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SFMTA proposes limiting vehicle access on 8th Avenue to make it a more “pleasant place to walk or bike”

The block of 8th Avenue between Anza and Balboa where the SFMTA wants to limit car traffic as part of the 8th Avenue Neighborway Project.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that the block of 8th Ave between Anza and Balboa would be completely closed to traffic. That was incorrect and apologies for any confusion it may have caused (though clearly I had trouble making heads or tails of the confusing diagrams, which are now shown at the end of this article). – Sarah B.

Last month, the SFMTA held a public meeting about its latest brainchild for the Richmond District, known as the “8th Avenue Neighborway Project”. According to the SFMTA project website, “The goal of the 8th Avenue Neighborway Project is to make 8th Avenue a safer and more pleasant place to walk or bike to neighborhood destinations and nearby parks.”

8th Avenue is one of the few vehicle entrances to Golden Gate Park, and the most direct entrance to the major attractions in the park like the Academy of Sciences and de Young Museum. According to the SFMTA, approximately 4,700 vehicles per day travel on 8th avenue, compared to 2,450 on 7th Avenue and 1,525 per day on on 9th Avenue.

The neighborway project proposes to add traffic calming measures to 8th Avenue including 10 speed humps and two “speed cushions” to slow down traffic or divert it to other streets in the nearby area. The calming measures would extend on 8th Avenue from Lake Street to Fulton Street, and on a few adjoining blocks of 7th and 9th Avenues.

The most radical part of the plan includes limiting vehicle access to a block of 8th Avenue. 8th Avenue between Anza and Balboa would be closed off to car traffic from certain directions (see Traffic Diverter Details diagram below; yes it’s confusing).

What Residents Are Saying

Reaction to the proposed plan has been mixed. As a recent SFMTA public meeting on October 18 about the plan, some neighbors along 8th Avenue expressed support for the plan.

Forbes McNaught, a five year resident on 8th Avenue, told the Richmond Review that living conditions on his block have been getting worse.

“You can’t have plants in the front of the house – they die. You can’t leave the windows open in the summer because of the black soot. It’s pointless to clean the windows because in a week they are filthy again. We’ve got to share the burden,” McNaught said.

Other residents feel the plan is restrictive and has not had enough input from the community. At the October 18 meeting, some residents felt that the SFMTA had already made up its mind and was simply informing the neighborhood of the plan.

“It seems to be the universal impression among the attendees tonight that the plan has already been decided upon and this is kind of a placebo effort on the part of the city and SFMTA. I think the plan is being imposed,” said Tom Pye, a resident who lives on Balboa, between 10th and 11th avenues.

Other residents have taken to commenting on Supervisor Sandra Fewer’s Facebook page, expressing their doubts and concerns about the project.

“This project just seems to be blindly diverting traffic elsewhere without considering the impact. The SFMTA will just have to continue their ridiculous game of traffic Whac-A-Mole,” wrote Topher Fischer in a comment.

“Geez, thanks! I live on 7th Ave so it looks like we’ll be screwed,” wrote Julia Frink.

While the project sounds plausible and warm and fuzzy, the diversion of traffic to 7th and 9th Avenues at Anza or Balboa could create quite a bit of gridlock, especially on busy weekends.

Most importantly, the plan doesn’t address the fact that more vehicle entrances are probably needed for Golden Gate Park on the west side.

When the de Young remodeled from 2000 until 2005, it included the addition of an underground garage with an entrance at 10th Avenue and Fulton. That meant the 10th Avenue car entrance to the park was removed, which resulted in an increase in traffic to the 8th Avenue entrance. Coupled with general increases in car traffic in San Francisco, and we’re left with a single artery into the park in the central Richmond District.

The SFMTA is planning another public meeting in December.

“Right now we’re targeting December for a hearing where the public will be heard and where SFMTA staff will answer questions and record comments on the record, and January for the SFMTA’s board meeting for final approval,” SFMTA Planner Charlie Ream told the Richmond Review at the October 18 meeting. If approved, construction along the corridor would begin in mid 2018.

To find out more about the proposed 8th Avenue Neighborway project, visit the project website. Comments or questions can be sent to the SFMTA Planner on the project, Charlie Ream, at charles.ream@sfmta.com.

Sarah B.

40 Comments

  1. These projects are like an uncontrolled Juggernaut. What are the people who live on that block supposed to do about ingress and egress? Can anyone stop this or, like the Geary BRT, is it a done deal regardless of what the District residents want?

  2. Great, so the traffic will move to 7th & 9th. I hope they took into account how congested 9th already gets at the beginning & end of the school day, with nearly the whole block between Geary & Anza being a parking lot of double-parked parents waiting for their children. This looks like a terrible idea, and I’m really hoping someone wakes up and realizes this. If increased traffic leads to a school student getting hit, at least I know I can point to Charlie as the cause.

  3. Sarah, it is fade to say the block is “completely closed to car traffic.” The street is open if you are coming from one direction. There’s no need to lie about the project.

    It’s sorely needed to keep 8th Avenue safe and livable for all the families that live there. Spreading some traffic across the neighborhood to make it safer and slower is good for all of us. Plans like this have worked extremely well in other cities like Berkeley and Vancouver.

  4. @James – You’re correct, this was my mistake and I have updated the article. Admittedly it was my mistake, but I think it also speaks to the confusion of this plan. Hard to make heads or tails of their diagrams and language!

  5. So much of the MTA’s planning is for the convenience of the small minority of bicyclists. As near as I can tell they are just proceeding with multiple projects planned years ago before Uber and Lyft came along and added who knows how many (they won’t tell us) tens of thousands of cars tothe streets during peak periods. “Transit First” needs to be reviewed and revised in light of current realities, from a practical rather than idiological perspective.

  6. Since 8th Avenue is the only vehicular entrance into the park (aside from Arguello gate & 30th Ave) why on earth would it make sense to try and stop cars from traveling on 8th? Instead send bikes & pedestrians on 10th Avenue where there are already traffic signals at busy intersections AND an entrance into the park!! Add traffic calming measures all along 8th Avenue to (hopefully) divert away some of the car traffic. Make the tour buses take another route other than 8th Avenue to enter/exit the park. This neighborway project will only needlessly spend taxpayer $$ and create a total mess in the surrounding neighborhood! Email or call Sandra Fewer (Sandra.fewer@sfgov.org) and the SFMTA Board of Directors (MTABoard@sfmta.com) and let them know your thoughts before they approve this ridiculous project.

  7. Thanks for correcting! I agree that these diagrams are hard to read!

    Everyone keeps writing about cyclists but it’s really about pedestrians and children too. Study after study shows that cars tend to speed along straight roadways like 8th Avenue. Unfortunately sfpd doesn’t have the resources to stop that. And 8th Avenue doesn’t have the wide street or other protections to keep pedestrians and kids on the sidewalk safe from these aggressive drivers. Not to mention the tour buses. The diversion will force cars to slow down, take their time, and not expect to use 8th Ave to zip across the Richmond; it simply isn’t built for that kind of traffic.

  8. James, people are focusing on cyclists because it’s actually one of the reasons listed on the site when you click on the map, I’ve copied it below. That being said, it’s probably the weakest point included in their miserable attempt at rationalizing this poorly though out plan. Also, your children point doesn’t hold much water when the traffic is diverted to 9th Ave when school is letting out.

    Popular Bike Route: People are already biking on 8th Avenue – 8th Avenue has the highest bike volumes of any surrounding parallel streets.

  9. Why the quotes around “pleasant place to walk or bike”?

    I support traffic calming in the Richmond! I feel like car drivers worried about increased car traffic on their street is a bit unfair because every time they take their car out they increase traffic on someone else’s street.

  10. While I think more needs to be done to address conflicts from left turns at 8th and Fulton, and while I think any changes would take some getting used to, as a local and 8th & Fulton resident, I for one would welcome this Neighborway in my neighborhood!

    The general idea is that a fair number of drivers just want to head East or West on Fulton, but yet almost everyone is directed down 8th to get there. If we can get folks heading East/West onto Fulton to use adjacent streets, that leaves 8th more for folks trying to get in/out of the park/to access their local homes.

    It doesn’t reduce the overall volume of traffic in the area, it just de-centralizes it, reducing conflicts while adding speed-cushions and the like to slow traffic down. 8th Ave carries 2x the traffic of adjacent streets, which increases the risk of conflicts and crashes.

    Links to details below:
    https://www.sfmta.com/…/October%208th%20Ave%20Boards…

    https://www.sfmta.com/…/inner-richmond-neighborway-project

  11. The Star of the Sea school is on 9th Avenue and George Peabody Elementary is on 7th Avenue. Both of these schools have hundreds of children. People already double and even triple park on 9th and 7th before and after school.

    This plan advantages some pedestrians and families who live on 8th while diverting cars and tour buses into school zones, creating even worse congestion for individual drivers and the hundreds of other families from around the city whose children attend schools on 7th and 9th Avenues.

  12. I was at that meeting too, and yes there were some residents in there that were fuming, making a huge scene, and practically yelling at SFMTA employees. They were shameless, complaining about increased traffic on their streets when it was clear to me that they too drive around in cars, causing congestion, smog, and noise for everyone else.

    Not mentioned in this article is that there were also a lot of residents at the meeting who were in support the plan, myself included. We all kept quiet because of the others in the room. I cannot emphasize enough how bad the level of hostility was from that small minority in the room.

    Keith: if a school student gets hit, it’s no one else but the DRIVER’S fault.

  13. That’s BS Bob. Streets with schools turn into 1 lane roads when school is getting let out due to double-parking, so more cars cannot be accommodated. While the volume of cars may have been analyzed, I doubt attention was paid to the specific times of day where other streets are extremely congested due to school traffic. If a student gets hit following this plan, it’s absolutely part of the blame along with the driver. Please remove your head from your rear.

  14. We could eliminate this problem by simply banning cars from the park 🙂

  15. So the 44 O’Shaughnessy bus is going to have to bump us over speed bumps/humps to and from the park? Great.
    How about just have better timed traffic lights? I rarely see problems on 8th this close to the park. Are they inventing issues to keep themselves busy?

  16. I have been concerned with transit for decades. I have been monitoring SFMTA proposals and modifications for decades. I have the following observations regarding the SFMTA:
    1. Increasing the number of buses running on schedule improves transit.
    2. Everything else the SFMTA does is detrimental to transit.
    3. To a near-absolute, the SFMTA exists to perpetuate the existence of the SFMTA.

  17. It appears that there are some new “entitled” residents on the
    500 block of 8th Avenue who are trying to “Presidio Terrace”
    one of our City streets. That is what this project looks like.

  18. I think Phil in on to something. House prices are lower on 8th due to the larger amount of traffic. Recent homeowners got a discount and want to improve their property values, at others’ expense. This plan will result in prices on 8th, especially from Balboa to Fulton, to pop up. That’s well and good except for the fact that it will depress prices on 7th and 9th.

  19. Completely agree with Phil & Billtaplin, this is an extremely selfish & shortsighted plan purely for the benefit of specific residents on 8th.

  20. Doing this on Funston and 14th where you have the greenbelts makes a lot more sense re: providing a route for bicycles/pedestrians between the Presidio and GGP than closing down 8th.

  21. Everything MTA has done to “slow down” traffic has cause traffic to be worse. In addition, we are losing parking spaces that residents need. Drivers and cars are the ones paying for all these “improvements” but cars and drivers are losing more and more use of the roads! Why am I as a driver, paying to have road fixed and am not allowed to use them? The city is giving way too much to bicyclist . They should be paying a licensing fee like cars!

  22. Rachel, There will be no speed bumps/humps on 8th between Fulton and Cabrillo

  23. Rachel, there will be no speed bumps/humps on 8th between Fulton and Cabrillo. According to SFMTA bumps/humps are not allowred on Muni lines.

  24. Wouldn’t putting 4-way stops signs at every intersection do the same thing at a fraction of the cost and disruption?

  25. I am a resident of the 500 block of 7th Ave. I am perfectly happy to support plans to slow traffic on neighborhood streets and divert tour buses to main thoroughfares. I actually think that every part of the plan is fine – if they took away the “traffic diversions” I would support it. I’m curious what the reasoning there is and also suspect that it is for the benefit of homeowners on 8th Ave. Why would you divert traffic to streets without a park entrance and increase traffic on 7th and 9th Aves. with schools and children?

  26. How is this different from the Red Lanes on Mission Street? Does SFMTA have so much money and time on their hands that they have nothing better to do than harass residents and merchants by forcing them to alter their lives to fulfill the goals of SFMTA staff? Time to cut off their funds. NO more taxes or bonds for SFMTA until they stop cutting Muni service and street access and parking. We support a ballot initiative to stop the privitization of our streets.

  27. Block all car access to the park. Instead have everyone park in a large lot, maybe 5th and Mission, and bulk shuttle people to the De Young and Academy. Done.

  28. It was a major mistake not to allow cars into the underground garage off Fell! That is what should change! None of the rest of this plan is rational and would pose more problems than it solves.

  29. What about a Traffic Circle? Instead of rerouting traffic, this has the benefit of calming traffic, beautifying the environment with plants in the center and keeping pedestrians safe while enjoying their walk. More diversions = more traffic snarls, aggravated motorists and potentially more accidents and less parking places. I’ve lived on Balboa at 8th Ave. for 12 years and noticed the soot in my apt. that others mention increased exponentially when the double decker tour buses started using 8th Ave. as part of their regular route into the park about 3-4 years ago.

  30. There’s a omission in the plan shown in the SFMTA website. The guts of the justification is the number of car trips on 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th before and after the project. But adding up numbers shows 1560 fewer total car trips after the project. So the project somehow makes those car trips magically disappear. Those “missing car trips” are significant, 17% of the total.

    Rachael, contrary to what Chris wrote, the plan shown in this article calls for speed humps or cushions as TBD pending discussions with MUNI on 8th between Cabrillo and Fulton. Since MUNI is part of SFMTA, I doubt there will be any controversy. Some MUNI routes do have speed cushions.

  31. Why not just close the entrance to Golden Gate Park at 8th Avenue? It could be limited to Muni entrance/exit only. Vehicles could still enter at Arguello. Such a move would reduce traffic in the park since “outsiders” would be less likely to figure out how to enter

  32. So many better ways to spend this money. Maybe if 19th/Park Presidio wasn’t such a mess more people would use it to get across the park. This along with the BRT on Geary is going to send too much traffic onto the other neighboring streets. Once again, MTA using magical math to justify their grandiose plans.

  33. I’m in that area many different times and days of the week driving and walking and find the claims ridiculous and the plan even more so as the only thing that makes it different from 7th or 9th is the tour bus route that also takes it up part of 14th. And, the cLaims of the amount of daily vehicles doesn’t make sense. If this is a thing, set up temporary barricades at these corners, lay out the vehicle counters on the flanking streets and prove it before spending money and this supposed corridor improvement.

  34. So if there is 4,700 cars per day crossing 8th avenue trying to commute to and through the park, shouldn’t they make the bike and pedestrian lanes on a different avenue? There is two broad walkways on either side of the parking lot on 10th avenue just in front of the museum. Also, there is a Safeway parking lot entrance between 7th and 8th and Cabrillo – so traffic will always be there. This could work and speed humps are good, but alot of bikes and cars on one street could add up.

  35. For once, the city has it right. This all started when the city, in preparation for the light rail down the center of Geary Street, closed a variety of left turns in the Westward direction between Arguello and forced traffic down 8th avenue. Traffic spiked on 8th inverse to the proportion of traffic increase. Soot, noise and general commotion increased 6x the normal level on 8th Avenue between Anza and Balboa (a block where I live). The city intends common sense measures and a consensus of actual residents on that very same block agree. The residents on 7th and 9th may complain that abatement on 8th avenue will send more traffic their way, but only a little bit more for them and a lot less for 8th Avenue. We all shared it before the light rail plan closed off left turns from Geary, and we should all share it again.

  36. CD, Thank you for the thoughtful and very articulate reply regarding this SFMTA plan. You are 100% correct. The situation has gotten out of control on 8th Ave. I am a resident on the 700 block and for may of us this plan makes perfect sense.
    CN

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