Monday, October 5, 2009

Politics Bounces SFgo Sign Along Fell Street

UPDATE 2:30 pm Monday: Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's office has decided to delay delivering a recommendation to the SFMTA regarding where the SFgo sign on Fell Street might be located. In a conversation this afternoon with NOPNA board member Larry Griffin, Vallie Brown, an aide to Supervisor Mirkarimi, said they needed more time to research the SFgo matter. Previously, as noted in the post below, the Supervisor's office had expected to recommend a site for the Fell Street sign to the MTA this Wednesday. Since learning from SFgo staff last Friday that Mirkarimi "strongly encouraged" placement of the sign along the DMV lot on Fell, NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors objected to what appeared to be a "rush to recommend" without consulting neighbors. Another NOPNA board member, Dan Nguyen-Tan, suggested in a message to Mirkarimi earlier this afternoon that a meeting of all interested parties be convened to craft a solution for the traffic conditions on Fell Street including the role and location of the proposed SFgo sign.


Political maneuvers by city transportation officials and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s office may determine the next location of the freeway-style SFgo sign on Fell Street, leaving NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors out of the site-selection process once again. But a push-back is coming from neighbors who don’t want their streets stuck with the SFgo eyesore at the entry to Panhandle Park.

The new developments occur even as neighbors celebrated the decision to remove the SFgo sign from Oak Street near Broderick. Last Friday Cheryl Liu, SFgo Project Manager, informed BIKE NOPA that the Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA) had decided to remove the message display sign on Oak “based on community input” and a meeting with Sup. Mirkarimi on September 30. That decision leaves only the Fell Street sign, recently installed next to a gas station just west of Divisadero. Liu also wrote that MTA was considering moving the Fell Street sign to a different location, perhaps along the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) property on Fell between Broderick and Baker.

Previously MTA took the brunt of neighborhood criticism for placing the SFgo signs near the Divisadero Corridor. NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors objected to the lack of community outreach by the agency and the inappropriateness of both the signs and the locations. To its credit, the MTA will remove the Oak sign. But they seem to be shifting responsibility for finding a new home for the Fell St sign to Sup. Mirkarimi. And, for some reason, his office appears poised to make a decision with little community outreach.

“Supervisor Mirkarimi strongly suggested that we consider moving the Fell Street sign to a location next to the DMV, and we are looking into that possibility,” Liu explained in her message to BIKE NOPA. She added that the staff will consider neighbors’ comments “prior to installing any sign,” but the suggestion was clear that the DMV site was the supervisor’s idea.

Last Friday Mirkarimi’s aide Vallie Brown said the staff would likely propose a new location for the Fell sign by Tuesday this week, and that the supervisor would likely make a recommendation about the sign relocation to the MTA on Wednesday. What the supervisor’s staff has apparently not allowed for during its rushed two-day research is any community input about whether the SFgo sign should be placed on Fell at the DMV. NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors learned of the proposed DMV site from the MTA not from Mirkarimi’s office, and three to four days is hardly enough time to gather input about a location no one had previously considered. Although Brown said the DMV site was not a “done deal,” she did not propose any other location for the sign.

Neither NOPNA nor ASNA, the neighborhood associations, suggested SFgo locations further west of Divisadero. The groups proposed instead that the Fell sign be moved closer to the off-ramps of the Central Freeway where it might be more effective in alerting motorists when the Golden Gate Park Concourse Garage is closed. But Mirkarimi and the MTA are also hearing from the California Academy of Sciences, and from Inner Richmond and Inner Sunset neighbors, according to Brown, and they want a “garage advisory” sign placed on Fell somewhere between Masonic and Divisadero. Supervisor Mirkarimi must balance differing concerns among his constituencies, and he may believe that the removal of the Oak sign and the relocation of the Fell sign are enough of a nod to NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors while the DMV location still gives the Academy and residents west of Masonic what they’ve lobbied for all along. But does anyone really want a SFgo sign, or something like it, at the entrance of Panhandle Park?

Rather than rush to a Wednesday recommendation, why not avoid the likely opposition from NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors by opening the discussion with effective community outreach? Remove the Oak and Fell signs and encourage all the neighborhood constituencies, the SFgo staff, and other interested parties to consider all the options and work toward a consensus.


  1. It would be nice if they could get rid of the DMV, too. No reason to have that big empty lot in the middle of a neighborhood.

  2. A proposal to develop the DMV site appears every now and then for the state to keep DMV operations on the first level and add residential above in a new building, but in this economy...

  3. Good work, Michael. And I'm impressed with the MTA for listening.

    It would be lovely to have something else at the DMV site, and a great opportunity to widen the sidewalks around it as well. Whatever happens there, the driveway on the Fell Street side should be moved to one of the side streets, away from the Fell bike lane.

  4. good suggestion re: the Fell driveway, Mariana; complicated perhaps since it's State property but we should add it to the list of improvements needed.

  5. Thanks for keeping on this. It's encouraging news.

    btw-- it's so generous of other neighborhoods to INSIST on a freeway sign in someone elese's neighborhood. How nice.