Friday, October 1, 2010

City Planners Propose "Once in a Lifetime Opportunity" for Masonic Avenue; Concerns Cited but Community Seems Supportive

More than 125 gathered to hear about the two traffic calming measures

Boulevard street segment on top; Gateway below

Both options add a new triangular parklet near Geary

Masonic Avenue is overdue for a traffic-calming and visual makeover, and last night city planners presented two different ways to get there. At the third of a three-part community planning process, representatives from the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), the Planning Department, and the Department of Public Works described two concepts for stopping the speeding, increasing the safety, making the corridor more attractive, and opening the street to all users. The design changes include removal of the tow-away zones during commute hours, bulb-outs at selected intersections, full or partial landscaped medians, a new parklet, bike lanes or bikeways, and removal of some or all street parking. During breakout sessions, a few individuals expressed concerns about traffic and the loss of parking, but overall the group of more than 125 neighbors seemed receptive to the measures.

Javad Mirabdal, director for the Masonic design study, told the group that many streets in the city need traffic calming, but now is the time for Masonic Avenue. In response to a Ewing Terrace neighbor concerned about negative impacts on her block, Mirabdal gave his most impassioned assessment of the project.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In order to get improvements, you have to give up something. We have limited space. We cannot maintain parking and do the other things at the same time. We're trying to use the existing space as best as possible. We will do our best.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi suggested Masonic could re-awaken much like Divisadero as a result of recent traffic calming and street upgrades on that corridor. He also reflected on the seriousness of what the Masonic project addressed. "It would be a dereliction of duty for me -- as well as for all of us -- to not pay attention to the recent tragedies that have occurred on the street."

The proposals are enhanced versions of two options favored by neighbors at the second community meeting held in August. Both Option A and Option C have previously been described here. When neighbors arrived at last night's meeting, they found block-by-block renderings of both treatments along the wall and draped the length of several tables. Now dubbed the Gateway (previously Option A) and the Boulevard (previously Option C), the two were described as hybrids that reflected the survey results from the last meeting.

"Driving along a street like that would be pleasant," Mirabdal remarked as he described the "completely different feeling" that the Boulevard treatment would bring to Masonic. Some of the advantages of this option over the Gateway include:
  • 200 new street trees vs. 12o trees
  • a full landscaped median vs. median islands along the corridor
  • pedestrian refuges at the median vs. bulb-outs on the east side of the street
  • a six foot wide , slightly raised bike track vs. a standard five foot wide striped lane
  • 125 new light fixtures vs. 100
The full treatment of the Boulevard comes with a projected higher price tag and period of construction: $20 million with 12 to 18 months of construction. The Gateway is expected to cost closer to $15 million with construction requiring 6 to 12 months. The greater cost of the Boulevard is due to a full-length median with more landscaping, the raised-surface of the bicycle track, grade adjustments to driveways, and greater use of lighting and landscaping.

Although the cycle track was not emphasized during the presentation last night, most bicyclists understand the considerable difference in safety between the cycletrack, with its wider, raised surface, and a striped bike lane. While striped lanes are sufficient for some city streets, few bicyclists would feel a simple striping on Masonic afforded them much more safety than the risky conditions now offer.

Removing parking remained a major concern for some, and one resident raised the issue in the discussion period. However, a written audience survey was distributed before the group discussion, and a large number of people left the meeting after completing it. Several in the audience who had attended all three of the community meetings remarked on how little discord and how few objections had been raised about the parking issues.

Last night's large turnout -- nearly twice as many participants as either of the first two community meetings -- was likely the result of the extensive outreach by the city. More than 1400 fliers with meeting information were mailed to every household on Masonic and to all those one-block deep on either side of Masonic. The audience appeared to have many more residents from the surrounding neighborhoods -- Anza Vista, Ewing Terrace, and University Terrace -- than previously.

The results of last night's survey will be published in a month, according to Mirabdal. He said the study would likely be completed by the end of the year. For those unable to attend the final meeting, the MTA expects to post the slide presentation online soon.

For further coverage of the meeting, the two traffic calming options, and comments from speakers and participants, check Streetsblog today.

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

1 comment:

  1. thanks for keepin us posted on these meetings Michael, great to see the links +previous articles as well