Left: The widening of Cesar Chavez Street began in 1940. Note the original width of the street at the top of the photo. Right: As seen in 1946, Cesar Chavez Street west of Guerrero (at the top of the image) was not widened.
The San Francisco Fire Department has recently fought streetscape improvements (sfgate, 01.05.14) and other efforts to make roads safer and more walkable. Even more problematic, the fire department has insisted that in new developments in San Francisco – and we have quite a few of them planned – all roads, including residential side streets, be 30 percent wider than the code minimum of 20 feet of street clearance (typically two 10-foot lanes).
This type of expansion, in addition to narrowing sidewalks, would result in neighborhood side streets either having 13-foot freeway-size lanes, or having cement barriers in the middle of the street. Either option is the exact opposite of good urban design and neighborhood walkability and livability. Worse, either option would go back to an ugly past we are actively trying to fix.
In San Francisco, we are attempting to ensure strong fire safety while also promoting compact, walkable, well-designed streets. We are looking at the size and turning radius of fire trucks to see if our fire department is purchasing the best equipment for our city, as opposed to insisting that our city be re-designed for large fire trucks. I recently authored an amendment to our fire code to clarify that pedestrian bulb-outs are permissible, and I’m moving forward with additional legislation to ensure that our fire code is not an obstacle to improving the safety and livability of our streets.
read more: Scott Wiener, SF board of supervisors. on citylab, 20.05.14.