March 2014

City Solicits More Feedback on Potrero Avenue Streetscape Project

Keith Burbank

At a Valentine’s Day public hearing on the Potrero Avenue Streetscape Project, many Hill residents expressed anything but love for the project. Upset about the loss of parking that’d be triggered by the initiative, residents opposed to the plans vented their frustration at a City Hall gathering. In addition, several supporters were on hand to express their enthusiasm for it.
“We would like to park safely, conveniently near our homes,” said David Jayne, a Potrero Avenue resident. Safety and convenience were themes for residents opposed to the project. Those in favor stressed safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
According to Jose Manriquez, the City’s claim that 250 cyclists use Potrero Avenue daily is wrong. “I can be a witness to it,” Manriquez said. Potrero Avenue resident MaryAnn Cheng agreed. Except for brief breaks, Cheng stood at her window all day one day and counted roughly 30 cyclists using the avenue.
Potrero Avenue resident Benoit Lacasse said many cyclists rely on more pleasant streets. He argued that bike lanes are inappropriate on Potrero Avenue, and that Bryant or Harrison streets might be better choices.
“I would never ride my bike on Potrero,” said Susan Logsdon. “It’s not safe.” Logsdon also argued that removing parking spaces would force her and others to walk farther to their homes at night, posing a safety issue for her and other women.
Jesus Gomez, a Mission District resident since the 1960s, said a “lack of parking has always been an issue” [in the Mission]. He said the proposed project seems to favor commuters over neighborhood residents. “I’ve seen the exodus of my peers,” he said, arguing that less parking will force more people from the City.
Potrero Avenue resident Renee Urizar said a loss of parking in front of her home would devalue her property. The proposal, which will be heard by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board on March 28, would eliminate the parking space in front of Urizar’s home, a spot she uses to shuttle her children to and from school and other places. She doesn’t have a garage because it’s been converted into a living space.
Cheng, who lives next door to Urizar, agreed with Gomez as well. She asked why residents have to sacrifice their safety and time for people who don’t live in the neighborhood. Like Gomez, she argued that community members are more important than Muni riders who will get to their destination three to five minutes sooner because of the proposed changes.
Tina Diep, who also rejected the City’s proposal, said officials should conduct a survey of residents, rather than relying on the votes they gathered at the project’s public meetings.
During the public comment period, which drew about 30 residents, those opposed to the project outnumbered those in favor. But before residents spoke, SFMTA engineer Chris Pangilinan gave a project overview. Project manager Cristina Calderón Olea, San Francisco Department of Public Works, was also present, but didn’t speak. The two officials have been leading the project.
“This is like deja vu all over again,” said Fran Taylor, co-chair, CC Puede. CC Puede is a “coalition of neighbors, merchants, parents and transportation advocates,” according to the organization’s website. Taylor said, she saw the same opposition before improvements were made to Cesar Chavez Street. Advocates of that project eventually won out, and people now seem happy with the changes, she said. For walkers and cyclists, Taylor said the proposed improvements for Potrero Avenue are a “step up.”
“When we walk, we find the sidewalks pretty narrow,” said Elliot Schwartz, a Rhode Island Street resident who strolls with his wife and children on Potrero Avenue. Taylor agreed. Last year when she was on crutches she found it difficult to walk on the sidewalks.
“It was too good to be true,” said another Potrero Avenue resident, when last year she heard about the proposed project. She said she travels mostly by foot and bike in the neighborhood, and avoids cycling on the avenue because it’s too dangerous. If the proposed changes are built, “I will ride my bike every day,” she said.
If the SFMTA Board approves the project proposal, construction will start in November.
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