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Neighborhood Traffic Calming Moves Forward

posted Aug 25, 2013, 3:28 PM by GWPNA Account   [ updated Aug 25, 2013, 3:31 PM ]

On August 21st, GWPNA received confirmation that two of the three applications we submitted to the SFMTA Neighborhood Traffic Calming program were accepted into the evaluation phase for the 2014 program. The MTA will evaluate all applications between now and January 2014. During this time, the SFMTA will choose the top 25 applications for traffic calming. As part of the selection process they will conduct on-site speed and traffic count studies and research the collision history for each location under consideration. After that, they will rank all the applications for pedestrian risk, and select the top 25 for implementing pedestrian safety measures.
If they do select the locations we suggest, they will notify us in January of 2014, they will ballot our neighbors and hold a public hearing to ensure support for the project before doing any construction.
Our contacts at the SF MTA for this program include:
Jeffrey Banks, (415) 701-5331,
Bridget Smith, Deputy Director - Livable Streets (415) 701-4500,
1) Ulloa St. between 15th Ave and West Portal Avenue - ACCEPTED
When we first submitted the application for this street, the MTA rejected it because we didn't have enough signatures from neighbors who lived directly on Ulloa St. We needed to go back and get more than half of the homes with addresses between #900 and #1,300 Ulloa St. to sign the application form. The MTA counted 45 homes on that stretch of Ulloa St., so it meant we need 23 signatures -- which were hard to get during Summer vacation. Luckily, they gave us a 7-day extension to collect the additional signatures and we were able to do it with the help of a small group of very dedicated volunteers.
2) Vicente St. between West Portal Ave and Madrone - ACCEPTED
Because there weren't many homes with addresses on Vicente St. along this stretch, signatures wasn't a problem. Also, since the most recent pedestrian death occurred on Vicente St. at West Portal Ave, the MTA seemed very willing to consider this application for traffic calming.
3) West Portal Ave at 14th Ave - REJECTED
Unfortunately the Neighborhood Traffic Calming program is limited to residential streets, so our application for traffic calming at the intersection of West Portal Ave. and 14th Ave., was rejected. We will continue to pursue some sort of pedestrian safety improvements at this dangerous intersection through other programs.

August Update on Pedestrian Safety

posted Aug 7, 2013, 9:06 AM by Matt Chamberlain

The Traffic and Safety Committee for the West Portal Neighborhood Association has been working to get some pedestrian safety improvements in three locations in the neighborhood: 1) along Ulloa St., 2) at the 5-way intersection of Vicente, Wawona and Madrone, and 3) at the corner of West Portal Ave. and 14th Ave. near the Bank of America.

We have applied to the SF Municipal Transportation Agencies Neighborhood Traffic Calming program. Each year, the MTA selects 25 locations from all the applications in San Francisco for study and possible improvements.

Here's a quick update on our progress:

1) Ulloa St. Application (between 15th Ave and West Portal Ave.) - We didn't get the required 23 signatures from addresses on Ulloa St. itself, but they gave us an extension until next Wednesday to try for more signatures.

2) They accepted our application for Vicente St. between West Portal Ave and Madrone Ave.

3) They rejected our application for West Portal Ave. at 14th Ave. because it's not a residential intersection.

So, we're going to try again this week to collect signatures from the 45 homes that have street addresses on Ulloa St. between 15th Ave and West Portal Ave. We need at least 23 signatures to reach the threshold to qualify to be considered, and even then they may not accept application into this years program. If not, we'll have to try again next August.

If you personally know anyone who lives on Ulloa St. please call or email them and ask them to sign the application for neighborhood traffic calming. Few of our neighbors on Ulloa St. are members of NextDoor.Com, so your help is appreciated. Tell them to contact me directly (Matt Chamberlain), either by email or by phone and we'll schedule to have someone pick up their signature this weekend.

Matt Chamberlain,
GWPNA, Chair of the Traffic and Safety Committee
(415) 265-7234

GWPNA moves meeting date to first Wednesday of the month

posted Jun 18, 2013, 1:46 PM by Matt Chamberlain

Traditionally GWPNA has met on Wednesday nights, but that can conflict with SF Board of Supervisors meetings on some evenings, so starting in the Fall of 2013, the monthly GWPNA meetings will be held on the first Wednesday of the month instead. This will allow our members to attend BOS meetings when necessary without missing a GWPNA meeting. More importantly, it will allow our Supervisor, Norman Yee to join our monthly GWPNA meetings and provide updates on how he's advocating for us at the Board of Supervisors.

Raise $ for West Portal Elementary School while you shop!

posted Oct 5, 2012, 9:05 AM by Lee Hsu

Friday, October 5, 2012 through Monday, October 8, 2012 

Raise money or store credit for West Portal Elementary school by shopping at Bookshop West Portal during Fall School Days from Friday, October 5 through Monday, October 8! Just mention West Portal School while shopping during School Days and the school will receive 15% in cash or 25% in store credit of your net purchase. 

Bookshop West Portal 
80 West Portal Avenue 
San Francisco, CA 94127 
Open 10 am - 9pm, Sunday - Thursday 
Open 10 am - 10 pm Friday and Saturday

Off The Grid Food Trucks Coming to West Portal

posted Aug 13, 2012, 3:28 PM by GWPNA Account

by Avrum Shepard

Have you noticed all the food trucks parked around the City? It’s hard to miss them, since they have jumped in number from only 20 four years ago, to about 250 today. Off The Grid ( holds about 20% of those permits and operates around 50 trucks in the City today.

It’s not just a food truck, it’s a phenomenon, and there have been several reports in the SF Chronicle, SF Examiner, the Westside Observer, and the West Portal Monthly about them. Most articles say they aren’t at all like the “roach coaches” you’d see parked at construction sites years ago. Heck, there is an article about food trucks in the most recent AARP magazine and even in Information Week, a long-standing tech weekly.

In the spring of this year, one of the West Portal merchants invited the 3Sum Eats food truck to park in front of their business for a day. It worked out so well for 3Sum Eats, that they opened the Market & Rye restaurant on the first block of West Portal Ave. It also triggered a proposal by Off The Grid to add West Portal as another location served by their fleet on a regular basis. Off The Grid suggested closing 14th Avenue, between West Portal Avenue and Portola Drive on Tuesday nights between 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm and providing eight trucks. We don’t know yet what type of food the trucks would serve, but regulations block them from offering foods similar to those provided by established area restaurants. There will be no tables but there might be chairs.

Many of the restaurants (there are about 20) on West Portal were not happy with the competition, so Maryo Mogannam, President of the West Portal Merchants Association called a meeting in June to discuss the issues around permitting the food trucks to block 14th Avenue and setup business on a permanent basis. Most of the restaurants were very concerned about the competition the food trucks would offer. After all, the trucks don’t pay rent, are said to have some tax advantages and so have a significant financial advantage over brick and mortar restaurants. They seem to charge the same for their fare as brick and mortar places. On the other hand, Off The Grid estimates that the trucks will attract somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 shoppers to West Portal. Those people could include a whole new demographic and potentially provide opportunity to current merchants, restaurants included, to significantly increase business.

Off The Grid has placed food trucks at 15 locations throughout San Francisco, Marin, and the East Bay. The trucks are located at specific places and they communicate with their customers via their websites, Facebook, and Twitter.

One issue raised at the Merchant meeting was litter. Off The Grid, and many observers note that the trucks clean the areas during their stay and leave a place cleaner than when they arrive. Probably the most significant issue people mention is closing 14th Avenue. The Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association Traffic and Safety Committee is opposed to the idea of blocking 14th Avenue during the evening commute because of the extra burden it would put on the Vicente & West Portal Avenue intersection as traffic flows around the blocked street. They recommend Off The Grid consider using one of the two public parking lots in the neighborhood and augmenting that with curb-side parking in the vicinity.

What do you think of the food truck idea? Is it a good one or otherwise? Let me know at I’ll publish a follow-up to this article next month.

Process for getting utilities moved underground

posted Nov 18, 2011, 12:40 PM by GWPNA Account

by Avrum Shepard
Neighborhood groups are often asked by neighbors "Can I have my above ground utilities moved underground?" This article summarizes the process here in San Francisco for doing just that. Additional information can be found at the San Francisco City web site link below.

NOTE: The money that funded undergrounding ran out a few years ago, and that funding won't be available again until later this decade. However, property owners can form a utility undergrounding assessment district to pay for undergrounding.
For all property owners who are interested in undergrounding their utilities within their neighborhood, the Utility Undergrounding Tool Kit (PDF) provides San Francisco residents with a step-by-step approach to forming a property-owner funded undergrounding utility district. Listed below are the basic steps in the tool kit.

Utility Undergrounding Tool Kit Basic Steps

Step 1 Determine District Boundaries (1-2 months)

District boundaries are determined by the Neighborhood Committee made up of local residents

Step 2 Circulate Petition (2-4 months)

The Neighborhood Committee gauges support for the project, collecting signatures and meets with city officials at DPW.

Step 3 Legislate Underground District (2-4 months)

Once the Neighborhood Committee submits signed petitions to DPW, there is a Public Hearing required and then approval by Board of Supervisors for a Utility Undergrounding District.

Step 4 Form Assessment District (1-2 year)

Property Owners Obtain Funding for Utility Design Plan and Engineering Report.

Step 5 Construction (1-2 years)

DPW will oversee construction management and neighborhood notifications.

For more information, call (415) 554-4860.

AT&T to install additional utility boxes in West Portal

posted Nov 11, 2011, 12:27 PM by GWPNA Account   [ updated Nov 11, 2011, 1:01 PM ]

by Rae Doyle
On May 24, in a 6-5 vote, the SF Board of Supervisors agreed with the SF Planning Commission's decision to allow AT&T to install 726 new utility boxes on public right-of-ways in San Francisco without an Environmental Impact Report. The new boxes would approximately double the number of AT&T boxes now in San Francisco. At present, the existing AT&T boxes provide phone service to individual homes through copper wires.

In order for AT&T to upgrade their service to provide telecommunication technology offering high speed internet access, advanced television and entertainment services, they need to feed signals through fiber optic cables into the existing boxes. In order to do this, they need to install a new box within 300 feet of the existing box.

Fiber optic cable will be brought underground into the new box which will house electronic equipment to convert the signal from the fiber optic cable to the copper wiring of the existing boxes and onto individual homes.

Last month, Alex Saleh, homeowner of 301 Kensington Way, was notified that AT&T proposed to place a new box on an easement on his property within a few feet of an existing box. Saleh had a few issues with this installation. He was concerned that the box would provide cover for criminals and present a safety risk for his family. He was also concerned about the aesthetics, since the existing box was poorly maintained by AT&T. Furthermore, he also felt that hosting one box on his property was enough and suggested that the new box be placed across the street on the Kensington Triangle property owned by SF Public Utility Commission.

Matt Chamberlain, president of the Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association heard of his dilemma and arranged a community meeting on Nov. 1 with Marc Blakeman, AT&T Regional Vice President of External Affairs, to discuss the neighborhood's concerns. Blakeman agreed to investigate the possibility of placing the box on the Kensington Triangle.

Chamberlain acknowledged that a number people oppose the box installations, but there are many who support the installations because it will result in better internet service and, perhaps most importantly, keep AT&T as a viable competitor to Comcast.

In 2008, AT&T attempted to deploy their new U-Verse service to San Francisco because of the population density in the City - but, because of public opposition, withdrew from San Francisco and rolled out their service to approximately 3,000 other United State cities, with little opposition.
Utility boxes similar to those proposed by AT&T are ubiquitous throughout San Francisco and are used to control traffic signals and for other utility purposes.

Blakeman explained that AT&T selects sites for their boxes, then posts a notice on a utility pole that is within 300 feet of the proposed site and notifies neighbors in that area by mail. People have 20 days to submit complaints or comments. If there are concerns expressed, AT&T will arrange for a meeting with neighbors at the site to discuss alternatives.

One very vigorous complaint about the boxes is that they are "graffiti magnets." Blakeman said that AT&T is required by the city to clean the graffiti on the boxes within 72 hours of a telephone complaint. "However," he said, "people just don't call to complain often." Taggers usually don't repeat graffiti at a site where it is cleaned up or painted over promptly, so the more aggressively it is controlled, the less graffiti an area generally gets.

The number to call for graffiti removal is posted on each utility box. For AT&T, the number is (866) 243-6122.

There are currently six AT&T boxes in the West Portal area - with six more proposed.

The existing boxes are located at 460 Laguna Honda Blvd., 301 Kensington Way, 199 Merced Ave., 125 Taraval St., 701 Vicente St., and 299 Wawona St. The proposed boxes would be located at 500, 1501, and 1253 Portola Dr., 120 Juanita Way, 410 Laguna Honda Blvd., and 2 Miraloma Dr.

View AT&T Utility Box Locations in West Portal in a larger map

Chamberlain said that he recognizes the value of GWPNA as a liaison between the community and AT&T and as a liaison between the factions supporting and opposing the AT&T box installations.

10th Annual Wawona St. Halloween Block Party

posted Nov 3, 2011, 3:47 PM by GWPNA Account   [ updated Nov 3, 2011, 3:48 PM ]

By Rae Doyle
The Grinch may have stolen Christmas, but this year the dastardly villain threatening the Harry Potter themed Halloween Party on Wawona Street is Father Time.

How it all began

A month and a half after the tragic events of 9/11, the neighbors on Wawona Street, between 14th and 15th Avenues, led by Wawona resident, Bridget Wylie, decided to lift neighborhood children’s spirits by closing off their street and turning it into a magical Harry Potter world for Halloween.

Ten years in the making

This past Halloween was the tenth and final year in which eight garages on Wawona, two houses on 14th Avenue and one on 15th Avenue were decorated with Harry Potter themes.  The event has become so popular that more than 2,000 kids and adults attend each year, with a ratio of about two kids to one adult.  Most of them are in costume.  This year Mayor Ed Lee even joined the fun.

Passports are provided that point out the sites and the Harry Potter themes of those sites.  The street is closed off so that children and adults can safely amble from one side of the street to another side. Neighbors from all over the West Side attend year after year, and use the event to catch up with each other, as the children enjoy a safe, fun trick-or-treating experience.

The end of an Era

Now, Harry’s voice has changed and he shaves regularly, and  there are no more Harry Potter books or movies planned for the future.  The Wawona Street neighbors have decided it is time to end the yearly event.  Father Time had brought an end to the Wawona Street Harry Potter Halloween.

There were other factors also. One of the original organizers, Bridget Wylie moved to Redwood City three years ago and another neighbor, Thea Gray, will soon be moving to the Oakland Rockridge neighborhood.  However, even though Bridget Wylie no longer lives on Wawona, she still returns every year to serve as Horton. 

Historically, the event was organized and paid for entirely by a small group of neighbors on Wawona St. They’d pay for the permits to block the street, rent lighted safety barriers and print passports for the children. However, when the Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association (GWPNA) president Matt Chamberlain heard that this was going to be the last Harry Potter Halloween event, he acted quickly to provide financial support to the neighbors. He called an emergency meeting of the GWPNA Steering Committee to meet in front of the West Portal Library to approve a $300 grant to help the Wawona neighbors fund the event. The freezing Steering Committee members passed the motion for the grant unanimously.

What the future holds

Marina Hardeman of 329 Wawona is doubtful that any future theme can be as compelling as Harry Potter.  This year on Wawona there were eleven garages with the following themes:  Hagrid’s Hut, Dragon at Grigott’s Bank, Hogwarts and its Great Hall with the Sorting Hat; Nagini at the Home of Professor Bathilda Bagshot; Lestrange Vault, Grigett’s; Broom Repair Service; St Munge’s Hospital; Entry to Ministry of Magic; Hog’s Head Tunnel Leading to the Room of Requirement; The Weasley’s Burrow, Divination Classroom.

Even without a theme picked yet, there is still a lot of motivation to continue the Wawona Halloween event.  Marina Hardeman said it’s a lot of work - but it’s fun.  And so many people say “Thank You” to the Wawona neighbors who host the event, that she’d love to see the event return next year with a new theme.

Join GWPNA May 3rd - Prep for the June Elections

posted Mar 31, 2011, 6:15 PM by Matt Chamberlain   [ updated Mar 31, 2011, 6:19 PM ]

I’m really excited to announce that the Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association (GWPNA) is gearing up to help you understand the issues in the coming June and November elections. Both San Francisco and all of California face serious issues, starting with huge budget deficits, but certainly not ending there. It’s likely we’ll be asked to vote in both City and State elections this June, in order to address some of these issues. Which ones are still up in the air, but by May 3rd we’ll have a pretty good idea of what will be on the June ballot. That’s why GWPNA has invited the League of Women Voters of San Francisco to join us at our May 3rd meeting to discuss the June ballot. Our meeting is open to the public and attendance is free.
May 3, 2011 at 7:30pm-9:00pm
West Portal Playground Clubhouse
139 Lenox Way
San Francisco, CA 94127
The League of Women Voters in SF is a nonpartisan, multi-issue organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government. Their experts research the issues and can explain them in simple terms that we can all understand.
But that’s not all. GWPNA is also reaching out to the candidates running for Mayor of San Francisco this November. We’ll be having them join us to talk about their qualifications and goals between now and October. It’ll certainly make for some exciting meetings! So come join your neighbors and meet the candidates. We currently have the following lineup, but check our web site for updates and changes.
  • May 3: Dennis Herrera and Tony Hall &
    the League of Women Voters
  • June 7: Michaela Alioto-Pier and Phil Ting
  • Sept 6: David Chiu and Joana Rees
  • Oct 4: Bevan Dufty
Additionally, GWPNA is partnering with several other neighborhood organizations under the leadership of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council, to hold a large-scale Mayoral candidates forum in September. The details of that will be published as they emerge, but it promises to be another don’t-miss event!
Read up on the League of Women Voters:
West Of Twin Peaks Central Council:
Matt Chamberlain
President, GWPNA

Tucson Shooting - Mental Health Care could have prevented it

posted Mar 27, 2011, 9:50 AM by Matt Chamberlain   [ updated Mar 27, 2011, 10:03 AM ]

By Fred J. Martin Jr. - GWPNA Member

The fundamental issue in the Arizona shooting was that a pot-smoking, chronically mentally ill person went untreated, was expelled from an educational institution with a warning to get treatment as a prerequisite for return, yet was permitted to buy a gun.

This, unfortunately, could have happened in San Francisco or Berkeley, where the political climate is much different.

This tragic event should be a wake-up call for San Francisco which, under Mayor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Mitch Katz, was systematically eliminating acute-care facilities for severely mentally ill persons, who run afoul of the law and end up at San Francisco General Hospital.

Psych Emergency Services doctors at SFGH are largely left with grim choices: Return these individuals to the streets, to their families (if they have family), or to jail and often ultimately prison.

These delusional individuals, who self-medicate on street drugs and alcohol for lack of treatment, are a threat to the city as they slash tires, rob cars and homes, break and enter businesses and live in misery and filth.

There is a lesson here for our city, our state and the nation, if we heed it.

Fred J. Martin Jr. is a retired director of governmental relations for the Bank of America. He chaired the 2002 program on mental illness and public policy at UC Berkeley.

Note: Fred also published this article in the SF Chronicle on January 12, 2011 - Link

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