As It Happens

San Francisco eyes toll for famously crooked Lombard Street

Longtime Lombard Street resident Greg Brundage says tourists trample the flowers, climb onto his roof and even defecate in his driveway.

Longtime resident says tourists regularly climb onto his roof, defecate in his driveway

A view of Lombard Street on May 20, 2014, in San Francisco, Calif. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Greg Brundage says he's always chasing tourists off his property.

That's because he lives on San Francisco's famous Lombard Street: a steep, crisscrossing hill that draws millions of tourists a year in search of the perfect Instagram selfie. 

"I have, at least once a month, somebody climbing onto my roof to get a better picture," Brundage, president of the Lombard Hill Improvement Association, told As It Happens host Carol Off. "I shoo them away."

Some folks have even defecated in his car port, he says — "many times."

The tourism has grown so out of control on the street in recent years that city and state officials announced a bill on Monday that would give San Francisco the authority to establish a toll and reservation system in an effort to reduce crowds and traffic congestion.

Tourists take pictures while driving down Lombard Street. The city is now proposing a toll for drivers. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Image)

"We must implement a system that enables both residents and visitors to enjoy the 'Crookedest Street in the World,"' said Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat who authored the legislation.

Residents have been calling for years for officials to address the traffic jams, trash and trespassing by visitors who they say trample the residential street's famous flower gardens. 

Brundage, who has lived on the street for 22 years, says it's gotten much worse over the last decade.

In the summer months, an estimated 6,000 people a day visit the 183-metre street, creating lines of cars that stretch for blocks.

"The cars affect the whole neighbourhood," Brundage said. "It is surprising that no one's gotten killed yet."

People take selfies on Lombard Street, which residents say is overrun by tourists. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Image)

San Francisco transportation officials have proposed requiring visitors to make a reservation online and pay $5 for each vehicle. Another plan calls for online reservations and a $10 charge on weekends and holidays.

The city needs state approval to charge people to use a public road, but it would be up to city officials to determine how and what to charge and how to use the funds.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani said the fee would help sustain the reservations system and help pay for more traffic control and police patrols in the area, as well as tourism ambassadors who would make sure visitors have a good experience.

The new toll system is not expected to be in place before 2020.

Brundage calls it a "win-win."

"We will have [the] ability to get to our homes. The tourists will have the ability not to get in line and sit for 45 minutes waiting and go down the same street that they would have gone on otherwise," he said.

"We didn't go to try and block any traffic coming down here. We just wanted some order and ability to get [to] our own homes."

But the new toll doesn't address the foot-traffic problem, he said. 

For that, he says lawmakers will have to go after the tour companies that drop people off on Lombard Street by the busload. 

"People driving down in cars don't get out and take selfies of themselves, or climb in the gardens, or get out of their cars and cut the flowers, or come into your car port and defecate," Brundage said.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Greg Brundage produced by Chris Harbord. 

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