Monday, April 18, 2011

The 19th Avenue Corridor Study: Parkmerced project will degrade the city's quality of life

The 19th Avenue Corridor Study was the result of a Board of Supervisors' ordinance requiring "a comprehensive cumulative impact study encompassing all reasonably foreseeable developments located along the 19th Avenue Corridor Study Area." The area studied:

...approximately 1,400 acres located in the southwest corner of the City and County of San Francisco...The area boundary commences at Lake Merced Boulevard at the San Francisco County line and then runs north along Lake Merced Boulevard to Sloat Boulevard, east along Sloat Boulevard to 19th Avenue, north along 19th Avenue to Taraval Street, east on Taraval Street to Claremont Boulevard, south on Claremont Boulevard to Portola Drive, southwest on Portola Drive to Junipero Serra Boulevard, and south on Junipero Serra Boulevard to the County line. A larger, potentially affected area...extends the study area west to the Great Highway and Skyline Boulevard. This area is considered for the purposes of transportation and circulation analysis.

The "forseeable developments":

800 Brotherhood Way: 7.7 acre site will be subdivided and 60 single-family homes and 61 two-unit buildings constructed.

77-111 Cambon Drive: 2.8 acre site will build 200 housing units, retail space, fitness center, club room, and parking for 248 vehicles and 61 bikes.

700 Font Boulevard: 2.5 acre site will build 340 housing units.

445 Wawona Street: 12.2 acre site will be subdivided and 7.6 acres sold to a developer to build 142 housing units.

SFSU Campus Master Plan: Enrollment will increase from 20,000 to 25,000 by 2020. Some buildings will be destroyed and new buildings constructed, including 600 new housing units.

Stonestown Galleria: Western part of this shopping center will build 180,000 square feet of office and retail space and a new eight-screen movie theater.

1150 Ocean Avenue: This project isn't in the study area but is included because it will probably have an impact on that area. This project will demolish 14,900 square feet of retail/office space and build 175 housing units and 35,000 square feet of retail space.

I've saved the worst, most destructive, development for last. The above projects aren't enough "dense development" for the Planning Department; it also wants to allow speculators to build thousands of new housing units at the already densely-populated Parkmerced: Parkmerced now has 3,221 housing units on 152 acres. 1,683 units will be retained and 1,538 units will be demolished and replaced over a 20-year period. The project will add 5,679 new housing units, which will result in a total of 8,900 housing units on the site (page I.9).

These projects will add 7,375 housing units and 16,850 new residents to the 19th Avenue corridor area over the next 20 years.

Schools in the 19th Avenue area are already crowded:

Enrollment requests for some schools within the southwestern area of San Francisco, such as Jose Ortega Elementary School and Lowell Alternative High School, generally exceed capacity for these schools. As a result, students within the Corridor Study area are less able to obtain school assignments near their residences than students in other areas of the City...demand for schools in the vicinity of the Corridor Study area will likely continue to exceed capacity (pages III.F.5, III.F.6).

The study analyzes other aspects of the area, like water and police/fire services, but the traffic impact of all this development is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. This is what traffic is like now on 19th Avenue:

During the weekday peak commute periods and during peak weekend midday periods, 19th Avenue and the southern portion of Junipero Serra Boulevard accommodate substantial traffic volumes (between 86,000 and 123,000 vehicles on an average daily basis), and often incur congested conditions at major intersections (page III.13).

The trendy, dense development, smart growth theories that guide---if that's the word---the city's Planning Department are also embraced enthusiastically by developers, since they dispense with the idea that excessive population density can have a negative effect on the city's quality of life. The assumption is that we can build an almost unlimited supply of housing along our major traffic corridors, because many of the new residents will supposedly ride transit and bicycles and not own and drive cars. As anyone who has even driven through that part of town knows, traffic in the area is already bad, which the study confirms:

Intersection operating conditions, in terms of level of service (LOS), were determined for 27 study intersections during the weekday AM and PM peak hours, plus 7 study intersections during the weekend midday peak hour. Currently 7 intersections operate with unacceptable conditions (LOS E or F) during the weekday PM peak hour, primarily the result of typical daily congestion on the major arterials in the study area (page III.2).

The table accompanying those sentences shows not only that 7 intersections are now jammed up in the morning, but that 11 intersections are now jammed up during the "weekday PM peak hour." How will these projects affect traffic at the intersections studied? Even with all the street and transit "improvements" that will supposedly accompany all this development, there will still be 19 intersections jammed up "with unacceptable LOS (LOS E or F)."

How will all this development affect Muni in the area? Not surprisingly, even with the "transportation improvements" planned, "buses would still operate more slowly than they do under existing conditions, which could have impacts on Muni schedule adherence and service reliability."

Parking on the streets will be worse:

Overall, most on-street parking is well-used throughout the weekday midday and evening periods, with pockets of high demand near shopping areas and adjacent to SFSU. With the new background growth and development projects in the area...there would be an increase in parking demand, with the potential for high levels of unmet demand in the vicinity of SFSU and Parkmerced. As a result, some portions of the study area could encounter worsened on-street parking conditions (III.5).

These understated conclusions about how an area that already has serious traffic problems will have much worse problems if the Planning Dept. and the city have their way are buried in the text without any emphasis.

The Board of Supervisors would like to pretend that the proposed Parkmerced development is only about retaining affordable housing on that site.

But this study tells us that the Parkmerced project will degrade the qualify of life for everyone who lives anywhere near 19th Avenue and everyone who has to use 19th Avenue in a car, truck, streetcar, or bus.

Labels: , , ,

Traffic much worse in Europe

From Wendell Cox at New Geography.

Labels: