her bike in front of City Hall. Photo from her staff

Melgar is launching the misnomered "Welcoming West Portal Committee," formulated in collaboration with Deidre Von Rock, President of the West Portal Merchants Association and one of the most vitriolic opponents of restricting car traffic past one of Muni's busiest stations.

"Over the coming weeks, this committee will meet to discuss traffic impacts and parking [emphasis added] issues and come to a consensus that works for all parties," wrote Von Rock and Melgar in the joint statement announcing the new committee.

The move, which flies in the face of earlier statements from Melgar committing to safety, was pummeled by advocates on social media.

Advocate Sara Barz responding to the news tweeted out by SF Bay's Jerold Chinn

Just prior to the announcement, on Friday Melgar told Streetsblog that she "commits to seeing this through" when asked if she would "go to the proverbial mat" for safety in West Portal.

Following the crash, SFMTA and Melgar's office held three meetings in West Portal. A minority of merchants came to the meetings and complained loudly about the loss of a handful of parking spaces that would be required to make the area safe and prevent a repeat of March's tragedy. There are also a handful of merchants in the area displaying anti-safety signs complaining about loss of parking.

Melgar responds to criticism of her "committee" during a Threads exchange

"I'm hopeful that the committee Supervisor Melgar is convening can be a catalyst for [safety improvements] and can help us avoid a repeat of the kind of political panic we saw around the first plan released by SFMTA," wrote Joseph Girton, a West Portal advocate pushing back against Von Rock.

One of a handful of signs displayed by merchants, this one at the Eezy Freezy Market

In Streetsblog's view, it's not a coincidence that the statement came out late on Friday. Any communications staffer knows that is the best time to release news they'd sooner not have widely covered. Melgar is up for re-election this November, and is under pressure from reactionary, car-brained merchants.

Little remains of the shrine to a family killed in West Portal. How soon until the tragedy is forgotten while Melgar and Von Rock delay?

Obviously, a committee to review the SFMTA proposal in West Portal is going to take time. There are hundreds of intersections/areas in Melgar's district and thousands in the city that are also in desperate need of safety improvements. There simply isn't time to hold a special committee of merchants—who have zero expertise in street safety—on every intersection. In fact, I'd submit that this is exactly why San Francisco makes no measurable progress on Vision Zero: the city over-discusses street by street, delays, launches committees, and then designs a heavily watered-down project in an attempt to make everyone happy, if anything gets done at all. See Valencia Street for a prime example of how badly things go when the only priority is to appease merchants. 

West Portal station could look like its counterpart in Philadelphia, closed to traffic in 1983

Moreover, the safety proposals in West Portal should have been done decades ago, as indeed they were at 40th Street Portal in Philadelphia, which had a similar set up (see photo above and earlier coverage).

While reporting on this story, I watched an impatient driver in an SUV go into the opposing lane of traffic on Ulloa to cut around a Muni bus that had stopped to let a family cross. He nearly ran them over, right in the crosswalk. The entire area should have been closed to through traffic ages ago. It is simply not safe to have that many transit vehicles and Muni riders mixing with traffic. As Barz wrote, it doesn't take a committee to know this area needs to be fixed immediately.

Streetsblog has asked Melgar if the family that was killed deserves an urgent response and will update this post if she replies.


Contact Myrna Melgar's office here.

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