Thursday, October 1, 2009

"No on SFgo" Campaign Launched in NOPA, Alamo Square

Neighbors on both sides of Divisadero have united in opposition to the two freeway-style signs that the city recently placed on Oak and Fell streets. Both NOPNA and the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association (ASNA) sent letters of protest to Nathaniel Ford, Executive Director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), the SFMTA Board of Directors, and the SFMTA Traffic Engineer Jack Fleck. In addition, the associations have urged District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi to do all he can to get the Oak Street sign removed and the Fell Street sign relocated to a more effective and less dangerous site. NOPNA and ASNA leaders asked their members to express their opposition to the SFgo signs by email or letter to the SFMTA authorities and to Mirkarimi. A petition against the signs is also being circulated. (Note: I have been an active participant in the development of the campaign against the placement of the two SFgo signs at Fell and Oak).

ASNA President Ben Allison wrote to Mirkarimi that SFMTA conducted “no advance outreach whatsoever to our organization or our members on this issue.” In his message to the SFMTA director, Kevin Rafter, President of NOPNA, wrote, “Our neighborhood is outraged that these signs are going up, as was voiced in our neighborhood meeting on September 17 where we had over 80 people in attendance.” As noted in a previous post, SFMTA notified nearby residents of an upcoming hearing concerning the proposed signs with a brief mention of “variable message displays.” The notice included nothing about freeway-style signs or electronic traffic messages.

Rafter stated NOPNA’s fundamental disagreement with the SFMTA staff position that the signs will increase safety. “Rather, we predict that they will distract drivers from watching the road and provide a subtle signal that Fell and Oak are extensions of the 101 freeway.” Both NOPNA and ASNA believe the signs will “encourage speeding and put bicyclists, pedestrians, and children more at risk.” Neighbors' concerns were heightened two weeks ago when a pedestrian, Melissa Dennison, was struck and killed by a motorist on September 15th while she crossed Fell just west of the SFgo sign standard. A memorial to Dennison has been placed at the site.

Ironically, the SFgo conflict coincides with the start of the city’s makeover of the Divisadero Corridor with bulbouts, repaving, new street trees, and more attractive street lamps. Allison of ASNA objected to what his organization considers the negative impact the signs will have on this revitalization. “We also feel that the installation of these signs completely contradicts the extensive community planning that took place leading up to the current construction on Divisadero to help make the area feel less like a freeway and more like the neighborhood commercial district and dense residential zone that it is.”

The leaders of the joint campaign recognize that Inner Richmond and Inner Sunset neighbors are concerned about unwanted traffic clogging their streets as motorists seek parking when the Golden Gate Park Concourse Garage is full. (SFMTA acknowledged at the September 17 NOPNA meeting that the primary purpose for the Fell Street sign is to advise drivers of the status of the garage in the park). But NOPNA and ASNA believe the freeway-style sign should be moved to the off ramps of the Central Freeway to give motorists “maximum advance notice” of the garage status when they will more have more options for routes and parking. During the NOPNA meeting, SFMTA representatives said they would consider relocating the Fell sign and a sign that would fit the neighborhood aesthetic better. Since that meeting, Cheryl Liu, SFMTA manager of SFgo, confirmed that her office will respond to the list of questions previously posted here on behalf of concerned neighbors.

ASNA and NOPNA proposed other alternatives as well to the Fell street sign including the use of mobile/temporary signs, developing overflow parking detours at the entrance of the garage when full, developing permanent non-electronic signs that directs traffic to the nearby UCSF garage when needed, and discouraging park visitors from seeking neighborhood parking by granting residents free neighborhood parking permits.

Supervisor Mirkarimi’s office is encouraging neighbors to offer suggestions and comments on the SFgo signs as well as their concern about speeding on Oak and Fell, according to his aide Vallie Brown. “Ross is looking at this as a much bigger picture with traffic calming, bicycle and pedestrian safety, traffic on side streets, and the influence of Market and Octavia traffic,” Brown explained. But when asked if the supervisor would request a hold on the Fell and Oak signs until a big picture analysis was completed, Vallie deferred comment. Instead she emphasized that they first needed to study all the factors involved. “It’s not like MTA has come to our office with SFgo information and briefed us on this. We were left wondering, ‘How did these signs suddenly appear?’” Mirkarimi intends to convene a meeting with the directors of SFMTA and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority within the next few days to discuss SFgo and the larger traffic and safety concerns.

One proposal advanced by NOPNA and ASNA was apparently tried but then dropped. Brown explained that the California Academy of Sciences placed mobile signs to advise motorists when the concourse garage was full, but the institution found the signs very expensive. “The Academy told us ‘we can’t afford these signs,’” Brown said. Instead the Academy pressed the city to erect signs similar to the SFgo standards, financed with local and federal funds.

None of the neighborhood groups want a return to the Central Freeway ballot wars that pitted western residents against North Panhandle, Alamo Square, and Hayes Valley neighbors in three separate electoral skirmishes. Leela Gill, former president of NOPNA, expressed a hope that with the help of Mirkarimi, the MTA “will hear our suggestions and work with us to come up with a win-win solution for everyone.”

NOPNA and ASNA request that everyone who believes the Oak and Fell signs are inappropriate, ineffective, visually offensive, or dangerous voice their sentiments to Supervisor Mirkarimi and to SFMTA representatives: ; ; , and . For more information on the opposition to the SFgo signs, search “sfgo” here at BIKE NOPA and at .


  1. I absolutely agree that the signs are better off on the freeway than in the heart of the city. But! It would be a mistake to turn completely against SFgo, a program which has many other laudible traffic-calming goals.

    (PS: The text in your RSS feed is bright orange! Makes it kind of hard to read.)

  2. MattyMatt: what has puzzled me is why SFMTA doesn't focus on the best parts of the SFgo program (the new signal lights, the traffic cameras, the underground fiber optic system that permits better central coordination) and only sparingly propose the signs in select locations that really could benefit from them. The "No on SFgo" campaign is really "No on SFgo Signs at Fell & Oak."

    Thanks for tip about the RSS, didnt realize that; will change.

  3. At least someone is recognizing what part of the plan was supposed to do - those of us who live in the Inner Sunset are getting alot of speeders driving off of Lincoln looking for parking and it's really starting to cause a problem. Surely we, as San Franciscans, who are supposedly smart people, can avoid choose up siderism and shoving problems in other people's neighborhoods, and come up with something that works for EVERYONE because NO ONE is benefitting from Oak and Fell being faux freeways.

    As an aside, years ago when I used to commute by car down Oak, I hated it. Even with the old offramp, it sucked, and the only reason I usedit was because it was really the only way to get to 101...