San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency planners meet with Bayview community members to plan transit changes in the neighborhood. (Courtesy SFMTA)

New plan provides a road map to better transit for Bayview residents

SFMTA to review suite of 101 projects designed to improve community safety and access

The Bayview is about to undergo a massive street safety redesign, from Third Street to Islais Creek, from Hunters View to Bayview Hill.

More than 70 pedestrian projects totaling $3.5 million, nine bike network projects totaling $2.2 million and more than a dozen projects to redesign access to Muni, BART and Caltrain totaling $450,000 are planned across the neighborhood.

Hand-in-hand with people living in the Bayview, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has planned more than $8.3 million worth of investments, from pedestrian safety street buildouts to new unarmed ambassadors who will patrol buses in the name of safety.

There are roughly 101 projects, large and small, identified in the Bayview Community-Based Transportation Plan, a new road map for helping Bayview residents enjoy better transit.

The suite of changes will go before the SFMTA Board of Directors Tuesday afternoon, but has been two years in the making.

Listening, listening, and more listening

Especially noteworthy, given that many citizens have for years criticized SFMTA for its lack of outreach, is that agency planners spoke to more than 4,000 Bayview residents over the course of 56 community meetings and 295 logged hours spent by city workers in the community.

What those SFMTA planners heard was often scathing.

In their own presentation documents, critiques from the community about how Muni and other transit planning are carried out are frequent: “No more studies! … Be upfront with us … Why should we trust you? … I may be displaced before I can benefit from your plan … People want to see results,” are just some of the pointed comments the planners heard, according to SFMTA presentation documents.

Often, residents feel like SFMTA brings the community a fully formed transit plan and asks for input only on minor changes.

(Courtesy SFMTA)

The Bayview Community-Based Transportation Plan, by contrast, had its foundation laid by Bayview residents.

Community-based organizations helped in that outreach, like the Bayview Hunters Point Mobilization for Adolescent Growth in our Communities (BMAGIC), Community Youth Center of San Francisco (CYC), El Centro Bayview, Hunters Point Family and BAYCAT.

Lyslynn Lacoste, director of Bayview nonprofit BMAGIC, said it was that that promise of authenticity that convinced them to help SFMTA with community outreach in the first place. Often, promises had gone unmet and the community unheard in previous planning between The City and the Bayview.

“If we were going to be involved, that could not be the case with this project,” Lacoste said. “We have a reputation with the community and investment in the community. We had to actually see the community outreach get in place.”

All involved identified major transit needs for the Bayview, including bolstering the notoriously shoddy service on the T-Third line, increasing service along local bus lines, boosting safety for people aboard those buses, building a train station on Oakdale Avenue and increasing access to parking.

“Traffic calming” efforts to slow cars and make it safer to walk will be installed along Evans Avenue, Innes Avenue, Williams Avenue and on Hunters Point Boulevard. Crosswalk upgrades are coming to Oakdale Avenue, and new speed humps and lane striping will make Quesada Avenue safer.

That process of listening, promising, and following through even led to a rare act by SFMTA in San Francisco — they added more parking spaces to the neighborhood, near the Alice Griffith Apartments, an affordable housing complex on Arelious Walker Drive. The area will also gain Muni improvements, including a revamped transit terminal.

“Chris (Kidd, transit planner) wrote really detailed emails to everyone’s questions, big and small,” Lacoste said. “I don’t think that’s happened in the past with these kinds of projects.”

Feedback from Bayview residents helped shape exactly which projects are getting built by SFMTA, and which aren’t, in the near future.

But that “near future” part is particularly important, said Christopher Kidd, an SFMTA senior planner working on the project.

“One thing we heard from this community is they’re overplanned and underdelivered,” he said. “We heard we had to do something to break that cycle.”

So all of the projects are near term, and some will even be done before the briefing on the Bayview Community Transportation Plan goes before the SFMTA board on February 18. The longest-term projects will be completed in five years, although many should be completed in three.

A majority of the projects are pedestrian infrastructure projects, Kidd said. That means more visible crosswalks, better safety signage, wider sidewalks to increase safety, better street lighting, more robust transit shelters, and more. It’s a lot of little changes sprinkled throughout the community with safety in mind.

Some of those street changes touch on crime prevention, like better lighting.

“The top issues this community identified were personal safety, safety while walking, transit service issues and getting to and being safe when getting to transit,” Kidd said. “We can’t resolve all issues of personal safety through our work, but we can really support that.”

(Courtesy SFMTA)

Projects for the present

The community transportation plan also details the Bayview’s changing ethnic identity. The only constant in the Bayview from 1970 to today is its relatively small white population, which hasn’t edged past 12 percent since 1980. But its black population has shrunk significantly, from 72 percent in 1980 to just 27 percent of the Bayview in 2017.

The Asian Pacific Islander and Latinx populations have grown from equally 7 percent in 1980 to 37 percent and 24 percent of the Bayview in 2017, respectively.

Black Bayview residents are among the most economically disadvantaged in the neighborhood, with 49 percent of Bayview black residents making less than $30,000 annually.

The report also acknowledges historical racism in San Francisco, from redlining to redevelopment, and frames transit changes in the context of equity for people who still hang on to living in San Francisco, but who feel the effects from that historic racism.

And even now, major housing developments coming to the Bayview may bring thousands of new residents to the neighborhood in the coming years. Sarah Jones, planning director at SFMTA, said blueprints for transit changes had come hand-in-hand with those new projects, but there was obviously something missing.

“Despite massive planning,” Jones said, “no one was really talking about or acknowledging transportation or access needs for people who were already there. We were talking about the future and all of this growth.”

That lack of transit planning in the Bayview has deep impacts on its residents, mostly for the worse, the report notes.

Tied to the historical lack of robust transit in the Bayview, the report notes, is high vehicle ownership. In the Bayview, almost half of all households own two or more cars, almost double the rate in the rest of San Francisco, according to the SFMTA’s community report.

Poor transportation planning also harms the health of Bayview residents, the report notes. Nearby freeways pollute the air residents breathe, and heavy vehicles that regularly traverse the neighborhood’s roads increase noise pollution and wear-and-tear on the road, creating hazardous conditions.

Based on that historical context and more, “we felt it was urgent” to fix transit in the Bayview, Jones said.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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