Car crashes into parklet at Benders. Photos by Lauren Smiley

Just an hour before lunch opened, a car collision sent one woman’s sedan careening into Bender’s parklet on South Van Ness Ave, Bender’s employees said. 

The popular dive bar, which was supposed to open at 2 p.m., was empty at the time of the collision, and police officers on the scene confirmed that no one had been injured. 

It was an uncharacteristically warm Saturday in San Francisco, and several people were trying to get a seat at Bender’s as the opening time approached. Despite bartenders preparing for the opening, they were still turning people away at around 2 p.m., saying they would probably open late today. 

Mark Benedict, who was setting up tables and chairs at Bender’s second parklet on 19th Street, said he didn’t witness the incident, but heard what happened when he came to work. A woman allegedly ran a red light, and another car coming across the intersection hit her, sending her into the end of the large parklet at 19th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, Benedict had been told. 

“It’s always been dangerous,” said Benedict of the parklet’s placement. “This intersection is pretty gnarly.”

Benedict said that customers usually preferred the parklet on 19th Street since it’s less trafficked by cars. South Van Ness, on the other hand, is “basically a freeway,” he said. 

One of the owners of Bender’s, Dion Jolley, said he was just thankful that no one had been hurt. 

“I just gotta clean all this now,” Jolley said, looking at the wooden planks strewn about, and plastic roofing sitting in the now-wobbly structure. 

Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan.
At Bender’s on Saturday afternoon Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan.
Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan.

During the pandemic, Jolley said, the bar didn’t have the option to set up seats on the sidewalk because there wasn’t enough space for six-foot social distancing. 

Police have not yet provided additional details about the incident. 

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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Eleni Balakrishnan

Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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17 Comments

    1. It’s a traffic violation that led to an accident, unless you believe it was an intentional crash. A headline claiming that would be far more irresponsible

  1. SFMTA is taking public comments RIGHT NOW on planned safety improvements to S Van Ness. Visit https://sfmta.com/SVanNessQuickBuild and click “Combined Virtual Open House and Public Hearing” from now through Oct 27 to leave comments. The plan is to remove one lane in each direction, add a center turn lane, and adjust signals. Speed reduction is a big part of it, as well as making left turns safer, and reducing double parking. Public comment is often dominated by cranky people who don’t like change, so if you care about pedestrian safety, go and make your voice heard!

      1. On one hand, the livability urbanist mobility types cite autos as clear and present dangers, yet when it comes time to account for that in decision making, SFPD enforcement of the vehicle code against motorists who violate in ways that injure and kill or considering the risk of car crashes when permitting dining shanties on the streets, they;’re nowhere to be found before the fact.

        Your good intentions are not sufficient and continued railing against cars and lamenting after the fact will not fix those dangerous conditions. This is not your playpen and you all are not infants who would expect to get what they demand.

    1. Right?! It’s so ridiculous SF doesn’t use Red Light cameras on high traffic intersections where people drive like fools. I totally agree with you.

    2. I hope Mission Local stays on top of issues the parklets create, whether hazards to restaurant customers, to trash, rodent, and graffiti issues. Or impact to surrounding businesses due to lack of visibility and removal of parking from those who need it for access to those businesses: the disabled, elderly, families, etc.

      1. ive written hilary ronan about this, but no response. parklets can be a problem, especially when they are allowed for regular retailers (i.e., florists) which do not provide food/drink, or for those restaurant/bars with very limited open hours/days. as a senior, i take public transportation whenever possible, but there are times when i need to drive, i.e., when going to the vet or picking up heavy items. parking has always been tight in the mission, but the removal of spots for permanent parklets, etc. is unfair to retailers and injures the community.

      2. This issue was hardly due to a parklet.

        Blame speeding and red light running.

        If anything, the parklet probably stopped the car from jumping the sidewalk and hitting pedestrians/damaging buildings.

    3. It’s not the intersection that’s dangerous, but people that’s not paying attention, except maybe to their phone! Arrest those looking at their cellphone already, those not using turn signal, and force them to learn to drive properly.

    4. Distracted people that’s what’s dangerous. Over the last 10 years this has gotten so bad. If people weren’t so used to treating their smartphone as their center of focus, then we probably wouldn’t be mulling over this issue.

  2. Two things; we all like the community aspect of parklets, but they are not always well thought-out or safe to use (case in point). As a frequent city biker, I have noticed many high-profile parklets placed right up to the edge of intersections. This blocks the view of drivers approaching the intersection and they creep (or just go ahead and gun it forward) into the bike lane. I’m looking at you, Elbow Room, blocking the visuals at Valencia and Clarion Alley, and so many others. The second thing is that some business owners put gates and locks on the parklets when they are not in use. Are these “public” spaces now solely reserved for the for-profit businesses? Yes, I know that the business owners pay for the parklet building materials, but I don’t think it’s a fair use of public street space to lock them up. Like many efforts in SF, this piecemeal approach to urban planning lacks cohesion and consistency.

  3. Putting diners in flimsy sheds in the street, is asking for disaster. I refuse to eat in them and be a statistic waiting to happen.

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