Thursday, July 31, 2014

Take a poll: "Should S.F. make it easier or harder to drive and park in the city?"

Take the Business Times poll here. "Should S.F. make it easier or harder to drive and park in the city?"

Thanks to Streetsblog for the link.

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Sheriff Mirkarimi: "It's expensive to be poor"

"It's expensive to be poor"

I was Mirkarimi's harshest critic when he was a supervisor, but he's clearly doing a good job as sheriff. Following Mayor Lee's misguided lead, City Hall tried and failed to destroy him and his family over an argument with his wife that got out of hand. Now he's trying to help inmates who haven't even been convicted of anything join their families while their cases are being processed without paying bail/ransom.

From the Examiner (Inmate proposal by Sheriff Mirkarimi shot down for political reasons):

...nearly all the supervisors still in office who voted to have him removed also opposed his proposal Tuesday. His proposal, which died on arrival, would have given more people the chance to use electronic ankle bracelets instead of remaining in jail before their trial. For progressives like Supervisor David Campos, who backed the law---along with Public Defender Jeff Adachi and probation chief Wendy Still---the Home Detention and Electronic Monitoring Program would have alleviated an injustice built into the system: bail. Getting out of jail as you await trial is not an issue for the well-heeled, but poorer prisoners often have no option. That imbalance, they argue, is unfair. "There are some people that sit in County Jail not because they are a public-safety threat, but because they don't have the money to pay bail," Campos said...

From the Chronicle's story on the issue:

“The reason why I am pushing to expand our authority for determining who should be on electronic monitoring is to help neutralize the effect of poor people who can’t make bail,” he[Mirkarimi] said, noting the program would also save taxpayers money because ankle bracelets are about one-fifth the cost of a jail bed.

Mirkarimi is doing a much better job as sheriff than an unprincipled, vindictive City Hall.

He's already helped reduce excessive phone call rates for inmates and their families.

My analysis of the attempt to destroy Mirkarimi.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fresno County rejects high-speed rail project

From the Fresno Bee today:

Fresno County supervisors vote to oppose high-speed rail

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday reversed its position on California's proposed high-speed rail program, voting 3-2 to oppose the project.

Supervisors Andreas Borgeas, Debbie Poochigian and Phil Larson supported Poochigian's motion to oppose California's bullet-train plans. Supervisors Judy Case McNairy and Henry R. Perea voted against the motion.

The action rescinds and revokes the county's earlier votes to support high-speed rail, and also advocates that the state Legislature place the issue back on a ballot.

The board also voted along the same 3-2 lines to support Borgeas' motion to file an amicus brief in the Kings County lawsuit against high-speed rail.

Kathy Hamilton has more details on today's vote.

More from Cal

Read more here:


Homelessness in San Francisco: Ten years later

Good two-part, front-page series on homelessness in the SF Chronicle last month, though the head on the hard-copy edition---"Why S.F.'s plan to end homelessness failed"---doesn't do justice to either the issue itself or the contents of the article (The head on the online version is a lot better: "A decade of homelessness: Thousands in S.F. remain in crisis").

In the first part, Heather Knight makes a big deal out of Gavin Newsom's wildly unrealistic promises about ending homelessness. (Recall that Newsom was also disappointed that as mayor he couldn't do much to end gun violence.)

A decade and roughly $1.5 billion later, the city has succeeded in moving 19,500 homeless people off its streets, roughly equivalent to relocating the entire Castro district. But despite that major effort, the homeless population hasn’t budged, showing that as one homeless person is helped, another takes his place.

Exactly. San Francisco isn't a city-state surrounded by walls or a moat. San Francisco is a destination not just for upscale tourists. The down-and-out and the marginal also head this way. This is not news (see this and this). Homelessness is a national problem. Mayor Lee understands that:

He[Mayor Lee] said San Francisco’s homeless problem would be far worse post recession if his administration had not been focused on it. He said the most recent homeless count’s findings that 39 percent were homeless somewhere else before coming to San Francisco points to the fact that the city attracts those seeking new opportunities---from the wealthiest tech titans to those most down on their luck.

Newsom is older and wiser now:

“There’s a mythology that you can---quote unquote---end homelessness at any moment, but there are new people coming in, suffering through the cycles of their lives,” he said. “It’s the manifestation of complete, abject failure as a society. We’ll never solve this at City Hall.”

Later in the story, Knight acknowledges that the city has had some success:

In some ways, the plan worked. In the past 10 years, 11,362 homeless single adults have been housed. An additional 8,086 people have been sent home to a willing friend or family member through the Homeward Bound program, which pays for bus tickets out of San Francisco and back to their hometowns.

Another sign of progress is that homeless deaths are down significantly from ten years ago.

Good too to see Knight acknowledging the important role that the Bush Administration and Philip Mangano played in encouraging the supportive housing approach to homelessness. Mangano was President Bush's point man on homelessness. Malcolm Gladwell featured his effort in an essay in The Tipping Point, which is a good introduction to the theory and practice of supportive housing and homelessness. Mangano was at City Hall in 2004, with Mayor Newsom and Angela Alioto, when the Ten Year Plan was introduced (I was there, too, and I was able to get a hard copy of the Plan.)

Gladwell followed that up with Million Dollar Murray a few years later.

The reality is that all this city---or any major American city---can do is continue to cope with the homeless problem with practical, humane programs.

My favorite and the most cost-effective: Homeward Bound, which gives a homeless person a Greyhound ticket back to whence he/she came. Of course Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness, sneers at this program. San Francisco is apparently required to provide housing for everyone who becomes homeless in the city.

Alas, the rest of the homeless population is more difficult and expensive to deal with.

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Israel could do more to help moderates

Good piece on Israel/Gaza in the Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg:

I don’t know if the majority of Palestinians would ultimately agree to a two-state solution. But I do know that Israel, while combating the extremists, could do a great deal more to buttress the moderates. This would mean, in practical terms, working as hard as possible to build wealth and hope on the West Bank. A moderate-minded Palestinian who watches Israel expand its settlements on lands that most of the world believes should fall within the borders of a future Palestinian state might legitimately come to doubt Israel’s intentions. Reversing the settlement project, and moving the West Bank toward eventual independence, would not only give Palestinians hope, but it would convince Israel’s sometimes-ambivalent friends that it truly seeks peace, and that it treats extremists differently than it treats moderates. And yes, I know that in the chaos of the Middle East, which is currently a vast swamp of extremism, the thought of a West Bank susceptible to the predations of Islamist extremists is a frightening one. But independence—in particular security independence—can be negotiated in stages. The Palestinians must go free, because there is no other way...Of course, the Israeli government's primary job at the moment is to keep its citizens from being killed or kidnapped by Hamas. But it should work to find an enduring solution to the problem posed by Muslim extremism. Part of that fix is military, but another part isn't...

Thanks to Harry's Place


Monday, July 28, 2014

Oppose Mayor Lee's $500 million bond

MTA inspectors, photo by SF Citizen

What does the ballot measure do?

Raises property taxes and rents (50% pass-through) to pay for General Obligation Bonds of $500 million, with $350 million in interest payments, for a total debt load of $850 million

Funds “may be allocated” for transit and roads---carte blanche authority for unspecific projects. 

If the bond is rejected by voters, property taxes and rents would be reduced for everyone, not just for rich companies and the wealthy. 

To read the Ordinance’s legal language is to oppose the Bond Measure

The Ordinance’s legal language makes no definitive commitment to any specific work: “Projects to be funded under the proposed Bond may include but are not limited to the following...” 

For eight project types, all begin with “A portion of the Bond may be allocated to…” 

In financial decisions, never sign a contract when the terms and deliverables are ambiguous. 

Throwing billions of dollars at bad Muni projects hasn’t worked 

Since 2006, Muni has cut service in every neighborhood, decreased annual vehicle revenue miles/hours, eliminated 6 bus lines, shortened 22 routes, deferred maintenance, increased missed runs/switchbacks/late buses, increased fares/fees/fines/meters (1,549,518 parking citations annually)

Large project cost overruns have cut funds for infrastructure and maintenance. The Central Subway alone has taken $595 million in state and local funds. Huge subway cost overruns loom ahead, unveiled by the Central Subway’s cost engineer, whose whistle-blower’s complaint alleges a cooking of the books. 

Bond Does Not Restore Muni Service Cuts

Muni has cut neighborhood transit, cross-town routes, night service and route frequency, hurting the low-income, families, disabled, youth and seniors. Eliminated bus lines will not be restored: lines 4, 7, 15, 20, 26, 34, 89. Shortened bus routes will not be restored: lines 1, 2, 10, 12, 16X, 18, 21, 29, 36, 38, 42, 48, 53, 67, 88, 91, 108. Muni has been an integrated citywide transit system, interconnecting outlying neighborhoods. By cutting neighborhood transit, driving is encouraged and then penalized by more fees/fines/parking elimination. 

Learning From the Past: SFMTA’s Poor Spending Habits 

In 1999, Prop E [page 80 of the Voter Information Pamphlet] created the SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) with more powers, more General Fund dollars and a 85% on-time performance mandate. Instead, Muni falsified on-time performance data and paid bonuses to its Director.

In 2003, Prop K [page 143 of the Voter Information Pamphlet] extended the transportation sales tax and provided a list of projects. The Central Subway’s listed cost of $647 million escalated to $1.578 billion. The citywide Transit-Preferential Streets Program and Bus Rapid Network were never implemented. 

In 2007 Prop A [page 35 of the Voter Information Pamphlet] gave SFMTA more funding authority, revenue-bond-authority and even more General Fund dollars. Instead, work orders sent the new funds to other city departments. 

In 2011 voters approved Prop B, [page 46 of the Voter Information Pamphlet] a Road Repaving Bond of $248 million, with $181 million in interest payments, for a total debt load of $429 million. Debt isn’t efficient for maintenance. 

SFMTA’s budget grew by hundreds of millions of dollars to $978 million. Number of employees grew by thousands to 4,921. Salaries have soared. And riders get service cuts. 

Mayor’s Transportation Task Force (TTF) and Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP)

This proposed Bond, a second Bond, future fees and taxes will not meet objectives. Only 49% of the TTF”s recommended funding goes to Muni. TTF’s proposed $2.955 billion does not remotely solve Muni’s $25 billion in 20-Year Capital Plan Need. The proposed TEP continues transit cuts to neighborhoods, shifting service to rapid corridors. Better planning is needed for a citywide integrated Muni system. Oppose this Bond Measure.

CONTACT: Howard Wong, AIA,

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16 homeless deaths last year

According to the Homeless Death Forms from the Department of Public Health, only 16 homeless people died in San Francisco last year, continuing a long trend of fewer homeless dying in San Francisco. Ten years ago 100 homeless deaths a year was common:

Name: Susan Hampton
Date of Death: 11/12/12
Place of Death: 22nd Street and Guerrero
Circumstances of Death:
Birthdate: 09/01/63
Sex: Female
Race/Ethnicity: White

Name: Robin Freddie
Date of Death: 02/13/13
Place of Death: 670 Eddy Street
Circumstances of Death: Drug Related
Birthdate: 04/27/59
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White

Name: David Thomas
Date of Death: 3/10/13
Place of Death: Montgomery St. Station
Circumstances of Death: Trauma Case
Birthdate: 7/19/70
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Black

Name: John Doe
Date of Death: 4/15/13
Place of Death: IFO 1572 California
Circumstances of Death: App. Natural
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White

Name: Paul Chrzanowski
Date of Death: 4/19/13
Place of Death: Friend's Residence
Circumstances of Death: App. 801 GSW
Birthdate: 5/29/74
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White

Name: Robert Worsley
Date of Death: 5/08/13
Place of Death: SFGH
Circumstances of Death: Fall, Bart Station
Birthdate: 11/11/49
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White

Name: Robert Gartner
Date of Death: 6/25/13
Place of Death: Newhall @ Fairfax
Circumstances of Death:
Birthdate: 5/11/46
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White

Name: Stephon Thomason
Date of Death: 8/25/13
Place of Death: 166 Turk Street
Circumstances of Death: App. Drug Related
Birthdate: 3/29/73
Sex: Female
Race/Ethnicity: White

Name: Robert Montoya
Date of Death: 8/10/13
Place of Death: SFGH
Circumstances of Death: Drug Involvement
Birthdate: 11/13/56
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White Hispanic

Name: John Doe
Date of Death: 9/15/13
Place of Death: Ocean Beach, Near Great Hwy
Circumstances of Death: Bones found
Birthdate: Unknown
Sex: Unknown
Race/Ethnicity: Unknown

Name: John Doe
Date of Death: 11/09/13
Place of Death: Bay Waters, Near McCovey Cove
Circumstances of Death: Floater
Birthdate: Unknown
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White Hispanic

Name: Maynor Perez
Date of Death: 11/18/13
Place of Death: Construction Site...
Circumstances of Death: Unknown
Birthdate: 2/17/79
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White Hispanic

Name: Sherrilyn Harris
Date of Death: 11/19/13
Place of Death: SFGH
Circumstances of Death: Poss. 187 Assault
Birthdate: 8/30/56
Sex: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Black

Name: Eric Clay
Date of Death: 11/22/13
Place of Death: 161 6th Street #306
Circumstances of Death: Unknown
Birthdate: 7/19/73
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White

Name: Luis Martinez
Date of Death: 11/23/13
Place of Death: SFGH
Circumstances of Death: Unknown, 24th & Bryant
Birthdate: 12/13/70
Sex: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White Hispanic

Name: Donna Williams
Date of Death: 11/26/13
Place of Death: St. Francis
Circumstances of Death:
Birthdate: 8/28/52
Sex: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Black


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Remembering Khaybar

From Answering Muslims

Thanks to Jihad Watch

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fresno County reconsiders high-speed rail

You can skip the preliminaries and hear Michael Brady's remarks before the Fresno County Board of Supervisors starting at 7:25 on the video.

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors will vote on the issue next Tuesday. 

Kathy Hamilton examines the phony jobs claims by the state. State unions support the project because dumb projects create jobs, which is all they care about.

See the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail on jobs and other myths about the project.

See also Cal Watchdog. com: Speed promises for bullet train? CA says ‘never mind’ 

The court of appeal upheld the Pacheco Pass route, but more important litigation against the boondoggle is ongoing.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Susan King, the Bicycle Plan injunction, and PTSD

The Injunction we got against the city's Bicycle Plan way back in 2006 was traumatic for the city's bike people, followed by Judge Busch's decision later that year that ordered the city to do an environmental review of the 500-page Plan, keeping the injunction in place while that was done. You still see references to these decisions whenever a bike writer tries to recap events of the last ten years.

The latest reference is in this week's Bay Guardian puff-piece on Susan King (King of the commons):

At the time[of the first Sunday Streets] when city officials and nonprofit activists with the Mode Shift Working Group were talking about doing a ciclovia, King was worried that it would get caught up in the "bike-lash" against cyclists at a time when a lawsuit halted work on all bike projects in the city. "I thought that would never fly," King said. "We started Sunday Streets at the height of the anti-bike hysteria."

It would be fair to call this a lie, since there was no "anti-bike hysteria" at all, but I suspect that King actually remembers the injunction as a traumatic event.

All the hysteria was directed at this blog, since I was a party to the litigation and spokesman for the group: Pro-bike commenters called me, among other things, "a fucking simpleton," "completely stupid," "just dumb," a "lame-brain," a "magnificent jerk," a "piece of trash," a "scumbag," a "cynical dickhead," "pathetic," and a "very very small person." Bike guy Matt Smith of the SF Weekly came unglued after the injunction, calling us "mean," "spiteful," "cyclist haters," and "bike haters."

Leah Shahum called us obstructionists who were "perverting" environmental law with our litigation, though she clearly didn't know what she was talking about. The Bay Guardian called me "a lone antibike nut."

My favorite comment: "reading your shit just kind of makes me sick." My ideal reader!

King talks about the first Sunday Streets:

Immediately, even before the first event, King and Sunday Streets ran into political opposition from the Fisherman's Wharf Merchants Association, which was concerned that closing streets to cars would hurt business, and progressive members of the Board of Supervisors who were looking to tweak then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose office helped start the event.

Business owners on Fisherman's Wharf were alarmed because the first they heard about closing streets in their neighborhood was a story in the Chronicle. Like the business owners on Polk Street, Ocean Avenue, 17th Street, and Market Street, they apparently didn't understand that the bike people know their interests better than they do.

Like the Chronicle and the Examiner, the Guardian gets the inevitable soundbite from the head lobbyist for that special interest group, the Bicycle Coalition:

As a bike event, the cycling community has lent strong support to Sunday Streets, with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition strongly promoting it along the way. "The success of Sunday Streets has been a game changer in showcasing how street space can be used so gloriously for purposes other than just moving and storing automobiles. At every Sunday Streets happening we are reminded that streets are for people too," SFBC Director Leah Shahum told us.

In Shahum's worldview, people who drive motor vehicles won't be fully human until they start riding bicycles. Using city streets for, well, traffic is seen as a poor use of that space. And according to official anti-car terminology, parking is now called "automobile storage," motor vehicles are "Death Monsters," and busy city streets are "traffic sewers."

Like the Bicycle Coalition, Susan King opposed the parking garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park.

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The case for Israel

This guy is a Tea Party right-winger whose politics I don't share. But he's essentially right about Israel, while the left is either silent or joining Islamists in demonstrations against Israel.

From the Daily Beast (Europe’s Jews Punished for Israel’s War):

Since the beginning of the current war between Israel and Hamas, eight synagogues in France have been attacked. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked for Jews to apologize for the actions of the Jewish state. In Germany, a prominent Muslim imam gave a sermon asking Allah to kill all of the “Zionist Jews.” The atmosphere in Europe since the beginning of the war has been so toxic that the foreign ministers of France, Italy, and Germany on Tuesday issued a rare joint statement condemning anti-Semitism at pro-Palestinian demonstrations...

More anti-semitism in Europe here. Thanks to Harry's Place for the link.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Portland gets ready for the Big One---with bikes!

The Antiplanner comments:

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the people with automobiles got out, and the people dependent on transit didn’t. This wasn’t because the city lacked a plan in case of a disaster. It had a great plan, but nobody bothered to implement it. After New York, New Orleans had the second-lowest rate of auto ownership of any major city in the country. When the disaster took place, there were Portlandia-like planners who bemoaned the fact that New Orleans was too auto dependent: if only more people there relied on transit, they would have gotten out. This, of course, was exactly backwards. Portland cyclists can have their fun fantasizing that they will come to the rescue in case of natural disaster. The city, however, is living dangerously when it thinks it can plan away the need for motor vehicles.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How safe are city streets?

Along with under-reporting cycling accidents, apparently the city has also been under-reporting pedestrian injury accidents for the same reason: not counting all those accidents treated at San Francisco General. From a 2005 study (San Francisco pedestrian injury surveillance: mapping, under-reporting, and injury severity in police and hospital records):

We found that police collision reports underestimated the number of injured pedestrians by 21% (531/2442). Pedestrians treated at SFGH who were African-American were less likely then[sic] whites, and females were more likely than males to have a police collision report...

City Hall was in such a big hurry to rush the 500-page Bicycle Plan illegally through the process it failed to take seriously an important recommendation in the Framework Document, which the Board of Supervisors voted to make part of the General Plan (It tried to hide the second volume of the Plan, the Network Document, at the SFCTA):

For the last several years, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has been working on an injury data linkage project using hospital admission data. Currently, San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) is not obligated to report bicycle injuries to the SFPD. This is left up to the injured parties. EMS (ambulance services)is supposed to report bicycle injuries, but many are not reported. Comparing police collision reports with SFGH emergency room visits or hospital admissions shows that approximately 20 percent of pedestrian injuries (caused by a collision with a motor vehicle) did not show up in police collision reports in 2000 and 2001. The rate for bicycle injuries is probably similarly under-reported (page 6-12, SF Bike Plan: Policy Framework, September 2004).

The city knew in 2004 that it had a problem counting both cycling and pedestrian accidents. Evidently the "injury data linkage project" was not completed or implemented.

That answers more completely the question I asked last year: What did City Hall know, and when did it know it?

But we still don't know why or how this failure happened. Maybe when the MTA releases its long-overdue Collisions Report there will be an explanation.

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Honor Diaries: The Movie

More at Honor Diaries.

Thanks to Harry's Place.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Picture of the day

James Garner with Dihann Carroll at March on Washington

Thanks to The Dish.


Noam Chomsky: Obama is like a "Nazi general"

Noam Chomsky

To the radical left, the United States is the bad guy. On Alternet Noam Chomsky, after making some good points about Orwell and a free press, compares President Obama to a Nazi general:

There's actually an interesting essay by---Orwell, which is not very well known because it wasn't published. It's the introduction to Animal Farm. In the introduction, he addresses himself to the people of England and he says, you shouldn't feel too self-righteous reading this satire of the totalitarian enemy, because in free England ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. And he doesn't say much about it. He actually has two sentences. He says one reason is the press "is owned by wealthy men" who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed.

But the second reason, and the more important one in my view, is a good education, so that if you've gone to all the good schools, you know, Oxford, Cambridge, and so on, you have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things it wouldn't do to say---and I don't think he went far enough: wouldn't do to think. And that's very broad among the educated classes. That's why overwhelmingly they tend to support state power and state violence, and maybe with some qualifications, like, say, Obama is regarded as a critic of the invasion of Iraq. Why? Because he thought it was a strategic blunder. That puts him on the same moral level as some Nazi general who thought that the second front was a strategic blunder---you should knock off England first. That's called criticism [emphasis added].

Obama made his opposition to invading Iraq clear over the years. This speech from way back in 2002 is typical. Once he became president, he presided over our withdrawal from Iraq. How that makes him anything like a Nazi general is hard to figure.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

"The bike lobby is running transportation policy in San Francisco"

Steven T. Jones on Facebook

Good to see Steve Jones, editor of the Bay Guardian, using the city's annual Transportation Fact Sheet as the basis for his latest anti-initiative screed (Motorists fight back). 

But his use of the numbers is selective, like 385,442 as the number of "cars registered in SF." That's technically correct, but deceptive, since that doesn't include the number of trucks (56,694) and motorcycles/motorbikes (21,697), for a total of 463,923 motor vehicles registered in the city (page 2). (I always subtract the number of registered trailers from the total.) Since that's a California Department of Motor Vehicles number, it doesn't include vehicles registered in other counties or states.

(Actually, the numbers in the Transportation Fact Sheet are already out of date, since the Department of Motor Vehicles always releases the numbers several months after the city releases its Fact Sheet, which means the above numbers are actually 2012 numbers. The latest numbers: 397,238 cars, 57,466 trucks, and 22,610 motorcycles, for a total of 477,314 motor vehicles registered in San Francisco as of December, 2013).  

Using the car/autos number by itself without trucks and motorcycles of course downplays both the number of motor vehicles overall in the city and their dominant role in our transportation system as compared to Jones's preferred transportation "mode," which is bicycles.

Jones doesn't include in the sidebar some numbers on bicycles: On page 3 of the Fact Sheet, we learn that 2.1% of city commuters in 2000 commuted by bicycle, and in 2012 that percentage was only 3.6%, not an impressive increase after more than ten years of anti-car, pro-bike propaganda from City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition.

Jones's sidebar includes $88,889,809 "annual parking ticket revenue," as if that represents what the city makes from preying on everyone who drives in the city. But that's only part of the total, since the city also made $53,856,001 from its parking meters; $85 million from its 20 parking lots; and $10,248,044 from its residential parking permits, for a total of $237,993,854.

But even that's not all: The Controller's office says that the city also got $2,799,155 from tickets from what the MTA calls "Red Light Cameras" at 25 city intersections; $2,695,930 from other moving violations; $3,055,028 in gas taxes; and $805,223 from vehicle license fees, which brings the total amount the city gets from motorists $247,349,190.

Jones goes to the usual unreliable, anti-car sources for some soundbites: Tom Radulovich, Leah Shahum, and Gabriel Metcalf. Radulovich: "There are certain people who believe in the welfare state, but only for cars and not for humans," as if people don't drive those cars---and rely on them in their daily lives to get to work, to shop, to get their children to school and to after-school activities.

Jones refers to Vision Zero and safety on city streets, but the Guardian still hasn't even mentioned that UC study that found that the city has a radically flawed method of counting cycling accidents, relying on police reports and not counting a lot of accidents treated at SF General Hospital. You would think folks who claim to be concerned about the safety of city streets would take an interest in that report. The question is, If the city is under-counting cycling accidents, is it also under-counting motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents?

Why are the anti-car folks, the Guardian, the Bicycle Coalition, Walk SF---even the SF Chronicle and the SF Examiner---all ignoring the UC study? The answer: by showing that riding a bike in the city is a lot more dangerous than anyone thought, the study undermines the big push to get people---even children---to ride bikes in San Francisco, making it harder to justify redesigning city streets---taking away traffic lanes and parking spaces on busy city streets---on behalf of a small minority of cyclists.(The New York Times saw fit to do a story on the study, but not a single paper in the city has even mentioned it!)

Jones talked to David Looman, one of the proponents of the Restoring Transportation Balance initiative, who succinctly sums up the reality: "The bike lobby is running transportation policy in San Francisco." 

The initiative wants to put a stop to that.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Limo buses and culture clashes

Photo: Defend the Bay Area

A letter in the July 21 edition of the New Yorker in response to a story about San Francisco, California Screaming, in a previous issue:

The squabbling about limo buses and culture clash misses the point about the civic irresponsibility of Silicon Valley business interests. Advocating intensive building to increase density in San Francisco will do nothing for Bay Area housing affordability. All this does is make developers rich. As soon as a unit in San Francisco becomes available, its price becomes exorbitant. The Bay Area has plenty of land for residential development: it’s in the South Bay. If the tech giants really cared, they would sponsor—or strong-arm—residential development near their sprawling, ever-growing campuses instead of busing their employees in from San Francisco. The assumption that San Francisco must adapt to being a bedroom community for Silicon Valley is erroneous. Better regional planning is necessary. New housing should not be the burden of San Francisco alone.

Adele Framer
San Francisco

Earlier posts on the Google bus issue here and here.

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Elizabeth Warren: "We can’t win what we won’t fight for"

AP photo

Elizabeth Warren's speech to Netroots Nation, transcribed by Alternet:

A lot of us in this room have a lot of history. Five years ago, I was fighting hard for a new consumer agency to keep the big banks from [over]charging families on mortgages and credit cards. I went to see a lot of experts in Washington. I went to try to talk to people about the idea for this agency. The economy had crashed. Here was one way that we could fix things so it wouldn’t happen again. This is one way to level the playing field a little bit for families.

So I went and talked to these experts—and a lot of people on our side—and they almost all told me the same two things. The first thing they said was, “Great idea. This could actually make a real difference in people’s lives. The second thing they said was, “Don’t do it. Don’t even get out there and fight for it. Don’t do it because the biggest banks in this country will hate it and you will lose.” Well, the experts got that half-right. No surprise, the big banks really did hate it. They spent—are you ready for this—in addition to all their campaign contributions and everything else—they spent more than a million dollars a day for more than a year, lobbying against financial reforms. They really put their money where their mouth is on this one.

But the experts were also very wrong. We fought back and we won. We won—and that’s what I want to talk about today. We won because you and a zillion other people across this country got in the fight. We won because you got out there. Your broke news. You wrote opinion pieces. You organized petitions. You built coalitions. You kept that idea alive. You called out sleazy lobbyists and cowardly politicians. You said we—we the people—will have this agency and you are the ones who won. You won this fight.

And you know, it matters. These fights really do matter. That agency is almost three years old now and it has already forced the biggest financial institutions in this country to return more than $4 billion to consumers they cheated. But never miss the central point of this story. The CFPP is proof of how democracy can work in the 21stcentury. It is proof that if we push back against the biggest, strongest, most ruthless lobbying effort in the country; that if we push back hard that we can win. We fight, we win...


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hoodline gets Masonic Avenue all wrong

Garish "art" planned for Masonic Avenue

Hayeswire, Uppercasing, and the Haighteration blogs weren't known for useful or interesting posts on local issues. When Haighteration posted about The Wiggle, the comments were always a lot more interesting than the post itself. (Hayeswire gets retroactive points for not dumping D5 Diary off its blogroll, which Haighteration and Uppercasing did.)

Now the three sites have merged into one, Hoodline.

With its recent post on Masonic Avenue (Checking in on Masonic's Big Makeover), Hoodline continues the tradition of being clueless:

Remember last year, when Masonic Avenue was all over the news? Online surveys were promoted, bike lobbyists were rallying, and it seemed as if—finally—something was going to happen. Thanks to the hard work of the SF Bike Coalition, the SFMTA and the city, plans and funding were approved. And then? Silence. The plans are still happening, just not until 2015. While we're waiting for the jackhammers and bike lane-stripers to fire up, let's review some of what's coming our way to improve Masonic Avenue in the near future.

This could have been written by the Bicycle Coalition or the MTA. Yes, a lot of "hard work"---a years-long campaign of lies, actually---by the Bicycle Coalition and their PC enablers in City Hall to "improve" Masonic. I've done more than a dozen posts on Masonic since the last Hoodline post on the subject, including messages from and about Ed Reiskin (see this and this). There was also a website, Save Masonic, created by opponents of the Masonic bike project---mentioned later in the post---with a petition signed by 1,300 people opposing the project. Not exactly "silence" on the issue in the last year.

Bike Lanes. This was arguably the most controversial proposal for Masonic. In the past five years, 26 cyclists were reported to have been injured riding on Masonic, and one was killed. A little over a year ago, the SFMTA approved plans for San Francisco's first elevated bike lane, offering a slightly buffered level of protection separating bikes and cars and giving cyclists a space safe from car doors and buses.

Bike lanes were "the most controversial" part of the proposal? Protected bike lanes is what the project is all about. The rest is window dressing to tart up what's essentially just a bike project. The link provided for the fatality from San Francisco Appeal doesn't mention that the death was caused by a drunk driver, surely a deliberate bit of deception by Hoodline, since that accident had nothing to do with the alleged flaws in Masonic.

And no citation is provided for the 26 cycling accidents. The city's study of Masonic, the Masonic Avenue Redesign Study, says there were 19 cycling accidents in a six-year period, though there was no analysis of the accidents or who was responsible for them. Like they did to justify the Polk Street bike project, the MTA probably provided supporters of the project some numbers that don't appear in their published reports.

According to the SF Bike Coalition 12 pedestrians were hit on Masonic in the past five years, and one was killed. Designing safer intersections will be crucial in making Masonic a more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly street, and plans include timed lights, left turn lights, and "crosswalks that are pedestrian friendly and safe."

More numbers that don't appear in the city's study of Masonic and a link to an account of a woman who was killed jaywalking in front of Trader Joes on a part of Masonic that isn't part of the project area. Does Hoodlines know that? Not always easy to say whether these folks are lying or just dumb.

Along with tactical infrastructure changes to Masonic, there are also artistic efforts at play. The San Francisco Arts Commission and the Department of Public Works are banding together to review proposals for a new plaza at Masonic and Geary. Three proposed projects were on display at the San Francisco Day School this summer, and included suggestions such as a 64' long sculpture, pattered[patterned?] mosaic stairs, and a creative take on signposts.

Right. Everyone has to get into the act. Ever wonder what happens to all the people who major in art in college? Stuff like this---like the "art" the city put on the median when the new and awful Octavia Blvd. opened up to traffic ten years ago.

From the link above: 

The project is a dense gestural weave of multicolored sheet metal ribbons commencing along the Geary edge of the triangular public parklet and veering up the Masonic side of the triangle in a sweep that builds in momentum and height as it unfurls at its peak, pointing the way down Masonic towards the rest of the Masonic Avenue Streetscape...

Here's a gesture for you, pal! Even the description makes it sound awful, and sure enough it looks annoyingly gaudy in the pictures. 

Insult to injury: the city is not only going to screw up traffic on Masonic Avenue---the busiest north/south street this side of Park Presidio---but we're also going to be subjected to this pretentious twaddle. The city charter should allow the public to vote on this sort of thing before it's put in place, since we're going to have to look at it for years.

Proposed changes to Masonic didn't come about without a large vocal response from residents. For months, Masonic was plastered with signs listing the attributes and downsides of Masonic improvements. A website called Save Masonic was even set up to formalize opposition to the street's upgrade. Some of the biggest arguments raised were the loss of 167 street parking spaces, congestion during the 18-month construction period, and having to park further away from locals' residences.

The loss of all that parking---all the street parking between Fell Street and Geary Blvd.---is mentioned as almost an afterthought, though everyone who lives in this part of town knows that street parking around here is already very tight.

Not many cyclists use Masonic now. How many will use it after this project is implemented? The city has no idea. Nevertheless, the city is going to deliberately screw up traffic on this busy city street---more than 32,000 vehicles use it every day---and take away scarce street parking for a small, often obnoxious minority of cyclists. What could go wrong with that?

However, it's hard to argue with safety, and residents' opposition did not in the end stop the project's progress. As London Breed stated, "To make the corridor safe is really paramount to any other issue. Masonic is clearly a dangerous, almost freeway-like corridor in the middle of our community.”

Supervisor Breed is full of shit on Masonic like she is on almost everything else. She's the worst supervisor District 5 has had since, well, Ross Mirkarimi.

My more detailed deconstruction of the Big Lie about Masonic Avenue.

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