1 Polk Street. The most significant transportation activity was the publication at the end of March of the Department of Public Works streetscape plan for Polk Street. You will recall that as a result of a project to repave Polk Street in 2016, the MTA and the DPW have engaged in a process for the planning of street improvements to be implemented in conjunction with the repaving.
The MTA acted first, with plans for the moving of traffic on the street. Initially, prompted by bicycle advocates, they proposed banning parking on one side of the street and installing two dedicated bike lanes along with two traffic lanes and one lane of parking. This resulted in major opposition by merchants and residents, resulting in three alternatives: the original plan, a plan with no bike lanes but marked, shared lanes for bikes and cars, and a middle ground, with a dedicated north-bound bike lane and a shared south-bound lane, keeping parking on both sides. RHN supported the middle alternative, because it gave each side something of what they wanted and also, by narrowing the traffic lanes, it would have the effect of calming traffic. We were one of the few organizations to support this alternative. It was selected as the preferred alternative.
Then it was DPW’s turn to act. They held workshops at which we participated. The thrust of our advocacy was that Polk Street should be a pedestrian-oriented shopping street, not a thoroughfare. Thus, we attempted to re-direct the debate from one of cars against bikes, to that of neighborhood pedestrians against through traffic (whether it be bikes or cars). DPW supported our ideas for bus bulbs and pedestrian bulb outs and well-marked cross-walks. The problem was that they also supported a plan which would create a tow-away zone on the East side of the street which would operate as a dedicated bike lane from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. each weekday.
Our response was to invite DPW to a meeting at which we presented a very detailed plan for the Russian Hill part of Polk Street, showing locations for bulb-outs, bus bulbs, pedestrian crossings and other improvements. We were able to demonstrate to DPW’s planners that if the part-time bike lane were built, it would serve bicyclists only 2 hours a day, but would preclude any pedestrian improvements on that side of the street for 24 hours a day.
We were successful in our advocacy. DPW has eliminated the tow-away bike lane from Broadway, north, and has given us a large number of pedestrian improvements, particularly at Green and Polk. There are still some details we need to attend to, including dealing with the bus shelter in front of the Walgreens, which is a major obstacle to pedestrian movement, and dealing with various tree wells that create tripping hazards. You can view the current plans at the DPW web site: www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=3579
At this point, the alternatives will be written up and analyzed for the CEQA review before going for formal approval, which will involve public hearings. We will need to be prepared to defend the plan at those hearings, as we may expect bicycle advocates to oppose it or attempt to amend it. However, I believe that we have made significant strides towards a plan that will be beneficial to the neighborhood. Our success to date has been the result of our willingness to be reasonable by accepting a solution that accommodates other views while not significantly compromising our own position, and our initiative in presenting a clear and well-conceived plan to DPW as a starting point for our discussions.
2, Central Subway. There is not too much to report on the Central Subway, except that with the MTA study under way, we are turning our attention to means whereby the Pagoda Theater site can be acquired permanently as a location for the North Beach Station. This is critical, in that if we don’t have the site acquired, opponents will be able to complain that construction of the station could create disruption by either excavating a public street or demolishing an existing, yet-to-be determined building. We have one year to get the site acquired, before the lease expires and the developer has the right to build a condo project.