Lombard St. Crooked Closure and 1200 Lombard Steep Uphill Block

On reading the following note, I was taken back to our similar battles of the 1970's and 1980's when we lived not on the crooked block of Lombard, but the uphill stretch from Polk to Larkin, where cars lined up bumper to waiting to go up the steep 1200 Lombard block hill to go down the crooked street.

July 19, 2014 SAN FRANCISCO — The future of the crooked portion of Lombard Street remains unclear after an experimental program shut down the street for four weekends. This is the first weekend the world famous portion was back open to traffic.

“For tourists it’s great, it’s famous, but sure, for all the people who live here they deal with the cars and people. I can understand it.” was typical tourist response. For 42 year resident, experimental closure went well, but there are problems that need to be resolved indicating that during the closure to traffic, pedestrians were still allowed to walk on the street and “Once people start walking down then it’s their street and they resent the fact that cars are on the street.”

He said visitor parking and maintenance of the street are also concerns that need to be worked out. Homeowners said they cover the cost of maintenance and gardening, something they want the city to help with since the street is a tourist attraction. Several homeowners are hoping a temporary closure during weekends will become permanent.

An SFMTA spokesman said the street will remain open for the rest of the summer. They plan to compare what happens during that time to what happened during the four weekend closure. Then the SFMTA will make recommendations for changes, if any, in the fall.

Cars On Lombard,........Crooked Homes along Steep Uphill 1200 Lombard, ....1200 Lombard Block, ...No Cars on Lombard

 The issue for 1200 block then as now was primarily safety rather than traffic congestion. Most of cars in lineup each summer and/or weekend afternoon appeared to be tourists from elsewhere, many in rental cars. They appeared to have little ability to drive safely on steep hills, perhaps because they drove mostly in relatively flat areas or if in rented cars weren't as concerned about safe steep hill driving. Problems were regularly exacerbated by stop and start creep up hill while dripping engine fluids on roadway below. This often led to cars spinning wheels out of control and slidinging into other cars in line or parked cars along west curb side. Fire and emergency vehicles would respond by closing block for a few hours and occasionally adding sand above fluids, before allowing the uphill creep to resume.

Neighbors organized to identify, discuss and lobby for solutions. Closing crooked block of Lombard to traffic or making 1200 Lombard block one way downhill were two favored solutions that probably had been promoted in past as well.. But neighbors on Greenwich opposed the one way downhill solution fearing that cars would simply go up Greenwich and then cut over to Lombard. Only residents I recall with no interest in issue were crooked street residents, which seemed odd.

Years passed and many neighbors lost interest before final hearing and decision by Board of Supervisors. Witnesses from two City Departments testified. No one was surprised to listen to Tourist representative indicate how many tourist books across the country had pictures of cars going down crooked block as highlights of San Francisco tourism. It wasn't as clear what the official from Parks and Rec was going to say. When he indicated that Parks and Rec didn't have a strong view, but need to ensure Supervisors understood that if traffic was restricted, they probably would need to cease their maintenance of all the lovely gardens lining the corves of brick paved block downhill stretch east to Telegraph Hill.

We all got letter indicating Supervisors hearing the issue and that no change was approved. The letter didn't mention the two City department representatives, but for those of us who inquired further, it was clear why crooked street residents had so little interest in the traffic safety problems of 1200 Lombard block. Sounds from current reporting that some things have changed in years since. Should be interesting to see conclusions from 2014 summer four week closure to Lombard traffic.