Scourge of heavy trucks gains attention at City Hall 

Trucks might be banned from scores of residential streets to help protect neighborhoods from dangerous soot and noise.

The heavy vehicles help drive The City’s economy by exporting manufactured goods out of San Francisco and moving food and other products between factories, distribution centers and stores.

But their exhaust emissions take a disproportionately heavy toll on the health of residents in industrial and heavily trafficked neighborhoods, particularly those in southeastern San Francisco.

Trucks are often fueled by diesel, some of which is spewed from exhaust systems as tiny particles of soot that cause asthma and other diseases. They make noise, which can affect sleep patterns and leave residents lethargic during the day. And, they contribute to traffic ­accidents.

The problems are exacerbated when drivers veer off arterials to make deliveries or take shortcuts through residential streets.

City supervisors in late 2008 urged city departments to work together to reroute trucks in the most heavily impacted neighborhoods and to take other measures to protect San Franciscans from truck dangers.

In response, city officials redrafted San Francisco truck routes, which had not been updated since the 1980s, and sent the map to trucking companies and unions.

Officials also analyzed traffic and other data to help determine which neighborhoods are most heavily impacted by truck traffic.

More than half the streets in the Bernal Heights, Civic Center, Potrero Hill and South of Market neighborhoods are affected by heavy levels of traffic-generated soot, according to an analysis by The City’s Public Health Department.

Planned solutions to the problems include building walls along truck routes, planting more roadside trees and helping residents in impacted areas install double-paned windows, city staff said during a Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee hearing.

But Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose district covers swaths of the southeastern part of The City, called for solutions that contain “more teeth,” such as banning vehicles heavier than 6,000 pounds from certain streets.

“We have to do something different,” Maxwell said at the hearing.

Neighborhood dirt

Proportion of streets in city neighborhoods that are heavily impacted by traffic-generated soot, which causes disease:

Most affected

Downtown-Civic Center: 63%

Potrero Hill: 55%

SoMa: 54%

Bernal Heights: 52%

Financial District: 47%

Least affected

Crocker Amazon: 12%

Outer Richmond: 9%

Parkside: 6%

Outer Sunset: 4%

Seacliff: 0%

Source: San Francisco Department of Public Health

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