New Muni Routes Bend Laws of Physics, Leave Western SoMa In the Lurch
September 24, 2009, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Transit

Don’t get me wrong–the MTA’s Transit Efficiency Project (TEP, not to be confused with NEP) is long overdue. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of taking transit just about anywhere else in the world knows that dear old Muni is, at best, a charming throwback. Bus routes wander through neighborhoods (planned, apparently, to cover as many streets as possible rather than move quickly), main lines stop at every little block (sometimes twice!) and routes seem designed to go everywhere except where anyone might actually want to go. Sure, there are those of us who dream about a citywide subway system, with art-deco stops every few steps like we’re some sort of Paris or something. But let’s look at the facts: it’s going to take Muni 10 years and a gajillion dollars to build a ridiculous little 3-stop stub of a central subway line, assuming it even gets built. Focusing Muni’s meager resources on better-designed routes (and moving them along just a little more quickly) could have the greatest impact on the practical experience of taking Muni since a tunnel got built under Market Street.

However, the recommended changes (which you can see at the TEP web site) seem to reduce service to SoMa, and Western SoMa in particular, something that doesn’t make a lot of sense considering it’s potentially the most dynamic neighborhood in the city. New development has changed (and will continue to change) the area’s character more than any other, and making SoMa more “livable” was supposed to be a priority in San Francisco planning circles. But you wouldn’t know that from the Muni plans.

Current Muni Map:


Proposed Muni Map:


First of all, wherefore the 12? The good old 12 Folsom has never been the most crowded of lines, admittedly, but it seemed like a far-sighted idea: a straight shot up the Mission, across SoMa, around the Embarcadero, then back across North Beach. It didn’t wander, and was easy to remember, running all the way up Folsom and down most of Harrison. But on the revised map, the 12 has basically disappeared, turning into a typical wandering neighborhood line, carousing around Potrero Hill before diving into downtown’s crowded, slow-moving streets. It has apparently been replaced by the 27, shifted over from its current route up Bryant to run along Folsom, but with no equivalent service down Harrison. How, pray tell, do the buses get back? Does Muni have Star Trek transporter technology to magically beam buses to their starting point, and if so, why aren’t they using it to make the N run faster? Also, neighborhood fave the 47 has been shifted, bafflingly, from 11th over to 13th/Division St., which might, at times, make it move a little faster, but anyone who’s seen the traffic coming west on Division around rush hour knows adding a bus to that mix might be a bad idea. Plus, that street is a sea of Best Buy and OfficeMax parking lots, not exactly convenient for, well, anyone.

My own personal Muni pet peeve for Western SoMa isn’t addressed, either: there’s no straightforward service to the BART station at 16th and Mission, something that would make sense in a world where Muni and BART were playing for the same team (or anyone at Muni understood Western SoMa’s desperate need for quality burritos).

Granted, speeding up (and cleaning up) the 38 Geary (whose ridership figures rival those of some cities’ entire transit systems) should clearly take priority, and the last thing Western SoMa should do is add its voice to what is destined to be a chorus of neighborhood activists demanding to know why they should walk another block to catch the bus. But planning for the future in a neighborhood with great potential seems like it also might be a good idea, and even if we’re not the Tenderloin, there are still a lot of people who call it home.


12th Street Rail?
September 23, 2009, 11:42 pm
Filed under: History


Via former West SoMa resident Dan Furtado comes this interesting set of photos of the railroad tracks that used to run up 12th Street only 11 years ago. This was a spur from Treat Avenue, part of the various freight lines that used to criss-cross the area. The tracks were removed in 1998 (while the pictures say 1999, they were actually taken in 1996), yet evidence can still be seen of where they ran, including tracks curving across 13th St. in front of the Best Buy parking lot, and the overhanging section of the old factory on 12th between Howard and Folsom, which was the final destination of the 12th Street spur. Not sure when the last train rumbled down 12th, but it’s hard to imagine it nowadays. The most charming part of these shots is the old-school railroad crossing sign on Isis Street, visible in the picture below. Whoo whooo!


Traumatic Week In Store for Western SoMa
September 23, 2009, 7:53 pm
Filed under: Culture, Events


As if the presence of 400,000 naked or near-naked leather enthusiasts parading outside one’s window this Sunday isn’t enough trauma for one week, “more colorful” network NBC is apparently planning on taking advantage of our shell-shocked and/or hung over state to inflict a little more pain on the neighborhood. The above notice was posted in the lobby of my building, and bears the news that  the new NBC series “Trauma” (crazy loud link btw) will be shutting down a major intersection in Western SoMa for five freakin’ days. Streets to be closed to all vehicular traffic include Folsom between 11th and 13th, 12th between Howard and Harrison, plus wee alley Norfolk between Folsom and Harrison. On a map, it looks like this:


The schedule is a little eye-popping as well: 7am-8pm (13 hours) daily, Monday September 28 – Friday October 2. Gulp! Now, one hopes that perhaps the amusingly named Open 4 Business Productions (er, nothing compares 2 U guys!) is erring on the side of caution, getting a permit for filming for as much time as possible when they’ll actually only need a few hours on Thursday for a shot of Nurse 1 having a quick makeout with Patient 2. And please, make that a nice quiet makeout. On the other hand, “Trauma” is the show that freaked the hell out of everybody in town back in March by creating a gigantic explosion on 280 for their pilot episode, premiering next Monday night. In fact, all sorts of loud stuff, like explosions, crashes, sirens and screams of pain all seem like they might be regular parts of this show, and since my windows look right out into the cordoned-off area, I’m a bit concerned about this 7am call time. Shit blowing up outside my window at 7am could make me pull a Terylin Joe, but Facebook friends suggested fighting fire with fire by putting my stereo speakers in the windows and blasting them with some indie rock, or whatever. Neither seem like good options.

Either way, the terrible early reviews of the show make me feel like this whole thing might turn out a like the last time I got to see some filming up close. Ang Lee’s  “Hulk” shot a major scene right outside my office in North Beach back in 2003, and while it was exciting at the time to see military helicopters apparently heading right for us, “Hulk” turned out to be so terrible that nobody I knew actually felt like watching it for long enough to see our building’s cameo. So, honestly, it turned out to be more of an embarrassment than anything. “Trauma” seems forgettable at best, and Manimal at worst, so I’ll have to make sure I use the back door all next week, lest I unwittingly add the show to my IMDB resume.

Ultimately, it seems all too likely that after our kooky  S&M celebration causes us pain, “Trauma” will step in and, well, create some trauma. Oh, the irony. Does anybody know the safe word?

Welcome to SoMa West
September 23, 2009, 6:39 pm
Filed under: Borders

Greetings and welcome to SoMa West, a blog which will discuss any and all topics relating to the western part of San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood. First topic: What, exactly, is Western SoMa? The Soviet-sounding Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force has a convenient map on their page which shows their “Special Use District Plan Area” stretching all the way to 4th Street, which seems kind of East or at least Central SoMa to me.

Is This Western SOMA?

The John Waters movie-sounding Concerned Citizens of Western SoMa features a map on their site which shows the borders of adjacent neighborhoods, and according to this, East SoMa gerrymanders all the way over to 7th St. It’s easy: East SoMa is north of West SoMa, except where West SoMa is east of East SoMa.

Process of elimination...

There are further complications. What to do about the little triangle of terror, west of South Van Ness, south of Market, and north of the freeway/13th? It’s Missiony, while somewhat Hayesy, but mostly SoMa-y. Is I-80 a cutoff, or does the lovely roundabout at the intersection of Division, 8th and Townsend count as Western SoMa? And, dear God, is it “SOMA,” “Soma,” or “SoMa?” Actually, we’ll go with Wikipedia on that last one.

Like most neighborhoods worth their salt, the borders of Western SoMa are indeterminate, not quite as bad as the northern border of Yemen but still, dynamic and ever-changing, as dependent on cultural factors as on geography. Alls we know is, if you’re totally down to kick East SoMa’s ass, you must be in Western SoMa.