Bridge over troubled waters: Addressing pedestrian safety and the Havelock Bridge

By Estelle Smith

[Read a response to this post from D7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar’s office here.]

Let’s take a walk through the Sunnyside neighborhood in San Francisco. Head south on Edna Street where it meets Havelock. Straight ahead you’ll see the lush green bushes and the fence for the City College tennis courts. Now look left, and there it is—the Havelock Street Bridge—the main pathway over the freeway, connecting Sunnyside to the wide green lawns, playgrounds, off-leash dog park, swimming pool, and other facilities at Balboa Park in District 11.

What comes to mind is, how does one safely cross? There is no crosswalk to access the bridge and no sidewalk on the south side of Havelock Street. Peering even farther left, at the corner of Circular Avenue, cars and bicycles treat this intersection as a quick yield. With no other traffic entering from the east, cars typically roll through the intersection, even though there is a stop sign.

Once across the street and on the bridge, something else becomes visibly apparent. This bridge is ugly. It is riddled in graffiti and discarded litter ranging from broken glass to dirty diapers. This concrete jungle pathway, connecting two oases, is an eye sore and doesn’t reflect the warmth and beauty of the Sunnyside and Mission Terrace neighborhoods, or the wonderful park on the other side.

  • Havelock Bridge. Photo: Estelle Smith
  • Havelock Bridge. Photo: Estelle Smith
  • Havelock Bridge. Photo: Estelle Smith
  • Havelock Bridge. Photo: Estelle Smith
  • Havelock Bridge. Photo: Estelle Smith
  • Havelock Bridge. Photo: Estelle Smith
  • Havelock Bridge. Photo: Estelle Smith

Why? Why is there no crosswalk? Why is the bridge repeatedly vandalized? This is the crux of this article. All bureaucratic roads lead back to here. So, let’s start with how we got here and how we can move forward.

The Havelock Street Bridge Beautification and Safety Project was included in the Participatory Budgeting process in 2019. Local residents submitted a plan to improve the Havelock Street Bridge. The plan was to beautify and improve the safety of this bridge—the artery that crosses Interstate 280 and connects Sunnyside the wealth of recreational facilities at Balboa Park, as well as providing access to the J-Church Muni line and the Balboa Park Station, a major transit hub.

The bridge project was voted on and approved by District 7 residents in early 2019. Success! The neighborhood was thrilled. Since the City had identified the need for a safe place for people to cross, the scope was expanded to add a crosswalk on Havelock Street at the west end, thanks to Supervisor Norman Yee. This matched well with San Francisco’s Vision Zero policy to eliminate pedestrian deaths. Better visibility and safety via a crosswalk was welcome news for Sunnyside, as one of their own residents was struck by a car and killed a couple blocks away a few years ago.

Since the plan was approved and funded in 2019, there has been no progress on making it happen. For the last two and a half years, several local residents have sent emails and held meetings. This is perplexing, a head scratcher. If this was voted on, approved, and funded, where are the fruits of residents’ efforts and taxpayers’ funding?

So far, the City’s answer is the old adage, “It’s complex.” The bridge encompasses a myriad of agencies: the City and County of San Francisco, the State of California, San Francisco Recreation and Parks Dept, to name a few. The bridge crosses a US highway, which must be considered. It’s a maze of finger pointing, passing responsibility and effort, finally falling under the guise of “these things take time.”

Time is up! If San Francisco can build the Chase Center in two years with all its complexities, surely a crosswalk and a bridge renovation can occur within a reasonable timeframe. Two and a half years of complete inaction is not acceptable. Now is the time to hold these agencies accountable.

The offices of District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar and Mayor London Breed have been contacted. There have been minimal updates on progress from Melgar’s office, and no response from the mayor’s office outreach. SF311 reports have been opened to address the graffiti, vandalism, and trash. The response has been a patchwork of painting over the graffiti, which provides a fresh canvas for graffiti taggers. Within 24 hours, the graffiti is back.

This project needs our help. This call-to-action starts by holding the agencies and elected officials responsible. Let’s use email, phone calls, and social media outreach to move the needle.

Here’s the contact information for our elected officials. Please reach out to them and stress the importance of getting this project started and completed. We request a plan, a roadmap, and a schedule to get it done.

When thinking over our pedestrian improvement, let’s channel the words of Simon & Garfunkel, “Your time has come to shine, All your dreams are on their way, See how they shine” It may be a troubled bridge now, but let’s make it shine!

Mayor London Breed
SF Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services
415-554-6141
Twitter: @LondonBreed (#londonbreed)
Email: mayorlondonbreed@sfgov.org 

District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar
Email: melgarstaff@sfgov.org
Twitter: @myrnamelgar (#myrnamelgar)
Where to contact/post: Email, call, Nextdoor.com, Facebook groups 

Questions: info@sunnysideassociation.org

Estelle Smith is a long-time member and past Secretary of Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.

Below are images taken the day this article was posted, showing conditions. Cyclists exiting the bridge have no protection from oncoming cars. The markings on the pavement at the intersection are nearly worn away. Graffiti appears almost as soon as it is painted over.

  • Havelock Bridge, Nov 8, 2021. Photo: Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.
  • Havelock Bridge, Nov 8, 2021. Photo: Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.
  • Havelock Bridge, Nov 8, 2021. Photo: Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.
  • Havelock Bridge, Nov 8, 2021. Photo: Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.
  • Havelock Bridge, Nov 8, 2021. Photo: Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.
  • Havelock Bridge, Nov 8, 2021. Photo: Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.
  • Havelock Bridge, Nov 8, 2021. Photo: Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.

2 thoughts on “Bridge over troubled waters: Addressing pedestrian safety and the Havelock Bridge

  1. Pingback: Supervisor Melgar’s Office’s reply to Havelock Bridge issue – Sunnyside Neighborhood Association

  2. Pingback: Fixed! A follow-up on Havelock Bridge safety – Sunnyside Neighborhood Association

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