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Bayview nets major traffic safety changes in time for new development

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Among the transit changes coming to the Bayview neighborhood are corner bulb-outs, which provide pedestrian protection and fast loading for Muni . (Courtesy SFMTA)

The Bayview is booming.

As the neighborhood awaits an expected 10,000 new housing units at Candlestick Point and 900 more at Innes Avenue, transportation nearby is speeding up as well.

The changes coming to Palou Avenue near Third Street are numerous but may speed up three key transit lines — the 44-O’Shaughnessy, 23-Monterey and 24-Divisadero — and include pedestrian safety improvements throughout the street.

But the improvements are notably coming at a time when the Bayview, like much of The City, is welcoming thousands of new residents.

“No question, we’re seeing a change in the tide here in the southeast side of The City,” said Theo Ellington, vice president of the Bayview Opera House board. “The good news is, fundamentally, we all want the same thing: reliable transit, adequate open space and real economic development.”

With such considerations in mind, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors approved the streetscape changes to Palou Avenue at its regular meeting Tuesday.

The traffic modifications on Palou Avenue between Barneveld Avenue and Crisp Road, as well as on Quesada Avenue between Third and Griffith streets, are part of the SFMTA’s Palou Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project.

As one of San Francisco’s residential neighborhoods replete with single-family homes, the Bayview expressed a desire for traffic calming, according to the SFMTA.

The project features 10 corner bulb-outs to give pedestrians more protection and fast loading for Muni buses, 15 center street medians with the option to add short plantings, and new paving and curb ramps. It also includes the removal of bike sharrows, which will be replaced with a bike lane on nearby Quesada Street.

Where there are five bus stops on five blocks now, some of those stops will be eliminated for the 44, 22 and 23, to help speed up Muni service.

After public outreach, neighbors “did want us to focus on making it easier to walk in the neighborhood,” said Felipe Robles, lead SFMTA planner on the Palou Avenue project.

The wide avenue as it is now “does provide space for cars to do donuts and other kinds of exhibition driving,” which some of the street medians would prevent.

Those approvals did not come without controversy, however, as longtime neighbors came to demand the creation of more angled parking on Palou, and to protest the creation of a cul-de-sac in the neighborhood.

One neighbor, Johanna Coble, turned in a petition with more than 500 signatures to the SFMTA demanding angled parking. Another neighbor, Christopher Logan, rapped his disapproval to a rhythm: “No place to park, what you say? That ain’t good … Angled parking is what we need, angled parking is what we need.”

The removal of 15 parking spaces from the neighborhood also drew ire, especially considering new development on the way in the Bayview.

“Construction of tall condos accommodates two to four families,” said neighbor Debra Scalest. “Our families may have two to five cars for work, medical, school and other needs. … We need our parking.”

The board’s response to the comments was mixed.

One board director, Joel Ramos, argued that improvement to Muni prompts more Muni riders and fewer people to drive — which would provide more parking.

Another board director, Gwyneth Borden, cast a seldom-seen dissenting vote.

Borden expressed disappointment that the Bayview community felt it was not heard in the project planning process.

“I don’t think we’ve done enough due diligence,” she told her colleagues.

SFMTA board chair Cheryl Brinkman directed staff to investigate parking solutions for the community and to return to the board to discuss other controversial changes.

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