A few dozen people gathered at the Brava Theater earlier this week to voice their support for the increase in the number of Sunday Street events in the Mission, scheduled this year for the first Sundays in May, June, July and August. Some residents, however, were worried about the lack of parking and issues they’ve encountered with bicyclists at past events.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, senior staff from the nonprofit organization Livable City, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other agencies involved in Sunday Streets met with a few dozen residents, merchants, bicyclists and other community members to discuss the impact the increased number of events would have on the community.
Despite the overwhelming support, much concern was expressed regarding parking, crowd control and safety.
According to Erick Arguello, president of the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association, only 10 of the association’s 53 members oppose the four consecutive Sunday Streets scheduled for this year — double the number of events held in previous years.
“The biggest concern that these merchants have is that accessibility to sell specialty items on the weekends,” said Arguello.
Most customers patronize specialty stores on weekends, Arguello said, and owners of these stores fear that the loss of parking during Sunday Streets will cause them to lose customers.
“In order to address the problem, we are trying to provide them free parking passes for their customers at the nearby Fresh & Easy,” said Arguello.
Maria De La Mora, a lifelong Mission resident, was concerned about the number of cars that would be towed due to the lack of parking and outreach.
“First off, they didn’t alert the neighborhood to ask them if it would be OK to have four consecutive Sunday Streets prior to making their decision,” said De La Mora. “Most of the people that showed up to this meeting were members of Sunday Streets and the San Francisco Bike Coalition.”
De La Mora also is also concerned about the lack of outreach to inform neighbors of the additional Sunday Streets.
“Many people aren’t tech-savvy and won’t know ahead of time about the streets that are closed,” she said. “Getting your car towed is expensive. These expenses add up and it affects people’s lives.”
According to Susan King, the Sunday Streets project director for Livable City, fewer than 60 cars were towed during the most recent Sunday Street event held in the Mission.
King said that to address these issues, the towing time will be moved to 7 a.m., flat-rate parking will be offered in two Mission area garages during Sunday Streets, and garages will open an hour early, at 6 a.m.
The Mission Bartlett garage will charge $10 and the garage at SF General Hospital will charge $7 for all vehicles entering between 6 a.m. and noon. The flat rate will cover parking until 6 p.m. Vehicles entering after noon will pay the normal hourly rate.
Another concern raised was bicyclists’ lack of etiquette with pedestrians.
“People driving think that they own the streets; now people on bikes think they own the streets,” said one resident. “Some of these bike people are rude and dangerous.”
While some suggested creating a separate bike lane during the events, King said that she would work closely with the volunteer team to prevent speeding issues.
“In the past we have had 125 to 175 volunteers,” said King. “We will make sure that we have enough volunteers to address pedestrian safety.”
According to King, staff and volunteers will hand out flyers to bicyclists during the events, and post signs along the route reminding riders not to speed and to be careful around pedestrians.
For many in the audience, Sunday Streets has had a positive effect.
“Sunday Streets have been very successful for my business,” said Connie Rivera, owner of Mixcoatl Arts & Crafts. “Usually people don’t want to leave the event and I make very good money.”
Roberto Y. Hernandez, community organizer and producer of Latin One Productions, said that he became involved with the program to make it more diverse, reflecting the large Latino-based community in the Mission.
“I want our community to be more connected so that we can coexist together,” said Hernandez. “[Through Sunday Streets] we can build on building a relationship with our neighbors.”
Hernandez said that he is organizing a variety of programs for this year’s events, including do-it-yourself bike repair and a designated cumbia dance area.
“This year we are making it a priority to have 25 percent of all performances be interactive,” said King.
Towards the end of the meeting, a few people thanked the moderators for addressing their concerns, while others walked away with mixed feelings.
“It was a good meeting, but it did raise a lot of concerns,” said King. “We have good support for the neighborhood, and a lot of people are willing to step up and help with outreach.”
Another community meeting will be set up in the Mission sometime within the next month, King said, to discuss the events’ programs and activities.
Sunday Streets is set to take place the first Sundays in May, June, July and August, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Mission events will be held along Valencia Street from 14th to 24th streets, and on 24th from Valencia to Hampshire.