Changing Riverside Drive
LEAH BRUMER, left, Carole Peccorini and Zuli Baron knocked on doors and got residents to sign petitions, and now Riverside Drive from Boyes Boulevard to Craig Avenue is poised to become a one-way street.
It will happen sometime before the end of the year, but part of Riverside Drive through the Springs will become a one-way street. And it’s because three-women pulled a community together in order to affect a change.
That one-way section of Riverside Drive will run between Boyes Boulevard and Verano Avenue – eventually. The first phase though, is from Boyes to Craig Avenue. And that could be done before the end of the year.
About a year ago, while she was on a bike ride, Leah Brumer stopped by Carole Peccorini’s house to chat about traffic on the street. Brumer had been taking an informal traffic count whenever she was in her kitchen and it started to alarm her.
Brumer emailed 1st District Supervisor Valerie Brown’s office who then forwarded it to the county’s Public Works and Transportation Department. Tom O’Kane, the deputy director of Public Works, came down to the Springs and met with the two women about the traffic problem.
“We first thought about a stop sign,” Brumer said. “But people don’t get excited about a stop sign.”
Peccorini agreed. “We were looking at stop signs and speed bumps, but we weren’t keen on any of them,” she said. “But then a neighbor suggested a one-way street.”
Peccorini and Bruner didn’t want their quest to be a two-person campaign, so they started looking around and knocking on doors.
Brumer, while Googling, came across a Springs Community Based Transportation Plan that was written by Zuli Baron, a community organizer for St. Joseph Health. Brumer didn’t waste any time recruiting Baron, who, while she doesn’t live on Riverside Drive, nonetheless does live in the Springs. And it didn’t take much convincing for Baron to join. Baron is Argentinian, speaks Spanish and was a big help when the women started going door-to-door getting residents to sign petitions. In the process, they gathered a slew of email addresses.
“Zuli is the queen of door-to-door,” Peccorini said.
The women also met with Brown and her district director, Jennifer Hainstock.
“Valerie and Jennifer gave us maps and lists of the property owners,” Baron said. “That saved us weeks and weeks of work.”
Most of the neighbors signed the petitions, and it wasn’t long before they had more than 135 signatures from both renters and property owners.
“We sent out letters to all non-resident property-owners between Boyes (Boulevard) and Craig (Avenue),” said Peccorini. “All the property owners signed on – or at least know what’s going on.”
Baron agreed. “We really know this street.”
They had meetings with the neighbors, meetings with school officials, meetings with county officials and meetings with supervisor candidates. Along the way, they also set up two Sunday strolls with their neighbors, one going north to south, the other reversed.
“Our goal was to look at shared public space that belongs to all of us,” Brumer said. “And could we enhance it by addressing traffic issues.”
She added, “We’re not trying to abolish cars, but we want shared use. We want to reduce traffic on the road. Railroad (four blocks west) is wider and has sidewalks. And it was built for a greater capacity than it carries.”
Safety became an integral part of the project since many students use the street to get to El Verano Elementary School on Riverside, just south of Craig Avenue.
“We focused on safety because we have mothers pushing their strollers along the street twice a day,” Peccorini said.
It hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been as hard as they imagined either. There was some push back, but not a lot.
“The county has been very responsive,” Brumer said. “It’s been a very smooth process.”
Baron, who knocks on doors and organizes communities, said she’s never worked on a project that went together this quickly – it’s been less than a year since the women started. “Usually a process like this takes years and years,” she said. “We built relationships between us and the residents – and among the residents themselves.”
The women had a meeting last week with O’Kane to talk about the design. Some people suggested splitting the road in half with vehicles on one side and pedestrians on the other, but it’s starting to look like the road might have a traffic lane in the center flanked by two pedestrian/bike lanes.
O’Kane said he discussed four alternatives with the women, but said the one that will be the design is an 11-foot traffic lane in the center, going south, with two 4-1/2-foot pedestrian/bike lanes flanking the traffic lane.
“I could go to the Board (of Supervisors) sometime in October,” O’Kane said. If the Supervisors approve, the county would come out and paint the pedestrian lanes and put up signage, and, O’Kane said, depending on the rains this fall, it could be done by the end of the year.
“Carole helped us stay focused,” Brumer said. “We want to keep the conversation open.”
While there are still hoops to jump through, the women are mixing other projects in. Someone donated 1,000 daffodil bulbs and they’re going to pass out them out up and down the street.