Speak up about “Slow Streets”

Editor: On October 25th, I wrote to tell readers that the City Council was poised to renew the “Slow Streets” project for an additional year at their November 2nd meeting. This turns out not to be the case. Since it is incredibly difficult for ordinary citizens to follow along with the online meeting schedules, I wanted to point out two really big items coming before the City Council on which residents will certainly want to weigh in.

The first is at the November 16th meeting where the Council will hear proposed changes to residential housing densities in all areas of the city, including existing neighborhoods of historic housing.

Proposed are some very substantial increases in density that would enable your neighbors to build up to four units on a standard 5,000 square foot lot (one unit per 1,250 square feet) in the R-1 zone. Proposed changes would also increase density and allow further upzoning of R-5 and R-6 areas to allow one unit per 750 square feet of lot. Prohibitions on multifamily housing would also be removed in R-1 through R-6 residential districts. And new residential and mixed use buildings on vacant sites would be at least 30 units per acre.

These are some very substantial increases in housing density and will result in great changes to the character of our island. In addition, no additional parking spaces would be required in existing residential areas, creating a two tier system in which homeowners could pave their lots to provide parking for themselves while new residents would either have to fight it out for limited parking or be expected to rely on public transit. Two tier systems are never fair.

I strongly urge residents to get involved and speak up at the November 16th City Council meeting. Sixty percent of you voted against Measure Z and this is just Measure Z in another format.

And then, at the December 7th City Council meeting, the proposal to extend the program of blocking off and privatizing certain streets known as “Slow Streets” is scheduled to be extended for an additional year.

As I wrote previously, the main problem with the “Slow Streets” project is that it preferences certain residents over other residents. Streets to be blocked of were selected because they “are lower-traffic, two lane residential streets” which means that all of the traffic on these streets was pushed onto streets already having more traffic. For example the Pacific Avenue “Slow Streets” pushed still more traffic on to Buena Vista and Lincoln Avenues, both of which take more than their share of traffic already. This has created a situation which is neither safe nor fair.

To reach their conclusion that the “Slow Streets” program should continue for another year, city staff conducted a survey this past August in which they contacted all of the residents of the blocked off streets, but none of the people living on Clinton Avenue, Oak Street, Haight Avenue, Pearl Street or any of the other roadways taking additional traffic due to this program. The people who benefitted from the program were notified and asked to weigh in on it if they would like to continue benefitting while those who bore the brunt of the street closures were not asked their opinions. Even with this skewed dataset, 35% of the respondents said it was time to end the pro gram and 4% said that some of the streets were OK, but others should be opened.

If you are one of the people who was not asked your opinion of the “Slow Streets” program and you want to weigh in, you now have time to con tact the City Council before their December 7th meeting to express your views, otherwise they will likely green-light another year of traffic disruptions.

— Birgitt Evans