Market Street is only the beginning of drive to clear city streets of cars

Car-free streets won’t stop at Market.

At least, that’s the intent of San Francisco transit leaders, who on Tuesday approved plans to make Market Street car free and said the effort will continue on other streets.

A super-majority of the Board of Supervisors told the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday they would support SFMTA studying which streets could become car-free in their neighborhoods.

After the unanimous vote on the Better Market Street plan, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors Chair Malcolm Heinicke told the public “I don’t want to stop at Market Street … this will be a success.”

Heinicke tasked SFMTA staff with identifying the next San Francisco streets that could go car free before the SFMTA board’s next retreat in January.

The Board of Supervisors does not have authority over SFMTA but is seen as politically influential over its decisions.

The San Francisco Examiner asked all 11 supervisors where they stand on car-free streets in their neighborhoods. Some expressed lukewarm support, while others expressed an urgent need to make streets safe from traffic collisions which have led to 22 deaths in San Francisco this year alone, as well as numerous serious and critical injuries.

Supervisors Shamann Walton, Gordon Mar, Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman, Catherine Stefani, Sandra Fewer, Matt Haney, and Vallie Brown have all signaled some support of exploring car-free streets in their neighborhoods, though their responses range from luke-warm to red-hot.

Supervisors Ahsha Safai, Norman Yee and Hillary Ronen did not respond to requests for comment.

Walton expressed concern that San Francisco does not provide the Bayview and other District 10 neighborhoods in the southeast with equitable transit, arguing that is why his constituents still rely on cars.

Still, he said “I don’t see how one could be against a study,” and welcomed a “thorough” assessment of what streets in the southeast could become car-free.

Stefani, who represents the Marina District, Pacific Heights, Laurel Heights and other District 2 neighborhoods, said “data and a robust community process should guide the conversation about making streets car-free and I welcome having this conversation in my district.” She thought SFMTA should take a city-wide approach to identifying those streets.

Mar, who represents the Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods, said car-free streets should be “considered” in a forthcoming Sunset Community Plan he is developing.

“I’m interested in exploring car-free streets in the future, and Sunday Streets on the Great Highway is fantastic one day a year,” he said.

Mandelman, who represents the Castro, Noe Valley and other District 8 neighborhoods, said “it would be interesting to look for more opportunities” for car-free streets, although he would like a strong argument for such a street.

He said if Heinicke’s request identifies District 8 streets that could become car-free, “let’s take a look.”

Peskin, who represents North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square and other District 3 neighborhoods, is already working to make some alleyways car-free.

Campton Place in Union Square is under review by city departments to become car-free, as is Maiden Lane, Peskin’s staff confirmed. The aim is to turn them both into pedestrian-friendly walkways.

Peskin also noted that the car-free Market Street project runs through part of the district he represents, and is “a critical first step toward proving we can reduce car gridlock downtown by investing in multi-modal transit.”

Fewer said she has looked into Cornwall as a possible Richmond District street to get the plaza treatment, but noted the difficulty in balancing the need of neighbors for a park. She did not return requests for comment on an SFMTA study.

Brown told the Examiner in an editorial board meeting in September that she supports exploring car-free streets as a pilot program in the neighborhoods she represents, which include Japantown, the Haight, Western Addition and Inner Sunset, among others.

“We need to make streets safer for pedestrians,” she said.

Haney, who represents neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, downtown and South of Market, was perhaps most urgent in echoing his community’s desire for some streets in the Tenderloin to become car-free.

Streets in those areas are known by San Francisco officials to be among the most deadly to walk, bike or drive. Multiple deaths have occurred after traffic collisions within blocks of each other in neighborhoods Haney represents.

“I’m aware this was on the table. I’m definitely for it,” Haney said.

SFMTA has already applied for a grant to fund a car-free pilot in the Tenderloin.

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