Thursday, February 08, 2007

The SFBC and the Planning Dept: unholy alliance

Why does the SF Bicycle Coalition care about the Market & Octavia Plan? After all, the centerpiece of that Plan---Octavia Boulevard---is already in place, and it's an unmitigatable disaster, at least to those unconvinced by all the happy-talk coming out of the Planning Dept. Octavia Blvd. now carries 45,000 cars a day through the heart of the Hayes Valley neighborhood. Why would cyclists, of all people, think that's a good thing? From the Feb. 5 SFBC Biker Bulletin:

The Market & Octavia Plan will be San Francisco's first 21st-century plan for a more livable, sustainable urban neighborhood oriented to walking, bicycling, and public transit. If you live in or near the Market & Octavia neighborhood you really should try to come out and speak up for this important master plan, and ask the Planning Commission to adopt the environmental findings necessary to enact all of the pedestrian, bicycle, and traffic calming improvements from the 2002 draft plan.

For a reality-check, go down to Octavia Blvd. to see if this area is somehow more "livable" since the boulevard opened up to freeway traffic in 2005.

The Market/Octavia Plan will essentially make that whole area a free-fire zone for developers, since it changes the zoning---on building height, density, and parking---for that whole central city area, which is not really a neighborhood at all, to encourage developers to build thousands of units of new housing in the next 25 years (5,960, to be exact, with an added population of 9,875 to the existing 26,650 who already live within the boundaries of the Plan).

One reason the SFBC cares is that they have many friends and allies in the Planning Dept., and that city agency has been just as aggressive in pushing the SFBC's agenda as the SFBC itself to redesign city streets on behalf of 1-2% of the city's population.

Another reason the SFBC likes the Market/Octavia Plan: Thanks to the Planning Dept., that Plan now includes some of the SFBC's pet projects, which you can see in "The Market and Octavia Draft Community Improvements Program Document." See in particular pages 86-89 of Appendix C, under "Bicycle Network Improvements."

While you're online looking at the document, go to page 38 in Appendix A for a map showing the boundaries of the project, where you will see that the Plan is based on the "neighborhood" lie. The Plan's boundaries are so expansive it takes in chunks of several neighborhoods, from Turk St. on the north to 16th Street in the south, from Noe on the west to Howard St. on the east.

Folks who live on Page St. who remember the traffic circles fiasco on upper Page will be surprised to learn that the circles are coming back in the Market and Octavia Plan (Appendix C, page 91), thanks to the Planning Dept. If Planning and the SFBC have their way, all of Page St. will eventually be turned into a "bicycle boulevard," which means that "To the greatest extent practicable, stop signs should be removed from Page Street. Where necessary, stop signs can be replaced by traffic circles or roundabouts..." The "traffic calming" circles failed to calm either the fire department or the area's residents, since both voted to get rid of them after a brief trial. I used to jog on Page St., and the circles only made those intersections more dangerous for everyone.

In the same SFBC Biker Bulletin, the anti-garage mythology is perpetuated:

The Golden Gate Park Music Concourse project was supposed to bring us a serene "pedestrian oasis" in the City's premier park, but over the years the de Young and other powerful interests have defied the promise of Prop. J at each turn and won every decision on cars vs. people, and the eastern end of the Park is as plagued by cars as ever.

This is so inaccurate it has to be called a lie. Neither the de Young nor any "other powerful interests" has done anything to defy Prop. J. The truth is that it was some of the city's bike people who brought suit against the city in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the construction of the underground garage mandated by Prop. J in 1998. The "pedestrian oasis" was promised for the Concourse area, and that area is now a lot closer to that ideal than it ever has been, since 200 parking spaces were removed from the Concourse during the construction of the garage and the area's remodeling. It's also a lie to suggest that the Concourse is "plagued" by auto traffic; the opposite is the case. Again, as with Octavia Blvd., people need to take a look at the Concourse area for themselves. The construction of the underground garage was so well done it's completely invisible from the Concourse itself.

An interview with Mike Ellzey

The text of Proposition J

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