Noe Valley Voice April 1999

Seniors Get the Green Light at Dolores and 30th

By Karen Topakian

Ever since Ovidia Cruz was killed in 1989 while crossing the street at 30th and Dolores, Jorge Santis has tried to get a traffic signal put in at the intersection.

By the end of April, Santis and the seniors attending the program he runs at 225 30th St. should have their wish. A building contractor was set to begin work on installing the stoplight in late March.

What will require about a month of construction -- the project is scheduled to be finished April 30 -- has taken close to a decade of lobbying.

"The accident occurred in June of 1989," said Santis, program coordinator for 30th Street Senior Services, which serves about 300 seniors daily. "Ovidia, who was a senior but not frail, was hit by a motorist while walking in the crosswalk on 30th Street. She died later at the hospital."

Over the 14 years he's worked at the center, Santis has noticed many "near-misses" at the intersection, currently a four-way stop. "One gentleman in particular was hit badly," he said.

After Cruz's death, Santis and the seniors contacted their elected officials, sent letters, held rallies, and petitioned the Department of Parking and Traffic. They also joined forces with the Pedestrian Safety Task Force of the Senior Action Network, to prove to the city that a four-way stop was inadequate.

The seniors based their request on several factors: Many drivers ignore the stop signs, barely pausing to tap their brakes. The vehicle traffic in the area has increased substantially, especially on Dolores Street, now used as a shortcut to 280 South or as an alternative to the old Central Freeway. Also, the J-Church and the 24 and 26 Muni lines converge on 30th Street, which means there are a lot of people either waiting or running for the bus.

Santis and other staff also pointed out that the median age of the people who participate in programs at the senior center is 80, and many walk with canes or walkers and have visual or hearing impairments.

Nevertheless, their pleas fell on deaf ears at City Hall. "We tried several channels, including petitions to Mayor Art Agnos starting back in 1990," recalled Santis. "Politicians would come to see us at election time, promising everything." But still no stoplight.

Then, in January of 1997, Supervisor Mabel Teng introduced a resolution urging the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) to change the traffic controls at Dolores and 30th streets. DPT endorsed the plan that month and recommended a new signal for fiscal year 1997­1998. They originally gave a completion date of early 1998, but later revised it to 1999.

According to Angelo Kalaveras, proj-ect manager at Millard Tong Construction, his firm will finish the underground road work by the first week of April, and then come back to install the signal and activate it at the end of the month. Both jobs are likely to disrupt traffic on Dolores and 30th streets, so be prepared to go slow, he said.

Noe Valley won't see any fancy turn signals, just a regular green-yellow-red stoplight, with pedestrian walk and don't-walk signs.

Meanwhile, Santis will continue to offer training at the center on how to read traffic signals and stay safe when crossing the street. He noted that the seniors often performed a play called "How the Angels Got There," about the dire consequences of failing to watch out for cars.

He and the 30th Street seniors are looking forward to a victory celebration. "We are planning a to-do at the traffic light with punch and cookies for people crossing the street, and for drivers. We'll invite all the seniors and the politicians."

The group will also say a few words in memory of Ovidia Cruz.