When the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) rolled out the Slow Streets program last year in April, the Tenderloin was completely left out of its initial phase. In a turbulent time of rapidly changing COVID safety protocols, crowded streets, and lack of direction from city leadership, your SF Bicycle Coalition supported Tenderloin advocacy to reclaim streets for people and restore essential bus lines by centering community needs first.
At the height of shelter-in-place, Tenderloin residents were in desperate need of additional space to move throughout the neighborhood. Residents were cooped up in their 450 square-foot units while sharing a kitchen and bathroom with an entire floor, families were doubled up in small living quarters fearful of taking their children to the park, and our unhoused neighbors were jam-packed on narrow sidewalks with very few resources or places to go.
In August 2020, after months of letter writing campaigns to SFMTA and an entire summer of direct actions, the Tenderloin community won additional walking space on Jones Street between Golden Gate Avenue and O’Farrell Street. This project installed a temporary physical distancing lane on the east side of the street by removing the parking lane and a lane of travel to accommodate a k-rail barrier and flex post barricade.
The project provided immediate relief to the overcrowded sidewalks and additionally, the extended space has been activated in many ways, like a monthly free clothing pop up on O’Farrell Street for financially insecure neighbors every third Saturday of the month led by B4Change. Didi Saiki, an organizer with B4Change told us:
“B4Change was started to help raise awareness in our bar community about inequalities and unfair treatment of POC. When the pandemic hit, and bars closed we realized that we were losing a connection to the community we worked in. All four of us had worked in the Tenderloin upwards of six years. We realized that some of the Tenderloin community relied on businesses being opened. During the winter season, we decided a coat drive was one area we could help. The local bar community wanted to donate more than coats, so we accepted any clothing donation. We went from handing clothes out from our trunks to having enough clothes to fill six racks, and about 10 storage bins. We were also able to partner up with Feed the People Collective to hand out water, hygiene kits, and feminine products at our events! We hold this event once a month and are able to serve over 100 people. We are using the extra walking space on Jones street to set up this free market. It has been perfect for us! It has allowed us to social distance and still provide fresh clothes to those in need. We love that they are painted with positive messages, and noticed it provides a safe space for folks in this often neglected community!”
Community-based organizations like the Tenderloin Community Benefit District (TLCBD) recently partnered with local artists to paint murals on the k-rails in an effort to make the Tenderloin community feel ownership of that space. Since the initial roll out of Jones Street, Tenderloin residents have had more space to get around and remain socially distant.
Now, we’re excited to see this project become a quick-build. The Jones Street Quick-Build will keep the lane reduction that was implemented during the pandemic and in the meantime, SFMTA is conducting robust outreach to residents and community stakeholders to come up with a design that activates the extended sidewalk into more of a community space.
In the last year, we’ve seen streets transformed into welcoming community spaces that are safer for people biking and walking. Our neighbors in the Tenderloin deserve the same kind of spaces. We look forward to the Jones Street Quick-Build beginning construction in the Winter of 2022. To get involved with creating these community-centered spaces in the Tenderloin, sign up for campaign updates below!