Mission Street ‘red lane’ turn restrictions relaxed

San Francisco is relaxing some of its forced right turns on Mission Street as a compromise between merchants and residents.

The Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors on Tuesday approved to remove two forced turns on Mission and 22nd streets and on Mission and 26th streets from the original plan of the 14-Mission Rapid Project.

Also now allowed is a left turn exemption for taxis on Mission and 21st Streets, and moving the Cortland street bus stop in the outbound direction to the nearside of the intersection.

The SFMTA board approved the $7.2 million project that included adding red transit-only lanes, six forced right turns on Mission Street between 14th and 30th streets and restricting left turns.

At issue with merchants are the six forced right turns including one at Mission and Cesar Chavez streets. Merchants have said that sales are down and that customers are having hard time finding parking space and just getting onto Mission Street.

Roberto Hernandez, who sits on the board of the Mission Merchants Association, said he and 13 others surveyed 357 businesses on Mission Street between Cesar Chavez and 14th streets.

His group found that 301 businesses had reported loses since the implementation of project began. Thirty-three employees from various stores were laid off because of the loss of revenue. Hernandez said 14 business have closed and another three are on the brink of closing soon.

Gabriel Medina, policy manager for the Mission Economic Development Agency, the project came at bad time with issues like mass evictions going on in the neighborhood:

“When we had three community meetings, the community overwhelmingly said don’t do this project right now.”

Medina calls the forced right turn a barrier:

“We’re asking to remove the wall on Cesar Chavez. Basically instead of having a gateway to our most important culture business corridor, you have a wall.”

He also was not in favor of the removal of some Muni bus stops. Many of the clients from his organization, who are low-income, use Muni and how seen their access limited, Medina said:

“We’re talking about getting our stops back. We’re talking keep the Mission whole. Having us turn off every four blocks does not keep our neighborhood whole.”

Matt Brill, the SFMTA project manager, said he has heard the complaints from the merchants about customers not able to access stores and parking spaces along Mission Street.

Brill said the transit agency started an advertising campaign to inform drivers of the nearby parking garages, one on 21st Street (Mission-Bartlett Garage) and on Hoff Street (16th & Hoff Garage).

The SFMTA is also working with The City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to support marketing to highlight the neighborhood and transit options to get to the Mission District, Brill said.

He also addressed the reason why it was best to keep the forced right turn on Mission and Cesar Chavez streets:

“We did evaluate the potential for removing that restriction at that intersection. However, given that northbound Mission is now a single lane, if we were to remove that [forced right turn], the congestion along Mission Street would be far worse than it was before, which means both drivers and Muni riders will have a less good experience as they did prior to implementing the project.”

SFMTA board Director Gwyneth Borden said that there was no intent to harm the Mission neighborhood except to speed up transit.

Borden, who lives on Mission and Richland streets, said she takes the 14R everyday.

She restated that the data the SFMTA collected reflected that people of color and low-income Muni riders are taking trips to Mission Street:

“I think we have to remember that at the end of the process whatever we come to or whatever the answers are, we have to get to a place where people who do need to use public transit or depend on public transit, which we know for this line, are able to get to places more quickly.”