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

MUNI Riders Resist Complaints; Say New Mission Street “Red Carpet” Is Working

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Your Bernalwood editor rode a MUNI 14 bus down Mission Street yesterday for the first time in a long time. The bus was modern and new, and the ride was conspicuously swift. Thank you, Mission Street red carpet!

A few weeks ago, D9 Supervisor David Campos decided to stand with the cars, arguing that the new Mission Street red carpet and transit improvements must be rolled back:

I have heard from many of you — car commuters frustrated by traffic jams that stretch multiple blocks; pedestrians concerned about increased safety risks because of irate drivers; residents along the corridor dealing with nonstop yelling and honking horns; and small businesses unable to get goods into their stores because unloading zones have been taken away. That’s why I’m calling on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to make a radical shift in the program

While it’s certainly true that the new configuration on Mission Street has caused some disruption and side-street spillover, it’s not at all clear the program should radically revised right now.  A “Transit First” policy is city law, after all, and it takes time for old habits to change and new traffic patterns to become familiar. Best of all, there are already signs that the red carpets and mandatory turns are working as intended; MUNI riders say the changes have dramatically improved bus service along Mission Street:

Writing at the N Judah Chronicles, transit blogger Greg Dewar says the backlash typifies why it’s so devilishly hard to make MUNI the much-better transit system everyone says they want:

If you’ve ever wondered why it is hard to Get Things Done with Muni, the current brouhaha over improvements in the Mission to the 14 Mission, and to traffic in general is an example. Muni rolled out some significant improvements to the 14 Mission line, and already there’s “anger” from a few nuts online. The changes have had less than a few weeks to take hold, but apparently dealing with the changes is too difficult for some people to handle like adults – hence the temper tantrums online in places like the infamous “NextDoor.com” and in the media.

These folks have found politicians eager to score political points, enough so that the SFMTA may back down on plans it has been working on for almost TEN years (and about a zillion “community meetings” in the process).

The SF Transit Riders, a grassroots organization that represents public transit users, has launched a #KeepMissionRed campaign to support the red carpet lanes:

Starting in March, after a decade of numerous community discussions, planning and studies, Muni finally started installing transit priority treatments on Mission Street. Just a month in and despite flagrant violations by drivers, they are already benefiting riders by making their rides faster and more reliable.

However, there has been a major backlash against these changes, and some, in particular Supervisor David Campos, have called for rollback of this major progress. It is a betrayal of the 65,000 riders who are served by the 14, 14R and 49 buses, as well as a betrayal of the Transit First charter of this city.

Along with my high-speed ride down Mission Street yesterday, I’ve also noticed that the morning traffic backups at the Mission/Cesar Chavez intersection have subsided. The line of cars waiting to turn left from Cesar Chavez onto South Van Ness is longer than it used to be, but the new queue seems to move pretty quickly.

It’s reasonable to assume that some adjustments to the new red carpet configuration may be needed. But a “radical shift” to the program, as Supervisor Campos has suggested, would be irresponsible and unprogressive. The recent rollback of the single-lane configuration for the San Jose Avenue exit from I-280 provides an encouraging sign that transit officials will abandon new traffic schemes when time, data, and experience demonstrate that changes aren’t working as intended. Truth is, we don’t yet know what’s best for Mission Street.

Patience seems like the best policy here. The red carpet lanes on Mission Street need more time  to settle in. If we sincerely want to improve our public transit system, the SFMTA should be encouraged to try new things, and we should expect that real progress usually takes time to reveal itself.

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

Ballot Measure Would Make City Responsible for Public Tree Care

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A few months ago, Bernalwood told you the sad tale of Neighbor Laura from Lundys Lane, a schoolteacher who had just been told she had to foot the bill to pay for the astronomical cost of maintaining a tree that sits on City property next to her house.

That’s standard procedure under the Tree Maintenance Transfer Plan, which puts San Francisco homeowners on the hook to pay for required maintenance on the tens of thousands of streetside trees that used to be maintained by the City.

Now  San Francisco Chronicle reports that D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener plans to introduce a ballot measure that would eliminate costly tree-care bills for homeowners by making the City responsible for sidewalk trees again. The Chronicle says:

It’s the same old story: too many street trees and not enough money to take care of them all.

The city couldn’t afford the maintenance and upkeep for its 105,000 trees, so in 2011 it began transferring ownership to homeowners. Residents often didn’t have the cash for costly pruning and associated sidewalk repairs either. But a new piece of legislation could soon bring relief to those neighbors and infuse about $18 million into the city’s tree maintenance budget.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Scott Wiener will introduce a November ballot measure that would mandate that the city take back ownership, maintenance and liability of all street trees. It would be funded by a combination of a progressive parcel tax — one that increases with the property’s size — and an $8 million annual budget set-aside, the average of what has been spent on urban forestry over the past 10 years.

“This has been a festering problem for decades,” Wiener said. “Trees are getting dumped on adjacent property owners who don’t want them, and that’s an unfair burden. For most property owners, they are going to save money. They will pay a $30 or $40 tax, and they will no longer have to hire an arborist or a contractor or insurance.”

All properties must pay the property tax. Properties with less than 25 feet of street frontage would pay $29.50, while those between 25 to 150 feet would pay $1.42 per frontage foot, and properties with more than 150 feet would pay $2 per frontage foot. The average resident or business would pay about $35 annually.

PHOTO: The tree assigned to Neighbor Laura, by Neighbor Laura

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