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Businesses in San Francisco's West Portal question new traffic safety plan following crash that killed family

Proposed traffic safety changes for West Portal stir up opposition
Proposed traffic safety changes for West Portal stir up opposition 02:42

A deadly crash at a bus stop in San Francisco's West Portal neighborhood that killed a family of four last month led city officials to quickly come up with a plan to make the intersection much safer.

The family -- Diego Cardoso de Oliveira and Matilde Ramos Pinto, their 2-year-old son Joaquin and infant Caue Ramos Pinto de Oliveira -- all died after being struck by an SUV while waiting at a bus stop at Ulloa Street and Lenox Way on March 16.

Last week, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director Jeffrey Tumlin, San Francisco Supervisor Myrna Melgar and project supervisor Liz Brisson announced the proposed improvements to the area.

But now the redesign is getting pushback from area business owners concerned it will hurt their bottom line.  

"I grew up on West Portal and my home is still on West Portal," said Maryo Mogannam. "Past President of the West Portal Merchants Association."

Mogannam's Postal Chase sits in the heart of the West Portal. And while shaken by the tragedy that occurred just around the corner, his business is among those asking for a pause on proposed changes to this intersection.

"I'm saying everyone take a step back,"  Mogannan explained. "Take a deep breath. Let's discuss it. These things that we are doing for our community are going to be long lasting."

"There's three issues here," said Lisa Moore, who owns nearby Siren Boutique. "The issue of public safety. Then there's the issue of beautifying and making the area more welcoming. And then there is the issue of impact to your small businesses."

Moore is not convinced the plan will necessarily improve safety. And then there's the timetable.

"We care deeply about public safety, and of course, employees, customers, my kids that live and work in this neighborhood also,"  Moore said. "We feel that this proposal was basically introduced to us after it was already decided that it was going to happen. And now we're hearing that we have 10 days to talk about it."

"We take the merchants' needs very seriously," Tumlin said at a meeting to discuss the changes. "That's one of the reasons why -- in order to reduce conflicts at the Ulloa-West Portal intersection -- what we have done is try to restrict motorists who are simply bypassing the commercial district. Cutting through the commercial district."

The SFMTA rolled out the redesign last week, saying it was based on years of study here. They're currently asking for feedback. Opponents have launched their own feedback campaign, asking neighbors to voice their concerns. The signs are already in the windows of businesses up and down the street.

"Everyone be prepared to ask pragmatic questions," Mogannam said of the changes. " And The city needs to come up with viable answers."

District Supervisor Melgar has already spoken in support of the changes, as have bicycle and pedestrian advocates. SFMTA is still asking for input. They will conduct another polling session in the area during the Wednesday evening commute.

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