Skip to Content
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Log In
West Portal

West Portal Committee Members Named

The committee is comprised mostly of the same merchants who have prevented Muni and safety improvements all along

A view of the vigil for a family killed in West Portal. Traffic was blocked from crossing in front of the station on Ulloa. The world did not come to an end. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, whose district includes the West Portal station and merchant corridor, on Thursday released the list of eleven appointed members of the "West Portal Welcoming Committee" a group that, at best, will delay serious safety improvements in West Portal that were already designed by SFMTA.

The names were picked from some 100 applicants by Melgar and Deidre Von Rock, President of the West Portal Merchants’ Association and long-time opponent to any Muni or street safety improvements.

The names of the West Portal residents and merchants on the committee are:

  • Kerry Riordan Sykes, a West Portal business owner and neighbor
  • Emmanuel “Manu” Rapaport, a transit advocate, youth, and neighbor
  • Cynthia Huie, President of the Small Business Commission and neighbor
  • Janelle Wong, Interim Executive Director of the San Francisco Transit Riders, a transit advocate, and neighbor
  • Will Baumgardner, a transit expert, engineer, and neighbor
  • Maryo Mogannam, Past President of the West Portal Merchants’ Association and President Emeritus of the San Francisco Council of District Merchants Association, who works in West Portal
  • Tom Kanaley, Past President of the Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association and neighbor
  • Ken Speilman, Retired Public Works engineer specializing in traffic and pedestrian safety and neighbor
  • Karl Aguilar, Co-Owner of Papenhausen and neighbor
  • Josh Fritsch, Co-Owner of The Philosopher's Club
  • Pat Dunbar, who has "experience in transportation and design" and is a frequent customer of West Portal businesses

"The committee members represent merchants, neighbors, visitors, and youth in the West Portal community and will convene to review and make recommendations to improve the proposed improvements in West Portal," wrote Melgar and Von Rock in a joint statement.

Emma Heiken, Legislative Aide to Melgar, sidestepped questions about the criteria for how the committee members were selected or if they were vetted and their stated qualifications confirmed.

"We didn't convene a neighborhood committee to develop a vaccine for COVID, so why would we form one to fix traffic violence?" asked Sara Barz with the advocacy group Kid Safe SF. "Let the professionals prepare the solutions and explain the trade-offs."

SFMTA's has long had this "new" plan. It's festered because of politics. Now it will continue to do so because of a new committee. Image: SFMTA

That, in fact, was already done. SFMTA resuscitated an excellent safety plan, at the request of Melgar and Mayor London Breed, in the wake of a horrific crash that destroyed a family of four that was transferring at West Portal in March (see diagram above). It proposed to use planters, diverters, barriers, and/or bollards to stop through traffic on Ulloa from crossing right in front of the station, thus forming a transit plaza. The design graphics look similar to what Philadelphia did with its 40th Street station (see image below) to prevent car crashes. SFMTA held three meetings in West Portal to discuss trade-offs with local neighbors and merchants and hear their design preferences.

Philadelphia banned through traffic at 40th Street station in 1983 after a series of crashes. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

But instead of moving forward with the plan, Melgar stopped it and convened the misnamed "West Portal Welcoming Committee," collaborating with merchants who have opposed past attempts to improve safety and Muni operations in the neighborhood.

"There are thousands of dangerous intersections in San Francisco that need improvements," said advocate Luke Bornheimer. "Are we going to have 100,000 committees to make our streets safer? No? So why are we setting the standard that this is how this works?"

In Streetsblog's view, delaying and forming this additional committee is, at best, a well-intentioned but nevertheless bad move of political chess that almost guarantees the city will continue to fail in its Vision Zero goals. This city needs leaders to stand up and say clearly: "a family died here, we've heard your views, but we're going to do what has to be done, right now, to make sure this never happens again and that means physically preventing cars from traversing across the front of the station."

"Lots of people who support safer streets and live in West portal have been asking for traffic calming improvements for several years," said Barz. "We want those voices to be uplifted and we want SFMTA to hear them out. But it's not the job of a committee to do traffic safety proposals."

The "West Portal Welcoming Committee" will first convene on Wednesday, May 15, at 5:30 p.m. and will be available to the public via Zoom. Streetsblog confirmed that the committee will meet in person and asked Melgar's office for the location.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter