New Lake Merced Plans
Bike path improvement, erosion along the coast and falling trees around Lake Merced were major talking points during the Recreation and Parks Department’s planning meeting in November. Held in the Lake Merced Boathouse, this was the first of three project meetings planned from Rec & Parks to identify improvement opportunities in the area.
The Lake Merced Improvement Project was allocated $2 million in 2012 as part of the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond. Construction is estimated at $1.5 million. Project and construction management, architectural and engineering design services and permits are part of an estimated “soft-cost budget” of $500 thousand.
These are wonderful concepts, but is there going to be a budget for new staff to maintain it?”
“We are interested in hearing concerns about facility, program improvements and your priorities,” said Levi Conover, project manager for Recreation and Parks Department, who led the meeting. “If there seems to be a big demand, that will certainly get priority.”
With nearly 20 people in attendance, the first of several community members spoke out about her concerns of hazards on the multi-use path along the perimeter of Lake Merced.
“Rec & Parks does nothing for bike riders who want to get a real work out,” said the cyclist. “The multi-use path is unsafe because there are dogs without leashes and high bumps in the pavement. Some people have ear buds in and they don’t hear my bicycle horn.”
She suggested adding a bike lane that could connect with Great Highway, Golden Gate Park and the Presidio for faster pedalers.
“We need to paint a line down the middle and there needs to be signs reminding people to be aware of their surroundings,” she added, “because there is no awareness. We all need to understand that the path is for everyone.”
Conover said pedestrian safety is absolutely a priority for Rec & Parks.
“The bike path on the perimeter is a good example of an issue that will not come under the $1.5 million budget,” said a member from the group. “Can that drive the next bond measure?”
Lisa Wayne, natural resources manager of Rec & Parks, said the department will flag any requests that seem unreasonable.
“We want to manage expectations,” Wayne said. “We try to synthesize what people are saying, then put some costs to it and make decisions for the community.”
Falling trees and overgrown roots near Harding Road was an improvement opportunity mentioned.
“Rec & Parks lets the trees fall over the edge of the lake and eventually they are going to fall into the water,” said a male. “Either through this bond issue or something else, that needs to be addressed.”
In November of 2012 San Francisco passed the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, a $195 million General Obligation Bond. The funding is divided into two allocations based on the jurisdiction of the parks and facilities scheduled to receive funding, with $160.5 million committed to the Rec& Park Department.
“Isn’t that a maintenance issue when you’ve got gaps six inches tall on the path?” a female inquired. “The bumps have been there for years. The tree roots are an issue and should be taken care of right away.”
Sunset Circle and the north end of Skyline Blvd require erosion control. Trail perimeters are in need of repair on the asphalt path. Picnic areas and regrading pathways on the viaduct near John Muir Drive and east Lake Merced Blvd require replacement and renovation. An increase in ADA accessibility and attention to a “massive tree that could use some work” were suggestions that emerged.
Rec & Park and the neighborhood agreed that restrooms and porta-potties need to be addressed, as well. “There is a dire need in the community for more restrooms, particularly around here. It’s mayhem,” said a female volunteer from the Boathouse.
Several community members felt the Boathouse area had been neglected and immediate attention was necessary. Youth from the California Dragon Boat Association prefer to change in their cars because no locker rooms are provided. It was proposed that 25% of the bond be used as seed money for increased boat storage.
“We are stretched very thin of money the city is giving us” Conover said. He added that smaller renovations such as paint jobs must rely on bonds due to a lack of general funding.
“They just spent a bunch of money on speed bumps in Golden Gate Park,” a voice spoke out.
In November, Rec & Park installed $128 thousand worth of gradually sloping, 3¼ inch high asphalt mounds and one raised walkway between Transverse Drive and the Great Highway.
Due to erosion, there are roughly 65 areas around the lake that require retaining walls. The most egregious ones identified are at the edge of the decomposed granite highway. Rec & Parks has put temporary erosion devices on the slope of sandy areas around the lake below Sunset Circle, but they say it continues to wash out. “We are starting to lose the earth end trail,” said Wayne. “A small retaining wall would require a 12” high retaining wall to keep the trail intact. If we keep it that way, it will start eating into the asphalt path.” Wayne added, “we will lose all of that soil and land to the lake if we don’t stabilize the path.”
From Sunset Circle, exposed roots from the cypress trees can be seen along Harding Road. A male voice from the crowd said he has noticed that “trees have gone down taking tons of dirt with them.”
“We need to support what makes the lake special; the water and rowing boats,” another local said, adding his bid for boat storage and pier maintenance as priorities.
There is an eight month process for planning, said Conover. Rec & Parks will reconvene for another community meeting in early 2017. Design and construction are being determined for spring or summer.
“The intention is to find a conceptual plan,” Conover said. “Some projects may be expensive, but easy to plan — while others, inexpensive yet complicated.”
One final community member stood.
“Look at it realistically,” he said, “the introductory proposal only has $2 million. [That’s] a drop in the bucket. These are wonderful concepts, but is there going to be a budget for new staff to maintain it?”
For the complete list of community feedback: sfrecpark.org/wp-content/uploads/2016-1103_Meeting-Notes.pdf
Tony Taylor is a local reporter.
December 2016/ January 2017