Protesters on Great Highway
Residents protest the continued closure of the Great Highway.
Open the Great Highway!

The Great Highway is a two mile stretch of road in San Francisco, that connects the city to the South and beyond. Supervisor Gordon Mar officially closed the Great Highway in March of 2020, to be used as a space for San Franciscan’s to get outside and exercise while social distancing during the duration of the emergency order.

Since that time, City officials and special interest groups have been trying to make the closure permanent, branding it as “The Great Promenade” or “The Great Walkway.” Over $600,000 has been spent on mitigation efforts to control the significant and dan-gerous traffic problems that developed as a result of the closure. Unfortunately, and despite what those officials who decided how and what they would do to mitigate these dangerous conditions, it makes little difference to the people living in these neighborhoods or to the people who are trying to get around San Francisco. Most will agree: the mitigation efforts aren’t working and, in many cases make the situation worse.

Protesters on Great Highway

It should also be noted that most residents of the Outer Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods don’t use the Great Highway for driving or commuting—it’s accessible only from Lincoln or Sloat. This entire stretch of road, which isn’t being used regularly by the neighborhood, would seem to be a great place for a park. On its face, it makes sense. In the grander scheme of things, it doesn’t.

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In the meantime, we still have to live with gridlock, reckless commuters and commercial vehicles speeding through our neighborhoods, all for a park that the many residents didn’t ask for and an even larger number don’t use or want. SFMTA, SFCTA, and special interest groups continue to promote the falsehood that a majority of residents want this closure, when it’s become clear that there is a very large number of residents who want the road to open, as quickly as possible.”

Enter the D4 Mobility Study, which studies traffic and mobility in District 4, the Great Highway closure is tied to that. According to this study, 18,000–20,000 cars per day used the Upper Great Highway, pre-pandemic. There is just one issue: the Great Highway is used by many other San Franciscans, and people from outside of San Francisco, not just the residents of D4 (Sunset and Parkside). It’s a vital pathway to the south. Before the Emergency Order, there were those 20,000 cars using this road per day, so it’s clearly not just about that neighborhood. It has a ripple effect on the entire city. We’ve spoken to hundreds of people - senior citizens, people with physical disabilities, families, first responders who work in SF and live outside, people who use it to take care of aging parents in SF, and the list goes on. While bicycle advocates will argue that others should just “get a bike” or “take muni,” it’s never really that simple. 

Lower and Upper Great Highway
Lower and Upper Great Highway / Photo courtesy of HearSay

Maybe the most egregious example that was clearly never considered by the public officials who closed the Upper Great Highway, is the heavy impact on those living in the Outer Richmond. Residents of the Outer Richmond can expect to add 20-40 minutes additional drive time south, with similar additional time for Outer Sunset residents driving north. And it is worse on a sunny day or a holiday when there are more people at the beaches or trying to get in and out. Outer Richmond District residents have described being locked-in, and stuck on the weekends in particular. What will happen when people really go back to work? We’re just getting started to open up San Francisco, as we move into the next tier.

Protesters on Great Highway

So now we’re forced to live with a situation that occurs when Mother Nature adds some sunshine on a good beach day. That brings gridlock, frustrated, raging drivers and a huge environmental impact. With all the cars that are now idling in traffic, our health is threatened as greenhouse gasses are certainly higher when cars are right outside the front door. We are fighting for our kids and seniors and disabled and everyone else. We are driving in less efficient conditions, zig-zagging through the Outer Avenues of the Sunset to get to where we need to go.  While the goal of the closure was to reduce the environmental impact, it’s clearly doing exactly the opposite.

Before the Emergency Order, there were those 20,000 cars using this road per day, so it’s clearly not just about that neighborhood. It has a ripple effect on the entire city.  

Where do those cars go now? They are being pushed through the Lower Great Highway—cutting through Sunset residential streets like 46th Avenue, normally a somewhat busy two-lane residential street is now a thoroughfare as well. The Lower Great Highway, which is not a highway but a two-lane residential street with hundreds of single-family homes, that is now the main artery through the district for many of those cars. Combined with other factors like the construction on 19th Avenue which is supposed to last until 2023, and an entire network of barely used slow streets—the picture becomes more clear and it’s easier to understand why so many people are fed up and angry. There have been accidents - including a roll-over right outside of residents homes.

Protesters on Great Highway

Usage by the cyclists and pedestrians on the Upper Great Highway was highest during the Winter surge and balmy days during the Fall of 2021. San Francisco Parks and Recreation and the SFMTA—using unscientific methods—counted the number of pedestrians and cyclists during those months and continue to promote those figures as if that usage has continued to this day. Not only were all beaches throughout the Bay Area crowded at those times last year, but since then, usage is way down. For the most part, there are very few people traversing the Upper Great Highway, even on nice days, in comparison to the days during the pandemic surge. The need for a space and distancing is clearly over as is a legitimate reason for continuing the closure.

Protesters on Great Highway
Photo courtesy of SF Bicycle Coalition

The Upper Great Highway is an essential road and without a plan on how to get the people who need to use the road, it’s not a park, it’s a disaster. How are the citizens and businesses who used the road supposed to get to work and go to school? What are the commercial vehicles who used the Upper Highway to transport goods to the citizens of San Francisco and beyond supposed to do? Should the residents of the Outer Sunset be forced to live with reckless commuters and the commercial traffic that’s all diverted from the Upper Great Highway and forced to use the Outer Sunset as a bypass?

The truth is there’s no plan. There never was and there still isn’t. We have this expensive study to open the road, and yet there was never any planning or forethought for closing the road and what that would mean for San Francisco. We all know how and why they do that: special interests. This time it’s the SF Bike Coalition and delusional environmental activists.

The closure of the Upper Great Highway is dangerously unsafe, environmentally unfriendly through increased—not decreased—greenhouse gasses and detrimental to the safety of residents in the Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond. It’s contributing to a decline in the quality of life and has caused division between friends, neighbors, and has torn apart the fabric of our neighborhoods, most likely forever.

In the meantime, we still have to live with gridlock, reckless commuters and commercial vehicles speeding through our neighborhoods, all for a park that the many residents didn’t ask for and an even larger number don’t use or want. SFMTA, SFCTA, and special interest groups continue to promote the falsehood that a majority of residents want this closure, when it’s become clear that there is a very large number of residents who want the road to open, as quickly as possible. With awareness, that number continues to increase each day, as neighborhood groups continue public outreach and education about the closure.

Concerned Residents of the Outer Richmond and Sunset Neighborhood Associations

May 24, 2021

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Muni Yard
Constrained by budget cuts and COVID-19, buses sit unused at the 17th and Bryant yard.
Melgar: District 7 – A Total Transit Desert
SupervisorMyrna Melgar
Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Will MUNI move to reinstate transit lines to pre-pandemic levels? Supervisor Myrna Melgar (D7) thinks they should restore transportation services, and so do her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, who voted unanimously to pass the resolution — in fact nine of them signed on as co-sponsors. There are currently only 26 of the original 89 MUNI lines operating, and the hardest hit areas are in the neighborhoods. “Especially our more vulnerable senior and limited mobility communities are being left behind,” she said, “in District 7 we are currently living in a total transit desert.” Melgar finds much of her district cut off from essential services with citizens left alone to navigate many of the area’s steep inclines which have relied on community routes such as the 36-Teresita and 6-Haight-Parnassus.

In late January MUNI restored the T-Third light rail line, as well as the 27-Bryant, 33 Ashbury and the 15-Bayview Hunters Point Express. But no services have been restored on the west side of the City. Sources have sited the $68 million budget deficit in the next year and $168 million budget deficit the following year as reasons for the severe cutbacks in service.

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In late January MUNI restored the T-Third light rail line, as well as the 27-Bryant, 33 Ashbury and the 15-Bayview Hunters Point Express. But no services have been restored on the west side of the City.”

Melgar’s office plans to focus efforts to coordinate service with the roll out of the vaccine, but in the interim, due to a lack of service, they want to see the Essential Trip Card (ETC) program be fully expanded to provide free trips to and from vaccine sites. SFMTA has assured Melgar’s office  that they have the funding and ability to do this program for about 6 months. While considering SFMTA’s financial constraints, however, “as public health and vaccinating our seniors and community members with limited mobility is an equity issue, we have successfully collaborated with SFMTA to think creatively,” Megan Imperial, an Aide to Supervisor Melgar said. “Asking the SFMTA to respond has also opened critical conversations and is a first step to promising immediate relief. However, we still have a ways to go and will continue to be creative and work with the SFMTA and the Board to get better access to public transit.”

Essential trip card.
If you, or someone you know needs essential transportation—get the card!

Melgar’s resolution calls for a plan to expedite services within 60 days and calls on MUNI to “develop a post-COVID transit service with stakeholder and community input, and to prioritize community routes and bus routes…” specifically of service to neighborhoods. The F, 6, 18, 21, 23, 31, 35, 36, and 52 lines have been shut down completely, leaving many people without the needed lifeline to their medical and dental services, grocery and drug stores, City services, work and restaurants as well as access to vaccine sites around the City. She said the replacements for light rail system lines: N-Judah, K/L Ingleside and M Oceanview have not been “insufficient.”

“We are actively working on a plan with SFMTA to ensure that any proposed next steps will have community input first,” Supervisor Melgar said.

By the terms of the Board’s resolution, SFMTA must respond, in writing by or before April 12th. The response, which should include a working proposal of public outreach for the hearing, should also provide at least a sketch of a service plan and an implementation strategy. They will have until November 1st to propose a plan to MTA Board, but Melgar’s staff has reported to the <em>Westside Observer</em> that “by the April date we would like to see a concrete proposal that the Board can provide feedback on.” It is assumed that the Board of Supervisors will have input on the proposal.

Doug Comstock serves as editor for the Westside Observer. Feedback: Editor at westsideobserver.com

February 23, 2021

Map of MUNI_Apr_25
SFMTA Begins Slow Streets Now

Vehicle Ban — 41st Avenue, Ortega, Kirkham & 20th Avenues Impacted

San Franciscans need to walk, bike, skate, scoot and jog for exercise and to make essential trips, which sometimes makes it difficult to keep 6’ from others on sidewalks, park paths, and bikeways.

Limited through traffic The increase in pedestrians due to Muni service reductions during the health crisis can be make distancing especially difficult by lines outside grocery stores and other essential services. Some pedestrians are taking to the streets, where vehicle traffic is a real danger. The SFMTA’s new program, Slow Streets, will limit through traffic on some streets and to allow for foot and bicycle traffic.

Temporary signs and cones will be in place, diverting through traffic and slow down traffic. But will allow access to driveways and deliveries for local residents and businesses. 

Possible Slow Streets

  • Low-traffic residential streets connecting to essential services where Muni service has been reduced. They exclude Muni routes and emergency traffic routes.
  • The rollout will, due to staff resources, be approximately 8 blocks at a time. Initially it may not cover the street length indicated by the map. Staff will monitor crowding and congregation.

Street

From

To

Muni Routes

17th Street

Church

Valencia

22 Fillmore, 33 Stanyan

20th Avenue

Lincoln

Ortega

28 - 19th Ave

22nd Street

Valencia

Chattanooga

48 Quintara/24th Street

41st Avenue

Lincoln

Vicente

18 - 46th Ave

Ellis

Polk

Leavenworth

27 Bryant, 38 Geary

Holloway

Beverly

Harold

K Ingleside, 29 Sunset

Kirkham

Great Highway

7th Avenue

N Judah

Phelps

Oakdale

Evans

23 Monterey, 44 O'Shaughnessy

Ortega

Great Highway

14th Avenue

7 Haight/Noriega

Page

Stanyan

Octavia

7 Haight/Noriega

Quesada

Lane

Fitch

23 Monterey, 44 O'Shaughnessy

Scott

Eddy

Page

24 Divisadero

When will Slow Streets begin?
2-3 Slow Streets corridors will be added by the end of the week and 2-3 more per week. Feedback from the community will be welcomed. 
How were the Slow Streets corridors chosen?
The streets were chosen to supplement reduced or suspended Muni routes, while providing bicycle and pedestrian access to essential services. Many of these streets run parallel to other major streets and transit routes. The Slow Streets are intended to provide a network of streets that prioritize walking and biking for essential trips.
Slow Streets are one part of the city’s efforts to reduce sidewalk crowding. Other efforts include converting vehicle parking outside grocery stores and restaurants to create extra pedestrian queueing space and widening sidewalks by removing vehicle parking on select high-pedestrian traffic streets. 
Please visit sfmta.com/COVID19 for the latest agency updates.

April-May 2020

Map of MUNI_Apr_25
MUNI Restores Some Services

In addition to running Core service, the following Muni routes will start service or be adjusted beginning Saturday, April 25:

5 Fulton: Local stops between Salesforce Transit Center and Fulton/6th Avenue

Frequency: approximately every 10-20 minutes (weekdays and weekends) Being added to provide a connection to St. Mary’s Hospital

9 San Bruno: Increasing frequency to 6 minutes on weekdays and 10 minutes on weekends

Frequency: approximately 6 minutes (weekdays) and 10 minutes (weekends) Being added to reduce crowding on buses, increasing riders’ ability to physically distance

12 Folsom: Shortened route on Pacific between Van Ness Avenue and Battery

Frequency: approximately every 20 minutes (weekdays and weekends) Being added to provide key connections to grocery stores

28 19th Avenue: Local stops between Geary Boulevard and Daly City (weekdays only)

Frequency: approximately every 20 minutes (no weekend service) Being added to provide healthcare worker access between Daly City BART and UCSF Medical Center, Parnassus; creates additional north-south connectivity on west side

38R Geary Rapid: Weekend service returning (will supplement existing weekday service)

Frequency: approximately every 10-20 minutes (weekends)

54 Felton: Adding shortened route between Newhall/Hudson and Balboa Park (weekdays only)

Frequency: approximately every 20 minutes (weekdays only, no weekend service) Being added to provide additional east-west connectivity for southeastern neighborhoods

714 BART Early Bird Shuttle: Shuttle between Salesforce Transit Center and Daly City

Frequency: one trip departs Daly City at 4:05 a.m. and second trip departs Salesforce Transit Center at 4:45 a.m. (weekdays only) Maintaining a connectivity lifeline for early morning service workers

L Bus: Increasing frequency to 10 minutes or less (weekdays and weekends)

Being added to reduce crowding on buses, increasing riders’ ability to physically distance

N Bus: Increasing frequency to 10 minutes or less (weekends)

Being added to reduce crowding on buses, increasing riders’ ability to physically distance

Core Services The 17 core routes that will remain in service,
with some modifications • 5 am-10 pm • Get Owl Service Schedule

L Bus 10-20 min • Added stops

N Bus 10 min • Added stops

T Bus 10 min • Shortened route

1 California 10 min

8 Bayshore 10 min • Modified route

9 San Bruno 10 min • Longer route

14 Mission 10 min

14R Missn Rapid10 min

19 Polk 10-20 min

22 Fillmore 10-20 min

24 Divisadero 10-20 min

25 Treasure Is. 20-30 min

29 Sunset 10-20 min

38 Geary 10 min

38R Gry Rapid 10 min • No Weekends

44 O’Shaughn. 10-20 min • Shortened

49 V Ness/Missn 10 min • Longer route

NOTE: Owl Service is different than the daytime route and schedule.

INFO: Covid Core Service Plan

MUNI website

April-May 2020

Cyclists Meet Commute Advocates Head-on Over Oak/Fell Lanes
neighborhood meeting on Oak-Fell bike lanes
Separate bike lanes meet with local opposition

At a "discussion" on separated bikeways on Oak Street and Fell Street between Scott Street and Baker Street, it was clear that the three-block territory is a battleground among local residents who want to maintain precious parking spaces, auto commuters, who want to retain consistent traffic flow and bicyclist, who want to improve the safety of their commute.

DesignA Design B Design C Design D Design E

The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority (SFMTA) held the discussion to solicit feedback on several proposed solutions. Their objective is to make the dangerous three-block area a safer zone. This is the critical link where bicyclists must cross into freeway-like traffic coming to and from the Panhandle as they proceed to or from "the Wiggle," a designated bicycle pathway that flows from Scott to Market Street.

Prompted by the 550% increase in westbound bicycle traffic on Fell Street since the Fell tow-away lane closure trial in 2002 the agency's primary goal is to make cycling more attractive and safer through a separated bikeway along the three blocks. The December 3rd meeting, held at the SF Day School at 300 Masonic is the final community input meeting,.Comments will be considered and finalized by the Spring of 2012.

Additional comments may still be directed to Luis Montoya, Luis.montoya@sfmta.com or call (415) 701-4376. To obtain graphs and illustrations—in full—of the Oak/Fell Community Presentation, go to: sfmta.com/cms/bproj/OakandFellBikeways.htm

December 2011

Guest Editorial

Parking removal plan for Portola Drive

bike plan for part of Portola


Last year, I learned that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was undertaking an environmental review of the Bicycle Plan, and proposing a substantial number of bicycle improvements for the safe utilization of bicycles and their promotion as an alternative means of transportation.  In looking closer, I learned that there are two options for Portola Drive, one that would remove all 240 parking spaces on the northeast side of the street from Sloat Blvd. to O’Shaughnessey, coupled with removal of one driving lane from Evelyn Way to O’Shaugnessey.  The second alternative would keep parking on Portola Drive but narrow driving lanes to implement a bicycle lane.

My family has lived on Portola Drive for over 40 years.  Some of my neighbors have lived in this area for over 50 years.  In discussing the proposal for wholesale removal of parking, none of my neighbors had heard of such a matter.  I have also frequented the merchants of West Portal as long as I can remember.  However, except for the President of the West Portal Merchants Association, no one that I spoke with had heard of the proposal, although it would impact them as well.

In June, the SFMTA Bicycle Program held an open house to discuss the bicycle plan implementation in the Western Neighborhoods.  I attended, and was surprised to see that other than avid cyclists, there were few individuals who would be impacted by the proposed changes present.  I inquired as to how notice was given, and I was informed that the fact of the meetings was published, and that the Presidents of the various Homeowners Associations were notified.  They did not notify any of the impacted residents of the proposed changes, relying upon associations and the internet to provide actual notice. 

Many residents in the area are elderly and not connected with the internet.  Additionally, many residents are not avid cyclists and would not realize how the proposed Bicycle Plan would impact them.  Thus, the result is that the Bicycle Program only has the input of avid cyclists, and not those who would be impacted daily by the proposed changes.

The removal of parking from the front of my residence would make it easier for me to enter and exit my garage.  However, it would have other severe impacts.

; Although my parents are dead, I am fortunate enough to have retained the friendship of their friends and peers.  As these individuals are quite elderly, unless parking can be had close to my home, I will not be able to enjoy their company, which I treasure.  Additionally, some of my friends are disabled and need parking near my home.  This would be impossible if all parking is removed from Portola Drive, as it will force those who presently park on Portola to move into the residential areas for parking.  Additionally the curbs at the intersections have been upgraded for disabled access;  query the good that will do if the disabled are unable to park.

Having a home which is not new necessitates continual repairs.  In the last several years, I have had to do all sorts of maintenance and repairs.  How are contractors supposed to bring in heavy materials if they cannot park near the location of their jobsites?

Another factor is the speed at which vehicles travel Portola Drive.  Over the years, speeding has increased.  In reviewing the Pedestrian Summit, also sponsored by SFMTA, I learned that parking has the effect of reducing speeds on our street.  The wholesale removal of parking would encourage even more speeding on Portola Drive.  I have also seen the parking lanes, when there are no cars occupying it, utilized for passing on the right.  This would continue if parking is removed.

In addition to elderly individuals who live in the area, there are a substantial number of families with young children, and the number of children in strollers has increased as young families have moved in the area.  The lack of parking and the increase in speed would be dangerous to young children and the elderly as they try to negotiate Portola Drive to go to West Portal.

San Francisco is a “Transit First” city, but due to location and physical impairments, not everyone is able to utilize public transportation for all purposes.  It is difficult to find parking in the West Portal area to frequent the merchants in the area.  Removal of parking from Portola will only exacerbate the problem.  If parking is unavailable, individuals will go to other locales for the purchases and services.

I am not opposed to bicycle lanes.  I used to ride my bicycle decades ago to attend the University of San Francisco.  I believe that bicycle lanes encourage safety and remind drivers that they must be careful of bicyclists.  However, I firmly believe that the needs of all of the residents of San Francisco be taken into account when establishing a comprehensive bicycle plan.


December 2008

 




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