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 firstname.lastname@example.org.