Tuesday: SFMTA to Consider Revisions to Mission Street “Red Carpet” Rules

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Tomorrow, Tuesday, August 16, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency Board will consider some proposed updates to the “red carpet” lanes installed recently on Mission Street to provide more rapid Muni bus service. The red carpets have been very popular among transit riders, but some Mission Street merchants have expressed concern that the revised traffic flows have been bad for business.

Here’s what the SFMTA has in mind:

We recognize [the red carpet] was a big change for the Mission, and it’s our priority to make it work for everyone. Already we’ve made several changes to enhance the project and make traffic flow more smoothly. We will be recommending a few more changes to improve traffic circulation, which will be heard at the next SFMTA Board of Directors meeting. The SFMTA commits to continuing to monitor Mission Street to ensure the project goals are achieved.

Mission Street Changes at SFMTA Board
August 16, 2016
Mission item will be heard at 3:00 PM
City Hall Room 400
If you are unable to attend, submit comments to MTABoard@sfmta.com.

The following changes will be recommended for legislation by the SFMTA Board of Directors:

  • Removing two of the required right turns on Mission at 26th and 22nd. This will allow vehicles to travel four blocks on Mission before encountering a required right turn, making it easier to access businesses and find parking along the street. We expect this change to improve traffic circulation without increasing through traffic or delaying bus riders.
  • Relocating the outbound Cortland stop to the nearside of the intersection. Moving the bus stop nearside will improve boarding ease for Muni riders.
  • Exempting taxis from the left turn restriction at 21st Street. This exemption, in the middle of the Mission corridor, will provide more options for taxis to reach their destinations.

The recommended changes are the result of a series of community engagement activities to discuss how the new street design is being perceived by neighborhood residents, bus riders, motorists and others using Mission Street. Staff worked closely with community members, Muni riders, neighborhood organizations and other non-profit organizations, as well as David Campos, District 9 Supervisor. Outreach activities included several small group discussions, a community hearing (summary of comments heard is available here), merchant walks and an intercept survey of 1,400 people on Mission Street.

That SFMTA survey is interesting, because it underscores the extent to which the data about how shoppers get to Mission Street diverges from what merchants believe about their customers. In an article that looked at this question, Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez from the San Francisco Examiner wrote:

The recent SFMTA survey of people in the Mission — conducted June 28, June 29 and July 9 — found that 69 percent of 1,400 respondents went to the Mission by public transit.

Those surveyed arrived to eat, drink, visit friends and work. But the largest group surveyed — about 350 people — was there to shop.

Specifically, the SFMTA said 76 percent of surveyed shoppers “usually” take transit, and 10 percent drive.

Merchants, however, disagree that most shoppers take transit.

Michael Gardner, the 42-year president of Siegel’s Clothing Superstore & Tuxedos on Mission Street, felt the survey was all wrong.

“This just doesn’t make sense to me. It just can’t be right,” he said.

For Bernal Heights residents,  the mandatory right turn on Mission Street northbound at Cesar Chavez has been a particular point of concern. The SFMTA’s FAQ explains why the mandatory turn at Cesar Chavez will remain in place:

Why aren’t you removing the required right turn at Cesar Chavez?

We heard many requests to remove the required right turn at Cesar Chavez Street, which some feel acts as a barrier to two neighborhoods. This was a difficult decision. Doing so would make traffic and transit performance worse on northbound Mission Street than before the project was implemented because one lane of traffic was removed [to create the restricted access lane for Muni buses].

The required turn at Cesar Chavez diverts drivers who drive through Mission toward downtown. Instead, we will address community concerns by removing two of the required right turns at 26th and 22nd to improve access to destinations along Mission without congesting the street with traffic looking for a fast way downtown.

PHOTO: Top, a worker installs flexible bollards to prevent traffic from crossing Mission Street at Cesar Chavez, April 7, 2015. Photo by Telstar Logistics

D9 Candidate Josh Arce Proposes 30th Street BART Station and Housing Plan

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For 80 years, the citizens of Bernal Heights and La Lengua have fantasized about creating a train station on Mission Street around 30th Street. Indeed, the fantasy is even older than BART itself. Yesterday, the idea of a BART 30th Street Station was revived again.

Standing in the half-empty parking lot of our historically joyless Safeway, D9 Supervisor candidate Joshua Arce unveiled his “Mission Street South of Cesar Chavez Plan,” a proposal to build 2000 of units of new housing in La Lengua and add a new BART station at 30th Street.

MissionLocal was there for the announcement:

The development, part of a proposed “Mission Street South of Cesar Chavez” plan, would “not touch any existing housing,” Arce said. The housing built would be a mix of market-rate projects and affordable housing.

“There’s never really been a plan for this neighborhood,” he added, standing with some 20 supporters in the Safeway parking lot at 3350 Mission St. where the new station would go. The Safeway itself could be incorporated into the new station, Arce said, or a new store could be built elsewhere.

The triangular slice of the Mission District between Mission and Valencia streets below Cesar Chavez Street — known by some as “La Lengua,” the “tongue” of the Mission — has no integrated transit plan, Arce said, and is ripe for housing needed to address the “displacement crisis” in the gentrifying neighborhood.

“This is a neighborhood that can play a part in the solution,” he said, saying the BART station could be the cornerstone of a new corridor. “What if that solution is just right here below our feet? And that solution, I propose, is the potential for a brand new BART station right here at Mission and 30th streets.”

The plans for the new transit station and housing are preliminary. Arce said the development “might take a long time” and estimated that the BART station alone could cost $200-$300 million. He said a mixture of developer’s fees from new market-rate housing in the corridor and state or federal funds could finance the project.

Innnnnnteresting! Bernalwood contacted Arce to find out more about his proposal. “I sat down with neighbors, local business owners, workers, and transit riders to talk about this unique part of the District,” he said. “What became clear in each and every single conversation is that people feel there is no clear plan for the housing, local business, and transportation needs of the neighborhood.”

Arce says the 2000 units of housing would be built on under-utilized sites in the area that have already been identified by the San Francisco Planning Department.  Today, these sites are parking lots, empty buildings, and locations that could be repurposed  for alternative or mixed uses. Here’s the Planning Department’s site map:

20131105_Mission_OpportunityMap

The basic idea, Arce says, is that the new housing and the new station would be mutually inter-dependent. BART is pretty tapped out financially, so investment in housing and local businesses would generate impact fees that would be used to pay for affordable housing and funding for a new BART station.

Of course, Bernalese have been dreaming about convenient access to a rail link for decades. Here’s a futuristic image from 1948. That’s Cortland Avenue heading up the hill to the right:

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Let’s zoom and enhance, to take a closer look at our retrofuture:

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San Francisco abandoned the whole Mission Freeway idea, thank goodness, but It sure would be nice to be one of those whispy people in the rendering, fashionably boarding and disembarking from a train that stops right at Bernal’s front doorstep.

The idea of adding a 30th Street Station to the existing BART line that runs under Mission Street has been studied from time to time, most recently in 2003:

30th.feasibilityThe 2003 study estimated that a 30th Street Station would cost around $500 million to build, in part because of the challenging grade on the site. The 2003 study also assumed that 30th Street station would include a secondary “pocket track” that could be used for parking or reversing trains as needed.

Arce says that based on conversations he’s had with BART officials, things may be different today. The requirement to level the grade of the track would not be as extreme, the pocket track could be eliminated, and tunnel-boring technology (like the machines used to create the new Central Subway downtown) could simplify construction. The result could be a 40% to 60% reduction in the cost of building a 30th Street Station.

Well, maybe. Hopefully. There’s a lot to like about all this, because we desperately need more housing, and a new BART stop would dramatically improve transit for thousands of current Bernal residents. But is this for real, or is it just a campaign stunt?

“This is a beginning,” Arce says. “Doing all this will take time, maybe a long time. But every plan starts with a first step, and we think this a great place to start.”

IMAGE: 1948 station proposal image courtesy of Eric Fischer.

Donate for a Mosaic at Your Fabulously Renovated Esmeralda Slide Park

Rendering of proposed mosaic

Rendering of proposed mosaic

Neighbors Joan and Nancy, the dynamic duo that has been organizing the (rather impressive) efforts to restore and renovate the iconic Esmeralda Slide Park, just launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $14,000 for a public art installation at the site. Neighbor Nancy says:

You may have seen our freshly poured Esmeralda Slide Park Plaza. It’s all done in beautiful aggregate concrete, except for a 9 ft. diameter smooth, cement circle. All kinds of theories have been circulating as to what that circle is for. Some people think it is for tetherball, others still think it is awaiting plumbing. NO, it is awaiting Public Art. Namely, “The Locator”.  Please see the GoFundMe campaign below and GIVE GIVE GIVE!

Here are the details, from the GoFundMe page:

We’d like to bring Public Art to Esmeralda Slide Park. A couple of months ago, the concrete Plaza was demolished to install an underground irrigation system for the Park. Joan Carson and Nancy Windesheim (local artists/neighbors) asked the City if they could design a mosaic tile inlay for the newly-poured Plaza. Permission was granted, but with no committed funds.

They designed a 9 ft. diameter inlay, “The Locator”,  to be installed in the Park’s plaza. The Park is adjacent to the middle of three stairways leading from The Mission to the top of Bernal Hill. The mosaic tile design will be directional signage. “It is our response to the navigational challenges we’ve witnessed when people come and go from Esmeralda Slide Park.”

The design features a compass surrounded by “Esmeralda Slide Park” with arrows pointing in 4 directions: Cortland Ave., Bernal Hill, Downtown, and Mission Street. The color blue signifies the sky, the greens represent open space and trees, and the textured grey rings suggest the surrounding urban landscape. The exterior smooth grey surface is temporary and will be completed to complement the mosaic tile and surrounding concrete aggregate.

Our target of $14,000 is for the fabrication and installation of the mosaic by Rachel Rodi, a leading professional in the field of “mosaic art”. Her firm, Rachel Rodi Mosaics, is based in the Bay Area and creates mosaics throughout Northern California and beyond. Her recent projects include outdoor murals, fountains, garden mosaics, and playgrounds.

This is a cool art installation that would come at an eminently reasonable cost, so please donate right here.

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PHOTOS: via the GoFundMe page

Your Esmeralda Slide Park Renovation Project Update

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The stairs around the Esmeralda slides were closed for a few weeks recently while works crews laid down new concrete as part of the ongoing Esmeralda Slide Park renovation project. That was a nuisance, but now that work is complete, and the stairs are open again. Hurrah!

So what’s next? Neighbors Joan and Nancy, your volunteer cat-herders and advocates for the Esmeralda Slide Park renovation, wrote to Bernalwood to share this update:

The Esmeralda Stairs between Prospect and Winfield were finally opened up ,just days before 4th of July weekend. This marks the first sign of a restoration of our beloved Stairway after almost 2 difficult months when the only access was to skirt around the chainlink fence at Prospect and Esmeralda, and the caution tape and barricades at Winfield and the Esmeralda Slide Park Plaza.

Some answers to why all this mess is occurring and when will it end:

The Plaza’s concrete was demolished in May to make way for new irrigation pipes installed to provide water for the entire Park and Plaza planter box. This is a big deal, and it took five years for the City to finally take care of this. For those who think this isn’t worth the mess the City has made of the Esmeralda plaza, try lugging a 100′ hose to water each of the plants in the Park. That’s how a couple of us have been watering the Park for the past five years. As for watering the new plants in the Plaza planter box volunteers put in last August, a couple of neighbors have been graciously drawing from their own water and dragging hoses into the box.

It took the City months to get a new water meter from PUC. Turns out, the City can’t get other agencies to move faster than us mere citizens. Meanwhile, WebCor, a private construction company that does lots of work in San Francisco, is doing all the concrete work for free. That’s great, but you know know how free goes: WebCor does the work in between their “real jobs” with the upshot, it takes longer.

After 6 weeks of torn up concrete, the irrigation pipes are now under the newly poured Plaza. Hopefully, in another month, our picnic table and benches will be re-installed. A new retrofitted slide approach platform (with a railing) will be installed, making it possible for people in wheelchairs to pull themselves onto the slide and go down (though they’ll still need assistance exiting the slide).

Speaking of wheelchair access to the Plaza; Once the City starts tearing up old public sidewalks, they need to come into this decade by meeting American Disabilities Act (ADA) Requirements. Even though the Esmeralda Slide Park Plaza is at the apex of a steep hill with narrow sidewalks, two new curb cuts leading into our Plaza will make it possible for a people with wheelchairs or strollers to wheel into the Plaza easily.

The mounds of dirt that seem to grow every day at the base of the slide are there because of the trenches being dug for the irrigation pipes coming down the hillside to deliver the water from our new water meter. The trench on the hillside between the staircase and the slide will get covered with lots of fresh dirt in planting boxes, which we hope many gardener wannabes will volunteer to help plant and weed when the time comes. Meanwhile, in the past we never planted along the hillside because our hose didn’t reach for watering, and we didn’t create terracing to hold soil for plants we couldn’t afford. Now, between the City and WebCor, they’re going to make and install the terraces after the City completes the installation of the water pipes. We’re hoping they’ll complete this work in the next couple of months, although the City hasn’t confirmed their timeline.

Lastly, the wretched slide landing pad will be replaced. Concrete will be poured by WebCor to accommodate a brand-new, softer pad that’s wider and curved for those who live dangerously and travel fast down the slide. Once again, the City hasn’t provided a timeline for this, but we’re hoping in the next couple of months.

Thanks to everyone for their patience, and please enjoy the access we once again have to our stairs. Be safe navigating the trenches in the slide landing area, and we’ll have more progress updates soon!

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Neighbors Joan and Nancy

Monday: Community Meeting to Reconsider Muni Red Carpet Lanes

redbollards

At the urging of D9 Supervisor David Campos, the SFMTA will hold a meeting on Monday to consider options to alter the “red carpet” bus lanes on Mission Street. The meeting happens on Monday, June 20 at 6pm at the Mission Cultural Center (2868 Mission at 25th),

Right now, this stretch of Mission Street carries over 65,000 Muni riders and about 8,000 cars each day. By many accounts, the street improvements have increased safety and improved the speed and quality of Muni service, but some local merchants say the new configuration has resulted in declining sales.

The SFMTA’s press release maps out differing perspectives on the issue:

District 9 Supervisor David Campos and Ed Reiskin, Director of Transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), today announced a series of activities to gather additional feedback on the Mission Street Improvement Project, which established bus-only lanes on Mission Street from 14th Street to 30th Street. The activities include a community hearing, merchant walks in the project area, and a survey of residents and visitors on Mission Street.

The community hearing, to be held on June 20 at 6:00 PM at the Mission Cultural Center, provides an opportunity for community members to discuss their experiences and suggestions for improving the project.

“My office and the SFMTA received a wide range of feedback from stakeholders – some of it positive and some of it focused on impacts to local merchants. While I wholeheartedly support the goal of improving Muni reliability and speed, I want to make sure that the project works for everyone and takes into account the unique aspects of the Mission,” said Supervisor Campos.

With eight full weeks of post-implementation results, Muni reliability has improved and travel time has dropped and continues to drop. Furthermore, Muni has seen only one collision in this corridor since late March. Prior to project implementation we experienced three to four per week, which hampered reliability and forced buses out of service.

While construction was only recently completed, there has been a significant amount of positive feedback from Muni riders and neighborhood residents. The feedback ranges, but is focused on the appreciation of an improved Muni experience and a feeling of Mission Street being a safer place to walk – primary goals of the project.

In addition to the positive feedback, there have been concerns from local and regional drivers who were finding it difficult to directly access Mission Street. Merchants expressed concern that this difficulty was causing a decrease in sales, while other merchants say they have not experienced any impacts.

If you support the red carpet lanes, you might want to add Monday’s meeting to your calendar.  Because as Streetsblog explains:

The problem, of course, is public meetings on transit projects seem to attract a disproportionate number of, well, grumps. “One of the things that stands in the way is often times a small number of deluded people are the ones who show up. And they complain and their complaints may be irrational and factually incorrect. But because they show up, they’re the ones who win the day,” said Jeff Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy for Nelson\Nygaard Consulting.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

Next Phase of Esmeralda Slide Park Re-Renovation Underway

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The ongoing effort to re-renovate Bernal’s iconic Esmeralda Slide Park resumed last Saturday, May 14, as a group of community volunteers joined forces with civic leaders, City agencies, and construction professionals to begin work on a new sidewalk and irrigation system.

Esmeralda neighbor Joan Carson has helped champion the project, and she shares this update on what happened last weekend, and what’s coming next:

Last Saturday’s event took place from 9 to 10 am, and it marked the beginning of the next phase of renovation for the Park. In particular, we all came together — folks from our Bernal neighborhood, San Francisco Public Works, Laborers Local 261 and San Francisco Parks Alliance — to help remove some of the concrete salvage created when WebCor builders demolished of the plaza’s old pavement. Although our efforts were mostly symbolic on Saturday, the act drove home the incredible partnership that’s making this renovation a reality.

We all remember the plaza rebuild last summer, when the picnic table, benches, slide landing and it’s approach, and the planter were rebuilt. That was the first phase of the City’s re-emergence on the scene to give a face lift to Esmeralda Slide Park. In early Fall, San Francisco Public Works, Laborers local 261 and a few of us folks started work on the next phase of renovation, including planning for park-wide irrigation and additional planting areas.

This led to the City doing more land-use planning for needed infrastructure improvements, like of curb cuts for sidewalk ramps that meet ADA compliance, a land use survey detailing what’s in the Park and its terrain, a tree assessment to determine the health of the trees and identifying which trees needed to be removed to make way for future more appropriate plantings.

On March 9 of this year, San Francisco Public Works held a community meeting at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center where those of us involved in the planning of Esmeralda’s continued renovation gave a presentation on the next phase of work. We got a small turn-out, but all those who showed up were really excited by the plans.

That brings us to where we are right now. WebCor joined the partnership in March and is doing the plaza demolition and new concrete pour. While construction is underway it’s an inconvenience for all us who now using the Esmeralda Stairs to get where we want to go, and it’s sad not be able to enjoy the slide.. But, in a few weeks, we’ll have water pipes underground to deliver water throughout the park and a new pavement in our plaza.

Nancy and I will keep you posted on landscaping plans for the park, including a new landing pad, more planting beds, and more volunteer days to join together and put new plants into the park.

Here’s a special celebrity bonus shot of Neighbor Joan, in seasonal hardhat chic:

joanmay14BIG THANKS to everyone who is helping to make the Esmeralda Slide Park better than ever.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Bernal Merchant Seeks Revisions to Mission Street “Red Carpet” Program

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Neighbor Eden Stein is a resident of the La Lengua Autonomous Zone and the proprietor of the fabulous (and resilient) Secession Art & Design store at 3235 Mission (@Valencia). She’s also president of the Mission-Bernal Merchants Association, which represents merchants along the Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street.

In recent weeks, Neighbor Eden has expressed concern about Muni’s new “red carpet” bus lanes on Mission Street. Although bus riders report the new red carpets have noticeably improved public transit, Neighbor Eden says local merchants are struggling because the rollout of the new traffic configuration has coincided with reduced foot traffic and sales in Mission Street stores.

This morning, Neighbor Eden released a letter summarizing her views on Muni’s new red carpet along Mission Street:

Two months ago, MTA reconstructed Mission Street, introducing red transit lanes and forced right turns. The bus is running two to five minutes faster, but I have observed a decrease in pedestrian traffic and clientele, especially for daytime businesses. My business is not only a go-to for locals, but a destination for people from all over. The forced right-hand turns funnel drivers away from shopping and local restaurants, making it harder for our customers to show up and support us. This is a direct call to our customers to walk, bike, take public transit, or drive to support local businesses impacted along Mission Street.

My specific concerns for Mission Bernal are to make sure it is safe for pedestrians, residents, and our valued customers. A request has been made to MTA to put in protected left turn signals at 29th and Valencia, remove the right hand turn at Cesar Chavez, and review positions of new bus stops. I am concerned that the Mission-Powers bus stop is not well-lit and is located in front of a preschool. My other concern is when it rains the red paint is causing the buses difficulty in stopping. I have seen the buses slide through the intersection at 29th Street on the red light because they are slipping on the red lanes. This is a safety concern for our whole community. I support public transit, but not at the cost of safety or small business. I am for finding a balance that works for all us.

My grandparents owned a storefront for over 40 years in Philadelphia. Their legacy business was one of the things that inspired me to open Secession Art and Design in an emerging area of the Mission in 2007. Mission Street has been home to my gallery and boutique for 9 years, supporting over 60 local and independent artists and designers. Businesses along Mission Street all want the chance to be legacy businesses, and live out our dream that small business can thrive in San Francisco. This is why I became president of the Mission Bernal Merchants Association, so my neighborhood would have a passionate point person who lives and works in Mission Bernal.

I have attended many MTA meetings, sometimes closing my store to make sure my voice is heard. A happy medium needs to happen, so small businesses aren’t forced to shut down. I want to continue my grandparents’ legacy of doing what I love everyday, being the owner of a small business. I’m working to help Mission Street culture return back to its vibrant and artistic hustle.

Thank you to everyone who has been supportive, encouraged me to go outside my comfort zone and speak up for my community, and reminded me to be strong and love what I do!

You rock, Eden

PHOTO: Top, a worker installs flexible bollards to prevent traffic from crossing Mission Street at Cesar Chavez, April 7, 2015. Photo by Telstar Logistics