Sunday, January 30, 2005

Market and Octavia Plan: template and terminator

In case anyone thinks I'm exaggerating, here's chapter and verse from The Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan to show that it's a plan that, if adopted as part of the General Plan, will not only destroy targeted neighborhoods in the city but the city itself as we know it. On page 40 in Chapter Two, which is entitled "Housing People," (as opposed to what, housing animals?) the plan tells us what the Planning Dept., under the leadership of a progressive board of supervisors, has in store for the Market/Octavia neighborhood and, eventually, the whole city. Under current zoning, what Planning calls a "full build out" of the area's physical capacity would mean 11,439 new housing units in the neighborhood. Think that's a scary number? Under the new, improved Market Octavia Plan's zoning rules, the full build out would be 22,582 new housing units for that one unfortunate neighborhood! Okay, even the we-need-housing zealots in Planning think the actual number of units built in the neighborhood will probably be considerably less than the last figure:

In terms of the area's physical capacity for new development, there will be potential for 7,500 to 13,000 new housing units under the controls proposed by this plan---an increase of 20 to 45 percent over the potential under the existing zoning. These figures do not reflect the number of units likely to be produced, however. That figure is a product of what share of the city's overall housing growth can be expected to take place in the Market and Octavia neighborhood. Over the next 20 years, the Market and Octavia neighborhood's share of the city's housing growth is expected to be up to 4,500 to 5,300 units (Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan: Draft for Public Review, page 40).

4000-5000 new housing units in that neighborhood will, of course, make it a completely different place. And recall that there are already thousands of housing units on the drawing board right now for the old freeway parcels on Octavia Blvd.

The notion of each city neigborhood having a "share of the city's overall housing growth" is an interesting one. If a projection has been made for the Market/Octavia neighborhood, presumably it has been made for other city neighborhoods. If so, will they tell us exactly what is expected of all the city's other neighborhoods? Don't hold your breath. And sometimes getting documents from Planning is like pulling teeth.

Keep in mind, too, that the Planning Dept. seems to think San Francisco has an obligation to address not only our own perceived housing shortages, but also regional housing shortages (on page 5 of "A Policy Guide to Considering Reuse of the University of California Berkeley Extension Laguna Street Campus," Dec. 2004).

Now that developers are in an unholy alliance with city progressives (that's why Joe O'Donoghue supported Matt Gonzalez against Gavin Newsom), this political juggernaut is planning to "improve" city neighborhoods---especially neighborhoods unfortunate enough to be near "transit corridors"---by in effect destroying them with housing overdevelopment. Some, like Supervisor Mirkarimi, seem to think the grotesque UC plan to put 424 new housing units on the old UC Extension site is an aberration, as opposed to the allegedly "visionary" Octavia Blvd "template" so lovingly depicted in architectural drawings and by John King in the SF Chronicle. But it's important to understand that the UC plan is a logical extension of the principles in the Market/Octavia Plan, which essentially involve waiving height, density, and parking space limitations for housing developers.

You can be sure that those who draw up UC's imperial plans to steamroll neighborhoods and whole communities (see UC's current plans for Berkeley) knew very well what the city's Planning Dept. would allow---would even facilitate---on the UC extension parcel, and they tailored their greedy trip accordingly. The sky's now the limit for housing developers in SF! (Almost literally true in the case of the 35- and 40-story Rincon Towers project). It's now fashionable for progressives to give a green light to projects that previously wouldn't have been seriously considered, because---all together one more time---"We Need Housing," and our neighborhoods must, inexplicably, be sacrificed to achieve this end.

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Fees Not Cars 2

From Bruce Wolfe:

It's a two-way street Rob and your presumptions and suppostions are as condescending as were your comments on the campaign trail. So, let's keep it real. My sarcasm is my frustration with people who think they can poke holes into issues that are far more complicated than they think.

Yes, indeed, Bruce, let's "keep it real," as you are fond of saying. These three sentences are representative of your approach to political discussion/debate. There's nothing specific here at all. You refer to my "comments on the campaign trail." What specifically do you have in mind? And why didn't you say something during the campaign? Hard for me to raise my consciousness if you won't help me with your input. Which issues "are far more complicated" than people think? What's "real" in debate about public policy are the specifics of an issue, which you seem to have a problem with.

The MLK Drive widening is not a result of the lawsuits. That was the plan way back to Willie Brown when the 10th Avenue residents complained that only one entrance would affect their property values...

This is simply untrue. If you read Judge Warren's decision, which methodically goes through the causes of action raised by Lippe and Volker, if unchallenged in court the Concourse Authority was going ahead with an inside-the-park entrance to the garage near the southwestern edge of the Concourse. The judge rejected every claim advanced by Lippe/Volker, except that inside-the-park entrance to the garage. He ordered the Authority to come up with a entrance that begins outside the park. This shouldn't even be controversial, Bruce; it's a matter of fact and was even accurately reported last year in the news stories about Warren's decision.

If you attend the Concourse Authority meetings and other hearings you will hear them say even defend that this has always been in the works and no one should be surprised about it. I am referring to as recent as the November 16 Special meeting.

I was at the November 16 meeting, and I heard no such thing. I heard that the Authority was responding to Judge Warren's order to come back to him after designing a "dedicated" entrance to the garage that begins outside the park. That's what that meeting was about and nothing else.

If you read my post carefully, the widening of MLK Drive is not a dedicated access route. The building of a new underground entrance/exit ramp on 10th Avenue is..."Dedicated" is where it had no effect on what is existing.

Where do you get your definition of "dedicated"? The planned widening of MLK will have lanes "dedicated" to entering and exiting the garage. Hence, it will probably meet the judge's requirements. The idea of digging an underground tunnel to access the garage from Tenth Ave. would have done extensive damage to the park and was rightly rejected by the Authority. Neither Prop. J nor Judge Warren's decision specified that the outside-the-park entrance to the garage had to be a tunnel, which is what you are implying.

The widening of MLK Drive will have drastic effects on everything existing around it as far as Districts 7 and 4 no less the immediate vicinity of 5.

Where's your evidence for this assertion? Maybe you're right, but you aren't going to convince me or anyone else if you don't provide any evidence.

Rob, no one has lost anything yet. The project is moving ahead at its peril as Judge Warren warned...Why hasn't he made a decision sooner? Is it because there is an appeal on file that has some merit? Obviously, the Judge knows this and wants to wait for their opinion.

Of course the judge has to evaluate the Lippe/Volker appeal, even if it has no merit. That's how the legal system works. There has been no indication yet as to what he thinks of the merit of the appeal. Roberts and Duderstadt did indeed lose last year in their attempt to stop the garage altogether. You need to read Judge Warren's Statement of Decision of August 10, 2004, to see that the anti-garage movement lost on everything but the inside-the-park entrance issue.

On the bond and servicing the bond: As I indicated earlier, Judge Warren has a lucid discussion of the financing of the garage in his decision, and he found that no public money has been involved thus far. The garage is being constructed without public money, and the bond will be financed by money from parking fees as it operates. The notion that not enough people will use the garage, given the past difficulties finding parking in and around the Concourse, seems like a perverse form of wishful thinking on the part of the opponents to the garage.

The City Charter says that ONLY the voters can sell or lease park land. Prop. J did not override this...

According to Judge Warren---whose opinion is more important than yours or mine---Prop. J did exactly that. The voters passed Prop. J in 1998, which created the Concourse Authority to get the Concourse remodeled and to build the garage. You keep citing Prop. J as the basis for your opinions, but, again, you don't cite specific passages in the measure. Could you be more specific here? The Concourse Authority clearly had the authority to make an agreement with MCCP to build and operate the garage, as Judge Warren pointed out in his decision.

Again, the public was sold the idea that there would be no above ground traffic as there was. That a Pedestrian Oasis would be created. That is what was sold to the voters. That is why I voted for it.

Prop.J clearly states that the Pedestrian Oasis refers to the Concourse itself, and, since 200 parking spaces will be removed from the Concourse when the project is completed, it will indeed be a much more pedestrian-friendly place than it was before the garage. And another 600 surface parking spaces will be removed from park roads to match those created in the garage. Taking cars off the park's surface roads by constructing the garage seems to everyone but garage opponents like a step in the right direction.

You are gonna get a brand new parking garage dedicated to the museums with an entrance that is quite capable of handling the traffic flow. There is no need for another entrance.

Other single-entrance garages in the city---like those at Union Square and the Civic Center---are not located in residential areas like Ninth and Lincoln and Tenth and Fulton. Elementary fairness to the Tenth and Fulton neighborhood requires another entrance to the garage, assuming it can be done sensibly---and I think it can at Ninth and Lincoln. There's another compelling argument for a second entrance to the garage: once people enter the park from any other entrance, they need to have a way to get into the garage without driving all the way out of the park and circling around to the Fulton St. entrance. If no other entrance is provided, traffic in and around the surrounding neighborhoods to get to that single entrance will be much worse.

These are concrete and physical facts.

No they aren't, Bruce. You've provided us with nothing but your opinions, which don't seem to be grounded in the facts at all.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bruce Wolfe [mailto:Bruce@BruceWolfe.net]
Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2005 3:48 PM
To: rmajora@comcast.net; fsomsel@yahoo.com
Subject: Your message

Well, I have been told that this thread will stay off the[PROSF] list from this point forward so I am forwarding it directly to you both. My comments inserted below, too[in italics}.
Best,
Bruce


Rob wrote:

Bruce:

The condescending tone of your message isn't justified by its contents.

Bruce's comment: That is a matter of opinion. It's a two-way street Rob and your presumptions and suppositions are as condescending as were your comments on the campaign trail. So, let's keep it real. My sarcasm is my frustration with people who think they can poke holes into issues that are far more complicated than they think.

"This attorney and the others are desperately working to protect the public's interest[and] should be paid their due...Rob, you should be thankful for lawyers like Thomas Lippe and Stephan Volker to stay with this so long without any pay."

Rob wrote: Of course lawyers should be paid for their work. My understanding is that Katherine Roberts has already paid Lippe $50,000, and, at the November 7 HANC meeting, Chris Duderstadt said he'd paid his lawyer even more than that. Hardly "a pittance," by any measurement. Why should Lippe get more from the taxpayers? What public service has he performed? You and your allies don't like the MLK plan, even though it was the unintended result of the legal action brought by Roberts and Duderstadt. Hence, logically you should agree with me on this point. Does Lippe deserve another big payday at public expense for achieving this?

Bruce's comment: This is a pittance compared to the ~$600/hour attorneys Hellman and friends have on retainer. Also, the MLK Drive widening is not as a result of the lawsuits. That was the plan all the way back to Willie Brown when the 10th Avenue residents complained that only one entrance would affect their property values which is an unfounded claim. The southern entrance was inserted into the plans all the way back then as a concept and was built out since then. If you attend the Concourse Authority meetings and other hearings you will hear them say even defend that this has always been in the works and no one should be surprised about it. I am referring to as recent as the November 16th Special meeting. The public service Lippe and Volker are performing is really what Kathy Roberts and Steve Willis and friends are performing. They could have gotten any attorney of their choice to handle these cases so just because it is Lippe and Volker is of no consequence and is truly a moot point. Case closed. And, your assertion I "should agree with you on this point" is not really an invitation is it, Rob? The subtleties are very transparent.

Rob wrote: You make wild, dubious assertions without any evidence. In what way is the garage a "very questionable project"? And specifically how have the Music Concourse Community Partnership (MCCP) and the Concourse Authority not been "honest and genuine"? Exactly how are they "trying to pull the wool over on the public[sic]"? The only reason there have been "long drawn out court trials"---in fact, there have been only been hearings, not trials, since no one has been on trial---is due to lawsuits initiated by your allies in the anti-garage movement.

Rob Wrote: You say there's "no mention" of MCCP in Proposition J, but in the text of Prop. J. the Concourse Authority is given wide latitude to contract for the construction of the garage and to overhaul the Concourse area itself. Judge Warren, in last year's decision validating the garage project, found that "Proposition J specifically allows the Authority to delegate the design, construction and operation of the Garage to MCCP" (Statement of Decision, page 15). See Section 2 in Prop. J for the language Warren relied on.

"I know I never voted for that[the widening of MLK]...There must be something very wrong in Smallville with this kind of response and opposition to the project."

Rob Wrote: If you voted for Prop. J in 1998, you voted for an underground garage "with a dedicated entrance and exit (or entrances and exits) outside the park...", or, in language elsewhere in the same paragraph, "dedicated access route (or routes) to and from the underground parking facility beginning at a location or locations outside the Park..." (Prop. J, Section 2). As a result of the lawsuits brought by your allies, Judge Warren ruled that the Authority was wrong to not design a "dedicated" route from outside the park to the garage entrance near the southern part of the Concourse (no one was contesting the northern entrance at Tenth and Fulton). Hence, the completely reasonable solution arrived at by the Concourse: widen a short stretch of MLK at Ninth and Lincoln by four feet, eliminate parking on both sides of that street, and designate two of its lanes as an entrance and an exit from the garage for only 500 feet of MLK.

Bruce's comment: If you read my post carefully, the widening of MLK Drive is not a dedicated access route. The building of a new underground entrance/exit ramp on 10th Ave is. Commandeering an existing artery of the park that feeds several other roadways to all corners of the park is more like eminent domain to meet your needs and depriving the public of their right to access. That is not "dedicated" in any sense. Dedicated is where it had no effect on what is existing. The widening of MLK Drive will have drastic effects on everything existing around it as far as Districts 7 and 4 no less the immediate vicinity of 5. Again, check out the sfpix.com website and you can see all the evidence.

"C'mon, your shallow missives just try to divert the focus of how the City is being shafted plus WE are gonna have to foot the bills on 35 years of bonds that were never voted for."

Rob Wrote: Wrong again, Bruce! Judge Warren's decision has a lucid discussion of the Authority's financial arrangements contained in the Ground Lease with MCCP. He found that MCCP used private donations to start constructing the garage, then floated construction bonds to raise more money for construction, and that "The bonds thus issued will be repaid with revenues from the operation of the Garage" (page 12). Warren also found, after exhaustive investigation, that "no public monies are being used in the construction or operation of the Garage" (page 15). Which means, Bruce, that the garage won't, in your words, "cost us a dime."

The anti-garage forces lost at the ballot box in 1998, and they lost in court last year. City voters voted for an underground garage in Golden Gate Park, and that's what they are going to get, regardless of the politcal hysteria generated by you and your friends.

Regards,
Rob Anderson

Bruce's comment: Rob, no one has lost anything yet. The project is moving ahead at its peril as Judge Warren warned. Judge Warren has just ruled on Monday that he wants a hearing in April before he finalizes the project. That said the "injuction" to widen MLK Drive is maintained til then. What does that tell you? Why hasn't he made a decision sooner? Is it because there is an appeal on file that has some merit? Obviously, the Judge knows this and wants to wait for their opinion. It is also very well known among any big developer project that when there are major concerns like these that are being challenged that idea is to excavate (meaning demolish) as much as you can so there is no turning back. So what about a court decision. You can't go back. How does that serve the public when valuable historical landmarks and structures are destroyed while the public is trying to save them? I am sure you can agree with me on this. (right back at ya!)

As far as the money is concerned, again, you are taking a very simplistic view on this. I will refer to others to outline this as it is quite complex but on one point the MCCP was supposed to have $35 million in retainer. They are about $15 million short of this I understand before they were even to break ground for the garage. Also, as I said earlier, what happens when 35 years is up and the bonds are still not paid off? They say that the bonds will be paid off before the 35 years is up but if there isn't enough garage traffic, there is not enough income to pay anything off. The garage returns to the public's ownership and then we have to pay them off. 35 years is nothing for repayment of a bond in this state. Plus, the operation of the garage is supposed to be managed by DPT and not some private company that will be making money from the public as they pay to park there. All this just smells of privatization of public parks.

As far as the ground lease is concerned there are several opinions as to whether that was proper or not. The City Charter says that ONLY the voters can sell or lease park land. Prop J did not over ride this. There was no vote to sell or lease the land. Prop J states as I included in my last post that they can lease the structure that would be built there.. So the natural progression should be the GGPCA build the parking structure then lease it to the MCCP if they want. The MCCP is not even a mention in Prop J. How did they get in the picture anyway? Think about that. Again, the public was sold the idea that there would be no above ground traffic as there was. That a Pedestrian Oasis would be created. That is what was sold to the voters. That is why I voted for it. I practiced Tai Chi in that Music Concourse for nearly ten years, every weekend. When it rained or was windy, we went into the tunnels. It was those tunnels that kept me from getting run over by cars and buses as I came out of the Rhodedendren Dell and returned home. Now, the plan is to replace the traffic circle and there are no tunnels anymore. They were destroyed.

You are gonna get a brand new parking garage dedicated to the museums with an entrance that is quite capable of handling the traffic flow. There is no need for another entrance. There are plenty of city owned parking garages that are far larger with only one entrance and exit that do just fine. That said there is no need for anymore entrances to the garage. If they can't build THEIR design without a second entrance, then the DESIGN is flawed. Go back and redesign it. I'll probably get a response from you that it would cost too much money. Then what? Float another bond?

These are concrete and physical facts.
Best,
Bruce

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The City's "Emerging Right"?

I'm still mulling over Tim Cavanaugh's piece on conservatism in the city (San Francisco's Emerging Right, SF Chronicle, Jan. 23). His first error is to confuse conservatism with membership in the Republican Party, though it's probably more or less the same thing in a practice. His second is the tacit assumption that either leftist or rightist ideology is of any use when dealing with local issues. Cavanaugh notes that one of the defining characteristics of conservatism is fiscal conservatism, and the main evidence he cites for an upsurge in city conservatism is the rejection by city voters of the tax propositions on the November ballot. But Proposition A, the $200 million housing bond measure that would have helped both first-time homebuyers and the homeless, came very close to passing, getting more than 64% of the vote when it needed two-thirds. And President Bush, as Cavanaugh also notes, got little more than 54,000 votes in the city, a total dwarfed by Kerry's 296,000. These numbers don't bode well for a revival of either conservatism or the Republican Party in SF.

Actually, it may be liberals like me who represent an emerging conservatism on important issues facing the city, issues that don't lend themselves to easy ideological categorization. I'm a former draft resister who went to prison for refusing to report for military service in the Sixties, an animal rights vegetarian, pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-civil liberties, against capital punishment, pro-gay rights, pro-integration, pro-medical marijuana, pro-working class, and pro-environment. On the other hand, I'm anti-graffiti/tagging, anti-Critical Mass, anti-illegal immigration, very critical of the city left's ongoing failure on homelessness, against tolerating sex---gay or hetero---in the city's parks, a hawk in the war on Islamic fascism, and alarmed by the city left's growing alliance with developers on the housing issue. Do the latter positions make me a conservative? It's hard to think so.

What I---and people like me, whether they call themselves liberals or progressives---really represent is the right-wing of the left.

The moral of the story: ideology is bunk and an actual hindrance to understanding political issues, especially local issues. As I've said before, $1.65 plus political ideology will buy you a large cup of strong coffee in D5's finest coffeehouse, Cafe Abir.

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