Business owners in Potrero Hill are trying to stop or slow the introduction of a “quick-build” project that may include a protected bike lane along 17th Street, claiming the elimination of street parking would make their storefronts harder to access for employees and patrons.
One of the lead organizers of that effort is longtime San Francisco music venue Bottom of the Hill, which circulated a petition against the potential new bike lane. After posting the petition on Twitter, the business received a pile-on of responses from bike lane proponents opposing their stance.
The intense debate is focused on a roughly 0.7 mile route on the corridor between Mississippi and Hampshire streets, which supporters say fills a critical gap in the city’s protected bike lane network to connect the Mission with eastern neighborhoods like Mission Bay and Dogpatch.
The city has yet to introduce official plans for the corridor, but an advocacy group is calling for a protected bike lane—one that is separated from the road using physical barriers—on both sides of that stretch of 17th. The stretch of road already has a painted bike lane, but the city’s transit agency has launched an effort to make improvements to the entire corridor.
Erica Kato, spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority, which is spearheading the project, said the agency is still gathering feedback and information before bringing forward a more detailed design proposal.
J.R. Eppler, president of the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association who supports the bike lane proposal, said the route is the principal east-west cycling route through the neighborhood and is one the main ways to reach the central waterfront and major venues like Chase Center and the Midway. He added there’s been a large increase in the number of people using the cycling route over the last few years.
“There’s a large amount of conflict between vehicles doing deliveries, cars looking for parking and bicycles riding down the route, frequently forcing bicycles into the lane,” Eppler said. “We can only expect that to get worse as Pier 70, Power Station and Mission Rock start to come online.”
A community forum held at Thee Parkside on Tuesday about the proposed bike lane raised familiar complaints from businesses who say that removing the area’s already-limited parking options puts an additional strain on their employees and customers.
Susie Coliver, the owner of Arch Art Supplies on 17th Street, said she saw a precipitous drop in customers when she moved locations from Potrero Hill to the Dogpatch a few years ago—a decline she attributed primarily to the loss of street parking around the store.
“Even our regulars or our friends would tell us that they would circle around for half an hour before leaving because they couldn’t find a place to park,” Coliver said.
The challenges eventually led the store to return to a location in Potrero Hill, where they say parking is no longer an issue. But Coliver fears the new bike lane could again hamper customer access.
Lynn Schwarz, a co-owner of Bottom of the Hill, stressed that she is a cyclist who is concerned with safety, but disagrees with what she characterizes as a rushed process to introduce the bike lane. She said limiting parking in front of the venue would make it nearly impossible to load equipment for performing bands and musicians.
She added that if the city wants to introduce a bike lane that limits parking options it should come alongside public transportation improvements for customers and employees.
“Unless we have options for parking for our staff, bands and customers, we will close immediately,” Schwarz said. “If they take away all our parking without providing alternatives, I will stop booking bands that day.”
Nesrine Mazjoub, a spokesperson for the SF Bicycle Coalition said fully protecting the bike lane is critical for greater safety on an industrial street, but hopes a compromise can be worked out to limit any business impacts.
“We are hopeful that the new designs that come from this project will address any existing curb management issues to mitigate the effects on businesses, as well as protecting the safety and lives of people biking along 17th Street.” Mazjoub said.