December 26, 2006

Freeway Pollution: Conjecture Or Consideration?

A reader wonders, “[w]ould it be possible to start a topic to gather opinions from people WHO LIVE near the freeway to give their input on the pollution?” In short, yes.

First Published: December 26, 2006 10:22 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I've lived in SF for 6 years and the dirt at the Metropolitan where I now live is many times worse than prior homes in SoMa and Eureka Valley. In the prior two places I even had the windows open quite frequently and never had to clean those windows or my interior as much as I do now. The dirt/dust at 1st & Folsom here is also black, whereas before it was more grayish (it's that noticeably different). A table left out on my current balcony cannot go a day without becoming filthy if I want to use it. Bottom line: the pollution from the Bay Bridge freeway plus 1st St congestion makes it quite dirty. Good thing for A/C.

Posted by: TheRealScoop at December 26, 2006 3:53 PM

But let's assume that you have a condo on the 42nd floor of a building, even if it is built next to the Bay Bridge. Is pollution something that you really worry about? I currently live on the 9th floor of a building that is about a block away from the Bay Bridge and I don't really notice anything, except for the fact my balcony railing gets black very easily (which I'm sure is pollution).

But given the fact that I spend literally no time out on my balcony, why would anyone care?

Posted by: Anonymous at December 26, 2006 4:24 PM

Most buildings only do window cleaning twice a year, which means you would have to deal with filthy windows - even 42 floors up - for a nice chunk of the year if you don't have a balcony. Even if you do have one, most do not reach far enough to cover all your windows, so maybe half at most of your viewable window space could be kept clean regularly.

For most people who would actually like to use a balcony, noise and air pollution are kind of a bummer.

Posted by: TheRealScoop at December 26, 2006 4:51 PM

I lived at Hawthorne Place for a few years. It's on an ally off of Second Street between Folsom and Harrison. Not super close to the bridge. There was a lot of black soot that came in through the fresh air vents. And the wall behind my HEPA filter fan was absolutely black after about one year. It may have been from the bridge, but I think it was just from the street traffic. I've been told the black stuff is tire dust - from tires wearing away on the pavement. Makes sense.

I don't think you can escape it anywhere in the city there is any traffic. Re it being a health concern: it's hard to see how it couldn't be but bear in mind that all the studys show that city dwellers are healthier and live longer than rural dwellers. Why? Because they walk everywhere even though that means breathing lots and lots of gunk.

Re washing windows: the schedule is under the complete control of the HOA. It might cost everyone a bit more in terms of their assessment, but if the windows get dirty they can certainly be cleaned more than twice a year.

Posted by: Salarywoman at December 26, 2006 9:55 PM

Summary research of health effects from living near freeways is here:

http://www.sdearthtimes.com/et0603/et0603s21.html

Whether the occasional once per month visit from 55 year olds living in the east bay the other 29 days of the month will result in anything nearly as bad is anyone's guess. And I suspect that the list of research is probably not a balanced list, but the research itself is probably more objective.

Posted by: tipster at December 26, 2006 10:32 PM

I used to live on bush, 3 floors up. And I must say, it was impossible to keep the outside clean of that black small particulate. Caused by either tires, or exhaust, or some combination there of.

Perhaps it's time to pass a non particulate producing tyre, or ban them from the city all together.

Posted by: this old house at December 26, 2006 10:37 PM

Years ago, when I lived in the Castro, there was lots of black particulate that would accumulate on the window sills. I assumed it was from the diesel buses that went by my flat-- but maybe it was also from tires.

On the quiet hillside street on which I now live, which has little traffic, I haven't noticed soot. So it doesn't seem to be everywhere in SF. But it is present in some places that are far from the freeways.

Posted by: Dan at December 26, 2006 11:03 PM

Even 42 stories up the wind generated from all the bridge traffic as well as natural wind will spread the pollution and soot around. No way around it.
Best way to protect yourself is use a good HEPA filter whether the window is open or closed or just use the A/C. I know A/C is standard at Infinity, but is A/C standard at The Met or 1Rincon where it's closest to the freeway?

Posted by: SF Living at December 27, 2006 11:39 AM

"but is A/C standard at The Met or 1Rincon where it's closest to the freeway?"

Yes, both central heat and A/C are standard at 1Rincon. Also, 1Rincon says that their "fresh air" window system (I know, I know) reduces pollution "intake" relative to the old standard windows that you see in highrises. Whether that's true or not is anybody's guess, but at the very least, some thought went into that issue when they were designing the building.

I think this comment is probably the most relevant one to city living generally, whether you live right next to the Bay Bridge, or in North Beach or Eureka Valley or Noe Valley, etc.

"I don't think you can escape it anywhere in the city there is any traffic. Re it being a health concern: it's hard to see how it couldn't be but bear in mind that all the studys show that city dwellers are healthier and live longer than rural dwellers. Why? Because they walk everywhere even though that means breathing lots and lots of gunk."

Posted by: Anonymous at December 27, 2006 1:29 PM

Just move to Pacific Heights or Russian/Nob Hill since there are no cars or any other sources of pollution over there.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 27, 2006 3:31 PM

"Just move to Pacific Heights or Russian/Nob Hill since there are no cars or any other sources of pollution over there."

Huh? You're kidding right? Do people actually think that in a city that is 49 square miles, that car pollution just stays in one part of the city because that part happens to be near a bridge? No, it doesn't, the differences in the level of car pollution accumulation among the various neighborhoods in this city is negligible. It's all or nothing.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 27, 2006 5:52 PM

Actually I was being sarcastic. It just seems that most people here don't like these new South Beach/SOMA high rises because they are built near the freeway with all the noise, traffic, and pollution. My point was that we have these problems all over the city, whether you're in a Victorian in Pacific Heights (not "Pac" Heights for God's sake) or in a South Beach condo on the 42nd floor.

And I agree with your comment.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 27, 2006 11:34 PM

"Actually I was being sarcastic. It just seems that most people here don't like these new South Beach/SOMA high rises because they are built near the freeway with all the noise, traffic, and pollution. My point was that we have these problems all over the city, whether you're in a Victorian in Pacific Heights (not "Pac" Heights for God's sake) or in a South Beach condo on the 42nd floor.

And I agree with your comment."

I thought you might have been. Wasn't sure though because you never know with some of the characters that prowl on this site. I guess you're technically correct when you say that the some of the South Beach/SOMA high-rises (in particular, 1Rincon Hill) are built near the freeway, although for some reason I don't equate being built near the west span of the bay bridge, which is 3 blocks from downtown, as being "near the freeway" as opposed to for instance, Arterra or other developments that are literally built next to a freeway, particularly when you are talking about a skyscraper. I really think it's more of SF residents being newbies to this whole highrise living thing. There are so many beautiful condo projects built near major thoroughfares/bridges/etc. in NYC and those residents seems to like them just fine.

Once SF has become used to this new type of living, it won't seem like that big of a deal.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 28, 2006 9:48 AM

All the Anonymous posters are being somewhat speculative about the pollution when Dan, Salarywoman and I (+ a friend who used to live in Hills Plaza now living in the Richmond) have actual experience in multiple SF neighborhoods. The soot is absolutely worse near the Bay Bridge than other places we lived here. And to the point about being "new" to the city or highrise living, I agree with the NY assessment (generally sooty everywhere) but not so everywhere- having also lived in Boston 3 blocks from the Mass Pike (I-90) for a couple years.

Posted by: TheRealScoop at December 28, 2006 11:11 AM

Differet strokes for different folks. I would much rather put up with being near the freeway than live in the Richmond. The Richmond may have less pollution but it surely has the worst weather in the city. But that is just me.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 28, 2006 11:44 AM

"All the Anonymous posters are being somewhat speculative about the pollution when Dan, Salarywoman and I (+ a friend who used to live in Hills Plaza now living in the Richmond) have actual experience in multiple SF neighborhoods. The soot is absolutely worse near the Bay Bridge than other places we lived here. And to the point about being "new" to the city or highrise living, I agree with the NY assessment (generally sooty everywhere) but not so everywhere- having also lived in Boston 3 blocks from the Mass Pike (I-90) for a couple years.'

Not so. I'm Anon @ 9:48 am and I've lived in a high-rise apt. on Beale between Folsom and Harrison for going on 3 years so I have credibility on this issue. The top of the white railing of my balcony does get black fairly easily, but other than that, I don't have any issues with pollution or noise (and I'm only on the 9th floor of my building). This is really all much ado about nothing. People who want real city living aren't going to get hung up on this issue and for those that would, they'll be moving to East Bay, Marin or the Peninsula in any event.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 28, 2006 11:48 AM

We should do a white glove test on balconies in different neighborhoods around the city. My guess is that the difference in pollution from, say, South Beach to Richmond is immaterial.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 28, 2006 1:46 PM

I have lived in South Beach/Rincon Hill (including the Met) as well as other "construction intensive" neighborhoods in SF and once consistent point that I have noticed is that the pollution/dust levels generally rise noticeably with the level of construction. Freeway notwithstanding, I think you will find that over the long run as the neighborhood settles, the pollution will also reduce somewhat. It's part of the price of progress in my view.

Posted by: JohnK at December 28, 2006 7:20 PM

FWIW, a friend who lives on Buena Vista in a 3-unit/story condo watches the black soot/grit mount daily on his white tiled balcony, which of course if far from any freeway. Isn't this what New Yorkers call city grit? It seems to be a combination of tire dust and diesel particulate, and I would agree it exists all over the city to not very different degrees.

Posted by: Tom at December 29, 2006 9:55 AM

The "black stuff" exists in all parts of the City. I've lived in both the Haight and PacHeights, and found it to be unavoidable.

Posted by: Anonymous at January 3, 2007 2:14 PM

my family lives ACROSS THE STREET FROM 101...we have black soot on our windows, cars, bikes, front door, and our back windows, door etc...i worry about the health of my young daughter who has spent her whole life living here...

we can't afford to move (we have a free-standing house 2-bedrooms, bkyd, driveway spot for parking for $1200.month)

any ideas, comments, advice on what to do?

thanks guys...(ps...it was never a problem in ANY other part of the city and i grew up here so i've lived in many districts)...

~peace~
michelle
-==-=-

Posted by: michelle at January 15, 2009 10:02 PM

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