District 5 Diary's Year-End Awards for 2005
Most Delusional and Paranoid Political Analysis/Vision: Chris Daly’s explanation for the criticism he got after the Rincon Hill deal: “Whether the attack was masterminded from the Mayor’s office or by one of downtown’s proxies, it’s clear that the powers that be are very threatened by our success on Rincon and our new model for progressive development in San Francisco. Maybe they just want to keep big developers off the hook for their fair share. Maybe they’re worried that San Franciscans will notice that progressives, not downtown’s politicians, are the ones making a difference on affordable housing and economic development.” A “new model for progressive development” and “affordable housing” in the city: luxury highrise condos for the rich, with $58 million in development fees to build “affordable” housing in another part of town! Why would “downtown politicians” feel threatened by the construction of luxury condos? After all, Mayor Newsom also supports the Rincon Hill projects.
Most Inadequate Description of Critical Mass: Ross Mirkarimi, who wrote, “Critical Mass gets my support because of the attention they’ve brought in influencing the City to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.” Exactly how does deliberately snarling traffic during rush hour make the city more “bicycle friendly”?
Worst Political Analysis of the Year, Foreign Affairs: Tim Redmond: “There is no effective Iraqi government and no hope that anything resembling normal elections can take place.” (SF Bay Guardian, Jan. 26, 2005) Within days Redmond’s analysis was refuted by the Iraqi people, millions of whom risked their lives to vote.
Inflated Bill of the Year: submitted by Tom Lippe, lawyer for Katherine Roberts and Trees Not Cars, to Superior Court Judge Warren, asking for $283,000 of city taxpayers’ money for forcing the Concourse Authority to propose the widely reviled plan to widen MLK Blvd. in Golden Gate Park.
Worst Housing Plan of the Year: Rincon Hills, which will allow more than 3000 luxury, highrise condos in the downtown area.
Worst Housing Plan of the Year, Runner-up: UC’s proposal to construct 400-500 housing units on the old Extension property on lower Haight Street.
Worst Housing Plan of the Year, Second Runner-up: the Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan, which calls for thousands of new housing units in that already densely-populated neighborhood, including 40-story residential highrises in the South Van Ness/Market St. area.
Best Alternative to UC’s Greedy, Neighborhood-destroying Plan: New College’s proposal to continue to use the site as a school, which will both preserve all the historic buildings on the property and the property's Public Use zoning.
Worst Alternative to UC’s Plan: My early idea---widely ignored, fortunately---to turn the old Extension site into a large public space like Dolores Park. My proposal ignored the reality of the historic buildings on the site. Still, that part of town really needs a park.
Most Self-Congratulatory Statement by a Losing Candidate: Matt Gonzalez: “On the one hand you had a candidate that was willing to tell the truth about very hard issues. But if you’re not going to reward candidates who tell you the truth, you’re not going to encourage people to be that way.” Guess which candidate Gonzalez thinks was telling the truth?
Lamest Dissent of the Year: SF Bay Guardian, in an unsigned editorial: “Simply put, five more towers [on Rincon Hill] of luxury condos is too many. No matter how lucrative the payoff, when the projects come through for final approval city leaders should reject at least two of these towers.” (Don’t Sell SoMa,” Aug. 3, 2005)
Elephant in the Room Ignored by City Progressives, Ongoing: The homeless issue in San Francisco.
New Elephant in the Room Ignored by City Progressives: The Rincon Hill luxury condos. When progressives do deign to discuss this grotesque plan, they never mention Supervisor Daly’s role in getting it approved.
New Elephant in the Room Ignored by Progressives, Runner-up: The role that the vile rap/hip-hop culture plays in validating the use of guns by young black men that results in the persistent gun violence and homicides among that group.
Lamest Use of the Race Card: Matt Gonzalez. After the failure of Proposition F---which would have given non-citizens the right to vote in school board elections---Gonzalez implied that D5 voters are racist for not supporting it: “It didn’t do well in District 5, I’m sorry to say. District 5 has a really great history as a progressive district, and yet it did not turn out[for Prop. F]. The theory is that it’s a Caucasian district, that it doesn’t have a lot of people of color. Certainly not immigrants, but this measure did best in immigrant districts.”
Lamest Use of the Race Card, Runner-up: Marc Salomon: “For him [Warren Hellman] to offer an annual $1.5 million bluegrass festival that drew perhaps the most Caucasian crowd of any mass event in San Francisco is little more than a cheap bribe.” (BeyondChron, Letters, Oct. 5, 2005)
Lamest Near-Use of the Race Card: Joe Blue, in response to my suggestion that the ugly rap/hip-hop culture has something to do with the gun violence in the African-American community: “You sound like a complete idiot. And your statements approach the level of being either uniformed[sic] or dangerously racist.”
Rich Guy of the Year: Warren Hellman, who raised more than $50 million to build the city a new underground garage in Golden Gate Park. Hellman also pays $1.5 million every year to stage a fine free music festival in the park.
Vandalism Enabler of the Year: Matt Gonzalez, who allowed a so-called graffiti artist to deface his office walls in City Hall shortly before he left office.
Vandalism Enabler, Runner-up: Tim Redmond, who wrote, “I’ve always liked graffiti. I’ve never seen much point in the city using its scarce resources to try to crack down on this sort of ‘vandalism’; this is a big city, and unauthorized public art is part of big city life, and at its best, it gives the city a nice flavor.”
Locking the Barn Door After the Horse is Gone Award: Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who wrote: “Regarding graffiti, the city isn’t doing enough and I am not a big fan of the law that requires private property owners to eradicate the graffiti since arrests of taggers are few, but, since this is the current reality, one of the best ways to remedy graffiti, is to address it through community---I’ve helped catalyze two new neighborhood groups where we have community clean-ups scheduled.”
Best Advice of the Year for the City’s Bike Fanatics: Paul McHugh, Robert Hurst, and Bert Hill (“Mission Not Impossible,” Paul McHugh, SF Chronicle, Feb. 17, 2005). The gist of the article: riding a bike in the city is very dangerous and cyclists need to prepare themselves accordingly.
Pangloss of the Year: John King of the SF Chronicle, who wrote complacently about the new de Young Museum long before it was finished, “But guess what? The controversy will fade. The de Young we grow to know will be filled with familiar art, wrapped in outdoor sculpture and vegetation.” (SF Chronicle, Feb. 17, 2005) Guess what? It still looks like an artsy-fartsy warehouse to me, though the inside looks pretty good, and I like the view from the gun tower.
Pangloss of the Year, Runner-up: Paul Olsen, president of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, who rhapsodized about the disastrous new Octavia Blvd. in the HVNA newsletter: “Other exciting events are the completion of Octavia Blvd. and the upcoming opening of the freeway touchdown ramp and the boulevard in August. After years of efforts, the freeway that divided us is down and a beautiful boulevard has taken its place.” That "beautiful boulevard" now brings 45,000 vehicles a day through the heart of Hayes Valley.
M.I.A. Politician of the Year: Even though the property is in his district, Supervisor Bevan Dufty still hasn’t taken a position on the UC proposal---on the table for 18 months---to turn the old Extension property on lower Haight St. into a large housing development.
Biggest Ass-Kissing Bestowed on a City Politician by a City Journalist: Christopher Caen on Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi: “Ross has the spirit of a policy wonk but the soul of a street fighter,” etc. (The Independent, Jan. 29, 2005)
Worst Political Book of the Year: Kate Coleman on Judi Bari (“The Secret Wars of Judi Bari,” Encounter Books). Coleman talked only to people who thought Bari’s ex-husband planted the bomb that almost killed her. The result: a book as dumb, error-filled, and misguided as her sources.
Love is Blind Award: John King and Octavia Blvd.: “San Francisco’s Octavia Boulevard already is one of the nation’s most unusual stabs at neighborhood revitalization, with an elevated freeway being replaced by a landscaped road designed to be a community centerpiece.” (SF Chronicle, March 4, 2005) Like his premature embrace of the new de Young, King wrote this long before the new, unimproved Octavia Blvd. opened. We now know that the “community centerpiece” for Hayes Valley is a six-lane street that carries 45,000 vehicles a day through the heart of Hayes Valley.
In the Context of No Context Award: Chris Duderstadt, who posted a picture of a backhoe poised to demolish one of the pedestrian tunnels on the Concourse in Golden Gate Park with no commentary or context, leaving the impression that the Concourse Authority was demolishing the tunnels gratuitously. In fact the tunnels were made of unreinforced material and had to be destroyed. Nor were the tunnels of historical/architectural significance. Nevertheless, the Concourse Authority has recreated two of the tunnels entirely and used the facade of a third as a portal. Duderstadt was evidently so pleased with the backhoe deception he repeated the stunt when the tunnels---whose drains were sealed to keep out construction debris---were filled with water after a recent rainstorm.
Best Court Decision by a Local Judge:Superior Court Judge James Warren’s Statement of Decision of June, 2005, on the litigation that tried to stop construction of the underground garage in Golden Gate Park. The decision was a worthy sequel to his August 10, 2004, Statement of Decision that demolished almost every cause of action brought against the city by the anti-garage obstructionists. (To view Judge Warren's Aug. 10, 2004 Statement of Decision, and the June 16, 2005 Statement of Decision, go to http://www.sftc.org/ and enter the case number, 427163, after clicking on "Case Number Query.")
Biggest Lie of the Year: The University of California, through spokesman Jeff Bond, who told Hayes Valley residents that poor old UC could no longer afford to maintain the old Extension site as a school and had to turn it into a 500-unit housing development. We learned later that UC is paying $1.26 million a year for two large floors at 425 Market St. and $846,000 a year for more space at 94 Third St. to house the extension program that used to be on the lower Haight St. site. Why not use all that money to rehab the old site? Because UC is a greedy mega-institution that wants to cash in on property it has had tax-free from the city since 1957.
Hissy-Fit of the Year: Supervisor Chris Daly, who wrote on his blog of his sense of betrayal by Gavin Newsom when the latter Proposed Care Not Cash, abandoning efforts to deal with homelessness on a BOS committee with Daly.
Hypocritical Non-Endorsement of the Year: The Bicycle Coalition lists the monthly Critical Mass demo on its online calendar along with this weasel-worded disclaimer: “Events not officially sponsored or organized by the SFBC are marked with an asterisk. We post events that might be of interest to our SF area members; we do not necessarily endorse any particular group or perspective you may find represented here.” Bullshit. In fact the Bicycle Coalition uses the monthly, traffic-snarling demo as a recruiting tool. Critical Mass would probably wither and die without the coalition’s support.
Worst Ordinance of the Year: The SF Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to make the 400-page Bicycle Plan part of the city’s General Plan with no environmental review and no debate.
Worst News of the Year for Bike Nuts: The NY Times reported on a study that found that men who ride bikes a lot develop “severe to moderate erectile dysfunction.” This has to do with the pressure the bicycle seat puts on the perineum, thus restricting blood flow to and the function of the penis. This syndrome probably affects women cyclists, too, though the study was done on men. (“Serious Riders, Your Bicycle Seat May Affect Your Love Life,” Sandra Blakeslee, Oct. 4, 2005)
Most Significant Traffic Numbers: According to the DMV, the total number of registered motorized vehicles in SF---not counting buses---as of December, 2004: 464,903. Since 2000 the city has added 3,256 new vehicles to the city’s streets every year, which makes Chris Daly’s attempt to limit the number of parking spaces in new housing units dumb and irresponsible.
Worst New Street Sign of the Year: “Sharrows,” which are painted on many city streets to remind drivers that they are supposed to share traffic lanes with bicycles. The idea is probably against state law, but the cyclists who assert such a “right” against cars, trucks, and buses also deserve an award for Suicidal Folly in Pursuit of an Imaginary Right.
Public Servant of the Year: Mike Ellzey, Executive Director of the Concourse Authority. In spite of years of abuse from the so-called defenders of Golden Gate Park, Ellzey has quietly gone about the business of getting the city’s new garage built under the Concourse and rehabilitating the Concourse itself. He’s done a great job, and the city owes him a debt of gratitude.
Most Poorly-Conceived Boycott of the Year: the Muni fare strike that urged passengers to refuse to pay the fare after Muni, with a $57 million deficit last year, raised its fare a measly 25 cents.
Worst Housing Proposal by a City Journalist: Matt Smith’s idea of lining Lincoln Ave. and Fulton St. next to Golden Gate Park with residential highrises. (“Environmental Cycle,” SF Weekly, June 8-14, 2005)
Windbag Convention of the Year: the founding convention of The San Francisco Peoples’ Organization, a meeting attended by all the left-wing fantasists in the city supposedly to start a new political party in San Francisco. Of course it was all bullshit, and we haven’t heard a thing from the new party since the schmooze session last June.
Rhetorical Excess of the Year: Supervisor Mirkarimi, who told assembled leftists at the Peoples’ Organization convention, "You look at change throughout history, from civil rights to environmental justice...and it wasn't politicians who got it done. It was the activists. Today is about more than just policies and agendas---it's about the beginning of a revolution.” ("SF People's Convention Shows Thirst for Unity Among Progressives," Casey Mills, BeyondChron, June 13).
Best Antidote by a local journalist to Anti-Car Propaganda: “Driving San Francisco Sane," by Curt Sanburn, SF Weekly, June 29-July 5. Sanburn: “Day by day and block by block, I fell into a grid-bound mindset of a San Francisco driver. The learning curve was as steep and long as, say, 17th Street. But once I mastered the grid(s), my options were many, traffic jams were few, and it took 20 minutes to get anywhere in the city---even though San Francisco has a much higher vehicle density than New York City or Los Angeles County.”
Silliest Letter to the Editor: Sanburn’s article inspired this rebuke from a bike nut the next week: “Curt, I want you to think for a minute, next time you read the news, and someone’s grandmother is killed by a hit-and-run driver on 19th Avenue, or someone’s child is run down on a quiet residential street: Will you feel at all responsible?” (SF Weekly, July 6-12, 2005)
Grandest Over-interpretation of a Fringe Political Action: Marc Norton on the abortive Muni fare strike in BeyondChron: “In 1955 Rosa Parks made history by refusing to sit in the back of the bus. Today, San Francisco Muni riders are making history by demanding the right to stay on the bus. If not now, when?” How about when there’s an issue important enough to justify civil disobedience? A 25-cent hike in the Muni fare doesn’t come close.
Worst Prose by a City Columnist: Mark Morford, SF Chronicle. One example of many potentially prize-winning paragraphs in Morford’s work: “It’s like that feeling you get when you smack your head into a brick wall and your skull reverberates and your vision momentarily blurs and you have a painful but somehow still nicely appealing flash of insight into Something Very Important, something you think you should know, something that can be illuminated only via cocktails and bloody prime rib and conversing with old flames.” (SF Chronicle, Aug. 24, 2005) Morford wrote this about his high school reunion!
Dumbest Argument Against Supervisor Mirkarimi’s Proposed Ordinance to Regulate the City’s Pot Clubs: Randy Shaw, in BeyondChron: “The [proposed] measure would also cut in half the amount of marijuana a patient could purchase from a single club.” Shaw doesn’t mention that the early version of Mirkarimi’s ordinance reduced the amount a cardholder could purchase at one time from one pound to half a pound. Shaw and Chris Daly supported the one pound limit. Of course no one but a dealer needs to buy a pound---or, for that matter, a half-pound---of marijuana at one time. The final version of the ordinance restricts purchases to one ounce at a time, which is still a lot more than anyone needs. Cardholders can now buy seven ounces a week, which only encourages small-scale dealing.
Most Annoying Legacy of the Year: Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, who carried a 2004 resolution that made a right turn illegal from Market St. onto the new freeway ramp across from Octavia Blvd. To get on the freeway from that part of Market St., drivers must circle around through the Mission district. On whose behalf did Gonzalez perform this bit of foolishness? The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, of course. This nonsense didn’t become known until the freeway ramp was finished last September. Reported by Matier&Ross in the SF Chronicle (“Who’s in the Right,” Sept. 21, 2005).
The City’s Best Political Leader: Gavin Newsom wins this one easily, since he’s aggressively following up on homelessness in SF, the issue that got him elected mayor. Last November, the mayor announced on Michael Krasny’s show the numbers his approach to homelessness produced thus far: 1070 formerly homeless people housed, and Care Not Cash didn’t even begin to go into effect until May, 2004, due to litigation. And the city’s Homeward Bound program has given 814 homeless people bus tickets home in less than a year (Kevin Fagan, SF Chronicle, Nov. 24, 2005). Thus, SF under Mayor Newsom has by now humanely removed 2000 homeless people from the city’s streets. Bravo!
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