OP-ED Keep the 25th Street Pedestrian Bridge Closed

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I live on Kansas Street, one block south of the 25th street footbridge bridge, and have been the Kansas Street SAFE Association captain since 2004. I believe that the bridge should remain closed, not because I have a strong opinion one way or the other; I don’t. I’ll support the final decision.

I’m in favor of keeping the gate locked because I’ve been involved in the issue since 2014, and have surveyed our SAFE Association members twice about it. Safety is their number one concern. Some residents who have lived in Potrero Hill for 30 or more years recall when the bridge was open.  Apparently, the San Francisco Police Department requested that it be closed due to criminal activity.   Multiple times residents have voiced concerns that reopening the foot bridge will jeopardize safety and increase crime.

“I used to take that bridge a long time ago and was assaulted once on it by someone coming from the Mission,” one resident of 36 years wrote.  “I am not sure that the neighborhood’s safety has yet improved to the point where it should be reopened.”

Another resident wrote, “Car vandalism and street dirtiness increases with proximity to the other pedestrian crossings at 23rd Street and near the hospital…I’m often a pedestrian, and the footbridge would shorten my route, but I think the quiet, safe, and clean nature of our block would be at risk with the bridge opening.”

Bridge maintenance is a real concern, given that the other pedestrian bridges over Highway 101 aren’t well kept.  “There is the 22nd Street bridge, which is not lighted nor monitored,” said a resident.  “It is unnecessary to re-open the 25th Street bridge until there is solid upgrading and evidence of cameras and monitoring of the 22 Street bridge. We are tired of the fires and vehicle glass breaking, keying and break-ins by folks who have unmonitored access over that bridge…”

Another resident observed, “The currently open footbridges are poorly maintained; encampments, trash, graffiti, etcetera. DPW has demonstrated it is not able to maintain current infrastructure…I would support opening of the footbridge if the immediate area was managed by the Parks Department; example, the 18th Street footbridge, expand the community garden on Kansas, widen sidewalks without removing parking, add better street lighting on Vermont,  replace chain link fence…”

There’s no clear majority on whether or not to reopen the bridge.  However, the surveys indicate a shift.  From the first survey conducted in 2014 to the most recent one this summer, those in favor of reopening the bridge have increased from 50 percent to 54 percent. Not a significant change, but it shows that over time more people agree that it should be made accessible.

“There were valid security reasons why the bridge was closed the first time…,” commented a longtime resident who is undecided about the issue.  “…it was dangerous to pedestrians and allowed people to quickly cross from one police district to another. The neighborhood context has changed somewhat since then, but the bridge still may pose safety issues…The bridge would absolutely need to be well lit if opened, and a predetermined trial period might be a good idea, with an evaluation before permanent re-opening if that were to occur.”

One of the more positive takeaways from this community discussion is that more people are being heard and things are moving along deliberately and at a slower pace. This is a positive development; one that our City officials recognize. Decisions of this magnitude that affect the lives and property of those who live near the bridge must be addressed with the utmost care, respect, and thoughtful analysis. It’s my hope that we’ll continue to intentionally engage this issue and avoid any foregone conclusions that could stifle the concerns of those most affected by a bridge reopening.