Chinatown residents demand intersection safety changes

Chinatown residents demanded pedestrian safety changes they say will save lives at Tuesday’s San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors meeting.

The community wants the SFMTA to install what is called a “pedestrian scramble” at one allegedly deadly intersection, Kearny and Clay streets. The intersection sits at the corner of the locally popular Portsmouth Square park, where many seniors — who are particularly vulnerable to high injury in traffic collisions — visit every day.

Between 2007 and 2012, seven people at the intersection were severely injured in traffic collisions, according to Walk SF Policy and Program Manager Cathy DeLuca. One woman was fatally struck there in 2015.

The scramble works by stopping all traffic while pedestrians in both directions cross. By pausing traffic in all directions while pedestrians walk, scrambles tend to be safer for walkers, proponents say.

“I wish I would not have to worry about the safety of my family while they’re on the streets,” activist Gum Gee Lee, 76, told the board in Cantonese, aided by a translator. “I ask that the SFMTA immediately approve the scramble at Kearny and Clay.”

Lee came to public attention in 2013 when she and her family were evicted from their Jackson Street apartment, first reported by the San Francisco Examiner.

More than a dozen Chinatown neighborhood residents and activists came to speak, including Shirley Tsang, a 19-year-old activist who works with seniors in Chinatown.

Speaking to the board, the Chinatown Community Development Center’s Deputy Director Malcolm Yeung accused SFMTA of resisting installing the scramble.

“This is unacceptable,” Yeung told the board. “Last year when there was a death at Sacramento and Stockton [streets], I applaud you for
installing a scramble in three or four months.”

But for Kearny and Clay [streets], he said, “all we’re hearing now in response are excuses.”

The board did not directly respond to the Chinatown groups, but Paul Rose, a spokesman for the SFMTA, told the Examiner that re-engineering roads is a balancing act that needs to consider more than just one
intersection.

“We’re looking at data, funding and the history of traffic collisions,” he said, in a study of the Kearny
street corridor conducted by the SFMTA.

“When we go to address an issue,” he said, “we look at a corridor as whole.”

DeLuca, from Walk SF, said the study should not pause installation of a pedestrian scramble.

“We understand the SFMTA wants to do a detailed study,” she said. But, “We can’t wait another day, another month, another year. We can’t wait for someone else to get killed.”

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