Median parking on Guerrero & Dolores: SFMTA Board of Directors decides on 12-month pilot that leaves things largely unchanged

median parking darkMEDIAN PARKING ON DOLORES AND GUERRERO HAS ALWAYS BEEN ILLEGAL, but the SF Metropolitan Transit Authority (SFMTA), which is in charge of parking regulation and enforcement, has looked the other way for decades. While the official word is that this practice has been tolerated to accommodate the neighborhood’s faith-based organizations, in reality, the vast majority of parkers in recent years are there not to attend services, but to avail themselves of Dolores Park and other local amenities. The parking is a great convenience for many but a source of considerable unhappiness among most local residents. As the Mission Dolores Neighborhood has become increasingly popular, so have the traffic congestion and safety issues associated with turning these two-lane thoroughfares into a single-lane gauntlet.

Last year, SFMTA convened a 9-member “Median Parking Advisory Committee” composed of local residents, business owners, and members of local religious organizations, in an attempt to arrive at some concensus about this contentious issue. After meeting for over 9 months, the Committee came up with a narrow but final recommendation to abolish all median parking (Note: SFMTA claims that no such consensus was reached due to a technical quorum issue). The agency  also did a survey of some 3,766 locals. 74% of respondents said they were either “completely (64.9%) or somewhat (10.8%) unsupportive of median parking conditions.”

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On August 14, SFMTA’s Board of Directors met to come to a final decision. While the results of the survey appeared unambiguous, the Board concluded: “the survey is neither the determining factor in the SFMTA’s final decision on median parking nor a statistically significant random sample of the stakeholders.”

Instead, SFMTA decided on a 12-month pilot program that would keep things pretty much as they are now, but would provide more enforcement against clearly unsafe practices based on yet-to-be-determined guidelines. (To date, there is no evidence that enforcement has changed in any way. As the photo attests, cars parked long after dark are not being ticketed on any regular basis.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Guerrero Median Greening Day, 17th to 18th, a great success

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MANY OF US WILL REMEMBER—not that long ago—that the Guerrero St. median all the way from  Cesar Chavez St. to Market St. was a nondescript, lifeless concrete strip. Today, nearly the entire stretch has been planted through an greening initiative kickstarted by Gillian Gilett, who conceived it primarily as a traffic-calming measure.

While the city has foot the majority of the bill for removing concrete,  soil prep, and plants and materials, DPW’s Bureau of Urban Forestry emphasizes that it can plant and maintain the median only with the help of engaged residents. The reality has been disappointing. While there has been enthusiastic support on most blocks for the planting, maintaining the plantings has been another story. Nearly all the median blocks look neglected. MDNA hopes to change that, setting an example for other blocks to emulate, by adopting the median from 17th to 18th Streets.

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To kick things off, we sponsored a median greening day on Saturday, April 2 from 8:30 am to 1 pm. Fifteen volunteers participated and Tartine Bakery and Bi-Rite Market generously contributed pastries and fresh fruit—fun and camaraderie were had by all. Three Sundays later, four of us got together to complete the work. In  both cases, We couldn’t have done it without DPW’s Bureau of Urban Forestry, which coned off the inner lanes on both sides of the block so we could work safely, and  helped us accomplish the following :

  • Remove all weeds and trash.
  • Plant over 100 new plants (Euphorbia, Penstamon varieties, Agave varieties, Salvia, Armeria, Lavender, Society Garlic, and California Poppy).
  • Replace dead, damaged, or missing trees. More than half were destroyed last year when a car plowed thru the median! Also, we lost one tree in March, when an elderly driver suffered a heart attack and drove over the median.
  • Re-stake several very young Willow Acacia trees to ensure good upright growth.
  • Install wood stakes and orange tape around the perimeter of the median to discourage jaywalking and trampling of the plants.

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As I post this, some three months after the initial planting, the median is looking great and the vast majority of the plants are doing well and growing. DPW has committed to watering once a week for a total of two years. Although once a week is enough when temperatures are cool, when it’s hot, once a week is not enough while the plants are getting established. Generous neighbors have made their water supply accessible, and one neighbor on Guerrero, in particular, has begun watering the median once more per week with a clever system consisting of a 33 gallon trashcan on his truck and a pump, allowing him to slowly drive down the street with his hazard lights on and water all the plants. This is essentially how DPW does it.

Interested in helping us on 17th to 18th or helping to spruce up and maintain other blocks?

Interesting in helping to maintain other blocks on the Guerrero median? They really need help. If you would like help maintain other parts of the median from 14th St. to 20th in the Mission Dolores Neighborhood, let me know. Although we have adopted just one block, we encourage residents along other parts of the median to do the same. For more info, contact MDNA Greening Coordinator, Gideon Kramer at gykramer1@gmail.com. Contact me as well if you’re interested in being on the email list for alerts about our our periodic maintenance days on our adopted block.

Decision coming soon on contentious Dolores/Guerrero median parking issue

LAST YEAR, THE SF MUNICIPAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY (SFMTA), convened a Median Parking Advisory Committee composed of nine local residents and members of local religious organizations with a stake in parking to help craft a formal policy regarding the contentious issue of median parking on Dolores St. and  Guerrero St. Although parking on medians is and always has been illegal, SFMTA has bowed to local religious organizations in the area for decades by looking the other way to median parking on Sundays (and to a lesser extent on Saturdays). This has led to a great many others who come for other purposes to park on the median as well, leading to a situation that many have called “out of control.”

SFMTA also conducted a community survey, completed by more than 3,700 residents, to get the pulse of the community as a whole. The survey found that about three-fourths of respondents were unhappy with the status quo, and favored doing away with median parking (see this article in Mission Local for more details on the survey). The advisory committee, after meeting for more than nine months, made a final recommendation to curtail median parking, coming to these conclusions:

  1. Reducing two-lane transit corridors to just one lane has led to major congestion bottlenecks and pedestrian hazards.
  2.  SFMTA’s failure to enforce perpendicular and intersection parking by median parkers has led to much abuse of the parking privilege and serious impediments to emergency vehicles in the event of an emergency.
  3. It is unconstitutional to give preference in the use of a public asset (parking) to one group over another. If median parking on Guerrero were to be “formalized” to accommodate local churches, the City would be open to a lawsuit by a disgruntled citizen.
  4. Median parking is incompatible with the recent greening of the Guerrero median. Unless median parking is carefully controlled by monitors, people  exiting and returning to their cars will trample the median plantings or damage them when opening their car door.
  5. The reality is that most Sunday users of median parking on Dolores St. are not going to church, but to go to Dolores Park or to hang out in the neighborhood. For them, median parking is a convenience, not a necessity.

The final decision is now in the hands of the  SFMTA Board of Directors. Its next meeting is Tuesday, August 16 at 1 pm at City Hall, Room 400. If you wish to testify on this matter—pro, con, or in between—you are encouraged to attend. The Board will make its decision at the end of the meeting, and it’s more than likely that some compromise will be made, rather than an outright ban.

Mission Street’s new car-free “red carpet” creates a stir

THE SF MUNICIPAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY (SFMTA) held a community meeting on June 20 the Mission Cultural Center to discuss the effects of the transit-only lanes and turn restrictions implemented along the Mission Street corridor from 14th Street to 30th Street, which have drawn major backlash from drivers and businesses who say access to the street has become much more difficult since the implementation of the changes.

Businesses along the street have reported revenue losses since the change and blame a reduction of parking spaces, though the Transit Authority reports an overall increase in parking spaces along the corridor due to the removal of bus stops. Some transit riders are dismayed with those removals, citing an additional burden on seniors and transit riders with disabilities.

Supervisor David Campos has been leading an effort to find a compromise agreeable to all users of the street after negative feedback began pouring in to the impending changes. Several stakeholder meetings, closed to the press, have been held to discuss the effects of the changes.

“While I wholeheartedly support the goal of improving Muni reliability and speed, I want to make sure that the project works for everyone and takes into account the unique aspects of the Mission,” Campos said in a written statement.

Residents and business owners have continued to advocate for changes to the new system, and the advocacy group San Francisco Transit Riders has defended the changes. Meanwhile, the Transportation Authority says the transit-only lanes have improved Muni service and brought down collisions:

With eight full weeks of post-implementation results, Muni reliability has improved and travel time has dropped and continues to drop. Furthermore, Muni has seen only one collision in this corridor since late March. Prior to project implementation we experienced three to four per week, which hampered reliability and forced buses out of service. While construction was only recently completed, there has been a significant amount of positive feedback from Muni riders and neighborhood residents. The feedback ranges, but is focused on the appreciation of an improved Muni experience and a feeling of Mission Street being a safer place to walk – primary goals of the project.

Thus far, stakeholder meetings have not produced a compromise, but according to a statement from the Transit Authority’s director Ed Reiskin, the search for a middle ground is not over.

“The SFMTA did not intend to impact businesses and I share merchant concerns about ensuring vibrant commercial activity in the short- and long-term. With our continued work together on this project, I believe we will be able to tweak the project in a way that works for everyone,” wrote Reiskin.

“Pollinator Blvd” invigorates gateway to Mission Dolores neighborhood

ON MARCH 3, 2016, more than 40 volunteers came together on an overcast San Francisco Saturday morning to put hundreds of plants in the ground to create Pollinator Blvd., a pollinator-friendly garden on the wide median of the first block of Dolores St., just opposite the new Whole Foods Store.

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Patricia Algara, principal of BASE Landscape Architecture, came up with the idea, and brought it to fruition. The project received the MDNA Board’s enthusiastic endorsement after it was assured that BASE, Whole Foods, and SFDPW committed to ensuring that Pollinator Blvd. is well maintained (and not neglected, like so many of the city’s medians), a source of pride, not embarrassment.

Pollinator Blvd. is filled with colorful and durable perennials that are both drought-tolerant and attractive to pollinating birds and insects. The garden thrives with drip irrigation, using a fraction of the water formerly required to keep the turf green. As is evident on the entire rest of Dolores St., the median turf has been allowed to turn brown due to the drought. BASE hopes to extend the concept further down the boulevard.

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Pollinator Blvd., 3 months after Planting Day. Lookin’ good!

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All the changes of the past 5 years —including the Pollinator Blvd., have completely transformed first block of the majestic Dolores Street boulevard.

 

For more information about the garden and volunteer opportunities to keep the garden looking beautiful, contact Patricia Algara at 415.509-3728 or patricia@baselandscape.com. BASE Landscape Architecture