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‘Coming right at us’: Car plows through busy San Francisco pedestrian street

A white car drove through cones blocking off Hayes Street between Octavia and Gough Streets and almost hit pedestrians. | Courtesy Marine Layer

Devin Smith was coming out of a Hayes Valley restaurant Saturday evening when he heard squealing tires to his right. When Smith looked over, he saw a car’s headlights gazing back at him.

“It was coming right at us,” Smith said. 

Smith, who was taking his wife and visiting parents to dinner at Chez Maman, said the four of them had to quickly bolt over to the sidewalk to evade the speeding vehicle and were shaken by the close call.

“We had to sit down and do some deep breathing,” Smith said.

Security camera footage obtained by The Standard shows a white car with a missing front bumper driving at high speed through cones meant to block off Hayes Street at Octavia Street around 7 p.m. on Saturday, visibly alarming pedestrians in the area.

A white car missing its front bumper speeds through a block of Hayes Street closed to cars between Octavia and Gough streets on Saturday at around 7 p.m. | Courtesy Marine Layer

The area along Hayes between Octavia and Gough streets is a Shared Spaces road—a street that blocks vehicle traffic and parking, except for those who need access to their homes, from 4 to 10 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays—according to Lloyd Silverstein, head of the Hayes Valley Merchants Association. Shared Spaces are similar to Slow Streets.

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The speeding car was also seen driving through the area earlier that day, according to Chez Maman staff.

“It seemed like the [driver] was on drugs,” said John Ozer, who was working at Chez Maman on Hayes Street when he saw the car speeding along Gough Street at around 5 p.m. 

Several staff members at neighboring chocolatier Christopher Elbow also said they saw a white car with a missing front bumper drive quickly westbound along Hayes Street and turn onto Gough Street at around 5 p.m. Saturday.

The intersection of Gough and Hayes streets | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Jose Ortiz Luna, 27, was arrested by police around 7 p.m. near Van Ness Avenue and Hickory Street after a police chase that began after Luna allegedly refused to comply with police instructions to pull over. Luna was arrested on suspicion of a host of vehicle code violations, including reckless driving, speeding and felony reckless evading. 

Police had attempted to pull Luna over, but he did not comply, and a police chase ensued, ending after Luna stopped his car, police said. San Francisco Sheriff’s Department records show Luna is being held on a $30,000 bail bond in county jail as of Tuesday.

SFPD Northern Station Capt. Derrick Jackson said there was no evidence that the car, a white Nissan sedan, was stolen and that the vehicle has been impounded.

“I’m just happy there wasn’t anyone injured,” Jackson said.

The area often has several community ambassadors present, and the incident is an isolated one, Silverstein said.

“The shared spaces program has been vital to rebuilding our community after the pandemic,” he said.