Nearly a dozen businesses along 16th Street said that the addition of transit-only red lanes along the two-mile stretch between Church and Mission Bay will lead to increased congestion,  drive customers away and make it difficult to accept deliveries.

“It’s already crowded with two lanes,” said Art Herzallah, a manager at Stanza Cafe.“All these changes, they’re for the ballpark and the new arena, not for us.”

Mission Street businesses have criticized how the red lanes on that thoroughfare have affected their bottom line.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency plans to start construction in Spring 2020, turning one lane between Bryant and Church Streets in the westbound direction into a bus-only lane. The area most affected by the lane changes will be in Potrero Hill, where two lanes of the street will be converted to transit-only lanes starting at Bryant Street all the way until Missouri near 7th Street. The agency will also install new underground piping and add new trees.

Erica Kato, an SFMTA spokesperson, wrote in an email that construction will be completed by Spring 2022, and the red lanes will be painted in once construction is finished. One lane will remain open during construction. 

In an informal survey, Mission Local interviewed 23 businesses on 16th Street and found that the concentration of commercial businesses clustered between Dolores and Mission Street were the most concerned over the loss of parking and an increase of congestion. 

The current MTA plan does not include the removal of parking spaces on the northern side of 16th Street and does not include the removal of any parking spaces. But, proving that all issues are local, the one space that will be lost, between Valencia Street and Albion Alley, was a concern to the businesses nearby.  

Cindy Li, a manager at Big Lantern Chinese restaurant at 3170 16th St. near Albion Street, said the restaurant is already losing customers who can’t find parking in the area. She said she is opposed to any changes on the street because it may make the restaurant inaccessible to more clients who drive. Managers seemed to indicate that parking had already become more difficult and any additional construction would only add to the problem.  

“One time we had a table reserved for 15 people, but they cancelled it because they could not find parking. It’s costing us business,” Li said.

Moreover, Li said, that if one lane is converted to transit-only, unloading supplies for the restaurant will become more  difficult.

Herzallah, the manager at Stanza Cafe at 3126 16th St., said he’s been managing businesses in the Mission for 16 years and commutes from South San Francisco daily. On his way in every morning, Herzallah said he’ll stop by and pick up supplies and has to find a way to unload them without double parking. 

“For me, bringing my deliveries for my business will be horrible,” Herzallah said. 

Further down the street at 2445 16th St., George Kevetz and his spouse, Sofia, run USA Auto Body & Painting, an auto repair business that the couple has operated for 30 years. They’re not excited about new changes because they’re already feeling pressured by the current state of the street. This area of 16th experiences heavy congestion during rush hour, Kevetz said, and losing one other lane would make traffic congestion worse.

The shop relies on deliveries from other automotive companies, Kevetz said, and when the delivery vans can’t find parking in front of the shop they have to double park and run the risk of getting a ticket. 

A delivery man who was in the shop at the time agreed and said that getting a ticket in a company vehicle would hurt his driving record and affect his job. 

“The city is really making it hard for us to live and do business here,” Kevetz said.

Kevetz, like the other business managers, said they haven’t been contacted by the MTA or invited to meetings to address their concerns. Most said they had not even seen a notice or received anything in the mail about the project.

Kato said in an email that the MTA has made “extensive outreach” but would not provide any additional details. 

Between Mission and Church streets, however, few businesses were aware of the plans, but some were open to the idea of the transit-only lanes.

“I think it’s going to make buses quicker. But I feel like this is a way for the city to incentivize people from using Uber or Lyft,” Jupiter Peraza, an event manager at Manny’s said.

Not all were opposed the MTA’s plan, and some even invited it. 

At Pavilion, a high-end boutique at 3187 16th St., Alejandro Ponce said he drives in from the Ingleside area and he is in favor of changes to the street, especially any that include a dedicated bus lane that would decongest traffic along the corridor and make it easier to take the bus. But Ponce also supports the changes because of the environmental aspects, as well as the hope that it pushes more people onto buses and out of cars. 

Down the block, Alex Angelides works at Fiat Lux, a jewelry shop at 3169 16th St., and said he thinks adding red lanes on 16th is a fun plan that would not have any effect on the business. 

“We’re here seeing people honk at each other for at least 15 to 20 minutes at any given day because people are trying to park or whatever,” Angelides said.