On March 28, The City of San Francisco closed its 120-year old Twin Peaks Boulevard. Ever since, the frequent crime, regular late-night partying and abundant litter formerly inhabiting the park’s popular scenic Twin Peaks Lookout descended en masse into our formerly safe and peaceful Upper Twin Peaks neighborhood. The City’s goal at the time was to create temporary recreational space for people to exercise while socially distancing. That goal has never been realized with few visitors wearing masks and rarely socially distancing.
Once the road was closed, mostly tourists would drive up to our neighborhood streets, park and walk unmasked a half mile up to the lookout, often crowding together for day and nighttime spectacular views. While gone, organized criminals brazenly break into their cars in broad daylight and steal their suitcases, backpacks, cameras, passports. Smashed car glass is everywhere all the time. I am talking about Burnett Avenue, Crestline Drive, Glenbrook Avenue, Palo Alto Avenue, Marview Way, etc., where this still happens every day. Hundreds of break-ins so far and counting.
On top of all this, my once quiet street on any clear night is now filled with regular alcohol and drug-fueled partyers, boom-boxes, yelling, trash and congestion. While my street does not provide the lookout’s 360-degree view of The City, it’s been discovered as a good substitute by unmasked 20-something revelers who rock on throughout the night, waking us up and frightening our kids. On warmer nights, sometimes there are over 40 partyers here. Trash, bottles, condoms, needles, vandalism and human waste are on our streets and in our property.
None of this intense crime, partying, litter existed here until The City closed Twin Peaks Boulevard. We have so many videos of these thefts and parties. Our neighbors have written and called our mayor, our supervisors, San Francisco police and the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency literally hundreds of times complaining about the danger and never-ending car break-ins and threats of assault without most of us ever hearing back from our city officials.
On Oct. 20, the bicycle-biased SFMTA issued its “Twin Peaks For All” e-Survey seeking public comment on whether Twin Peaks Boulevard should be reopened as it was before COVID or reconfigured into something entirely different to appease lobbying by the Bicycle Coalition and its allies. SFMTA’s e-Survey offered five configurations to vote on. Four configurations would totally overhaul the road’s prior traffic patterns. SFMTA said one of its goals is to “reduce negative impacts by park users on neighbors,” although it never explained any of the actual negative impacts associated with each configuration in the survey.
In fact, three of its configurations would revoke the agency’s 2017 ban on high-decibel noisy double-decker and van tour buses on Twin Peaks Boulevard between Clayton Street and the Burnett Gate, thereby disturbing those residents for endless hours every day. Two configurations could perpetuate crime and late-night raucous partying on Burnett, which have been out of control since Twin Peaks’ closure.
On Dec. 21, six of my neighbors and I met with SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin and his Bicycle Program Manager Matt Lasky, who coincidentally also leads Tumlin’s Twin Peaks For All Project. We all heard them admit SFMTA cannot afford to fund the needed safety infrastructure required for three of its configurations. Interestingly, local newspapers report SFMTA is facing a $200+ million budget deficit and a possible 22% layoff. All this means, from the get-go, SFMTA’s survey has always been a charade with only two actual financially viable configurations: (1) Pre-COVID configuration, or (2) the Burnett Avenue configuration that would see all traffic rumbling up to the lookout, including double-decker and van tour buses, and then turning around rumbling right past those same homes.
Eight hours later, Matt emailed us refuting what he had just said above.
By the way, one of these SFMTA’s configurations actually would be an acceptable compromise for our neighborhood, but only if the 2017 bus ban remains in force. Matt said SFMTA cannot afford this.
So angering is the fact that our neighbors, who have been most adversely impacted by the closure, were never notified that an e-Survey is being used to make and justify permanent changes. Nor were they sent the e-Survey. SFMTA likes to say they emailed the e-Survey to 5,000+ people and that 1,700 people responded. What SFMTA failed to say is that the four zip codes surrounding Twin Peaks include over 116,000 residents. But SFMTA made sure the Bicycle Coalition’s 12,000 members got the e-Survey. Talk about bias.
The restrictions and sacrifices required during the age of COVID have been painful and affect people in different ways. The situation in my neighborhood is threatening, and we need solutions that offer relief and not an increase in negative impacts. SFMTA, please open Twin Peaks Boulevard now.
Gary Russ has lived in the Upper Twin Peaks neighborhood for 35 years.