15th Street’s About to Get Pedestrian-Friendly

The project area map by the SFMTA

The project area map by the SFMTA

It’s a case of pedestrians versus traffic at the outer edge of the Mission District, on 15th Street and the blocks surrounding it. But that’s about to change, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

In its sixth month of project planning, the SFMTA will present its draft proposal to residents today at 6 p.m. at the Marshall Elementary School cafeteria.

Traffic concerns include speeding and reckless driving, safety for those coming in and out of Marshall Elementary School on Capp Street, bike access and cut-through truck traffic.

The high pedestrian traffic is due to the area’s proximity to the 16th and Mission BART station, which earns it the classification of a transit-oriented development. In zoning lingo, that means that more residents are likely to walk than drive.

Ignored for years, 15th Street now has the city’s attention, and pedestrians will soon have the right of way, according to city officials.

Since July, the city and residents have been working to calm traffic on Minna, Natoma, Capp and Adair streets between 14th and 16th streets, and on 15th Street between Mission and South Van Ness.

Fifteenth Street is “in interesting ways…sort of the eye of the hurricane,” said Nick Carr, who is managing the traffic calming project for SFMTA. “It’s a quaint neighborhood stuck smack into the middle of everything.”

Residents have long worked toward gaining a pedestrian right-of-way.

Emily Drennan, a former resident, put in a request for traffic calming a decade ago. “I wanted to make the neighborhood more livable,” she said, adding that at the time she also handed in signed petitions.

Recent Measures

As a part of the Safe Routes to School project, corner bulb-outs were added six months ago at the intersection of 15th and Capp, where Marshall Elementary School is located.

On 15th Street, the bulb-outs have shortened the crossing distance by 14 feet.

Carr thinks correcting vehicle speeds is the answer to calming traffic in the area. Speed limits are relatively low — from 25 to 15 miles per hour — but SFMTA staff believes that adding sidewalk extensions and speed humps will encourage drivers to stay within them. Both measures are being considered, with funding coming from the Proposition K Local Transportation Sales Tax.

Ilaria Salvadori, an urban designer with the San Francisco Planning Department who is working on the Mission Streetscape Plan, said that other suggestions on the table include narrowing Capp Street, removing the parking area around the school’s entrance, and extending the sidewalk wherever possible to facilitate boarding of school buses, as well as to create green areas for the school.

For small streets and alleyways between 20 to 35 feet wide, such as Minna and Natoma, the Planning Department has suggested creating one-surface streets. This means that the sidewalk would be at the same level as the street, and curbs would be designated by trees.

“Cars will have to follow pedestrians,” Salvadori said of the traffic flow in the alleyways. The changes would make the alleys more friendly to foot traffic.

Parking Problems, Too

In addition to dealing with the problems caused by traffic through their neighborhood, residents also have to struggle with finding parking places of their own. Because the area is classified as “dense urban housing centered around a transit hub,” the city allows housing to be built without parking spaces.

Marc Salomon, who has lived on 15th and Adair for the last 21 years and is a member of the working committee to make the area more walkable, said transit hubs with less parking work in theory, but the city must first improve its public transportation systems.

The school also has issues related to parking. Marshall has a large walking population, but some students live far enough away so that parents must drop off and pick up their children, and they often end up double-parking. School officials would like to see more parking spaces created for these parents.

Since the area is not subject to residential parking permits, BART riders can park their cars on the street for hours at a time without fear of a ticket.

Ironically, the area’s problems began with parking. When Mission Street was a major shopping street known as the “Miracle Mile,” through the 1970s, Capp Street was planned as a parking street. When Mission was transformed into one of San Francisco’s largest transit corridors, Capp remained wide for angled parking, and still has a width of 42 feet.

2 Comments

  1. 0101!

    some of the worst speeders on capp st btwn 15th and 16th are the cops…

  2. Ian

    As a 5-year resident of 14th and Minna, I can attest that cars regularly turn illegally onto 15th Street from Mission. Research shows that if 15th Street had 2-way instead of 1-way traffic it now does, it would go a long way toward slowing cars down.

    And angled parking on Capp would be great. The neighborhood’s parking meters get little love, but create a major hassle for residents.

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