Merchants file claims against SF demanding removal of controversial Valencia St. bike lane

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
SF merchants file claims demanding removal of Valencia St. bike lane
San Francisco merchants have filed claims against city and SFMTA, demanding removal of the controversial Valencia Street center bike lane.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- New developments in the battle over a controversial "center bike lane" that runs nearly a mile along San Francisco's Valencia street.

A group of business owners has filed claims against the city. They say the presence of the bike lane violates their rights, and hurts the economic vitality of the area.

The center bike lane was finalized 6 months ago, but the actual construction began in April. For over 10 months, many business owners say they've been struggling and on Tuesday, three of them filed complaints against the city. The group said at least 20 others are set to file in the coming days and weeks.

"Violates not only our clients' civil rights but also the city's charter which mandates that the city protect the economic welfare of its business. The center bike lane has been a catastrophic failure to the businesses on Valencia Street," said Nile Vignoles, attorney.

The claim seeks immediate removal of the bike lane and compensation for financial losses caused by the bike lane. One of those business owners said the bike lane contributed to the closure of his music venue in November.

MORE: SF supervisors explore offering bounties for reporting of drivers blocking bike lanes

"We are declaring here today that we are incredibly inspired and motivated by how many citizens are rising up, speaking up and filing claims against the city right along with us," said David Quinby, Amado's Owner.

Kevin Ortiz represents multiple businesses on Valencia. He said Tuesday's claims are the first of a wave of many others.

"This is one of the few times communities and businesses are fighting back," said Ortiz, "We've had multiple businesses shut down as a result of the bike lane. For folks this is their last option."

The Valencia Corridor Merchants Association which represents 200 businesses on Valencia took a stance against the bike lane. In a letter they sent to the SFMTA, they detailed their concerns and suggestions for a different bike lane design.

"We want it gone immediately," said David White, wwner of Yellow Moto Pizzeria and member of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, "People are not happy. It's a terrible design and it doesn't work. It hasn't worked. We don't feel it's safer. It's anecdotal. We see a lot more accidents. We see a lot of frustrated drivers driving over or in the bike lane."

RELATED: SF restaurant owners say Valencia St. will 'die' if controversial bike lane is not revised

White confirmed they met with SFMTA multiple times before sending the letter.

"Timing is really important. We want people to pay attention at what is going on here and treat this as the emergency that it is. We have lost a lot of merchants and we are continuing to lose merchants," said White, "We are just trying to have a seat at the table. We are just trying to represent our community and give the feedback because MTA has its own way of gathering data but it's not necessarily reflective of what is happening. "

On Tuesday, SFMTA Board of Directors met to discuss the three-month evaluation of the bike lane. Last Thursday ahead of their official board meeting, they released the evaluation where a side-running bikeway design is considered.

Some cyclists don't want SFMTA to change the center bike lane.

"I feel safer. I ride with my 1-year-old. I see middle school-aged people riding the bike lane which I had never seen before on Valencia. I feel like I can see what is happening because I'm not worried about getting doored or ran over," said Leif Bansner, a cyclist who frequently rides on Valencia.

RELATED: Officials consider design change of SF's controversial Valencia St. bike lane after evaluation

Sustainable transportation advocate Luke Bornehimer started "The Better Valencia Campaign" about a year ago before the center bike lane was approved.

"I'm really happy to see MTA coming forward with two designs for side-protected bike lanes and really talking about changing this center bikeway to a curb side protected bike lane design. Especially after over 1,000 people have been calling for them to created curb side protected bike lanes designs for about a year now," said Bornehimer.

According to business owners, the removal of 70 parking spots that SFMTA says they turned into loading zones to build the bike lane has led to a decline in business.

During the pilot, SFMTA has made multiple changes around the bike lane including bringing back 58 parking spaces in the evenings.

The city has 45 days to investigate and decide if the claims are denied business owners have six months to file a lawsuit against the city.

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