Monday, June 16, 2008

City hires anti-car guru to "redesign" our streets

Tim Holt, a dedicated bike guy who always writes about bikes, is branching out, more or less. His interview with Jan Gehl in last Sunday's Chronicle doesn't mention bikes, but the fact that he and Gehl are anti-car is enough to make the point. Last time we heard from Holt in the Chronicle, he published a hymn to Critical Mass, wherein he made a vulgar, stupid analogy between the Civil Rights movement and Critical Mass and the great, anti-car bike liberation movement.

Turns out that, in spite of its $335 million budget deficit, the city can find enough money to hire Gehl's Copenhagen firm to help "facilitate" the city's anti-car policies. (We already know that the city also found enough money to maintain 10 people on the staff of the city's Bicycle Program.) We have to go all the way to Copenhagen to find qualified anti-car people? Gehl shows he has the intellectual qualifications to join the city's anti-car jihad; he apparently thinks that gridlocked Octavia Boulevard is a great achievement:

Holt: Is San Francisco on its way toward becoming what you have called a "reconquered city" - one that is actively recapturing public spaces from the car and returning them to human, pedestrian uses?
Gehl: Well, you have a good start. The reclamation of the Embarcadero for pedestrians (after the 1989 earthquake) is one example, and your replacement of a portion of the old Central Freeway with Octavia Boulevard is talked about around the world. You have one of the loveliest cities in the world, for the most part, although I have to say that your Fisherman's Wharf strikes me as one big commercialized tourist theme park.

Yes, removing the Embarcadero freeway was a win-win deal for the city, though we may also get a subway to Chinatown from the train station at a billion dollars a mile as a consequence of the deal Mayor Brown made with Rose Pak. But the problem with removing the Central Freeway in Hayes Valley is that a lot of the freeway traffic that used to travel over the neighborhood is now coming through the heart of the neighborhood on Octavia Blvd.---45,000 cars a day, in fact, according to DPT.

Octavia Blvd. is "talked about around the world"? What are people saying about it? That, like John King, it's a "triumph" and "the most urbane addition to a San Francisco neighborhood this decade"? It's not clear that Gehl has even seen Octavia Blvd; no honest person who's actually seen that street lately can really think that. Note too Gehl's condescending comment on Fisherman's Wharf. Maybe the city officials who hired Gehl didn't tell him that tourism is our largest industry. Gehl will fit in here real well, since he's evidently a snooty elitist like Holt and so many of the bike people in SF who to want to turn our American city into, well, a foreign city.

This summer Gehl is going "to look at four San Francisco spots---Jefferson Street at Fisherman's Wharf, Castro Street, Mission Street, and the Ninth and Irving area in the Sunset District---in hopes of making them more pedestrian friendly." People in those neighborhoods are forewarned: the elitist bike people and our city government are determined to redesign city streets to make it as difficult and as expensive as possible to drive in San Francisco.

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22 Comments:

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, have you considered for a second the reason Jan Gehl might be "anti-car"?

Could it be that cars can be destructive toward cities?

Jan Gehl, along with Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and many more experts on cities have weighed in against the over-use of automobiles in uban areas and influenced urban planners, designers, and architects in profound ways. But to you he's just an "anti-car" person and should be dismissed out-of-hand.

SF has bent over backwards to accomodate cars and other motor tranport, to its severe detriment.

Not only that, but expenditures for car transport make up a significant portion of outlays for the city, money that user fees like bridge tolls and parking tickets don't begin to cover. A serious drain on the city's economy, in other words.

Designing the city to rely less on cars will save us money, no matter how much we pay Jan Gehl for his consulting services.

What's wrong with Octavia Blvd? Yes, too many cars. I agree.

 
At 9:12 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't give a shit what the so-called experts say; I know these neighborhoods, and I say it's bullshit. What's wrong with Castro Street or Ninth and Irving? People seem to be moving around on foot easily on both streets. And Mission isn't "pedestrian-friendly"? I guess all the people swarming all over that street every day haven't gotten the word yet from the bike nuts. Cars are a "drain" on the city's economy? The city now pockets more than $150 million a year from drivers in parking fees and parking tickets, not to mention the fact that millions of tourists drive into SF every year (tourism is our biggest industry) to spend billons here. The city also gets millions from the state from license fees, but I can't find the exact amount anywhere.

Let's do a reality-check: the same people who keep telling us how great Octavia Blvd. is also want to redesign city streets to make it more difficult to drive here. What's real and what's not?

 
At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another dumb post from Rob. Whoopty-doo!

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

And another anonymous comment that again fails to come to grips with what I've written.

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the same people who keep telling us how great Octavia Blvd. is also want to redesign city streets to make it more difficult to drive here"

I think what you mean is, "they want to redesign streets to make it easier to do things other than drive here."

 
At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The city now pockets more than $150 million a year from drivers in parking fees and parking tickets"

Cool. Now how much does the city spend paving, repaving, policing, regulating traffic, etc.?

More than 150 million.

And tourists definitely do not come here to admire our traffic sewers.

 
At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who will compensate the city for the pollution, congestion, and accidents that come from automobiles?

 
At 2:14 PM, Anonymous those dudes said...

"I don't give a shit what the so-called experts say." This pretty much sums up your relevance: None.

 
At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear Castro street is part of this because the sidewalks are way to narrow for all the foot traffic. The roadway is absurdly wide for just being two lanes when there's thousands on crammed on the sidewalks.

 
At 9:33 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As per usual, all the critical comments are anonymous. This is the thing about SF's bike people: they're willing to risk their lives and physical well-being bikes but can't bring themselves to put their names on opinions that conform religiously to the city's PC standards.

"Cool. Now how much does the city spend paving, repaving, policing, regulating traffic, etc.? More than 150 million. And tourists definitely do not come here to admire our traffic sewers."

I provide a specific number, and you provide nothing. If we add in the registration fees the city gets from the state, that number would be a lot higher. According to the SF Visitors Bureau, the city had 15.7 million visitors in 2005, and they spent $7.3 billion in local businesses (http://www.sfcvb.org/research/), with $418 million in tax and fee revenue going to city government. 4.5 million people stayed in city hotels in 2005, generating $179 million in hotel tax revenue for city government. Of those 4.5 million people staying in city hotels, 25.8% rented cars, which means 1,125,000 rental cars driving into SF in 2005 alone. Millions more drive their own cars into our city. So why exactly should we want to make it more difficult for these people to drive on our streets? This goes to show that you bike people really are elitists; you certainly don't care much about local businesses or all the people who work in the city's hotels and restaurants.

"I don't give a shit what the so-called experts say." This pretty much sums up your relevance: None.

And your post sums up nicely the lame BikeThink perspective on planning in SF, which thinks it's okay for some overpaid twit in Planning or MTA who just parachuted in from Kansas to come into your neighborhood and tell you how to "improve" it. Pathetic.

 
At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad that 125,000 had to rent cars to get around our fine city. How much more could that have added to our local economy had they not had to pay for car rentals, paying for parking, or spend all that extra time driving around? Plus there's all the space wasted to parking which could be better used for more hotel and housing space and businesses.

 
At 10:37 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

How do you expect tourists to get around here? How do you expect them to even get here? I notice that you don't even mention Muni, which would be a more viable alternative to cars in SF if it had more money for buses and drivers. Most tourists in SF are Americans, so they don't mind paying when they visit. But there will come a time when, after you bike morons are done making traffic here a lot worse than it needs to be and you've made SF a lot like some piss-ant European city, people will think twice before they visit SF.

 
At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"after you bike morons are done making traffic here a lot worse"

Hmm... neither of the last two comments mentioned bikes at all. In fact, the second-to-last commenter only suggests Castro has a wider-than-necessary roadway compared to the narrow sidewalks. Are you so wrapped up in your "CarThink" you see everything as a pro-bike conspiracy?

I suggest you pay the Castro a visit to experience the sidewalks first hand. In front of Walgreen's a kiosk prevents two people from comfortably walking side by side. Likewise you can't walk side-by-side on the other side of Castro Street when there's a line for the theater, a frequent case that partially blocks the entrances to shops, but you seem much more interested in a measly few parking spaces than the true interest of our local shops.

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Can't walk side-by-side all the time on Castro Street? Big deal. I know Castro Street well. That there's a line outside the Castro Theater is nothing but a positive for local businesses, since there's reason to believe that some of those same people will be having a drink, dinner, or shopping in the neighborhood when they get out of the show.

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Rob - I will go on comment non-anonymously as saying Castro St is a mess. I live 2 blocks from 18th/Castro, the streetscape is not pleasant in any way shape or form and that is the fault of the street design. Once off the sidewalk and into the oasis of the businesses, this recedes, but the street itself is a mess.

And I can't see how you find much redeeming about vendors with neon signs hawking their $8 T-shirts adds anything to the ambience of Fisherman's Wharf. Contrast the Wharf area to the Ferry Building.

As for how tourists get here and get around here. BART runs directly from SFO to the city for less than $6. MUNI runs quickly - on the surface F line - to the Ferry building and the Wharf. Union Sq is very walkable. My parents, who live in a car centric suburb never rent a car when they come here and they consider that one of the attractions of coming here. And when they are tired and don't want to hassle, they take a cab - summing up to far less than they would spend on a rental, parking, and gas.

Granted those tourists have very poor transport to some far flung corners of the Richmond and Sunset, but the only tourist attraction out there is "Crazy Rob Anderson"

 
At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know Castro Street eh? You also said in another comment you know the 38-Geary and said their's nothing wrong with it.

I seriously doubt you know our neighborhood, because on crowded days when there's a movie, it's hard to walk on the theater side of the street. Sometimes people walk in the street because there's no room to walk on the sidewalk. But you're so wrapped up in your CarThnk you won't even consider making it easy and enjoyable to walk around Castro will you?

 
At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Bot Pot said...

This is great news! Thanks for letting me know Rob. I think it's time for you to move to Fresno! Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!

 
At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"there will come a time when, after you bike morons are done making traffic here a lot worse than it needs to be and you've made SF a lot like some piss-ant European city, people will think twice before they visit SF."

Right, and nobody ever visits those piss-ant European cities, do they? Where the quality of life is so much lower and the economies are so weak because they punish drivers so much...

 
At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes it gets to the point where if you are pro-city, you are anti-car by default.

We are at that point.

Cars can be anti-city by their very nature-- they take up too much space (while cities are compact by nature), they isolate people from each other (the opposite of what cities are for), they make the streets dangerous... the list goes on and on and on.

A better balance can certainly be achieved here.

 
At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Castro is wide enough to be a four-lane road, cars are able to double park on either side and still have plenty of extra room for both lanes of traffic to pass.

There's plenty of room to widen the sidewalks.

 
At 11:05 PM, Anonymous Taylor Raul said...

Why would anybody drive a car in San Francisco? Weird.

 
At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parking in the Castro is usually less convenient than just taking Muni, even as bad as Muni is most the time.

Castro doesn't have enough parking and I hate driving around, but if there was enough parking it would pretty much ruin the neighborhood character.

The traffic now kind of ruins it as people speed down Market and can anyone explain why they haven't closed that corner of 17th where the F-Trains turn around? It would make a nice corner plaza.

 

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