North Central San Mateo residents remain frustrated at parking space losses from the neighborhood Bike Lanes Project, but the community is determined to move forward to ensure a stronger voice and prioritization from the city.
The neighborhood held an April community meeting at St. James AME Zion Church on Monte Diablo Avenue to discuss ideas for improving safety, parking and traffic and to decide how to move forward. Councilmember Amourence Lee said the goal of the listening session was to open communication and get a better sense of community needs. She noted there is a lot of apathy, disappointment and the feeling the neighborhood hasn’t gotten the resources needed to address disinvestment.
“The bike lane project has been so divisive, and a lot of community trust was lost. It was really beautiful the way people stepped up to bring folks together. It took some work even to get that group together because there were people on different sides of the bike lanes issue,” Lee said.
North Central resident Trina Pierce understands why many residents are still upset with the city, with some leaving before the meeting was over. Many residents will now have to park further away and spend more time parking and walking. She is channeling her energy into encouraging residents to join the Home Association of North Central San Mateo to increase neighborhood influence. She wants to ensure the unsatisfactory bike lanes process never happens again.
“The only solution is to move forward,” Pierce said.
Claire Stephens, a North Central resident who attended the meeting and is helping gather community input, said losing 217 parking spaces is devastating for the neighborhood. People must now walk further and have less access to needed parking in a crowded neighborhood. Stephens said some people are ready to move on while others still have frustration.
“This community has a lot of pent-up anger about how the community has been treated for many years. This bike lanes project really brought it out in a lot of people. There’s still a lot of anger that we spoke about,” she said.
Stephens said residents want to see current infrastructure needs like sidewalk repair, better streetlights and street cleanup of litter addressed. She said the community wants to ask the city for help with an anti-littering campaign. A small team is now working with the community to prioritize issues and gather input to present the best information possible to the city about neighborhood needs. There is hope for a Spanish-only community meeting in the future to be as language inclusive as possible.
“We’re not asking for special treatment. We are just asking to be treated like everyone else,” Stephens said.
Lee said the community wants more infrastructure safety to slow down cars, like speed enforcement, crosswalks, stop signs, flashing lights and speed cushions. Residents also want to see better response time for calls for vandalism and more crossing guards around schools. Lee, who lives in the North Central neighborhood, said improvements must ensure no over-policing and financial penalties for the working poor.
More extensive parking mitigation remains a vital issue for residents. The city recently announced mitigation plans to offset the parking loss and address other accessibility concerns in response to the resident outcry. San Mateo allows North Central residents to have driveway parking in front of homes, red tipping of driveways, and disabled parking space options. For tipping, city crews can add red curbs painted on both sides of a driveway at a resident’s request to prevent others from blocking it.
In addition to the parking mitigation options underway, the city has said it will work on policies for overnight parking and a permit parking program. Overnight parking would be in city or private parking areas. City officials have explored turning the Martin Luther King Community Center Parking lot on Monte Diablo Avenue into overnight use. To address continued frustration, Lee wants folks to tap into existing resources for parking mitigation and give community input. Lee said by email the Public Works Department hopes to start a community input survey on a Parking Permit Program in the next few weeks and open the King Center shared parking lot in about a month.
Divided and reeling
The Bike Lanes Project along Humboldt Street and East Poplar Avenue was heralded by advocates but removed 214 parking spaces. Bicycle lanes were added on East Poplar Avenue from El Camino Real to North Delaware Street, North Delaware Street from East Poplar Avenue to Indian Avenue, and Humboldt Street from Peninsula Avenue to Fifth Avenue. The city has prioritized bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements to protect cyclists and pedestrians amid increasing safety issues. However, removing needed parking to ensure the bike lanes occurred left North Central divided and reeling. The parking reduction led to a neighborhood campaign from some North Central residents over the past few months to stop the project. Officials have said it will help fight climate change, reduce collisions and encourage cycling. Those against it said losing parking will make it harder for people to park, particularly the elderly and disabled. It also places the burden of climate action changes on a marginalized and often forgotten neighborhood that doesn’t get the infrastructure projects it wants.
Some residents still feel frustrated about the project and its ramifications. North Central resident Joan Totten attended the April community meeting and criticized the city and council for the project and worsening traffic. Her talks with city officials and councilmembers have not resulted in satisfactory answers to address parking.
“They don’t seem to care, obviously. What they are doing is a disaster, and it’s impacting a lot of people,” Totten said.
Totten said her street near Highway 101 had seen increased tensions between bicyclists and cars competing for places on the road. She said the community meeting did not adequately answer parking mitigation questions.
“It was rather disturbing. They geared it towards ongoing things that have nothing to do with parking,” Totten said.
Totten can use a parking space at her condominium’s parking garage. However, she said many people in nearby apartment buildings use street parking and will face difficulties. While the King Center is being considered, she said many people don’t live near it and will struggle to deal with the loss of parking, with people of color and people with disabilities disproportionally affected.
“Where are we going to park our cars?” she said.
Lee highlighted that the recent traffic circulation plan approved as part of the city’s larger General Plan process has a specific plan for the North Central neighborhood through Senate Bill 1000, which calls for environmental justice in local land use planning for eligible communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. The bill calls for reducing environmental health risks and promoting equitable access to healthy food options, housing, public facilities and recreation. She encouraged North Central to get organized and stay involved and hopes the process will lay the groundwork for more bridge building and engagement.
“We can only move forward. We can’t change what’s happened,” Lee said. “I’m glad to see the [planning] commission and council get behind this idea. My job is to make sure that we fulfill the obligations of SB 1000 in service to North Central. We are taking a data-based approach and holding the city to a very high standard of community input.”
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