SFMTA Approves Frida Kahlo Way Bikeway Despite City College's Opposition

A temporary project to test a different style of bike lane and other traffic changes on Frida Kahlo Way was approved by transportation leaders.

Bike rental station on street.
A bike rental station is seen at the mid-block of City College of San Francisco on Frida Kahlo Way. | Jerold Chinn/Ingleside Light

A plan to install a bikeway along Frida Kahlo Way is moving ahead without the support of City College of San Francisco officials.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors approved Tuesday the Frida Kahlo Way Quick-Build Project that will install a two-protected bikeway on the east side of the street that will continue on Judson Avenue, west of Forester Street, adjacent to the college. The project also includes installing new transit boarding islands on the 43 Masonic bus route along Frida Kahlo Way and eliminating one transit stop.

The project has been contentious between the City College community and the transportation agency as the project will remove 29 on-street parking spaces that critics of the project said will impact students, staff and faculty of the college who are unable to take other modes of transportation and must drive to the college’s Ocean Campus.

Jess Nguyen, a student at City College studying floristry and photography, told The Ingleside Light she has to bring at least 50 pounds of equipment with her, including lighting and props for her class at night, adding that she did not feel safe carrying the equipment on public transit.

Frida Kahlo Way with traffic.
The 43 Masonic bus departs the transit stop adjacent to City College of San Francisco on Frida Kahlo Way. | Jerold Chinn/Ingleside Light

“I don't think it's fair for a lot of people to say ‘Oh, it's just 29 parking spots’ Do you know how many thousands of students come from different counties to park there?” Nguyen told directors during public comment.

Elliot Goodrich, the project manager, said the removal of 29 parking spots represented less than 1% of the current parking supply in the area. City College and the neighborhood, though, will look different over the next several years as the college is constructing new buildings on its campus and the construction of new housing units at the Balboa Reservoir that will eliminate approximately 1,800 parking spaces.

Nguyen is not alone in opposing the project. The college’s Board of Trustees and Associated Students Council voted to oppose the project unless student and faculty concerns were met. Last month, SFMTA staff, including Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin, formally presented the latest design to trustees but failed to convince them to change their minds.

City College Student Trustee Heather Brandt spoke about how the agency should provide transit passes to students at the college as part of the project’s proposal. Similar free transit passes have been given out to select colleges in the Bay Area under a Clipper BayPass pilot program administered by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

A map of the new bikeway and other street changes. | Courtesy SFMTA

The project has the support of District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar. Emma Heiken, a legislative aide for Melgar, spoke about the supervisor’s support for the project.

Implementing the Frida Kahlo Way quick-build is “one small step in the right direction for the sustainability of the City College, for the sustainability in the City and County of San Francisco and the health and safety of our residents,” Heiken said.

As part of approving the project, Stephanie Cajina, the transportation agency board’s vice chair, amended the project to include staff returning to the board in one year with an evaluation of the project. Cajina said she wanted to do away with the notion from the public that quick-build projects, which are temporary street safety measures using removable materials, will eventually become permanent.

“I do want folks to understand that we really are in earnest trying out different solutions to improve safety for the neighborhood,” Cajina said. “Sometimes those experiments take, sometimes they don't, and that we, as an agency, will be responsive to the community and admit when it doesn't work.”

The SFMTA plans to begin installing the project this summer.

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