San Francisco coughs up fix for unsafe ‘Hairball’

An interchange in San Francisco known as The Hairball, which connects Cesar Chavez Street and Potrero Avenue with Bayshore Boulevard amid a maze of freeway ramps, will be improved with new bike lanes and upgraded pedestrian crosswalks.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors approved changes to add a protected bike lane in the northbound direction of Jerrold Avenue between Bayshore Boulevard and Barneveld Avenue, and a bike lane in the southbound direction.

A SFMTA staff report said the intersection of the project area, which is part of the The City’s bike route, is currently difficult for bicyclists to navigate through because of the high volume of traffic that travels in the area.

About 700 vehicles pass through Jerrold Avenue in the northbound direction during the two-hour morning peak period. Approximately 78 bicyclists pass through that same intersection during the same time in the morning, according to the staff report.

There was one pedestrian fatality in 2014 at the intersection of Jerrold Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard.

The SFMTA will also make pedestrian safety improvements in the project area by adding zebra-striped continental crosswalks.

Fran Taylor, co-chair of the organization CC Puede, welcomed the changes, and said the current conditions at the Hairball intersection is an obstacle for bicyclists who want to get from one neighborhood to another:

“This is a discouragement for bicyclists who are not confident and assertive and we want to expand access to our streets on bicycles to younger people, older people, to newbies, who might see this and say forget it, I’ll drive.”

To address parking concerns from nearby businesses who will lose approximately 10 unmetered parking spaces as part of the project, the SFMTA will restrict overnight vehicle parking on the west side of Barneveld between McKinnon Avenue and Jerrold avenues from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

There also will be a no parking anytime restriction on the east side of Jerrold Avenue between Bayshore Boulevard and Barneveld Avenue.

The parking restrictions raised concerns from Kelley Cutler with the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, who has attended many board meetings to address concerns of those living in vehicles.

Cutler said the group has brought ideas in dealing with the large vehicles parked on streets:

“Not a single one has been effectively explored or implemented. Instead, they just continue to increase the parking restrictions.”

Last month, city parking officials towed Marielle Lowes’ RV as she was attempting to leave The City with her boyfriend and her eight-month old child.

SFMTA Director Gwyneth Borden said it was still frustrating that there was still no solution to find a safe parking area for people living in their vehicles:

“The change is to not strike at this community.”

Borden recommended that there should be a process in place before towing a vehicle with people living in it:

“This is their home and it’s a lot of different than just towing a car.”

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said the transit agency is continuing working with The City’s department of homelessness, public works and the police department on the issue of people living in vehicles on the streets.

On towing vehicles with occupants living in the vehicles, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the transit agency will contact The City’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) before The City tows the vehicle:

“If we come across a vehicle which requires towing (72 hours, scofflaw) and we determine that the vehicle is occupied we will reach out to SFPD and the HOT team to try and get services for the occupants before we tow the vehicle.”

Rose added:

“There will be times when the HOT team will not be available to respond. If there is no urgency regarding the towing of the vehicle we will make an effort to delay the tow to allow services to respond. We cannot completely avoid the removal of the vehicle as this would create an unintended exemption for vehicles that are in violation of City or State law.”