December 2013

Parking Losses Prompted by Potrero Avenue Project Continue to Rile Residents

Keith Burbank

Despite new designs that maintain more parking spaces than previous proposals, residents of Potrero Avenue and nearby streets are still angry about the loss of parking that would result from the Potrero Avenue Streetscape project. And though the City has made changes in response to citizen requests, some residents insist that local government isn't listening to them.

“They [the City] come back with what they think we need,” said Mari Sorenson, a Hampshire Street resident. “It's not about neighbors.” According to Sorenson, the project has been resisted by the community, but City Hall isn't listening. She's also upset that a question and answer session hasn’t been included in the past two meetings; a complaint echoed by others. Instead, residents were given the opportunity to talk with City staff at an open house held last month, record their ideas on comments cards and vote for one of three options.

The project is being developed as a means to improve Potrero Avenue transit, streets and sidewalks, create pedestrian refuges, beautify the street's median, and install safer bicycle lanes. Tradeoffs have to be made among these elements because the road is only so wide. Final plans call for a dedicated transit lane on the avenue’s southbound side, from 18th to 24th streets. Each intersection will receive pedestrian bulbs; sidewalk extensions that will shorten crosswalk lengths. Potrero Avenue will be repaved from Division to Cesar Chavez. Sixty-five feet of sidewalk on the east side of Potrero Avenue, south of 21st street, will be widened, and a bus bulb will be created on the southwest corner of 24th Street and Potrero Avenue. In addition, a continuous six to 10 foot median will be planted from 17th to 22nd streets and 24th to 25th streets.

Five foot wide bike lanes will be installed from 17th to 22nd streets and 24th to 25th streets. Along both stretches of road parking spaces will be nine feet wide, to provide extra space between parked cars and bicycles. At most mid-block locations between 17th and 22nd streets each bike lane will have a two foot buffer between it and traffic. Between 24th and 25th streets, a continuous mid-block buffer will be painted.

Under the latest plans, 24 parking spaces will be eliminated between 17th to 22nd streets, with one spot created between 24th to 25th streets. Ten to 20 spaces may also be developed along San Bruno Avenue and Utah Street by converting parallel parking spaces to perpendicular spaces between 24th and 25th streets.     

More than eighty people attended last month’s gathering, held at San Francisco General Hospital, at which an additional Streetscape option was added to the two proposals that had been presented previously. Under the options for 22nd to 24th streets, Options One and Two would result in the loss of 29 parking spaces. Option Three calls for the loss of only three spaces along that street. Option One widens the sidewalk on the east side of the avenue to 14 feet, while Option Two widens it to 15 feet. Rather than widening the sidewalk, Option Three creates a bulb for a bus on the northeast corner of 24th Street and Potrero Avenue. In addition, Option One creates a six to 10 foot continuous planted median, while Options Two and Three build six foot refuges and place landscaping at the intersections.

Option One includes five foot wide bike lanes, and no mid-block buffers. Under this option, Potrero Avenue’s west side would have nine foot wide parking spaces, while the east side would have a wider sidewalk. Option Two is the same as Option One, except both sides of the street would have a two foot bike buffer. Option Three builds the five foot bike lanes, two foot bike buffers and includes nine foot wide parking spaces on both sides of the street.

Despite outcries about parking, Option Three received the fewest votes, 14 votes, while Option One grabbed 36 votes and Option Two took 29 votes. Eight people cast votes for “none of the options listed.”

Maria Martinez and Claudio Flores claim that the Department of Public Works (DPW) dismissed the concerns of their neighbor, Maryann Cheng, who wants to be able to park in front of her home at night. Under all project options that parking would be eliminated. Cheng submitted suggestions to District Nine Supervisor David Campos's office by email and post, but received no response. Supervisor Campos's office responded immediately to an inquiry from the View, but was unsure whether Cheng’s recommendations had been received.

The City added a fourth community meeting to discuss the project in response to citizen requests, according to Nate Albee, a legislative aide to Supervisor Campos, who encouraged DPW to schedule the additional gathering. And Albee said that four community meetings are more than average for the City to host to discuss a project.

The City has made changes requested by Flores, with no parking eliminated along the block that she lives on. Flores has a nephew who has cerebral palsy and a mother who is frail and has asthma. Flores seemed pleased she’ll have parking in front of her home, but still wants the City to avoid removing any parking from the project area. To save all the parking on Potrero Avenue, Flores and others have started a petition, which has more than 330 signatures.     

Besides parking, concerns were expressed about street lighting. According to residents, half the street lights along Potrero Avenue are encased in foliage, and the City wants to plant more trees. In response, Chris Pangilinan, associate engineer, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), said the City is proposing “pedestrian scale” lighting on both sides of Potrero Avenue, which would rise to only 10 to 12 feet. Residents also wondered whether the project's proposed medians would prevent emergency vehicles from traveling along Potrero Avenue during rush hour. According to Pangilinan, emergency vehicles going south would have a 15-foot wide transit-only lane to use. SFMTA met with the San Francisco Fire Department last month to be sure the department was satisfied with the access it will have once the project is built.

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