The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency unanimously approved drastic changes to Eighth Avenue Tuesday in a controversial plan intended to improve pedestrian access and bicyclist safety on one of The City’s busiest residential streets.
The project seeks to establish one of San Francisco’s first “neighborways,” residential streets redesigned to promote increased foot and bicycle traffic. The SFMTA hopes it will change the atmosphere on the corridor and foster activity such as children playing in the street, according to a staff report.
The redesign will include the addition of speed humps, pedestrian traffic islands and parking red zones, among others, on Eighth Avenue and adjacent streets.
Before the project was slated for approval SFMTA planners abandoned what was perhaps the most controversial proposal of the project: traffic diversions. The Eighth Avenue Neighborway Project, as it is called, originally included a proposal to install barriers so only pedestrians and cyclists could enter the street. SFMTA staff encountered objections from neighbors to the proposal in an October 2017 community meeting, according to an SFMTA staff report.
“The team was ultimately unable to achieve a community consensus on this traffic diversion plan and decided to move forward with only those items that enjoyed broad community support,” staffers wrote, including stop signs and turn restrictions.
Eighth Avenue is already the most popular north-south bicycle route in the Inner Richmond and serves as one of the few entrances into Golden Gate Park. The street carries more than two to three times the vehicular traffic of neighboring streets, according to SFMTA documents.
Project administrators have conducted neighborhood outreach over the last 18 months, including six public meetings, and found that support for the project appears to be evenly divided. Residents of neighboring streets worry that the the changes on Eighth Avenue will direct more traffic onto other streets, thereby shifting the apparent traffic danger rather than solving it.
“I can assure people in the Inner Richmond all the people using vehicles will not shift onto their street,” said Senior Transportation Planner Charlie Ream. “Our evaluation plan includes many parallel side streets. We’re not trying to do anything untested too quick.”
The project will establish concrete pedestrian islands that will narrow the flow of traffic in two crosswalks at the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Anza Street.
Speed humps will be constructed on all blocks of Eighth Avenue, with the exception of blocks carrying regular Muni service,and the blocks of Seventh Avenue, Ninth Avenue and Anza Street, which are home to active school loading zones, according to the proposal.
Parking is also set to change with the passage of the Eighth Avenue Neighborway Project.
Parking red zones extending 10 to 20 feet from the intersections on the project corridor will require the SFMTA to remove nine parking spaces on intersections with a documented history of traffic collisions. Existing 45-degree angle parking spaces on Eighth Avenue south of Clement Street will transition from front-in to back-in parking. The transition will affect 12 spaces and allow drivers to see oncoming cars and bicycles.
SFMTA Board Chairman Cheryl Brinkman pushed through a change requiring the project to be reevaluated after three months rather than six in response to residents’ concerns about the potential unintended consequences of the infrastructure changes.
According to the Capital Improvement Plan, the project costs will not exceed $550,000, two-fifths of which will be devoted to physical construction.
Ream said work on the project will begin before Thanksgiving of this year.