An Update on the New St. Luke’s Hospital Campus Construction Project

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If you’ve traveled along Cesar Chavez near the intersection of San Jose Avenue recently, you might’ve noticed that the new California Pacific Medical Center St. Luke’s hospital building is beginning to look much less skeletal, and much more building-like.

This project has been in the works for a long time, and now Mirabel Avenue neighbor Dean Fryer — who by day works as a media relations manager for CPMC — brings us a progress report:

I’m writing to let you know about the amazing progress being made on the new replacement hospital at the Sutter Health—CPMC St. Luke’s Campus, our neighborhood hospital. Things are moving along quickly. The steel structure is done and the exterior wall panels are nearly all in place, resulting in a great new look for the campus and neighborhood.

As you’re likely aware, St. Luke’s has a long history in our neighborhood. Originally it was located on Lundy’s Lane, in 1871, before moving to the current location in 1875. The location was perfect for a hospital — near the end of the cable car line on Valencia Street and near the rout of the original Southern Pacific main train line coming up from the peninsula. We’are excited to continue serving our neighborhood, and the city, with the new hospital (scheduled to open in 2019).

You can already see the space around the new hospital take shape. Visible are the outline of the entry areas where families will come and go, and the framing of the stairs that lead to the plaza which symbolizes the historic pathway traveled between the peninsula and the city. The plaza will be open and well lit to provide neighbors a safe environment, day or night, while crossing the campus.

The new seven-story, 120 patent bed hospital, is designed to blend nicely into the neighborhood with color and aesthetic. Depending on the direction you approach the hospital, it will have a different look and feel. From the east there is the greenery of the plaza and from the west the low rise section of the building next to the neighbors. There is also the intentional use of different materials on the exterior to create an illusion of diminished building height.

We’re also proud of all the local hiring that has happened at this construction site and our other hospital construction project at Van Ness and Geary. At the St. Luke’s campus we are excited that 33 percent of the workforce consists of San Francisco residents, with 13 of the workers born at the current St. Luke’s campus hospital. An additional 6 workers also live in Bernal Heights.

The views of Bernal Hill from the hospital are spectacular as well. Here’s how it looks (click to enlarge):

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I’ll keep you updated on the construction progress, but Bernal neighbors can always check CPMC2020.org for more details and to access the construction cameras.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of CPMC

Undo: Two-Lane San Jose Ave. Freeway Exit Will Be Restored

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Well, the great San Jose Avenue Traffic Calming Experiment has officially been declared an abject failure. The effort to slow traffic along San Jose Avenue by reducing the exit to San Jose Avenue from I-280 northbound from two lanes to one instead succeeded mainly in causing epic traffic backups along I-280 and  more motor vehicle accidents. Oopsie!

In addition, the scheme created additional sadness and delay in South Bernal and St. Mary’s, so now the exit will return to its original two-lane configuration. The Glen Park Association reports:

The 280 freeway offramp to San Jose Avenue will return to a two-lane configuration, owing to a high number of accidents following an experiment to slow traffic by narrowing it.

Seven accidents were recorded on the offramp between June and November, 2015, after engineers reconfigured the two exit lanes to merge into one lane just before the Monterey Street underpass. The offramp reconfiguration was the second phase of the Northbound San Jose Avenue & I-280 Off-Ramp Road Diet Pilot Project, which was intended to slow traffic on San Jose Avenue south of Randall.

In Phase I of that project, San Jose Avenue itself was reduced from three lanes to two. When that measure did not slow traffic, Phase II was implemented, and the offramp was reduced from two lanes to two lanes merging to one.

Since Phase II also failed to reduce speeds and reduce traffic volumes but did increase the number of accidents, Caltrans has decided to return the offramp to its original state. The road is scheduled to be re-paved in May, then re-striped.

If the goal is to reduce speeds along San Jose Avenue, some armchair traffic engineers in Bernal-Glen have a few good ideas about how to accomplish that.

Study Underway to Untangle Alemany’s Spaghetti Bowl for Cyclists and Pedestrians

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Alemany Faded Labels.bwood

First, they gave Cesar Chavez Boulevard a fashionable makeover. Then, they added a red carpet to Mission Street. Next, local transportation officials are considering plans to give the 101-280 Spaghetti Bowl in southeast Bernal a pedestrian-friendly rethink.

Actually, the focus isn’t on the Spaghetti Bowl per se. Instead, our local planners and infrastructuralists seek to make improvements for people on foot or on bikes traveling beneath the Spaghetti Bowl. The goal is to better unite the people of Bernal Heights with our colleagues in The Portola by making it simpler and safer to bike or walk between the Alemany Famer’s Market and Portola’s San Bruno Avenue shopping street.

Today, of course, Bernal Heights is  separated from The Portola by the daunting I-280 viaduct. So here’s how the San Francisco County Transportation Authority is thinking about strengthening  connections the between Bernalese and The Portolans:

The Alemany Interchange, where U.S. 101, I-280, Alemany Boulevard, Bayshore Boulevard, San Bruno Avenue, and several other local streets intersect, presents major challenges to pedestrian and bicycle safety and accessibility. Together with hilly topography, the freeways act as barriers between the surrounding neighborhoods with few locations where they can be crossed. The interchange has the potential to provide critical connections between the adjacent communities of Bernal Heights, the Portola, Silver Terrace, and the Bayview, as well as destinations beyond. However, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders seeking to reach these communities must navigate a circuitous maze of high-speed streets and ramps.

Safety is a significant issue in the interchange area, with several severe-injury or fatal collisions having occurred on the streets in and near the interchange in recent years. The Alemany Boulevard, San Bruno Avenue, and Bayshore Boulevard corridors, which converge at the Alemany Interchange, have all been designated by the City’s Vision Zero initiativeas Pedestrian High Injury Corridors. Please see the project Allocation Request Form for more information.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND BENEFITS

Neighboring communities, led by the Portola Neighborhood Association (PNA), developed two specific proposals that would improve multimodal connectivity and safety by providing pedestrian and bicycle connections through the interchange:

  • New north-south pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists, connecting San Bruno Avenue to the Alemany Farmer’s Market.
  • New bicycle lanes along Alemany Boulevard between Putnam Street and Bayshore Boulevard.

Kicking off in winter 2016, this planning study will further develop the proposed pedestrian and bicycle improvement concepts, perform a traffic and initial feasibility assessment, and prepare the projects for consideration by the public and decision-makers.

That’s where things now stand. There were a few information sessions about the  Alemany Improvement project last month.  Right now a lot of traffic analysis is taking place. There will be another round of community outreach in June, in parallel with project design and cost estimating. The final report for the Alemany Interchange Improvement Project study is set for delivery in November.

You can read more about the project in this dandy-dandy overview, and Bernalwood will share more detail about this grand Spaghetti Bowl detangling effort in the months ahead.  In the meantime, you can also sign up for the project newsletter, or contact Rachel Hiatt, Acting Deputy Director for Planning, at rachel.hiatt@sfcta.org or 415.522.4809.

PHOTO: Top, Spaghetti Bowl,  as seen from Bernal Heights by Winni Wintermeyer

Coleridge Mini-Park Neighbors Exasperated by City Inaction on Safety Lighting

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For a year and a half, a group of neighbors who live near the Coleridge Mini-Park have been in contact with city officials and representatives from Supervisor Campos’s office to upgrade the street lighting in the area and make it safer at night. So far, however there has been a lot of talk, but little action. Neighbor Valerie summarizes what’s happened — and not happened — so far:

We wanted to tell you about the efforts that have been made by neighbors here to get better lighting in the Coleridge Mini Park. Our effort has involved multiple calls to 311, SFPD, and Carolyn at Supervisor Campos’ office to follow up.

The initial meeting with representatives from Supervisor Campos’s office was October(ish) of 2014. By early February 2015, they essentially gave us the classic City response of “we hear you, but we can’t do anything about it.” We were basically told that they couldn’t help us because there were too many obstacles and bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, but we could either purchase solar lights or find someone to donate them and only at that point, would they try to help — and by help, they meant figure out IF said lights could actually be installed. All of the work and effort to increase the lighting was kicked to us with no confirmation that it would actually lead to a change. The only thing they keep offering us is to cut back the trees in the park, which we’ve told them multiple times are NOT the problem.

Unfortunately, the only time we’ve heard any follow up to this is after the assault occurred on the Esmeralda Stairway last January. Since that time, Carolyn [Goossen, a legislative aide in Sup. Campos’s office] has reached out again, with a promise that “this was a good season to request grant money.”

However, if Campos and his office have a plan to secure said funds, we haven’t heard about it. The lights on the stairway were replaced with LED bulbs which are *slightly* better, but that doesn’t change the issue IN the park. We are constantly calling SFPD to come out and patrol and/or deal with the drug dealers, meth users, parties, etc. There was another arrest in front of the park on March 14.

We, and our neighbors, have done everything we can do to help improve the safety in this area, including adding additional lights to private homes and installing cameras which did help to catch the guy who assaulted our neighbor at knife-point.

Enough is enough though. I don’t think it’s our responsibility to seek out private funding to pay for lighting in a City maintained park. We, and most of our neighbors, are very frustrated by the lack of response from our Supervisor’s office and as I’ve said previously, it’s insulting that I’m good enough to ask for a vote during election season but he can’t move the needle on a persistent public safety issue.

PHOTO: Police arresting a suspect near the Coleridge Mini-Park on March 14, 2016. Photo by Neighbor Valerie

New Bus-Only Lanes and Mandatory Turns Can Make Mission Street a Parking Lot

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Let’s begin with a few stipulations: Public transit is good. Encouraging people to take public transit is good. Making public transit faster, safer, more convenient, and more reliable is good. Policies that discourage the use of private cars are … awkward at times, but they’re generally in the service of a worthy goal. In fact, that’s official policy, as enshrined in our city charter.

Now, with all that said, let’s also stipulate that so far, the new “red carpet” transit-only lanes along Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street are not generating much goodwill.

The photo shown above was taken by Neighbor Margie during the Friday morning commute, looking south at the intersection of Mission and Cesar Chavez. As you can see, the backups created by the new traffic configuration extended all the way from Cesar Chavez to Valencia Street. Cars were backed up. MUNI buses were backed up. No one was transiting rapidly.

The problem, apparently, was not so much the new MUNI-only red lanes, but the new, mandatory right turn from Mission Street northbound onto Cesar Chavez eastbound. Left turns are now banned too, which means that in theory, motorists can no longer drive down Mission Street continuously from Precita Avenue to 26th Street.

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To head north, you must turn right on Cesar Chavez, then turn left on South Van Ness — and in the photo up top from Friday morning, you can see the SFPD motorcycle officers who were on hand that day to enforce the new rules. But before you can turn right onto Cesar Chavez, everyone first has to merge from two lanes down to one. With rather predictable results.

Neighbor Bill wrote to say:

These traffic planning groups are operating without a logical approach. They don’t exponentially increase the quantity or frequency of bus lines, or spend the money to create a comprehensive underground rail system with full access to all neighborhoods. They just gum up the streets to force the behavior they want – to make more residents take public transportation. This is behavior that simply can’t change without the requisite infrastructure in place.

Sorry to add to the chorus. It is nuts.

Hopefully, the backups we are seeing today are just early teething pains. Hopefully, before too long, the traffic patterns along Mission Street will realize the intended purpose of the new configuration: To make bus transit faster and more efficient than it was before.

This morning your Bernalwood editor visited the intersection of Mission and Cesar Chavez, to see how things were going. The traffic snarls were gone, but that was probably because lots and lots of passenger cars were ignoring (or blissfully unaware of) the new right-turn requirement.  This morning, motorists were zipping across Cesar Chavez via Mission Street, much as they always have:

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As a result, there was no backup south of Cesar Chavez.

It’s hard to tell what all this portends for traffic patterns along Mission Street in the future. A system that works to the extent that it is ignored is no system at all, but the SFPD will no doubt conduct occasional enforcement operations along Mission Street to, uh, remind motorists about the new mandatory right-turns. Tickets will be issued, and some motorists will be sad, but over time traffic patterns may indeed change for the better.

On the other hand, if the new flow consistently generates big back-ups along Mission Street, the SFMTA might find their offices surrounded by mobs of angry Bernalese wielding pitchforks and torches:

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PHOTOS: Top, Mission at Cesar Chavez, Friday morning, March 18, 2016 by Neighbor Margie. Traffic signs and intersection on March 21, 2016 by Telstar Logistics.

New Red Zone In Effect for Mission Street Bus Traffic

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Well, that was fast.

As the transit oracles prophesied, the SFMTA has implemented new routing for the 14 and 49 bus lines along Mission Street, with a new transit-only red lane and consolidated stops to speed up the pace of travel. Be advised:

Heading toward downtown, stops will be removed on Mission at 29th, Fair, Precita, 23rd, 21st, 19th and 15th, and a new stop will be established at Powers. Towards Daly City, stops will be removed at 15th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, Precita, and 29th.

It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the flow of traffic along the Bernal/La Lengua stretch of Mission Street. Personally, I’m already noticing one unfortunate side-effect: Whenever I see the new red lanes, that curbside airport scene from “Airplane!” pops into my head.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Tuesday: Meeting to Consider Undergrounding Electric Lines in Bernal Heights

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Some Bernal neighbors are spearheading an effort to get rid of all the utility poles in Bernal Heights and relocate our electric and telecommunications wires underground. There’s a meeting to discuss the idea happening tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb 22 at 7 pm at the Bernal Heights Library.

Neighbor Demece from Precita Valley Neighbors brings some backstory:

Please attend this Tuesday!

Neighborhoods are organizing together to propose a city wide utility undergrounding. Utility lines pose a serious danger for short and long term neighborhood safety. When exterior painting is done and scaffolds are necessary; utility power has to be reduced. Utility lines are easily damaged in an earthquake and are causes of rampant fire. So far, those neighborhoods who have utility undergrounding are safer, and we can make all neighborhoods safer by constructing a timely, cost efficient plan for all under grounding.

Nimble-spirited neighbor Melissa has called for a community meeting on Undergrounding Utilites this Tuesday, 2/23 from 7pm – 8:30pm at the Bernal Library at 500 Cortland.

San Francisco Coalition to Underground Utilities will present a brief informational presentation on the city-wide momentum to push for timely and efficient undergrounding. Precita Valley Neighbors’ dashing duo veteran undergrounding activists Steve and Dennis will facilitate the discussion.

On Saturday, March 12th, Neighbor Steve will lead the Precita Valley Neighbors Meeting from 9:30-10:30am at Charlie’s Café at 3202 Folsom to consider PVN affiliation to join SFCUU.

So what? No issue is more dastardly than an earthquake damaged neighborhood on fire. We can move on this issue now and bury the wires for good.

So attend.

Wires Flyer for PVN

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics