Friday, July 30, 2010

Seen While Walking: Sidewalk Safety Repair

Tree roots buckled this sidewalk of Baker at Fell but no longer

The North Panhandle's mature trees often buckle the sidewalks, creating hazards for the unwary or distracted stroller. One property owner on Baker Street at Fell decided to not risk liability for injuries and replaced the concrete surrounding two of the large street trees fronting the building.

It's always an improvement to have smoother, safer sidewalks, but the neighborhood would benefit from more permeable sidewalks to absorb storm water runoff. Using the sidewalk replacement in these photos as examples, several feet on either side of the trees could have been opened for additional planting or filled with loose materials instead. One recent example of a new formulation for sidewalks can be seen at the Zygmunt Arendt House at Broderick and Golden Gate (previously reported here). A residential model of open sidewalk space is in place at Broderick and Hayes.

Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) will be sponsoring a street-tree planting in NOPA on July 31st, and all the new trees will be welcome. Property owners will get the benefit of a subsidy to cover cutting and removing the concrete for the new trees and for the trees, but the city currently levies an additional fee for anyone who wants enlarged basins. A fee waiver here could greatly increase green space and return rainwater to the aquifer at relatively small cost.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Better Masonic: Community Workshop #2 Aug 10, The Really Important One

The August 10th community workshop to plan the future of Masonic Avenue is even more important than the first gathering or the one that will follow. The first session set out the parameters for neighborhood planning and encouraged residents to experience the challenge and difficulty of transforming an existing thoroughfare into a great street that serves all road users. Is there space for a landscaped median and a left-turn lane and a bike lane while keeping a steady traffic flow for Muni and motorists? In the midst of all that, can Masonic traffic be calmed so residents can enjoy the street and pedestrians can choose to walk along it?

Javad Mirabdal, MTA planner for the Masonic Avenue project, explained what to expect from the second meeting, "City staff will give a brief presentation on existing conditions followed by a review of the community input received during the first workshop." And then the most important part: "a presentation and discussion of the potential options for this corridor." Community response to these options will heavily influence and guide the third phase: the development and design of plans with implementation and revenue prospects.

The grassroots group, FIX MASONIC, previously gathered more than 600 signatures from Masonic area residents who wanted a calmer street. Now is the chance to help the city achieve that goal. Some observers believe Masonic works just fine now because motorists can speed along and get from their point A to point B. (The posted 25mph speed is widely ignored with accompanying risks along the several blocks between Geary and Oak). But many motorists object to the risky left-turns and confusing lane-changes that Masonic presents, and bicyclists get shut out from this designated bike route for lack of space and safety. For pedestrians, Masonic is more like a noisy gauntlet endured to get to Lucky's or Starbuck's. If you want it better for all users, you have to make your voice heard.

The purpose of the meeting August 10th is to have residents working together and guiding city staff. The first gathering saw no arguments or outbursts or rude, disruptive behavior, just serious folks committed to make the neighborhood thoroughfare a place that works for all. Anyone who didn't attend the first meeting can still contribute to the process. Everyone is welcome.

Masonic Avenue Street Design Study
August 10, 2010
Tuesday, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
San Francisco Day School
350 Masonic
(enter on Golden Gate Avenue)
For more information: Javad
(415) 702-4421

For previous articles in the A Better Masonic series, check here.

"New Tree Here" Saturday July 31

The spaces are marked, the concrete is cut, the trees are selected, and the countdown to new leafy trees in NOPA has begun. Get ready to welcome the green on neighborhood streets as neighbors and Friends of the Urban Forest plant a mini-forest on our blocks Saturday, July 31st. The community planting has a good long history in NOPA, and we can thank the foresight of those neighbors who helped green our streets. More info here and see if you can spot the new ones this upcoming weekend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What A Premiere Bike City Looks Like

If you missed this Streetsfilm when it was first posted on Streetsblog, take a few minutes to watch how the people of Copenhagen get around their city:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NOPA VELO Takes on the Chilly Tall Trees

Trees and bikes and fog: perfect Sunday morning

A typical summer day in San Francisco didn't keep NOPA VELO riders from their sixth monthly outing Sunday, July 25th. James, a first-timer with NOPA VELO, said he came out on the chilly morning because he was curious about the tree talks scheduled for the ride. One of the regulars was Smokey, a "rescue dog" or "little black dog" according to Dawn who pedals him around in his basket. She explained why she was joining the ride again. "Smokey brought me because he hasn't been on a ride for awhile and dogs and trees just go together. He wants the biggest tree possible. I think he wants to brag to his friends."

A total of twenty North Panhandle neighbors and friends met at Central Coffee, Tea and Spice, powered up on caffeine and carbs and spun off for their Tall Trees tour. First stop, the west end of the Panhandle where Dale Danley detailed the early planting of trees in the park from the 50-year-old redwoods to the 100-year-old Eucalyptus. Then off to the Andy Goldsworthy installation, Spire, just inside the Presidio after passing through the Arguello Gate for the second tree talk. Still no sun breaking through, but the troupe pedaled along the Presidio rim to the new Point Lobos overlook for a view of the habitat restoration underway. At the end of the tour, the riders took their planned park picnic to a nearby deck and dahlia garden instead. One more great NOPA VELO ride.

Coming up the last Sunday of August: think pastries.

Thanks to JP Collins for several of the photos in this album

Monday, July 26, 2010

How Separated Bikeways Will Benefit NOPA

A Vancouver B.C. street with raised and tinted bikeway Flickr Photo by Bejan

Market Street's separated bike lane with soft-hit posts

The North Panhandle and adjacent neighborhoods will experience a huge boost to their overall livability when the city installs separated bikeways, also known as cycle tracks, along busy east-west and north-south traffic corridors. NOPA's most intractable traffic and street problems could be resolved, and tensions among people walking, biking, or driving would be greatly reduced. The risks for cyclists on Fell at the Arco station could be minimized. The narrow Fell bike lane could be widened for safety. The multi-use Panhandle Path could be improved for people walking, running, or biking more slowly and become more family-friendly. The bike-risky stretch of Oak between Baker and Scott (now without a bike lane) could be avoided or equipped with a safer biking facility.

Separated bikeways would also accommodate the many NOPA residents who want to bike for everyday transportation but are reluctant to ride along fast-moving vehicles. The new-style bike lanes would also serve the thousands of people who commute by bike everyday. With more people on bikes there would be fewer in cars, opening up the streets and parking spaces and reducing oil consumption. Cyclists with a safe on-road route would have little reason to bike on sidewalks.

Separated bikeways in NOPA will bring an innovation in traffic design to a residential neighborhood in the city. So far only Market Street features green-painted bike lanes with soft-hit posts for a degree of separation.

Other cities initiated the new bikeways and have since added enhancements for greater safety. Many of these designs separate the bikeways vertically and horizontally from walkways and traffic lanes. The tracks are raised two to three inches higher than the street level for a greater sense of safety for cyclists, and parking lanes or landscaped medians create buffers between people on bikes or those walking or driving.

In NOPA Fell and Oak streets are the most obvious sites for this "next generation" of bike lanes, although installation of a two-way track on just one of the streets will likely be more feasible than a one-way treatment on both. Fell street receives more attention from cyclists and traffic engineers due to the existing bike lane from Scott to Baker and the risks along the Arco station at Divisadero. However, the north side of Oak from Scott to Stanyan may be the better choice.Whichever street is selected for the new bikeway will present challenges, including the gas stations along both streets.

Masonic Avenue is currently a designated bike route, but most bicyclists avoid the risks from speeding traffic and narrow lanes. Many ride the extra-wide sidewalks as a safer choice. Since Masonic is the only direct north-south route in the area, the city needs to accommodate the people who want to bike the street safely. The Municipal Transportation Agency has initiated a community planning process to bring traffic calming to Masonic, and a separated bike lane may be presented as a strategy at the next neighborhood meeting.*

Changes to the traffic system always appear daunting at the onset, but Fell, Oak, Masonic and the Panhandle Path have been reconfigured during previous decades to accommodate new traffic realities. One of the most significant developments for San Francisco streets in recent years has been the 50% surge in the number of bicyclists. Most NOPA residents have noticed far more people biking on neighborhood streets.

How likely are cycle tracks for NOPA? City planners and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition staff already target separated bikeways as the next step for a more livable city. Due to the city's bike and vehicle traffic flow, NOPA's corridors are on the short list of candidates.

Take a look at Vancouver's experience with separated bikeways in the video below:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

But What About Our "Shop Local" Values?

Do you see San Francisco values somewhere further in the distance?

Now that Target has hosted its well-received community meeting to an enthusiastic audience and several reports of the gathering have appeared, consider an editorial view from The Square, the new website that's all about Alamo Square (never mind that Geary at Masonic is more "Outer Lands" and some distance from the Square).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fell Street To Get Green Bike Lane Week of August 2nd

Soon to be a green stripe for the full block, Fell between Scott and Divisadero

Update, 5:30 pm: SFMTA has clarified an earlier message about the green bike lane coming to Fell Street. James Shahamiri, traffic engineer, wrote that the agency will not be painting the entire lane solid green. Instead, the green lane will incorporate the dashes in the current white-striped lane. "Where the bicycle lane has solid stripes, the green will be solid," Shahamiri explained. "Once the dashing starts, the green will be dashed too; the white stripes, whether solid or dashed, are the bounding areas for the green color." The end result will be a solid green lane from Scott to the middle of the block and then dashed green areas to the Divisadero intersection.

The much-scrutinized Fell Street bike lane between Scott and Divisadero will be much easier to see when the SFMTA paints it a solid green during the week of August 2nd. James Shahamiri, SFMTA traffic engineer, wrote in an email message that the agency will make one more change before the bike lane goes green.

"Next week two "DO NOT BLOCK BICYCLE LANE" signs will be installed along the approach to the Arco gas station. The week after, the bicycle lane will be painted green."

Shahamiri also explained the changes made to the bike lane yesterday, reported by BIKE NOPA this morning.

"Yesterday, 7/22, we changed the solid bicycle lane striping to a dashed pattern. We thought this would encourage cars to move over the queuing area. We realized that many drivers don't feel comfortable crossing two solid lines, and that by dashing the lines, it's more intuitive that cars can cross over to the queuing space. We also added three more turn arrows in the queuing space to make it clear that the area is a travel lane."

The green bike lane will be installed as bicyclists have expressed increasing frustration with the traffic lane configuration on Fell for motorists approaching Arco. Many cyclists believe that the only way to make the approach to Divisadero safe is to close the Fell entry and exit from Arco altogether. A protest at Arco -- with complaints about the unsafe biking conditions, excessive oil consumption, and the BP Gulf Oil spill -- has been underway for several weeks on Friday afternoons. The Fix Fell and Oak group provides updates on the protests at its Facebook page.

Only one block of Fell, from Scott to Divisadero, will be painted green, but the segment is the most tangled and risky for people on bikes and those who drive due to the Arco station with its curb cuts along the street. The Fell bike lane connects the much-used Wiggle bike route with the Panhandle multi-use path and serves as a primary bikeway in the city.

MTA Tweaks Lane Striping to Direct Drivers into Arco Queue

The arrows and dashed bike lane begins mid-block

The new configuration might nudge more drivers into the queue for Arco

One of the safety advantages of the parking removal is open views for all road users

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) added another feature to the weeks-old traffic lane configuration on Fell Street between Scott and Divisadero. To dispel any reluctance motorists might have had about crossing the solid white lines of the bike lane to access the queue for the Arco service station, SFMTA installed dashed stripes instead. A full 100 feet of dashed lines were added, starting at mid-block. The dashes are wider and easier to see at a glance.

Although SFMTA does not explicitly inform Arco customers about the curbside line-up with street markings, the agency added more left turn arrows beginning at mid-block as well for a total of six. The extra arrows begin about 75 feet before the Arco entry, and were not needed to direct drivers into the left turn onto Divisadero. This fine-tuning of the approach to Arco and Divisadero -- combined with more outreach and media alerts to drivers -- may tip the scale to greater use of the queue.

Bicyclists who took some comfort in the solid stripes of the bike lane along this section of Fell may be frustrated by the change to dashes for half the block. However, the SFMTA still plans to paint the full lane a solid green once impact studies are completed for the lane changes. This new variation to the configuration will require its own evaluation which may result in a slight delay to the installation of the city's first green bike lane other than along Market Street.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

NOPA VELO Spins Green: Tall Trees Ride Sunday July 25th, View Route Map

NOPA VELO is all green Sunday, July 25th with a tall trees bike tour and a picnic in the park. If you missed the ride in June, be sure to add this green spin to your weekend. Find out what the bike buzz is all about for NOPA's only bike group for neighbors and friends. Organizers are adding an art + tree spire stop in the Presidio and a view from a new panoramic overlook.

NOPA VELO Tall Trees Ride
Sunday, July 25
Meet: 9:30 at Central Coffee, Tea & Spice (Central & Hayes)
Start: 10 am sharp
(If you're running late, join the group in the Panhandle near Shrader)
End: about 12:00 pm with a picnic lunch in the Panhandle (bring bike-friendly treats)

Mild to moderate 7 mile ride through the Panhandle and along the Presidio Rim
All level riders welcome; kids on own bike OK if with guardian
Pets OK too if on leash or on bike
Tree hugger attire encouraged
More info: Lenore @415-300-6744,

Join the NOPA VELO Google Group here

A Better Masonic: Target Stresses Alternative Transportation to a Masonic/Geary Store, Less Clear about Traffic Impacts

The Target Image by Target

Major upgrades to exterior of City Center Plaza Proposed by Target

More than 150 neighbors with interest and concerns at the Target meeting

Target representatives were quick to focus on alternative modes of transportation to their proposed City Center Plaza site during the first outreach meeting to mostly supportive neighbors last night. One of the first images in a brief slide presentation highlighted a half-mile radius circling the Masonic/Geary location. Thom Lasley, Target designer, indicated that residents living within the area could walk to the store in twenty minutes or less. Another slide identified several Muni lines nearby, with 43 Masonic and 38 Geary stops just steps from the front door. Lasley said Target also expected many customers to bike to the store and bike parking would be readily available.

Information about how many vehicle trips would likely be generated by the popular store was less available. In a pre-meeting discussion with BIKE NOPA, John Dewes, regional development manager, said he believed Target’s experience with their 1800 stores nationwide gave them “a good handle on this.” However, the San Francisco stores – another is planned for the Metreon complex -- would be the first in Target’s “new concept for an urban store” and a great many Target stores serve more suburban or small town populations. Dewes added that Target was currently working with a traffic engineer to help them with this issue in San Francisco. In response to a question by Streetsblog about anticipated trips to Target, Dewes said they expected the traffic “will break down as in other urban centers with a cross-mix from nearby residents and from neighborhoods further away.” But, he added, “We’re still analyzing how that will work.”

Approximately 150 neighbors gathered for the meeting in the old Mervyn’s department store last night. Most who spoke were enthusiastic, sometimes almost giddy, about the prospect of Target settling in the area. Kat Anderson, a candidate for the District 2 Board of Supervisors seat, said a nearby Target was “a wonderful idea.” She added that she usually spent $300 every time she shopped Target, but “there’s no way I’m walking home with $300 of stuff.” Another supportive neighbor commented, “You’re like a respite in the city. Going downtown is a nightmare. Now we won’t have to go to South San Francisco.” Unlike many public meetings focused on new development projects, the Target session was upbeat and friendly.

Representatives from at least three neighborhood associations voiced their support for the Target outlet. A leader of the University Terrace Association -- located near Masonic and Turk streets – reported that all 60 of their active members “were very positive.” The Ewing Terrace neighbors and the Planning Association of the Richmond also welcomed Target.

Only toward the end of the meeting were traffic concerns raised again. District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi spoke about the ongoing efforts to manage traffic on Masonic. “Masonic has been a chronic challenge to us. Target will add to that and will require a more stepped-up response to traffic management.” He called for more traffic calming along the Masonic corridor from Geary to Haight. Pauli Ojea urged neighbors and Target representatives to look not only towards the inside of the store but also the outside and the surrounding streets. “Bike racks are nice, but they don’t do me any good if I get killed trying to bike to the store.”

Mariana Parreiras, a member of Fix Masonic, explained that the advocacy group had collected more than 600 signatures among Masonic area residents in support of greater safety for all road users. “It’s clear the neighborhood wants Target,” Parreiras said, “but we hope Target will work with us to mitigate the traffic concern so we can welcome them to the neighborhood.”

Other highlights from the Target meeting:
  • Since 1946 Target’s policy has been to donate 5% of its income – currently more than $3 million a week – to community non-profit organizations. In San Francisco Target has supported the AIDS Foundation, the Asian Art and de Young Museums and 85 local schools
  • 200-250 employees would be hired at each of the proposed stores
  • Target is working with the Mayor’s office to determine how much sales tax revenue might be generated
  • Target will use sustainable materials in construction as much as possible
  • “wall stores” – magazines, coffee, etc. – will be added to the first level exterior along Geary to make the store more pedestrian-friendly
  • Landscaping on the property will be upgraded considerably
  • City Center Plaza has 600 parking spaces, far more than would be allowed for a similar complex today
  • Target may install wind turbines on the rooftops to generate electricity
  • Target has yet to file an application to the city but if the process proceeds in a timely manner, the new store could be open in the Spring of 2012
For other articles in the A Better Masonic series, check here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Making the Wiggle Safer One Sunken Utility Cover at a Time

Today the sunken manhole at Scott & Page repaired

In the turning range for bicyclists travelling Page to Scott on the Wiggle

SFBC's Good Roads volunteers ID hazards like these and Turn Them In to DPW via 311

Hundreds of people on bikes spin along the Scott and Page segments of the Wiggle bike route every day. Today their rides are safer with the repair of a sunken utility cover (aka a manhole) situated at the northeast corner of the intersection. This one is an example of what sometimes happens when repaving a street does not include raising the utility core and cover to be flush with the new surface.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's two-year-old Good Roads volunteers report these below-grade hazards whenever they're sighted. The utility covers usually require more work and more time to repair, but a good fix for them is just as important as the more common pothole. In April of this year, SFBC launched its Turn Em In campaign to emphasize that anyone can -- and, please, should -- report street defects like these to 311. Thanks to the Bureau of Street Use & Mapping of the Department of Public Works for getting this done.

The disclosure: The Page & Scott sunken cover is one that I happened to report. Yesterday afternoon I biked right over it.

Parking Lots with Views: City Center Plaza

Top level at City Center Plaza: a guaranteed space with a view

Light traffic on a late Saturday afternoon: Masonic Avenue looking north

The landscaped median on Masonic looks better from this distance

Reason enough to walk or bike to this parking lot

Public Meeting about Target's Application
Wednesday, July 21, 6:30 - 7:30 pm
2675 Geary (in old Mervyn's store) at Masonic
Not much bike parking nearby but there's a rack at the Geary entrance to Office Depot at street level and close to the Mervyn's entrance. (Or take bikes inside).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

SFPD Park Station Renews Pedestrian Stings, Juggles Traffic Watch with Crime Trends

Pedestrian stings for infractions like this at Divisadero and Fell streets

Motorists who ignore crosswalk right-of- ways might get more than a few seconds shaved off their daily travels as SFPD's Park Station undertakes pedestrian stings at the district's worst intersections for the offense. Officers posing as pedestrians will target and ticket motorists who enter a crosswalk ahead of pedestrians, try to nudge the strollers to move faster, or nearly clip them from the rear. The Fell/Masonic and the Divisadero/Fell intersections will get special attention following complaints. The renewed operations will begin this week.

SFPD periodically monitors the crosswalk connecting the western and eastern parts of the Panhandle Path at Fell and Masonic, but anyone using the path or the streets observes intrusions at the crosswalks throughout the day and night. Problems occur at the east-west Divisadero and Fell crosswalks when motorists partly or completely block pedestrians while they await signal changes.

Park Station Captain Teresa Barrett explained to BIKE NOPA that the pedestrian stings are sometimes interrupted when traffic cops assigned to the district get directed to other operations. Recent diversions include crime trends in Golden Gate Park, robberies, and the all-district alert leading up to the verdict in the Johann Mehserle trial. Barrett said she expected the pedestrian stings to continue on an ongoing basis.

SFMTA Tries New Flier for Arco Customers, A Few Heed Advice

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) developed a new flier to inform motorists of the new curbside queue while awaiting their turn at the Arco station. The flier provides clear images of the correct and incorrect ways to use the line-up whereas an earlier version was limited to a photograph of what not to do. Interns began talking with drivers blocking the bike lane on Fell and offering them one of the fliers. I've heard reports that once one driver gets in the queue, others follow, but the practice remains far from the norm.

Interns can reach relatively few people during a one to two hour stint two days a week, but SFMTA regularly provides traffic advisories to the media. The new Arco access lane seems a prime candidate for a similar alert.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Better Masonic: If Target Goes In, Adequate Parking is the Only Non-Issue

Target will be a more vigorously promoted and visited operation than the old Mervyn's

Mostly bleak and abandoned sidewalk along Masonic now

One of six huge parking lots at City Center Plaza

If free parking is guaranteed, how many will come?

The prospect of Target securing an outpost in San Francisco at City Center Plaza on Geary at Masonic occurs at either the best of times or the worst. During this staggering economic downturn, a new department store would bring needed jobs, fill an under-used property, enliven deadened pedestrian spaces, and offer goods to residents within walking and biking distance.

But Target would also attract thousands of motorists just as the city undertakes a community-based rethinking of Masonic Avenue and how the corridor now primarily serves motorists and transit riders with little account for people walking or biking. A Target outlet would dilute San Francisco's Transit First policy (which applies to Muni as well as pedestrians and bicyclists) and would undermine the city's resolve to keep national chain stores out of the neighborhoods. Non-union jobs at Target adds one more negative for many in the city.

The best and the worst aspects for Target are complicated and resist black-and-white for-or-against arguments. All the considerations will likely be mentioned, time permitting, this Wednesday when Target will present its proposal and solicit community reactions. (However, Target has scheduled only one hour for the meeting -- hardly enough time for a full consideration by the many stakeholders likely to attend. The initial limited outreach and only a brief public meeting elicit little confidence that Target wants a full review by neighbors).

A few gray-area considerations:
  • City Center Plaza is and has been home to national chains ever since Sears first developed the property. How much more draw will a vigorous Target be compared with the lackluster Mervyn's?
  • Hundreds of nearby residents may shop at a Target and forego driving to other locations for similar products
  • Boarded-up properties -- like the old Mervyn's store -- drain vitality from the neighborhood and blight the streetscape
  • Livability advocates and neighborhood residents will likely negotiate a great many "community benefits" if Target is allowed to take the space. These improvements could help transform the neglected sidewalks, re-landscape the ugly Geary median, re-envision the pocket park on Masonic at Geary, and invest in Masonic facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Vehicle traffic to Target will be far greater than what Mervyn's ever generated; the new store isn't a simple replacement for the old
  • Traffic counts on Masonic have been down in this economy, offering a chance to rethink a calmer corridor
  • Increased vehicle traffic on Masonic may slow transit just as Muni struggles to improve its on-time performance and overall service along the corridor
  • Side streets in the Anza Vista neighborhood will likely see a surge in traffic, not only on O'Farrell to access the many parking lots but also from motorists avoiding Masonic by taking small neighborhood streets off Turk like Nido, Vega (that fronts Wallenberg High School) and Anza Vista as a back entrance to parking
  • The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposed for Geary must be factored into the discussion
The perennial flashpoint for most developments in San Francisco -- too much or too little parking -- will likely be off the table for Target at this site. With a half-dozen vastly under-utilized parking lots, the spaces are already there, and no one will demand more.

Public Meeting about Target at Geary & Masonic
Wednesday, July 21, 6:30 to 7:30
City Center Plaza
2675 Geary at the old Mervyn's site

For other articles in the A Better Masonic series, check here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

B2B at 100: AEG Manager Says 2011 Last Year to Get It Right; Announces Major Marketing Campaigns

AEG race director George Ridgely and B2B manager Angela Fang at NOPNA meeting

B2B at 100: An ongoing series about neighborhood efforts to reclaim Bay to Breakers as a foot race and party that San Franciscans can support and celebrate for all the edgy, quirky, and zany things it has represented for most of its 99 year history.

AEG fully intends to make the 2011 Bay to Breakers footrace a successful celebration for everyone involved, but if this year's disruptive after-party on neighborhood streets repeats itself, there may be no 2012 race. Angela Fang, general manager of the Bay to Breakers for corporate giant AEG, expects next year's centennial race to be a safer, less troubled event, but if it's not, she expects AEG to abandon the race in the future. "If we have another bad year next year, I think AEG will close it down," Fang told members of the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) Thursday night. AEG has already begun its outreach to city departments and neighborhood associations, and the NOPNA meeting was one of its first stops. (In a message Fang sent today, she emphasized AEG's plans for 2011, "Our intentions are to work with the city and the neighborhoods and help to provide the resources necessary to bring this event back to it's original roots.")

Fang also announced plans for two major marketing efforts to promote the race and curtail the mayhem of the alcohol-fueled street parties. One campaign will focus on everything good about the city's iconic footrace across town, including its historical background and zany fun. The other will emphasize new restrictions on the event: no open containers of alcohol, no public intoxication, a limit on participants in the race, no floats, and a specific time for ending the race (and opening the streets to traffic).

Fang addressed the major concerns of neighbors voiced at a May meeting of NOPNA.
  • AEG will pay for more police officers on the course, including adjacent neighborhood blocks
  • Registration will likely be capped at 50,000 participants
  • The number of porta-potties will be doubled and will be placed on NOPA and Alamo Square streets as well as in the Panhandle and on the course
  • AEG won't allow floats and that will help meet their goal of opening the streets by noon. Fang noted that 96% of registrants in the race reach the top of the Hayes street hill by 10:30 a.m., allowing for closing the race by noon
  • AEG will have its own clean-up crews in addition to paying the Department of Public Works to clear the area of trash which this year totaled 47 tons
Fang acknowledged that in previous years "the message has been unclear." She intends to correct that for 2011. "We'll take our message to the major media, including SFWeekly and the Bay Guardian. We'll inform colleges and we'll use Facebook."

George Ridgely, race director for B2B, reminded NOPNA members that the race was a remarkable event. "It's one of the top ten races in the country, and one of the oldest foot races in the world." He commented that the serious racers "have a great time in the race and experience none of the problems. We want everyone to have that experience."

As reported earlier this week, NOPNA participated in the first meeting of stakeholders concerned about the future of Bay to Breakers. Jarie Bolander, NOPNA's president, reported Thursday night that everyone agreed at that gathering that the race itself was the responsibility of AEG. "Who is responsible for the accompanying street party was not so clear, at least no one has been ready to step forward and assume that role." No decisions were reached among the group, and another gathering is expected in six to eight weeks. The Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services convened the meeting of neighborhood associations, merchants groups, and B2B preservation alliances. No public officials or city department heads attended.

See previous artilces in the B2B at 100 series here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Better Masonic: Target Wants Site at Geary & Masonic; Mirkarimi's Office Alerts District 5 Neighbors to Community Meeting

Vallie Brown, aide to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, addressed NOPNA neighbors

Masonic Avenue side of proposed Target "urban store"

Target is definitely interested in the former Mervyn's department store site at Geary and Masonic streets, and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi wants to be sure District Five neighbors have a say in whether the proposal moves forward. Vallie Brown, aide to Mirkarimi, told NOPA neighbors Thursday evening that Target intends to seek both the Mervyn's site and a location in the Metreon at 4th and Mission streets. Brown said the supervisor's office contacted Target representatives and gave them a long list of neighborhood associations and merchants groups to invite to a community meeting scheduled for July 21st.

The Geary site is located in District Two, represented by Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier. Before Mirkarimi's initiative, Target had not reached out to groups like the North Panhandle and Alamo Square Neighborhood Associations or FixMasonic, the three-year-old grassroots group working to transform the Masonic corridor to better serve all users. The District Five groups may be less enthusiastic about the Target proposal that their counterparts in District Two. In a San Francisco Chronicle report last week about Target's intentions, Alioto-Pier is quoted as saying her constituents "seem pretty excited to see the vacant space filled with a Target."

At the Thursday evening NOPNA meeting, Vallie Brown said she emphasized to Target that many District Five residents were already concerned with the impact of Masonic traffic on the neighborhoods. "I told them the groups will want to review how the expected increase of traffic to a Target store will affect efforts to calm the street." Brown added that Target intends to install an"urban store" rather than a superstore. The distinction between the two seems pretty slim so far. "They said they wouldn't be selling lawn furniture or tires at their urban store."

The Target representatives told Brown of a positive aspect of their project in addition to new jobs and a commercial outlet in a now-empty storefront. Target provides community benefits to nearby neighborhoods, including grants for local improvement projects.

Target Community Meeting
Wednesday, July 21, 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
City Center Plaza, 2675 Geary at Masonic
Site of former Mervyn's Department Store

For other articles in the A Better Masonic series, check here.

Tree Geeks Spin Their Wheels: NOPA VELO's Tall Trees Ride

Image by Rick Helf,

What next for NOPA VELO? After the Patty Hearst, a Duel to the Death, Maria von Trapp, Dead Presidents, and Pink with Pride rides, what else might inspire a Sunday morning spin for the North Panhandle's favorite bicycling group? How about the Towering Trees of NOPA (and beyond)? Bikes and Trees. What better match and how green is that?

The Panhandle and the Presidio are heaven for tree geeks. They are home to several of the same tree species, and they both have trees planted a hundred years ago. But the tall trees planted in the Presidio by the U.S. Army - and more recently by the National Park Service - have lived a different life from their relatives in the Panhandle. So what's your favorite type - the Army Brats or the offspring of William Hammond Hall, first superintendent of Golden Gate Park?

Riders get started at Central Coffee, Tea and Spice, the neighborhood's nearly historic must-have-caffeine stop. Then the band will buzz down the block to the Panhandle, roll along the path -- allowing room for the strollers -- and stop at the Sue Bierman Memorial Grove near Shrader Street for the first tree talk. Then bikers take off for the Presidio, pass through the Arguello Gate and stop at Spire, the Andy Goldsworthy art installation. The tour continues along the Presidio's ridge line and visits a new overlook before leaving at 15th Avenue and returning to the Panhandle for a picnic lunch.

Andy Goldsworthy's Spire

NOPA VELO Tall Trees Ride
Sunday, July 25
Meet: 9:30 at Central Coffee, Tea & Spice (Central & Hayes)
Start: 10 am sharp
(If you're running late, join the group in the Panhandle near Shrader)
End: about 12:00 pm with a picnic lunch in the Panhandle (bring bike-friendly treats)

Mild to moderate 7 mile ride through the Panhandle and along the Presidio Rim
All level riders welcome; kids on own bike OK if with guardian
Pets OK too if on leash or on bike
Tree hugger attire encouraged
More info: Lenore @415-300-6744,

Join the NOPA VELO Google Group here

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Correction: Exit from Arco into Westbound Fell Traffic Legal

Motorists exiting the Arco service station onto Fell Street may legally cross the solid white stripe and enter the westbound traffic lane. I mistakenly stated in a post last week that the new traffic configuration for Fell Street motorists approaching Divisadero limited Arco customers to only turning left onto Divisadero Street. However, after a review of the California Vehicle Code (CVC), it's clear that there's nothing in the CVC that states road users cannot cross a solid line and, therefore, are not required to turn left at this intersection. The state code does require the driver of any vehicle about to enter or cross a street from any private property to yield the right-of-way to all traffic "close enough to constitute an immediate hazard." (CVC 21804a)

This conclusion was confirmed in recent email correspondence between John Rogers, a BIKE NOPA reader and daily bike commuter on Fell, and James Shahamiri, a traffic engineer for the Municipal Transportation Agency. Shahamiri wrote, "It continues to be legal for vehicles to exit the gas station and to turn left onto Fell, either to merge with through traffic on Fell, or to turn left on Divisadero." Rogers' inquiry to MTA was independent of my own coverage of the ongoing developments at this troubled intersection. He provided the emails to me directly.

Although Rogers wrote that he believed the new configuration made biking through the Fell Street segment even more risky than before, Shahamiri replied that the addition of the left turn lane "has not changed the interaction between cars and bicycles." He explained that the previous part-time tow-away area acted as a left-turn pocket. Under the new arrangement, that pocket now functions on a full-time basis.

A final note: while Arco customers have flexibility upon exiting the station, westbound Fell traffic can only turn left onto southbound Divisadero from the new Left Turn Only lane.