Masonic residents favor a safer, more user-friendly corridor for all
Photo: Michael Helquist
The re-design of Masonic Avenue could move one step closer to implementation Tuesday morning depending on the vote of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA). The Authority's board will consider approving $41,000 of Prop K funds for an environmental review study for the Masonic Streetscape Improvement Project. The board will consider the proposal without a recommendation for action from a committee that reviewed the measure earlier. (The full San Francisco Board of Supervisors serve as the SFCTA Board).
Last week two members of the SFCTA Plans and Programs Committee -- Supervisors Scott Weiner and Carmen Chu -- expressed considerable concern about the removal of parking from Masonic as part of the design plan. They also questioned whether the public had been adequately notified of the project and whether the public was engaged in the planning process. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi assured them of the comprehensive outreach undertaken, but the two supervisors apparently remained unconvinced and the committee sent the funding request to the full Authority board without recommendation.
Questioning whether the public has been adequately informed can be a legitimate inquiry from someone unfamiliar with developments for a major transportation corridor. Or it can be a knee-jerk reaction to any alteration to public use of public space, especially when parking is involved. For the Masonic improvements, the record of public outreach and notification is so overwhelming that the full Board has little reason to repeat the hesitations of a few committee members.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) conducted one of the most thorough outreach efforts to date to engage the public with plans to make Masonic better and safer for all users. The MTA convened three community meetings over several months with attendance reaching more than 100 for the third one. Participants reviewed every facet of four different designs, refining some and rejecting others. For each meeting Masonic residents and those on nearby blocks were contact door-by-door. For the last meeting the MTA also mailed notices to more than 1400 Masonic households and to those who reside one block away.
The previous Masonic project manager, Javad Mirabdal, now retired, met personally with each of the nearby neighborhood associations to discuss the project. Members from the Ewing Terrace, University Terrace, Anza Vista, and North of the Panhandle groups all discussed with him the impact of design changes -- including removal of parking.
The neighborhood associations also got the word out. The North Panhandle's NOPNA distributes its newsletter to the more than 3500 households located between Masonic and Divisadero, Turk and Fell. Several issues provided updates on the Masonic proposals. Advocacy organizations like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition with 12,000 members, WalkSF, Fix Masonic and others repeatedly informed its membership of the design options.
Various websites tracked each development of the Masonic plan, including Streetsblog and BIKE NOPA. This site alone published more than a dozen articles about the planning process -- as well as covering the pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities that occurred on Masonic in the last two years.
In addition to neighborhood associations, the Masonic plan received a vote of support from the San Francisco Day School, located at Masonic and Golden Gate, and the Blood Centers of the Pacific at Masonic and Turk.
The degree of public engagement with the Masonic proposal has been remarkable and a testament to the public's desire for safer, traffic-calmed, user-friendly thoroughfares. The SFCTA staff has recommended approval of the funding request and has submitted a full accounting of public outreach at tomorrow's meeting. The argument for approval is persuasive.
San Francisco County Transportation Authority
Tuesday, 11 am
City Hall, Room 250
Check here for the series of articles on A Better Masonic.
Correction: The earlier version of this story mistakenly listed Supervisor Jane Kim as one of the committee members who voiced concerns about the Masonic Project. My apologies to Supervisor Kim.