New Lake Merced Blvd bike lane and coalition work for safer streets

Street safety improvements are crucial for our city, and should not come at the expense of our fellow San Franciscans who are housing insecure.

Lake Merced Blvd is part of the city’s High-Injury Network and is a notoriously fast and dangerous street. The Lake Merced Blvd Quick-Build Project added a protected bike lane and improved bus access and pedestrian safety to 2.5 miles of road, thereby expanding the bicycle network, equitable access to sustainable forms of transportation and opens up the southwest corner of San Francisco to improved micromobility in a historically car-dependent part of the city.

We support the quick-build project and know it will bring much-needed safety improvements to the area, we also stand in solidarity with the End Poverty Tows Coalition, a coalition of nonprofits supporting and advocating for the RV residents. For several years, people have parked their RVs for temporary and long-term residence along Lake Merced Blvd and two adjacent streets, Winston Drive and Buckingham Way. These residents are largely students, families, seniors, non-English speakers and workers who can’t afford rent in the Bay Area.

End Poverty Tows have been vocal from the beginning about the city’s mishandling of vehicularly-housed people along the corridor, and were instrumental in getting a commitment to finding a safe site to help mitigate the displacement caused by the project.

As part of the quick-build, the SFMTA has already removed approximately 101 parking spots on Lake Merced Blvd in order to construct the protected bike lane. To complete the last section of the bike lane, they need to remove an additional 90 parking spots on Lake Merced Blvd. This parking removal is necessary for the project; over a year ago, Supervisor Myrna Melgar, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), and the SFMTA Board of Directors agreed to provide a safe relocation site for the RV residents before removing the remaining 90 spaces. However, last fall, RV residents and advocates were caught off guard by 4-hour parking restrictions introduced on Winston and Buckingham that are nonessential for the quick-build. Now, an even larger group of RV residents is at risk of displacement, towing, and deepened housing insecurity. 

The End Poverty Tows Coalition has worked tirelessly to push HSH to provide a safe relocation site and permanent housing solutions, because relocation alone isn’t a solution to housing insecurity. They have done extensive outreach and kept the RV community in the loop when city agency communication has fallen short. Despite this and after over a year of looking, there is still no safe relocation site.

These 4-hour parking restrictions were introduced in the name of street safety, but don’t seem to actually address the real safety concerns. If we want to talk about safety improvements to Winston and Buckingham, we need to address speeding vehicles, unsafe crosswalks and the whole area needing infrastructure improvements – which are the real concerns, not the residents living in RVs who are also impacted by unsafe street conditions. Our focus and priority is safe infrastructure and though we’ve recently learned that the bike lane on Winston will receive improvements, we’re concerned that the 4-hour restrictions don’t actually improve safety for people walking and biking. 

The 4-hour restrictions will go into effect on July 1 and currently the RV community has nowhere to go. The entire city is facing a housing crisis and changing the parking limits on one or two streets will not fix this issue. We joined the End Poverty Tows Coalition because our streets are our largest and most used shared civil space and we can’t achieve our organization’s mission without addressing all the ways our streets are used.

Send an email to HSH, SFMTA and Supervisor Melgar to support the RV community!

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Background and timeline:

  • 2021 – Lake Merced Blvd Quick-Build process begins
  • 2021-2022 – outreach to the RV community along Lake Merced Blvd reveals depth and difficulty of this quick-build. The End Poverty Tows Coalition and the Coalition on Homelessness support outreach to the RV community.
  • January 2023 – Lake Merced Quick-Build approved by SFMTA Board of Directors with the condition to hold off on a section of the bike lane until a safe relocation parking site was secured by Supervisor Myrna Melgar and HSH.
  • January 2023-Now – Supervisor Melgar’s office and HSH looked at dozens of potential relocation sites. HSH has also looked into permanent housing solutions. They’ve only been able to pursue permanent housing for a small number of the RV residents. A relocation site remains unsecured to date.
  • September 19, 2023 – taking the residents and advocates by surprise, the SFMTA Board of Directors voted to impose 4-hour parking restrictions on Buckingham Way and Winston Drive. Hearing concern from the community, the Board decided the restrictions would not go into effect for 3 months, despite HSH saying they won’t have the safe relocation site done in that timeline.
  • August 2023-Now – Advocates and RV residents have shown up and spoken in opposition to the parking restrictions at MTAB, HSH Commission meetings and 1-on-1 meetings.
  • October 2023 – Construction begins on Lake Merced Blvd Quick-Build project.
  • October 24, 2023 – The End Poverty Tows Coalition hosted a press conference with families from the RVs to put pressure on city agencies and leaders to secure a safe parking site and permanent housing solutions before the parking restrictions go into effect. 
  • November-December 2023 – Construction of the bike lane began on the east side of Lake Merced Blvd and approximately 101 parking spots were removed. Several families in RVs were forced to disperse. 
  • December 2023 – SFMTA Board delayed enforcement of the 4-hour restrictions on Winston and Buckingham “indefinitely.”
  • March 2024 – Construction of bike lane on Lake Merced Blvd concludes. A few other small elements of the quick-build remain undone.
  • April 2024 – Advocates and residents see parking signs go up on Winston and Buckingham and learn that enforcement of the 4-hour restrictions will begin imminently.
  • April 16, 2024 – Advocates and residents show up at City Hall for a rally, meet with Supervisor Melgar and give public comment at the SFMTA Board meeting. The Board says that enforcement of the restrictions will begin July 1 when Winston is scheduled to be repaved and all parking has to be removed anyway.
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