Chinatown leaders, SFMTA plan improvements for dangerous intersection

Chinatown leaders and residents say it's time to make changes at a dangerous intersection where there have been numerous collisions and a pedestrian was killed last summer.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) plans to make improvements at the intersection of Kearny at Clay by April, but community leaders say they are good first steps, but they're not enough.

"Oh my gosh, it's a little bit scary because the cars are just speeding by and they're not really paying attention to pedestrians," said Lisa Yu, a Chinatown youth leader who says crosses the intersection often.

The area sees a heavy volume of vehicle and foot traffic.

Just steps from there is popular Portsmouth Square, filled with elderly folks.

A 77-year-old woman was struck and killed in the crosswalk just last summer.

"If we could all remember why it is that we're all here and what it is that we're trying to achieve," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin who represents the neighborhood, during a press conference.

The pedestrian death is now a driving force behind the call for a "diagonal scramble", which allows pedestrians to cross diagonally from each corner of the intersection.

"It just hurts to think of her. Every time we go to her grave, it hurts. We feel like she should be alive," said Geen Lee.

His mother was killed at another busy intersection in Chinatown: Stockton and Sacramento in September 2014.

Lee worked with city leaders and was able to get a diagonal scramble installed there just four months after his mother's death.

He wants the same for Kearny and Clay.

"I need to do more to prevent such tragedies," said Lee.

SFMTA says its proposal is only to make all lights turn red for vehicle traffic at the same time, so pedestrians can cross in all directions, but not diagonally.

That would cost $40,000 compared to $350,000 for a diagonal scramble.

"That would require installing new hardware, digging up the intersection for more wiring. That's something we don't have the budget for. We don't have the approval for," said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation.

But Peskin says he suspects it's not the cost that's prohibitive, but that diagonal scrambles slow down traffic.

"Quite frankly if it takes you another minute or two to get to where you're going and we save lives it's worth it," said Peskin.

"If we don't have the equipment to protect the pedestrians crossing the street, everyone is at risk," said Lee. 
Supervisor Peskin says existing diagonal scrambles have cost a lot less than projected.

SFMTA will be holding a public hearing on improvements to this intersection on March 4th, one week from this Friday at City Hall.