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West Portal traffic safety initiative slows to include community voices

San Francisco officials put brakes on West Portal traffic safety plans
San Francisco officials put brakes on West Portal traffic safety plans 01:07

A group of West Portal business owners and neighbors have successfully slowed the planning process for a traffic safety project that was fast-tracked by the city following a deadly collision last month. 

At the request Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Myrna Melgar, the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency kicked off an expedited planning process for the West Portal Safety Improvement Project following the March 16 collision that killed a family of four waiting at a bus stop at Ulloa Street and Lenox Way near the West Portal Muni Station.

The plan proposed a number of changes to the intersections of West Portal Avenue, Ulloa Street, Lenox Way and Claremont Boulevard, including the removal of up to eight parking spaces, a number of left-turn restrictions and a restriction at the intersection of Ulloa Street and West Portal Avenue that would require private vehicles headed east on Ulloa to turn onto West Portal.

The idea was to bring the project to the MTA board for approval in May or June and for at least some of the improvements to be built out by the end of summer. 

Both the plan and the planning process, however, immediately drew the ire of the West Portal Merchants Association and other neighborhood groups in the area. 

Association president Deidre Von Rock said the proposal didn't appropriately address traffic and pedestrian safety issues, was being rushed through because of election year political posturing, and didn't include enough input from business owners and neighborhood residents. 

In response to these and other concerns, the city has agreed to a more thoughtful planning process that will include a soon-to-be formed Welcoming West Portal Committee made up of "merchants, neighbors, and other community members who live in, work, do business in or engage regularly" with the neighborhood, according to a joint statement released Friday by Melgar and Von Rock.

The committee will meet at least three times over the next few months to draft a new proposal that could be implemented sometime in the fall. 

"In order to see this shared vision become a reality, we must work collaboratively to welcome necessary changes that we agree will improve the neighborhood," according to Melgar and Von Rock's statement. "This includes meaningful opportunities for public input, robust analysis of the tradeoffs involved in the changes to our streets, and thoughtful compromises that lead to the greatest good."

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