Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fell Street, Oak Street, Octavia Blvd., and the war on cars

Photo from Bay Citizen
 A reader writes:
I found this document to be an interesting read, especially the parts about what they plan to do with Octavia/Fell. Stats were 557,000 trips through that area without stopping or starting there. Guess all 557,000 of us should just go fuck ourselves compared to the 1000 or so that live there.
Some notable quotes:
"Improved traffic circulation will---in isolation---tend to encourage more automobile travel as automobile commutes become faster, easier, and more reliable."
If this isn't evidence of a war on cars, I don't know what is. Stuff in there about making the the "pedestrian experience" better for folks, despite the already compounded frustration of motorists.
Removing an eastbound Oak lane past Octavia to add a "missing" bicycle facility.
Discouraging eastbound traffic on Haight from turning onto Southbound Octavia (already difficult, and something I do every day).

Anyway, thought I'd link it to you just in case you hadn't seen it. It's a doozy.
Rob's comment: Yes, few people in the neighborhoods actually read any of the city's planning documents. If they did they would be horrified at the stupid anti-car assumptions they're based on. It's as if the Bicycle Coalition is making city traffic policy, which isn't far from the truth.
I've been blogging for years about what the city has created with Octavia Blvd. in the unfortunate Hayes Valley neighborhood. The city has always been in denial about what would happen there after the Central Freeway overpass was gone. I've been using the 45,000-cars-a-day traffic count the city got shortly after the awful Octavia Blvd. opened back in 2005. Turns out that that number now is actually 63,000 motor vehicles a day through the heart of Hayes Valley on Octavia Blvd.
The thing that San Francisco and a lot of well-intentioned progressives refuse to acknowledge is that we can't have it both ways: either all that traffic travels over the city on freeways or it ends up on the surface streets of city neighborhoods. We congratulate ourselves for taking down the Central Freeway overpass in Hayes Valley and for refusing 50 years ago to build a freeway overpass over the Panhandle, but the result is that a lot of that traffic is on our surface streets. The city is now operating on the assumption that it can deal with all that traffic by punishing drivers, making it harder and more expensive to drive in the city. Let them ride bikes! Or a crowded, underfinanced Muni!
On the safety of the Market/Octavia intersection: Supervisor Gonzalez carried a resolution in 2004 to screw up that intersection on behalf of the Bicycle Coalition. It's still not clear to me why the city hasn't tried changing the traffic lights there so that motor vehicles and bikes don't have to share a green light like at the Fell/Masonic intersection. 

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Eliminating more parking in the Mission

I was wondering if you had gotten wind of the City’s plans for Bartlett St. between 21st and 22nd St. Right now this street has about 40 parking spaces. The City is planning on eliminating most of those parking spaces to create a plaza and to widen the sidewalks. The funny thing is that no one walks on this stretch of Bartlett St.---or needs to. The entire plan seems designed to eliminate parking and accomplish little else.

Here is a link to the Mission Mercado project website. It doesn’t provide lots of detail about the proposal, but it gives you a sense.

Right now, Bartlett St. has diagonal parking on one side and a total of 30 to 40 parking spaces. The proposed plan would eliminate most of the parking as a result of massively widening the sidewalk. In addition, permanent structures would be put in place to provide shelter for the merchant stalls at the weekly community market (which is a nice enough market, but it has been struggling to survive).

The Planning Department is holding a meeting this Wednesday at 6:00 pm at the Women's Building (3543 18th Street) to discuss the Mercado Project.

Other neighbors and I have the following concerns.

1. Elimination of Parking: The proposed design eliminates parking which will hurt both residents and businesses in the area. The parking is eliminated in order to massively widen the sidewalks on Bartlett St. As there is little pedestrian traffic on that street, we believe that it would make more sense to just modestly widen the sidewalks and retain most or all of the existing parking.

2. Permanent Stall Shelters: The proposed design includes permanent coverings designed for use by merchants at the weekly market. We are concerned that that those shelters will become graffiti magnets and also will prevent other uses of the plaza. In addition, these shelters are very expensive (several hundred thousand dollars). As every other market in the City that I am aware of seems to do fine with temporary tenting, it is unclear why we are spending so much money on these shelters.

3. Process: The planning process has not been transparent or fair. It appears that Jeremy Shaw has been central to the design; but he has a clear conflict of interest as he runs the private organization that operates the Mission Community Market. In contrast local neighborhood and business organizations have not been involved. Not surprisingly, the final design favors Jeremy's particular private interests and not the views of the broader public. I think it is highly inappropriate for the City to allow the head of a private organization to redesign a public street to benefit that private organization.


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