It took a turn toward the chaotic as soon as it began.
During last night’s Lombard "Crooked" Street meeting inside the gymnasium at Yick Ho Elementary School, a few grown adults (adult men, specifically) with multi-million dollar homes acted like petulant school children while Supervisor Mike Farrell’s exceedingly patient and professional legislative aide, Kanishka Karunaratne, held court. Understandably so.
San Francisco’s second most twisty street is as San Francisco as Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Castro. But over the years, traffic, both foot and vehicular, have proven to be a problem in the area. And it’s only getting worse. Tourists saturate the cozy, tight-fitted street on a daily basis. Now a few much-needed proposals are up for review.
"It didn’t used to be this way, but the city allowed this to happen," crooked rue resident Greg Brundage told Chronicle. "This used to be one of the prime neighborhoods of the city — and still is, in some ways — but we’re invaded daily."
With the advent of camera phones, this has only gotten more problematic: Everyone has a camera and everyone wants a handful of photos of themselves in front of the famous strip.
"Ten years ago, it wasn’t this bad," Rick Haelig, owner of Russian Hill Handyman, who was at last night’s meeting, tells us. "But now everyone has a phone. They’re not only jamming the foot of Lombard, but tourists are now stopping their cars in the middle of the street to get out of their cars to take pics."
Residents tell harrowing tales of not being able to get out of their driveways or use the streets to get groceries. Last count, an estimated two million people visit Lombard’s curves annually.
"It’s a small catastrophe. Every weekend. Every three-day weekend," shouted one fuming longtime resident.
"Every day," interrupted another Lombard Street dweller, to a chorus of unanimous agreement.
A few solutions being tossed around by the San Francisco Transportation Authority, including closing the street to vehicular traffic on certain days, a reservation fee, a city-funded "Lombard Ambassadors" program, and, the most likely candidate, a street toll.
Greg Brundage, president of the Lombard Hill Improvement Association, says a toll would be ideal for Lombard’s crooked part, noting that surge pricing (cheaper during the week compared to the weekend) could help alleviate the congestion.
But at nighttime, Brundage continues, pricing should surge to its highest. "At night, people go down [Lombard] honking their horns, yelling "wake up," boom boxes [booming]."
A Lombard Street toll would be a first for the city.
The Transportation Authority will consider the feedback from last night’s meeting and send it on to the Board of Supervisors.
The best suggestion we heard, however, came from Haelig, who, in jest, quipped, "What we should do is start a beautify-Vermont Street program since that’s actually the most crooked street in the city."
- Turn for the worse on SF’s famous Lombard Street [Chronicle]
- Lombard Study: Managing Access to the "Crooked Street" [SF Transportation Authority]
- Unprecedented Toll Considered for Popular 'Crooked' Lombard Street in San Francisco [NBC Bay Area]