Unused S.F. walkway over street becomes blight, but city won't remove it

An unused pedestrian bridge over Geary Boulevard in the Western Addition has become blighted, and though neighbors want it removed, a fix from The City is likely years away.

The concrete structure at Steiner Street was built to help pedestrians cross the busy Geary corridor, but years ago a crosswalk was installed at street level, leaving the bridge less traveled.

Instead, homeless people are moving in and sleeping there all hours of the day. The bridge also is littered with trash and has large areas of graffiti.

“It's unsafe and unsanitary,” said Callen Taylor, member of the Friends of Kimbell Playground, a group hoping to see the bridge removed. “It's been a problem. We don't use it, and if people don't use it then other people will camp on it.”

According to Taylor, at one time rats were being bred there and drug paraphernalia had been found there.

City officials said they understand the neighborhood's concerns, but noted that Geary Boulevard from Van Ness Avenue to the Inner Richmond is expected to be redesigned in the next several years for a bus rapid transit project, and any plans for the bridge would have to wait.

“On any kind of big project, The City doesn't want to chop shop it,” said Vallie Brown, a legislative aide to Supervisor London Breed, whose district includes the Western Addition. Brown was a part of the original discussions to tear down the pedestrian bridge.

“We have to have a plan and do it all at once to go after federal funding and other pots of money,” she said. “They don't ever tend to chop up a project.”

There is another pedestrian bridge on Geary Boulevard at Webster Street that could also be affected by the redesign. The transit project aims to redesign the heavily used corridor in order to make transit faster and make the boulevard more pedestrian friendly. That project is expected to go into environmental review later this year.

The issues with the pedestrian bridge also extend to one of the two open spaces that flank the overpass.

On the north side of Geary, the Hamilton Recreation Center has new amenities that were remodeled in 2009 using bond money.

On the south side of the bridge sits Kimbell Playground, which, despite getting upgraded athletic fields in 2010, is more run down. Taylor said many local residents prefer the remodeled Hamilton playground. The southern ramp to the bridge sits in the less-used Kimbell park, Taylor said, and it doesn't feel safe. An overall remodel for Kimbell park is expected to break ground by the end of this year, according to Recreation and Park Department officials.

For now, residents are encouraged to call police if illegal activity is witnessed.

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