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SF cyclist documents navigating homeless camps along popular bike path

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One-minute video reveals longstanding, barely concealed problem near Cesar Chavez Street

A San Francisco cyclist going by the name Steve Sanders on YouTube uploaded a revealing video of his morning commute last week, documenting the number of tents and improvised lean-to structures around and underneath the 101 freeway near Cesar Chavez Street.

According to the anonymous tip that brought the video to Curbed SF’s attention, the footage made quite a splash with Bayview residents on NextDoor, many of whom use this route to commute to Potrero Hill and SoMa jobs.

Sanders navigates the tricky path approaching the commercial storage facility at 2501 Cesar Chavez Street from the south, initially encountering a pronounced but not exactly surprising population of tents.

But the footage reaches a point where makeshift living spaces take up most of the bike path. Many of the campers are storing bikes of their own, while others wrangle things like office furniture and even a barbecue. Orange traffic cones of indeterminate origin skirt the outlines of the encampment.

A aerial photo of the tangled freeway and bridge network around Cesar Chavez Street. Photo by Colln Hughes

This is not a new problem. Back in August of 2016, a Streetsblog reader complained about the dangers of navigating around the Cesar Chavez/101 area, known as “the Hairball”:

“There have often been a couple of tents there, but now there’s at least six tents, and a bunch of people standing around, ironically, a pile of bikes. [...] Yesterday I had someone exit their tent right in front of me in the very narrow space left for me to pass, and today I had to weave around several people.”

This could be a verbatim description of Sanders’ footage, except that there are now far more than half a dozen tents.

Back in January, SFist noted that the city had driven nearly 100 people from tents in this same area in May of 2016, but that the area remains a refuge to encampments, as it has for decades.

Campers who hunker down in the slightly lawless and confused area around the Hairball—Caltrans and city-owned property merge here, making jurisdiction a hassle—apparently took to the bike paths after being pushed out of other nearby spots.