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SF General design flaws, advising Caltrain, memorizing trees, and more

Four things to know today

Photo by Manu Cornet

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

Caltrain counsel

Though it’s doubtlessly rewarding to spend countless hours posting angry comments beneath articles about the foibles of Caltrain, as long as you’re working for free, why not take action that can have a direct effect on the beleaguered transit agency?

Residents of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties are being offered the opportunity to join Caltrain’s Citizens Advisory Committee, a nine-member board “who serve in an advisory capacity to the tri-county policy board, providing input on the needs of current and potential rail customers, and reviewing and commenting on staff proposals and actions as requested by the board.”

While the star chamber doesn’t “have independent duties or authority to take actions that will bind the Joint Powers Board of Directors,” Caltrain maintains that their will is still heard. Terming out this year are Greg Scharff of Santa Clara, Ricardo Valenciana of San Mateo, and, most excitingly, board chair Brian Shaw of SF.

Could you take one of their places? Only one way to find out: Make sure you have 5:40 p.m. of the third Wednesday of every month free for a meeting in San Carlos, check out their by-laws to make sure you’re cool with them all, then fill out the online application to join the board here.

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Can a hospital’s layout kill you?

“I’d rather die than live with that design” is the kind of quote attributed to folks with, shall we say, extremely finely tuned interior decoration sensibilities. But according to a recent op-ed piece published by the SF Examiner, the design at the new Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (née SF General) is so poorly done that it’s endangering patients.

UCSF School of Medicine resident Josephine Valenzuela, MD writes in the Ex that:

Due to poor planning, frontline resident physicians from every specialty, from trauma surgery to orthopedics to neurosurgery, have no work space in the same building as their patients or their emergency department. Instead, they must travel from the now empty old hospital to treat their patients, delaying patient care by precious minutes each time their doctor makes the journey. One fellow resident found by using her step-tracker that she traveled over six miles in one day to get from her assigned work space to her patients.

Valenzuela notes that though the union that represents ZSFGH interns and residents have brought their concerns to management, even proposing that unoccupied space in the new structure be used by residents, no changes have been made.

If accurate, Valenzuela’s assertions are troubling—SF General is the site of the city’s only Level 1 trauma center, which is why when you read news reports about serious accidents, shootings, or auto collisions that happened in other parts of town you’ll see that the victims were still rushed to the Zuck.

“For critical patients, seconds count,” says Valenzuela, asking “If your loved one were in a car accident and needed help, would you want your trauma doctor to travel from a separate building, or meet the ambulance at the hospital door?” If this is a problem that can be easily solved by better design, ZSFGH would be wise to make some tweaks.

A greater Geary

The intersection of Geary Boulevard at Park Presidio Boulevard is termed by the Richmond District blog as “the busiest intersection in the Richmond District,” and it’s certainly one of the most fraught. A glorious crossing between people speeding from the South Bay to the North and San Franciscans seeking the speediest way east/west, it’s a Fast and Furious place, for sure, one that slows down only slightly when a massively accordioned 38 Muni belches out its passenger load onto its perilous crosswalks

Yes, it’s a mess, but a mess that San Francisco’s Public Works Department now says they want to change, with their Geary at Park Presidio Improvements Project. According to its website, DPW seeks to “provide a safer and more inviting environment for Muni passengers, pedestrians, runners, and vehicular traffic” all while adding “improvements and features that reflect the needs of the community and reinforce neighborhood identity.” Sounds easy enough, right? Ha, ha.

As with everything in SF, the project begins with some public meetings. The first one is Wednesday, May 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Richmond SFPD station’s community room, with “residents, businesses, neighborhood groups and others” invited to share “the desires of the community.” Even if you can’t make the meeting, there’s a very brief survey you can take on the intersection (yes, “decorative sidewalks” is an option!) and more meetings are sure to follow. Until then, here’s the working improvement plan for the zone.

Image by SF DPW

Learn your SF trees

San Francisco Magazine takes a fresh look at Michael Sullivan’s arboreal tome The Trees of San Francisco, which was first released in 2004 but sports a new edition circa 2013. Not to be confused with the Friends of the Urban Forests’ Trees for San Francisco (1985), Sullivan’s book is a remarkably comprehensive guide to the “sixty-five different trees with color photos that reflect the visual appeal of San Francisco.”

Sullivan’s guide inspired SF Mag’s Lynn Rapoport to “get on a first-name basis with as many San Francisco representatives—124,795 street trees, encompassing some 500 species, per a city census completed in January—as I could find.” Her reasons seem unclear, and she admits that the endeavor “sounds a bit compulsive, like some kind of taxonomic hoarding.”

Or maybe Rappaport’s pursuit is an external search for what’s inside us all. After all, as Sullivan told the SF Chronicle in 2006, "To be a successful street tree in San Francisco, you have to be unusually adaptable and self-selecting.”

“You have to be willing to spend your life in a sidewalk,” he said, and “you've got to be able to handle wind and you have to be OK with no rain for eight months out of the year." If that’s not a parallel to the challenges facing all San Franciscans, not just the ones with branches and leaves, what is?