The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has proposed a “Quick-Build Project” along 17th Street between Rhode Island and Mississippi streets that has local businesses saying, “not so fast.” Quick-Build Projects are intended to streamline delivery of safety improvements, in this case, development of a protected bike lane – consisting of physical barriers to separate bikes from vehicles using raised curbs, bollards, parking, or planter strips – between Potrero and Pennsylvania streets.
Cyclists support the project, at least those who took to Twitter to share their opinion. However, impacted businesses, such as music venue Bottom of the Hill, want more due diligence on the bike lane’s impact.
Bottom of the Hill co-owner Lynn Schwarz said that a protected bike lane would eliminate a large amount of parking without creating viable alternatives, which could potentially affect not only the club but numerous nearby businesses, such as Thee Parkside, Deluxe Skateboards, JB’s Place, and the San Francisco Flower Mart, slated to open in 2024 with parking.
“The day that we are not able to provide parking to our bands, we will have to stop booking shows,” Schwarz said. “With all our touring bands, which keep us in business, we are contractually obligated to ensure parking, and the only other option in a neighborhood without any parking garages at all is to rent parking from the City at $310 a pop for 120 feet. This price tag is not sustainable on a nightly basis for any small business.”
Bottom of the Hill only uses a parking garage for larger tours with buses; shelling out for every band would heavily eat into the venue’s profits. The club hosts three bands a night, five to seven nights a week, with a minimum of one vehicle per band. Most touring groups have at least a van pulling a trailer, according to Schwarz.
“The side streets are pull-in spaces, where anything with a trailer cannot park, so without our parking along 17th Street and all the parking along Mississippi/17th Street already taken away to bike lanes, we would be out of options of how to get bands situated,” she said. “While we understand that loss of parking is a natural consequence of development, and that free parking is not our birthright, we still currently have ample parking at 5 p.m. when daytime businesses let out. It has gotten harder to park over the years, certainly, but the wholesale loss of parking along 17th Street as described by the plans we’ve seen will be a killer for us and many other local businesses.”
A protected bike lane would also affect deliveries. Commercial spots would need to be created to allow for distribution, further limiting street parking for staff and customers.
“Loading in kegs and cases through a protected bike lane seems more, and not less, dangerous for bicycles who would not expect to have to encounter anything at all entering their lane,” Schwarz added.
She and co-owners Tim Benetti, Ramona Downey, and Kathleen Owens launched a petition opposing the proposed bike lane on Change.org, which has garnered more than 1,400 signatures.
“I’m not convinced the protected bike lane is needed,” said Kepa Askenasy, a former cyclist and Potrero Hill resident who co-founded Save the Hill, which seeks to protect against overdevelopment. “If you look at the SFMTA’s own data, there are no injuries or deaths within the existing bike lane. Accidents mostly occur at intersections that the SFMTA isn’t addressing. They’re too quick on the draw and not addressing things they need to address.”
An SFMTA map, “Vision Zero High Injury Network,” identifies San Francisco street segments that have a high number of fatalities and severe injuries. The part of 17th Street where most fatalities and severe injuries occurred is in the Mission, not Potrero Hill.
“It’s not Martha’s Vineyard down here,” Askenasy said. “It’s the industrial buffer zone. It’s a wonderful place to live and thrive. If everyone is careful and respectful, the current bike path is more than sufficient.”
SFMTA spokesperson Stephen Chun emphasized that the agency hasn’t issued a formal proposal.
The project team “aims to holistically consider the needs of the various stakeholders in the neighborhood,” Chun said. “Right now, we are developing an informational mailer in multiple languages and have been reaching out individually to businesses in the neighborhood to go over their individual needs prior to developing potential project design concepts. Once we have more concrete proposals to share, we plan to hold a public forum in late fall where we will solicit additional feedback.”
District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton said he’s working with stakeholders on a plan and hopes to reach a suitable compromise. Possibilities that Bottom of the Hill would support would be to paint bike lanes green, install speed bumps, or create a protected bike lane but make 17th Street one-way so parking isn’t eliminated.
“We survived so many difficulties over the years, most recently being forced to close for 17 months during the pandemic,” Schwarz said. “We ask you to stand with us to make this project a common-sense project instead of a forced effort to improve SF’s green image at the expense of businesses.”