The intersection of 24th Street and Shotwell Street, where a barrier was erected to divert traffic.
The barrier in the middle of 24th Street at Shotwell will come down after receiving backlash from the community. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

When a median barrier went up in mid-October at 24th and Shotwell streets in an effort to keep Shotwell a “slow street,” the complaints started coming in. 

By last week, the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District had launched a petition to the mayor, the MTA and the Board of Supervisors, demanding they remove the barrier. The petition claimed the barrier would prevent the Carnaval festival and other cultural events that use the route, and called it a “psychological” barrier “that has triggered the trauma of displacement.” 

Within six days, the petition received over 2,900 signatures. 

Today, the SFMTA heeded the community organizers’ call and agreed to remove the barrier, but stood by the original decision to erect them. The barrier “resulted from five months of community outreach and engagement,” over a dozen community meetings, and took into account input from over 1,000 residents, including Calle 24, said the SFMTA’s Deputy Spokesperson Stephen Chun in an email. 

“In response to community event/parade space on 24th Street, we will be removing the diverters on 24th Street … to enable community events to continue as they would before the median delineators were installed…” Chun wrote. 

Carnaval festival’s executive producer, Roberto Hernandez, bemoaned the SFMTA’s “lack of coordination, lack of planning, lack of oversight.” He said the Slow Streets representatives he spoke with didn’t know about the planned lane removal just one block over, on South Van Ness Avenue. “It’s a mess,” Hernandez said. 

More than anything, for Hernandez, it was a matter of principle: in his view, the SFMTA didn’t plan with the community, or show respect for the neighborhood’s culture or traditions. 

The barrier was intended to prevent left turns onto Shotwell from 24th Street and force cars driving north and south on Shotwell to turn onto 24th Street, thereby slowing traffic on Shotwell; it is part of the Municipal Transportation Agency’s Slow Streets program to discourage cars in favor of pedestrians and cyclists during the pandemic.

Shotwell and three other streets have been designated as ongoing slow streets, and the barrier was meant to enhance that status. 

While the barrier, made up of a series of flexible plastic poles that can be driven over in case of emergencies, could have been removed as-needed for certain events, residents and business owners found plenty of other issues with it. 

“Instead of fixing something, it’s also creating something,” said David Valencia, who works at the nearby Vigo by Western Union. Since the barrier went up, he’s been watching cars make illegal U-turns around it all day from his counter. 

According to Valencia, the median was “a good start,” but “not thought out.” As for gentrification, he said, there are plenty of other signifiers more egregious than a traffic median that the community could focus on. 

Gamil Alamiri, who owns George’s Market across the street, said he didn’t even think the intersection had a speeding problem. In any case, he pointed out that the barrier is already broken after being installed for just a few weeks — a car drives over or around them every 10 minutes, he said. 

Alamiri’s longtime salesman, who did not share his name, added that “the stop sign was more than enough” to keep cars driving at a reasonable speed. 

Others simply found the barrier to be a hassle for going about their daily business. Daniel Howard, who owns Shipyard K9 Supplies, said he hated the new barrier, calling it too restricting. Parking was always an issue in the area, and now he and his partner have to plan ahead and are forced to make unnecessary U-turns. 

Brenda Rodriguez, an employee at Wise Sons Jewish Deli, said that she has noticed FedEx and UPS drivers, as well as her own deli’s large delivery trucks, growing frustrated with the barrier. 

She speculated that the barrier might be a way to prevent sideshows in the middle of the intersection, even though she didn’t think that happens often. As a member of the San Francisco LowRider Council, Rodriguez had signed Calle 24’s petition to ensure her car club would be able to use all of 24th Street for cruising. 

Some, like Ileana Mar, welcomed that the median effectively slowed the traffic on the block. Mar has lived near the intersection, on Shotwell Street, for 11 years, and said she was excited about Slow Streets because her family’s cars have been swiped by speeding cars more than once. 

Since the median was installed, Mar noticed that many cars had no choice but to slow down, especially when other cars were around. 

“I do think that it has been an effective measure at making the block that I live on safer,” Mar said. Even so, she supported Calle 24’s petition to remove the barrier, agreeing that it was too visually prominent and triggering of displacement and gentrification. 

Speed bumps, for example, could more subtly resolve the speeding issue, Mar said. She hopes that when the barrier is removed, something equally effective will replace it. 

For now, it appears the parades and cruising will go on. The SFMTA is working on a new design plan that will work for events “while still achieving Slow Street goals.”  

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. WTF! According to SFMTA’s Deputy Spokesperson Stephen Chun — “The barrier “resulted from five months of community outreach and engagement,” over a dozen community meetings, and took into account input from over 1,000 residents, including Calle 24, said the SFMTA’s Deputy Spokesperson Stephen Chun in an email. ” This just shows you how lousy SFMTA is at “community outreach and engagement.” They “outreach” to their preferred groups and “engage” with those who give them the answers that they want to hear for the outcome they have already decided. SFMTA and Rec and Park have also pushed the same fraudulent showtime of Slow Streets at JFK Drive, MLK Drive, the Great Highway and elsewhere. Time for people to say NO. See “The Great Highway shutdown fiasco” https://48hills.org/2021/09/the-great-highway-shutdown-fiasco/

  2. I have lived in the area for over 30 years and walk thru here every single day, Shotwell and 24 Street a few years ago or so had a 4 way STOP signs installed. But! I guess that was not enough for the new people in the neighborhood, that they came with the awful idea (wanting to have just access for the residents) that they instituted with SFMTA the Slow Streets here unnecessarily. And after that, came the pole barriers. The streets are public and they should be accessible to everybody. 3 days ago, I saw how a police car made a U turn there as I was crossing the street, it took them a bit of time as the barriers did not allow them to do so as any other street does. I’m glad that SFMTA heard the people and are removing these. Carnival and other events need the whole street for floats to go by. Not just a tiny piece, as they would not fit. But it’s not just that, it’s a street and everybody needs access to go through!

  3. As someone who walks down Shotwell all the time, I was happy to see the barriers go up in the hope that it would become a real Slow Street. I wish I could say I was surprised to see this article. What galls me the most is that the car-culture reactionaries know their actual arguments won’t win, so they make something up that is risible on its face, but because it uses lefty shibboleths like “trauma of displacement,” everyone is too scared to criticize them. We’re all wimps, including me, posting under a pseudonym. We’re doomed.

  4. Time for Calle 24 to just change their name to Carro 24 and get it over with. It’s not about protection of community; it’s a handful of entitled business owners and political hacks looking to drive and park absolutely anywhere they want, no matter the danger to everyone else. Disgusting.

      1. Yeah! We need to bring the Mission back to the way I remember it in 1982!

        Calle 24 is the change we need to bring the Mission back to the great days of 1982!

  5. Has Calle 24 finished their process concerning the Jon Jacobo rape allegation (s)? Will Mr. Jacobo stay in that organization, or be removed like these offending traffic posts?

  6. I have yet to understand the rationale for “slow street” designation and random barriers in the Mission – or most places in the City. There is no apparent plan. Looking at the commercial and residential streets as a whole for sections of the Mission, and evaluating traffic bottlenecks and high-risk streets/interesections for cyclists/pedestrians, and arriving at a comprehensive, actionable plan (with community input) makes sense. At present, even getting speed humps approved, is an act of mind-numbing, snails’-paced, and years-long bureaucratic “stupification”.

    1. Sage advice for Methuselah or city government, but hard on us aging community volunteers with average lifespans.

  7. Recently I was riding my bike south on Shotwell toward 24th and a driver headed the opposite direction on Shotwell ran the stop sign at 24th and barreled toward me at about 35mph, passing by about 2 feet. So yes I think the diverters are helpful at lowering speeds.

    My question is why should any of the groups making this argument stop at opposing new things that could potentially lead to gentrification? Why not deliberately make the neighborhood crappier, to try to lower home prices and rents?

    We could scatter broken glass around all of the neighborhood parks for example, or take all of the trees out of the neighborhood. We could take a jackhammer to the roads to make them bumpier and less desirable to drive on, or hire a few trucks to blast music at incredibly loud volumes at all hours of the day and night.

  8. This is outrageous. Why does Calle 24 get to derail safety improvements that make our neighborhood more livable? I live on Shotwell near 24th and the past couple of weekends have been remarkably free of yahoos going ‘pedal to the metal’ down the block. The barriers can be removed when Carnaval happens – what a silly argument that they need to be removed now. These traffic changes were just implemented! Sure folks are going to go around them since that’s what they’re used to but that will be minimal in time.

    SFMTA – you did your job, we went through the months-long community process, now let’s give it time to see how it works. Don’t let the NIMBY’s derail this important project!

    1. The community spoke during outreach. That is the community SFMTA sound have listened to, But the political group that is Calle 24 speaks louder than the rest of us apparently. Nice cave SFMTA.

      I guess we know where we, the community stand.

  9. I’m baffled by this horrible trend of extremist orgs like Calle 24 trying to undermine and roll back any infrastructural / safety improvements by labeling them as “gentrification”. At that point what are you even “defending”? Doesn’t increased walkability and calmed traffic benefit everyone, ESPECIALLY poor people without a car? Cars cost tens of thousands of dollars while bikes cost hundreds and walking is free — so who is this regressive “advocacy” really for? Are these guys getting checks from the auto industry or what?

  10. Get out of here with the “didn’t plan with the community” nonsense. They had a bunch of signs up advertising community meetings where people could provide feedback & posted plans for what they would do if it was made a permanent slow street.

  11. Hi Eleni, a couple of questions about the article:

    1. I heard that SFMTA met directly with Calle 24 at least twice during the Shotwell Slow Street outreach process. Did you look into what happened at those meetings?

    2. What about all the parklets on 24th Street? It seems like those would also disrupt the parade route and event space. What does Calle 24 think about the impact of parklets on Carnival and other cultural events?

    Thanks for your reporting.

    1. Removing car parking for bike parking, bulbouts, bus stops, etc. destroy businesses, er I mean, trigger the opposed with reminders of gentrification.

      But businesses co-opting those same parking spots for their own outdoor seating…dead silence.

      Calle 24 is a business organization with a political arm, like any good business organization.

  12. I live on Shotwell Street and know first-hand that cars not only speed on the 900 block, but pay no attention to those people who run or use scooters. Some drivers make obscene gestures or hurl insults at those using the slow street as intended. As for those who say they see people driving around the barriers, keep in mind that this is not the majority of cars. If the barriers stop even some or most cars from turning onto Shotwell then I feel safer. Why does the city need permission from the parade that has been the same for 30+ years or the lowriders to determine how to best implement traffic changes? The barriers can be brought down for these events. (And, btw, I am a San Franciscan by birth, so none of this gentrification stuff.) Plan your trip better if you must, but keep in mind that even without the barriers, left-hand turns are not permitted from 24th onto Shotwell. Finally (and I can’t resist this) there is no way that someone who works in the check cashing establishment can see this intersection. If you don’t believe me, just pass by it and you will see that I am correct.

    1. Ramon, if you’ve lived in the city this long you should know that none of the stated reasons are ever the real reason. The real reason is Calle 24 loves cars and they run the show in this part of town. Don’t speak up or else you’ll be shaken down.

      1. Hi Jake! I am aware of what you say. Sometimes I refer to the excuses that people give for their disdain of things such as six plastic poles as “pseudo- liberalism at it’s finest” As for being shaken down, I am not at all worried about it…

  13. The safety and well-being of “most of us” should go before of the desires and prejudices of a few. Calle24 is a reactionary group that is undermining progressive and representative diversity in our neighborhood. The borderline fascist rhetoric used by this org (notions of racial and cultural purity, racist conspiracy theories, historical fabrication, stereotyping, dog whistling, the complete devaluation of other cultures and histories, etc etc etc) simply undermines democratic representation and legitimizes hate speech. Mission local should perform some journalistic due diligence. How many % of people is Calle24 speaking on behalf of? Do non-representative anecdotes distort our perception of what the city needs to move forward? Do self-styled community leaders with their own conflict of interest (to uphold cultural identity for the sake of staying in power) hold too much power over us? I love Mission Local but wish it had the courage to go out and challenge the taboos of our time..

  14. As a white male colonizer, I’m triggered by being accused of plastic pylon placement to speed gentrification by slowing traffic! Calle 24, go f*$k yourselves!

  15. For a community who values strength, this whole issue shows just how whiny and sad our neighborhood can be! Slow streets are now traumatic? For god’s sake.
    From now on, every article about traffic will require ***TRIGGER WARNING–ARTICLE INCLUDES DISCUSSION ABOUT RUBBER CONES***

    1. Yeeeah, they don’t go up Shotwell. That’s pretty silly. But once Calle 24 made up its mind, they were going to pile on too. And Calle 24 is business owners who want to drive and park absolutely everywhere. So this is what we get.

    2. The barriers are in the middle of 24th, forcing a right turn from Shotwell onto 24th, and preventing a left turn from 24th onto Shotwell. It’s a little hard to see from the picture atop this story.

    3. The parade uses the whole street, performers, vehicles go down the middle.

      It is reasonable for them to be removed for the parade. the rest is nonsense. Most people obey the right turn rules, those that don’t proceed at their own risk. It’s fine with the barriers.

  16. I’m not triggered by the plastic barriers but I think they’re ridiculous. I know that intersection well because a good friend lives on 24th there and I pick her up all of the time in my CAR (god forbid!) so we can do fun stuff that requires a car which she is lacking. I have never seen anyone speeding there – that’s quite laughable. There is way too much traffic, pedestrians, bikes and skateboarders in that area for any kind of race car driving. You’re lucky if you can go over 15 mph. And the dumb barriers compel many drivers to do even more dangerous maneuvers than before to compensate. SFMTA is ridiculous and completely out of touch with the city.

  17. “…a “psychological” barrier “that has triggered the trauma of displacement.” ”

    Are you kidding me? Trauma? Caused by plastic pylons? This has got to be one of the most ridiculous statements ever uttered by so-called ‘progressive’ organizers in the history of this city. People are clearly looking for anything, ANYTHING, to be offended by so they can frame it as an identity politics issue for the ages. Please.

  18. I am at a complete loss to understand how that barrier relates to gentrification and displacement or could in any way be triggering. I work just off of that intersection, and I also agree that it is a hassle, but I think tying this to other serious issues is nonsensical and counterproductive. If you don’t like it, then just say that you don’t like it. If enough people agree (and I do) then that should be enough to get the city to act.

    1. I live near Shotwell and 20th and can tell you, this community does not want or need this Noe Valley style “slow streets” rich people stuff. Lots of poor and working class people drive here, and also work so much that these “slow streets” just seem like a ploy to make the neighborhood more palatable to gentrifiers. Disagree all you want, but that’s literally how people feel.

      1. Imagine thinking safer streets are “rich people stuff.” Just galaxy brain sh*t. Everyone deserves safety regardless of their income level. There’s no reason for MTA to listen to this nonsense, let alone kowtow to it.

        1. I don’t fully understand why driving on Shotwell is better than Van Ness or Folsom, which don’t have terrible traffic. Many cars are simply not trying to park, just to go through the neighborhood.

          Could someone explain?

      2. Yeah, tell it like it is Andy! Also, sanitation, running water, electricity, and wi-fi are also rich people stuff that this community doesn’t want or need. Let’s get back to our pre-colonizer days where average life expectancy was 19! It’ll be grrreat!

      3. LOL – brought to you by the same folks who hated the bus/transit lanes so they said it was “insensitive” to remind people of “gang warfare” via red paint in the streets.

      4. Just another example of yet another activist group leveraging politically frightening words (traumatic displacement? smdh..) to further suppress their own community, thinking this will slow gentrification.

        Calle24: Remember when the goal was to uplift the community? Those were good times…

      5. “Rich people stuff”. Same goons who take no pride in the neighborhood and have filthy sidewalks in front of their businesses. It’s clear that Calle 24 is being managed by a bunch of low standard sensationalist thugs. As the neighborhood evolves, their days are numbered. Typical behavioral outbursts seen by organizations in their end of life stage.