Mike Koozmin/2012 S.F. Examiner file photoA King’s Tour bus parks to let passengers tour Alamo Square. Residents around Alamo Square are peeved at tour bus noise and congestion.

Tour buses banned from Alamo Square

In an impassioned debate over transit around Alamo Square Park — famous for its view of the Painted Ladies Victorian homes — The City has favored the interests of residents over tourism, its No. 1 industry.

The streets surrounding the historic square have been ruled off-limits to tour buses.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors unanimously chose an option to prohibit commercial passenger vehicles with more than nine seats north of Fell Street, east of Divisadero Street, south of Golden Gate Avenue and west of Webster Street. Another option had the same boundaries, but allowed access to Hayes Street.

The approved option — backed by the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association, which has requested the prohibition since September 2011 — includes establishing a tour bus loading zone on the north side of Fell Street just east of Pierce Street. Installing the new zone and re-striping the section will be complete in January, SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said, and that is when the restriction will take effect.

Members of The City’s tour industry vying for the second option were far outnumbered by Alamo Square neighbors, who cheered at the board’s vote. They complained of tour bus engine noise and volume, amplified loudspeakers, parking impacts and pedestrian safety issues.

“By keeping the tour buses coming, it would be ruining the exact neighborhood they are coming to see,” said Jillian Etherington, who has lived a block away from the park since 1978 and helped gather 277 signatures for a petition to ban the tour buses.

Neighbors said they welcomed visitors to travel on Muni buses that stop in the neighborhood or walk to the square, and that they were not opposed to tourists but rather the buses that bring them.

But for Patricia Hunting, an independent tour guide for 17 years and San Francisco Tour Guide member, the SFMTA’s decision means another attraction in the long list the industry can’t touch.

Already, tour buses have come across increased restrictions to crooked Lombard Street, the Marina district, Russian Hill, Pacific Heights and the Golden Gate Bridge, and driving through Alamo Square “is one of the highlights,” she said.

“It’s getting to the point where we’re going to offer tours of Highway 101 and 280,” Hunting said. “That’s the fear for the people that work in tourism — if we can’t provide those tours they’re not going to come, and that’s a lot of jobs.”

Employer shuttle buses are exempt from the restrictions.

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