For the first time in its brief history, Manny’s Cafe at 16th and Valencia streets changed its interior furnishings to face Valencia Street outside its windows looking west. It was no coincidence: The topic Monday night was the future of Valencia Street.
But first, between the weekend shootings in Monterey Park and the Monday afternoon shootings in Half Moon Bay, the audience had plenty of questions for the Mission Station Captain Michael McEachern.
Why doesn’t he provide more beat cops for protection? “The reality is, I can’t,” noting that he only has 10 beat cops to deploy to a district that includes Noe Valley and the Castro.
Why don’t beat cops don’t stay out past 9 p.m? “I don’t have staffing at 9 p.m.,” he said. “The sheer volume of calls we get requires that I put officers in motor vehicles just to respond to high priority calls all night long.”
The last SFPD report on staffing, from 2021, shows the Mission Station at 145 officers, with a recommendation to add 36 officers, for a total of 181. Overall, according to the report, San Francisco has 1,830 officers, with the need to add 352.
McEachern said that the new use of force reporting rules had increased administrative time. In the past, when there was no injury, there was no complaint. Now, officers must report each use-of-force incident, including grabbing someone by the arm, which he demonstrated with the proprietor and cafe owner, Manny Yekutiel. The victim of such a physical encounter may disagree with McEachern. At any rate, the new rules require reporting such incidents.
“It’s just time-consuming,” McEachern said. A silence fell over the audience.
Another audience member asked McEachern if, after George Floyd, he believes that trust between the community and the police needs to be rebuilt. “As far as the George Floyd thing. I don’t know what to say to that. I’m not convinced that happens that much,” McEachern said of Floyd’s murder by a police officer in Minneapolis.
“I know they (such incidents) get a lot of news. I know they get a lot of highlights, but it’s not a reflection of the reality of what’s out there,” he said, without answering the question of whether trust-building is needed.
Later, in the second half of the event, an audience member discussed how he felt after hearing the captain speak.
Violent crimes, he said, get the attention of an under-resourced department. “As ordinary people with ordinary needs, we don’t really feel like we have the support of the police department,” he said.
The second half of the meeting, by contrast, was a more harmonious discussion concerning SFMTA’s proposed center-running bike lane on Valencia Street.
Jamie Parks and Kimberly Leung, two SFMTA officials, told the audience that the center-running bike lane is a pilot program that could last up to 18 months. They hope that it gets approval in March and, after a construction process of four to six weeks, that it will be in place by summer.
For safety reasons, the bike lane will have a curb and fatter posts. A break of 10 feet about every 100 feet or so is currently being proposed to help cyclists move out of the bikeway and visit merchants on the side of the street. At the intersections, a planned system of light boxes or signals will help with the movement on and off in the bikeway.
As a pilot program, Leung said, “If we’re seeing that there are major concerns, safety issues, we do have the option to end the pilot sooner.”
When Yekutiel asked how many in the audience support the bike lane, and how many oppose it, about 20 were for it and about 10 were against it.
Some audience members also mentioned the issue of double parking for delivery workers, and asked if SFMTA had made any attempts to hold delivery companies like DoorDash accountable.
Parks explained that SFMTA has tried to work directly with the delivery companies, but it has been very challenging. “I don’t know that they’ve had an incentive necessarily to work with us,” he said. “Ultimately, we need the companies to be accountable and to work with us on the solutions. And right now, whether it’s Lyft, or Uber or DoorDash, we don’t always get that response.”