Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Grizzly Bears of San Francisco

San Francisco's progressives live in an alternate universe that only occasionally overlaps with the reality recognized by the rest of us. The newsletter published by the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) provides us with a monthly bulletin from this alternate reality that I call Progressive Land. 

In a short piece with no byline ("Killing the Coyotes is a Symptom of a Bigger Problem"), we learn that "The ambush[of the coyotes] was no different from the slaughter of San Francisco's grizzly bears, mountain lions, elk, deer, and the native people." Grizzly bears in San Francisco? Seems unlikely on the face of it, since the area---especially the part of the city that is now Golden Gate Park---was mostly sand dunes before Whitey arrived, not the usual grizzly habitat. But one encounters all kinds of unlikely monsters in Progressive Land!


Now that the city's grizzlies are gone, the biggest monsters in Progressive Land are those wicked automobiles (or "Death Monsters," as the Bay Guardian's Steve Jones calls them). Which brings us to Lisa Feldstein, one of the District 5 candidates for supervisor in 2004. In the same HANC newsletter, Feldstein weighs in against the Parking for Neighborhoods Initiative, which has the city's progs in such a dither---until last week, that is, when the Board of Supervisors included a section in the Muni ballot measure that will nullify the parking initiative.


Feldstein makes much of the fact that the parking initiative is 61 pages long, though it's a mere 16 pages if you print it out from the initiative's website.

Feldstein claims that the alleged length of the initiative was calculated by Don Fisher (The Gap) and Andy Ball (Webcor) so that the "length...and technical language ensure that few voters will read the whole thing...that even those who read it will have a hard time making sense of it." In fact, the text is mostly boilerplate reproduction of the laws the initiative would change; there's no obscurity or ambiguity in the initiative's language at all.


Feldstein, a former member of the Planning Commission, shares common prog assumptions/illusions about the Market/Octavia Plan:


Carefully crafted neighborhood plans like the Market-Octavia Plan, in which neighbors worked with the Planning Department to reduce parking in their transit-rich neighborhood, would no longer be allowed to craft location-appropriate parking standards. Owners of buildings of up to 4 units would be given the right to add garages, even if doing so removes significant street trees, degrades conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, or interferes with transit. So much for the city's Transit First Policy.


There's nothing "carefully crafted" at all about the Market/Octavia Plan, unless you think its aggressive anti-car content represents some kind of craftsmanship (The anti-car elements are obviously why the SF Bicycle Coalition likes the M/O Plan). The "neighbors" who worked with Planning to "craft" the Plan were really a small minority of folks from the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association who showed up at every meeting to push their pro-development, anti-car agenda. The EIR on the M/O Plan that emerged from this process is an unwieldy document to which the Planning Department was still adding pages months after the public comment deadline passed. That meant that the public was denied the right to comment on---or even understand---thousands of pages of changes and additions to the Plan. The Market/Octavia Plan is a lot like the Bicycle Plan: City progressives routinely approve of it without really knowing much about it.


And why shouldn't property owners be allowed to put garages on their property? In fact, it's already a common practice in SF, with the contractors that specialize in putting garages under existing buildings doing a brisk trade. A few years ago the owners of my building did just that, with no impact on street trees, no added danger to pedestrians and cyclists, and no interference with transit. Instead, the new garage takes several cars off the street and out of the increasingly desperate quest for street parking in my neighborhood. Why does Feldstein think that's a bad thing? Because, like all knee-jerk SF progressives, she assumes anything that makes it more convenient to drive in the city is a bad idea. (On parking in the city in general, see a NY Times article linked on the initiative's website. Turns out that motorists looking for parking generate from 30% to 45% of the traffic in NY City)


City progessives are much happier now that the Board of Supervisors inserted a poison pill into the Muni ballot measure that will essentially kill the parking initiative even if city voters approve it:


The best change to the [Muni]Charter Amendment is a small provision that, if passed, would effectively trump the Downtown[sic] Parking Initiative. Besides all of the parking initiative's awful parts that would take us in the wrong direction to creating a sustainable city. It would also make it impossible to ever change the City's parking policy without going back to the ballot. If passed, the Muni Charter Amendment would keep parking policy where it belongs---in the legislative process---and protect our commitment to a transit-first city (Paul Hogarth, BeyondChron, August 1, 2007)


Right. Take parking policy out of the hands of the city's voters---it took 10,500 valid signatures to get the parking initiative on the ballot---and put it in the hands of the anti-car politicians who dominate the Board of Supervisors. This deal to thwart the will of city voters is reminiscent of the recent "compromise" on closing part of Golden Gate Park to traffic on Saturdays, even though city voters already made it clear at the ballot box in 2000 that they didn't want to close the park to autos on Saturdays.

All of this scheming may backfire on the anti-car jihad in SF. Regardless of the deals city politicians make between now and election day, both the Muni measure and the parking initiative will be on November's ballot. Even though Mayor Newsom has already said he isn't going to campaign against the Muni measure because of the parking poison pill, the city's voters may surprise city officials who are quick to make deals without public support. After all, Newsom didn't campaign very hard against the proposed hike in the city's parking tax last year, and it still lost badly. Proposition E, which would have raised the tax on parking in the city by 25-35%, lost by more than a 2-1 margin: 151,628 to 73,922.

Let's send the anti-car jihad based in City Hall a clear message: Vote No on the Muni measure and Yes on the parking initiative.

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Burning Man: No deal with Google, just "creative collaboration"

Andie Grace wrote:

Re: Google and Sprint: Alas, I'm afraid your "reliable source" is yanking your chain.-Andie Grace, Communications Manager, Burning Man

Rob Anderson wrote:

Was burner/journalist Chris Taylor yanking everyone's chain when he wrote this in the article posted here?
"Plenty of companies do, it seems, and at the front of the line this year is Google. Its engineers are building software for unbranded kiosks at the pavilion where participants can zoom in to a virtual version of Burning Man. Just click on a given technology or art project and Google will take you directly to its website."
(http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2007/07/burning-man-sells-out.html)

Andie Grace wrote:

There is a project being made by burners, working with the "Google Earth" software, called "Burning Man Earth". It is a way to use that software to navigate a view of Black Rock City and interact with it---it has nothing to do with providing wireless access to Burners. And no, it doesn't represent the signing of any kind of "deal". It's a creative collaboration using technology Google happen to have created, but there have been no "deals" signed and no money is changing hands in that endeavor. Furthermore, we have zero interaction with Sprint. The rumor you quote in your first sentence is what I was responding to. It is simply not true.

Rob Anderson wrote:

A "creative collaboration"? Sounds like a deal to me. That no money is changing hands is not particlularly significant, since "branding" is evidently now the name of the game for Burning Man. Burning Man gets a nice toy for its operation, and Google gets its brand associated with the Burning Man---and vice versa. On Sprint: I trust my sources more than I do claims made by a flak for Burning Man, but your denial is noted. We'll see.

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