Supervisor Mar Listens to Student Concerns about Pedestrian Safety

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ASUSF President Alex Platt (left of Mar), Hannah Linkenhoker (right of Mar) and members of the USF Politics Society question District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar (center) about various safety issues around the USF campus, including cars speeding on Turk St. and failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks between Lone Mountain and main campus. (Chelsea Sterling|Foghorn)

At a mid-semester USF Politics Society meeting, newly elected District 1 (which includes the USF campus and the Richmond district) Supervisor Eric Mar spoke to Politics Society members and other students about his first impressions of the job. He also participated in a question-and-answer session, in which students could present their concerns directly to their supervisor. Though Mar promised to represent USF students and the Politics Society’s main concerns- pedestrian safety on Turk Street and extension of the 5 Fulton bus service after 7 p.m.- to the board of supervisors, some students left the meeting unclear of what Mar is hoping to accomplish in District 1.

Kasie Favazza, a junior politics major , said, “I think he was here to listen to us. I didn’t leave knowing his top three priorities.” Favazza has been a Politics Society member since the spring of 2008. She appreciated Mar’s accessibility and his attendance at the meeting, but mentioned that when she tried to research Mar and his campaign, his web site was outdated.

Like several other Politics Society members, Favazza voiced her concern for pedestrian safety for students crossing between main campus and the Lone Mountain campus. The primary concern was Turk St., which currently has crosswalks, but where many drivers speed by without letting students cross. In addition, the traffic light on Turk St. and Chabot St. becomes a flashing yellow yield light after a certain hour. Hannah Linkenhoker, Public Relations Officer of the Politics Society, said of this busy intersection, “It’s problematic every day.” In response to this, Mar said, “It’s a give and take between those who want to drive and those who want public safety.” He also mentioned that neighborhood coalition groups like Fix Masonic and Walk SF could also be an outlet and forum for addressing troubled intersections. Mar acknowledged that getting issues like pedestrian safety addressed can be challenging. He said, “It’s the people who can raise their voice the loudest” that get their issues addressed.

Politics Society president and senior politics major Megan Hanley raised a second issue about safety. She asked Mar if the 5 Fulton bus service could be extended five or six stops after 6 p.m. The 5 Fulton currently drops its passengers off at Market and McAllister streets after 6 p.m. This area borders the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood. Hanley was concerned that not only were students and other passengers being dropped off in this area at night, but that younger, freshmen students may not be aware that it will drop them off before reaching Powell St. and lower Market St. Mar did not seem to be aware of this issue and said, “I will definitely bring this to them [Board of Supervisors.] This is really helpful to me.”

Mar is working on the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), which is designed to collect suggestions about improving transit and put them into action. He supports the rail systems, officially known as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), that are being built on Geary Ave. and Van Ness St. Federal and state funds are being used to build these rail lines down two of San Francisco’s busiest streets. Critics say that a BRT system for Geary Ave. will slow down the 38 Geary bus service and street traffic. Mar believes the benefits will out outweigh the traffic the rail may cause. He said that, personally, “I would like a rail system.”

Junior business major Jon Coon asked Mar if he supported the legalization of marijuana, which was part of his campaign platform. Mar replied that he does support District 13 Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s amendment to the existing marijuana laws. Ammiano’s proposal, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act, would legalize recreational marijuana use to persons over 21 years old. Mar said, “I support the decriminalization of certain types of drug use.” In the same breath, he said that he also advocates for drug and alcohol rehabilitation services and programs, which seek to limit and prevent drug and alcohol addictions. Mar also said, “I think the decriminalization of some substances helps human rights.”

When sharing his first impressions of his new job, Mar said, “Being a supervisor is very difficult.” He has an eight-year-old daughter, with whom he likes to watch graphic novel movies. Balancing his back to back meetings with spending time with his daughter is one of the most challenging aspects of his new job. In addition to adjusting to his busy schedule, Mar said balancing the $6.5 billion budget is “an overwhelming responsibility.”

Junior politics major Paul Tardiff said that Mar addressed the issues Tardiff cared about, but, he said, “I don’t feel like he fully clarified what he meant.” Tardiff, a Los Angeles native, is concerned about gang activity. “San Francisco, because it is more compact, is more dangerous than Los Angeles,” he said. “The city has a responsibility to deal with gangs.” Tardiff was concerned that the San Francisco city government was pushing the responsibility of monitoring gang activity and addressing gang issues onto non-government organizations (NGOs). Mar said that he regularly checks in with Police Chief Heather Fong and tries to address her concerns about crime in San Francisco.

At the close of the meeting, Mar thanked the Politics Society for inviting him to speak. “Your ideas should drive decision-making,” he said to the 13 Politics Society members and other students. “I hope you see as a value, community-based leadership.”

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