Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Improving" Divisadero

Whether those of us who live near the Divisadero Street corridor like it or not---and I don't like it---the city is about to make all kinds of "improvements" to that street:

Starting Monday, city crews will break ground on a major facelift of Divisadero Street between Geary Boulevard and Waller Street that is expected to last until early 2011. For those familiar with the corridor’s cracked streets and crime-ridden past, the planned improvements border on the unbelievable. Potholes will be filled, sidewalks will feature new public furniture and art and street medians will be tree-lined and landscaped in a way that will drastically enhance the beauty and feeling of safety in the neighborhood, said Christine Falvey, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

Unfortunately, there's nothing "unbelievable" at all about the facelift, which will start on Monday and dig up Diviz until 2011. Like a lot of streets in the city, Divisadero has long needed repaving, but the rest of the so-called improvements are cookie cutter junk: street "furniture," like the tacky-looking wrought-iron benches on the medians on Octavia Blvd that look like they were bought on sale at Home Depot; ditto for the new light standards, and please spare us the city's idea of public art. These vulgar, meddlesome city projects seem like more of a jobs program than real improvements to the targeted neighborhoods. See the awful Octavia Blvd. for the end result.

The Examiner interviews Michael Richardson, the owner of the barbecue joint at Divisadero and Grove:

Richardson said he’s looking forward to the change, but hopes it doesn’t come at the expense of the small businesses that have come to characterize the area’s artistic and diverse population. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “The neighborhood is already changing and all, you can see that. But [my restaurant] has a parking lot, so it’s a little bit easier for us [to survive construction] than other businesses.” The improvements could make Divisadero Street look more like nearby Octavia Street[sic], which has already undergone a drastic aesthetic change that helped attract pricey boutiques and a flood of foot traffic to the Hayes Valley neighborhood, Richardson said.

Now, that's a scary idea: the new Divisadero Street brought to you by the folks who brought us Octavia Blvd: five blocks of a no-man's-land, with freeway traffic, crappy street furniture, faux-antique lighting fixtures, and scraggly trees planted in the median. Whenever I visit Hayes Valley, there's a whole new batch of botiques replacing all those that went belly-up in the previous six months. There are very few businesses located on Octavia itself, which isn't surprising; it would be like doing business on a freeway (at least 45,000 cars a day, according to DPT).

As usual Supervisor Mirkarimi adds his ignorance and stupidity to the story:

But Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the Western Addition neighborhood, cautions against assertions that improvements on Divisadero Street are going to change the area’s creative and diverse makeup. “We have worked hard to keep the mom-and-pop businesses in demand ... while tackling the crime problem,” he said. Mirkarimi said he sees improvements along the corridor enhancing the good that is already there, including the relatively new quarterly art walks, the Independent music venue and student-filled cafes. The neighborhood is already a “comeback-kid story,” he said.

The idea that our neighborhood is some out-of-the-mud-grows-the-lotus story is simply bullshit. I moved back to the city in 1995, and the Divisadero corridor has changed little in the last 15 years. There are more coffee houses, and different small businesses occupy some of the street's storefronts, but it's always been a more or less economically blighted area, mainly because people from outside the neighborhood can't park, unlike, for example, the Ninth and Irving area, which prospers in large part because of the parking in that neighborhood.

Several city agencies are involved in the construction effort, and measures will be taken to mitigate negative impacts, Falvey said. Construction will no doubt reduce parking options and impact traffic, but “local access to businesses and properties will be maintained at all times,” she said. The project is part of Public Works’ Great Streets Program, which aims to achieve similar improvements to major neighborhood streets across The City. Four such projects are under way, with another four still in the planning stages, Falvey said.

The reality: Divisadero will be dug up/fucked up for more than a year, which will surely be a death knell for a number of the marginal small businesses on the street. "Parking options" are already severely limited in the area, and the traffic on Diviz has always been heavy, which means that all this construction will gridlock the area for months in a completely misguided attempt to turn an interesting neighborhood into something like Noe Valley.

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40 Comments:

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a non-resident of Divisadero, I think the city should maintain it's status quo of keeping certain neighborhoods like this one in a state of semi-blight. This keeps the homeless people targeted in those neighborhoods and away from Upper Pac Heights, Marina, Noe Valley. In addition, the majority of taxes in this city are paid by those of us living in the nice neighborhoods and as such we should get the benefot of the taxes paid, not places like the Divisadero cesspool.

I don't care why Rob doesn't like it, I don't like it either.

 
At 3:35 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Divisadero is "a cesspool"? Homelessness? Ridiculous. Obviously you don't know the neighborhood at all. It's unlikely to ever compete in tameness and blandness with Noe Valley, the Marina, or Pacific Heights. All the city will achieve with this annoying makeover is to insert some cutesy touches---the bulb-outs, the street furniture, the trees, the street light fixtures---that don't fit the kind of unpretentious neighborhood Divisadero is.

 
At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think all of San Francisco is a cesspool. Dirty, ugly, pot holed streets. Dirty, bullet riddled buildings, not much art, no where to sit (who would want to?) no flowers, hardly any trees, crappy weather, bird shit everywhere. Bums sleeping in doorways, shit on sidewalks. Oh! people say, Isn't living in the city great? Yikes! I used to live on Diviz and it was a crap hole then as now.

 
At 6:45 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Otherwise you like SF okay? I like the city, though City Hall and the Planning Dept. are doing their best to screw it up. The climate in particular suits me. Where do you live now that's better than SF?

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger Glovader said...

What planet do you typically hang-out on????
(Thanks Barney).
I moved here when it was impossible to get a taxi to either drop me off at my apt or to come out here to pick me up. I heard shots ring out that nearly killed the owner, "Rico". We had our Bar B Q stolen everytime we bought a new one. Things are changing on Divis and we are all the better for it. Thanks, City of SF--we need some upgrades and some beautification--even if some here want to keep it the cesspool that it was---AND IT REALLY WAS! The wonderful forward looking folks at NOPA began the latest transformation with their belief in our neighborhood. Perhaps people from other areas in the city won't be afraid to come here (like Hays area--many were afraid to go there for a very long time). Oh, cry me a river with your bitchy comments about how everything is not to your standards. We fully support the efforts of our City to bring the Divis Corridor (uh, huh, a new designation) a bit of life. Those businesses who bet on us--hopefully will be rewarded. I have been to so many meeings where all we here is NO, NO NO. Stop Kelly Moore, stop everything unless it meets our lovely specs. Good Luck with that. Thankfully, we have others looking out for us.

 
At 3:17 PM, Anonymous Terrance Nono said...

Wow. I never thought I'd agree with Rob.

Anonymous, it's pretty obvious you've never been to San Francisco. I suggest going back to Walnut Creek and putting a sock in it. We have enough dogs here already. DivCo is a better neighborhood than you could ever dream of living in.

As for the changes to the street, they sound good, but I'd like to see an actual map of the changes before final judgement. Bigger sidewalks are one thing we REALLY need and I don't see any mention of that.

 
At 4:42 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your comment is irrelevant to what I wrote, which wasn't about crime/safety but about the aesthetics of how the city goes about "improving" its neighborhoods. What exactly has been "stopped" on Diviz? Burger King and Blockbuster and rightly so. You're implying that there's some kind of direct connection between the city's cosmetic public works vulgarity and public safety, but there is no connection.

 
At 10:43 PM, Blogger missiondweller said...

Would have been thrilled with just re-paving. As I understand it, Divis along with Valencia are being "beautified" with Federal dollar.

The City simply cannot pass any free money from the Feds whether a project/ cause is desirable or not. Yes, the most prolific panhandler in SF is the government itself.

 
At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really? I live near Divisadero. I walk on it every day. It's not blighted. I've lived in places that are blighted and, sir, this ain't it. It's a quite vibrant street with many thriving businesses. Try Detroit if you want blighted--except for perhaps Hunters Point you aren't going to find much blight in SF. As for parking, there is just enough. My girlfriend is over nearly every single day and if she gets here before 9, she finds parking. It's just enough so your friends can visit but just little enough to keep the riff-raff from the Marina out. It looks like a good plan. As for Octavia, the problem is that one side is empty lots. It's still a great improvement over the Central Freeway.

 
At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many, many beautiful places in California to live other than the hideous City. San Francisco is beautiful from a distance; the skyline with it's soaring architecture, it's bridges, the blue sky and puffy clouds, or slithering fog, and of course the water. However, once in the City - it is really, really ugly. And, San Francisco doesn't "work" very well. It's infrastructure, it's transportation system, it's loony government, all playing a part in keeping the City crippled, unsightly, and suffering from an very bad case of fatal indigestion!

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Of course the street isn't "blighted" in any meaningful sense, which is what Mirkarimi is suggesting it was at some point in the recent past. But even in boom times there are always a bunch of empty storefronts on Divisadero. Glad that your girlfriend can find parking, but the real issue is parking for the businesses, especially the restaurants. The "plan" is nothing but bland, cookie-cutter crap out of some street planning order book. I don't think that Octavia Blvd. is better than what we had with the Central Freeway. I think 45,000 cars a day coming through the heart of Hayes Valley on Octavia is worse than having them go over the neighborhood, not to mention the stupid benches on the media that no one ever has or ever will sit on and the phoney antique light standards.

 
At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob Anderson: I've sat on the benches. You can whine about the light standards, and you may be right, but when you say because the lighting above your head is less than ideal it is worse than having a double-decker freeway in its place, I have to say you are quite mad. Octavia Blvd is one of the best ideas the city has ever had. Now if they just got busy taking down the rest of the freeways within the city, that would be great.

 
At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are many, many beautiful places in California to live other than the hideous City." OK, then live there. I wouldn't live anywhere else. The rest of California is appalling sprawl. Its distriguishing features are strip malls and freeways. There is no there there. It's hideous. San Francisco government works slowly, but usually they seem to come to the right conclusion in the end more often than not. If I couldn't live in SF, I'd leave the state. That said, if you don't like it, you'll get no objection from me if you choose to live elsewhere. One less person driving up the rent is a-ok with me.

 
At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, you must be the bitterest guy in town.
I'm loving the mix on Divis, and getting rid of the ugly freeway-style lighting is a welcome change. Parking? Real city folks don't need more. We walk or bike, or take MUNI. Be careful Rob or you might just choke on your own bile.

 
At 10:12 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I also like the mix on Diviz now; that's the whole point of my post. "Real city folks" don't need parking? All they need are bikes and Muni? Real folks who own businesses like enough parking so that customers can reach them. There are 465,000 motor vehicles registered in SF. You bike assholes are cheapskates who never spend any money anyhow.

 
At 11:07 PM, Blogger Natalie said...

I'm puzzled by your comments about Octavia Boulevard. It was never meant to be a commercial corridor. It is a replacement for the Central Freeway. Would you rather see the overpass still there? It's access to major east/west "freeways" in the city, like it or not. I'm glad they tore down the overpass and at least replaced it with some greenery. And I love the kaleidescopes as well. Plus we got a park out of it. If we get some more trees in the Divis corridor, I'm all for it.

 
At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep waiting for someone to point out that having a freeway touchdown at a major street (Market and Octavia) for bicycles and pedestrians creates a brand new intersection designed for serious injuries. This is exactly what's happened!

I know some people think it's "beautiful" without the overpass, but that still doesn't resolve the basic fact that it is dangerous.

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I'm puzzled by your comments about Octavia Boulevard. It was never meant to be a commercial corridor. It is a replacement for the Central Freeway. Would you rather see the overpass still there?"

The freeway overpass versus the present Octavia Blvd. is a much closer call than you and the anti-freeway folks think. Instead of all that traffic going over Hayes Valley, we now have 45,000 cars a day on a surface street in the middle of the neighborhood. A few trees and a small park where dogs shit is a big improvement? Spending millions to tart up Diviz will give us more trees, I suppose, but all the neighborhood really needs is more parking and a repaved Divisadero. This kind of project is more of a jobs program than anything else. The kaleidescopes on Octavia are the kind of artsy-fartsy "public" art that I can do without but we'll get something equally crappy for Diviz when the city is done "improving" it.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Adam Greenfield said...

Rob, I really enjoy reading this blog and even, perversely, your activism, even though it has cost the taxpayer millions, set back the movement to reduce our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, and possibly cost lives. But we need more people like you who will do "what it takes" to get things done, so I admire that.

Specifically to this post, on what evidence do you base your comment "the Ninth and Irving area, which prospers in large part because of the parking in that neighborhood"?

To counter your assertion, following the Mission Sunday Streets events, there is a growing merchant voice on 24th Street calling for Sunday Streets to happen more often. This is because those merchants saw an increase to their business because of foot and pedal traffic.

Actually, more and more evidence is emerging to show that neighborhoods that cater for humans rather than cars do better business. They're also nicer places to live - compare, for example, North Beach to... LA.

The move away from auto-dependence will not be devoid of hurdles (lower income earners whose jobs depend on driving being among them) but the alternatives (depressing urban environments, environmental degradation, dependence on diminishing resources, a car-first culture producing a higher cost of life for everyone, and so on) are far worse.

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger Natalie said...

Market and Octavia is only dangerous because the Bicycle Coalition and the city fucked it up. It doesn't have to be inherently dangerous. Restricting right turns there was a stupid idea. They should have put the bike lane in the middle, as they did around 9th street. I've ridden that stretch hundreds of times and having the lane in the middle has never been a problem. And Rob, it's obvious you've never spent any time in that park or you would see people (and dogs) using it on a daily basis. I've never stepped in dog shit any of the dozens of times I've hung out there. At least it brings something other than concrete to the neighborhood.

 
At 11:33 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Rob, I really enjoy reading this blog and even, perversely, your activism, even though it has cost the taxpayer millions, set back the movement to reduce our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, and possibly cost lives. But we need more people like you who will do 'what it takes' to get things done, so I admire that."

Thanks. I do what I can to slow down you and the other crackpots in the great anti-car movement. What's going to be your argument when cars no longer run on fossil fuels? I base my opinion on the Ninth and Irving area on my many visits to that neighborhood to have lunch and shop. We commonly drive there and park in one of the small parking lots in the area. And, if one needs to linger over lunch and stay longer, there's the 800-space garage under the Concourse, where you can park for $2.00 an hour and walk over to Ninth and Irving. Divisadero has nothing like that. In fact, since the city has made it impossible for the owner of the derelict Harding Theater property to do anything with it, the city should buy it, tear down the Harding and make a parking lot, which would be good for local merchants, especially while the city is doing its year-long fuck-up of Diviz.

"Actually, more and more evidence is emerging to show that neighborhoods that cater for humans rather than cars do better business."

It may come as news to you, Adam, but humans are driving those cars. In fact there are 465,000 licensed motor vehicles in SF, all our goods are delivered by trucks,and our tourist economy depends on people's ability to drive into and around the city.

 
At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You bike assholes are cheapskates who never spend any money anyhow."

I spend less money at the gas station and more money on fresh, local, organic produce.

 
At 11:23 PM, Blogger lyqwyd said...

shocking, rob doesn't like something!

who would have guessed?

 
At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You bike assholes are cheapskates who never spend any money anyhow."

http://www.bicycling.com/article/0,6610,s1-3-12-20548-1,00.html

"REBIRTH: Mojo has helped spark a revival after years of economic decline along Divisadero Street. As dining and nightlife spots have opened around it, Mojo has drawn big crowds of both cyclists and their nonriding cohorts to its happy hours ($2 pints) and nightly live music. When Portland, Oregon-based breakout band Blind Pilot came through San Francisco on a recent bike-powered tour, its Mojo set drew so many people, most were standing on the sidewalk."

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"shocking, rob doesn't like something!who would have guessed?"

You missed the point of the post, which is that I like Divisadero the way it is. All these cutesy, cosmetic changes are only going to make our neighborhood like others in the city, which is a shame.

 
At 1:13 PM, Blogger lyqwyd said...

Actually, you missed the point, I was referring the the first line of the post: "Whether those of us who live near the Divisadero Street corridor like it or not---and I don't like it"

 
At 1:50 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another whiff, eye chart: I don't like the city's "improvements" because I like the neighborhood the way it is. I suppose I could do a blog based on all the things I like about SF, but, given the already widespread civic narcissism here, that would be coals to Newcastle.

 
At 2:15 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

The first amendment guarantees the right for you to tell us what you don't like. The 14th guarantees all of us the right to outvote you.

 
At 2:59 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

People in this neighborhood have never had a chance to vote on the so-called improvements to Divisadero, just as they've never been able to vote on the Bicycle Plan or Critical Mass.

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representative_democracy

Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to either autocracy or direct democracy.[1]

 
At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to compare how much commerce takes place on streets with lots of cycling vs streets with little cycling (and also what type of commerce).

When you're driving, you're going to places like Best Buy or Ikea and it happens... every so often.

When you're biking, you're going to places like Bi Rite or Ike's and it happens... every god-damn day.

 
At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

Oh, Rob... so bitter!

"You bike assholes are cheapskates who never spend any money anyhow."

That's painting with a ridiculously wide brush, Rob. Very few of my friends have cars, and I can guarantee that most of us spend way more money than you do. Of course, the amount of money that one "spends" is a pretty stupid metric on which to judge them. Is all that money drivers spend on gas, parking, and automobile maintenance really enriching our local economy? Not exactly—especially when you factor in the true costs of all those cars' effects on the city and its residents.

Or is it just that you're jealous because we don't have to pay all of those exorbitant fees just to get from one place to another?

"What's going to be your argument when cars no longer run on fossil fuels?"

It's going to be a very long time before that happens, Rob. I'm going to re-post this bit of a comment I made on these hallowed pages before, which you never saw fit to respond to because you obviously have no intelligent rebuttal to make:

In case you missed it, the Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force just released a final report which points out that our state's grid doesn't even have the capacity to support them [electric vehicles] yet (on page 53):

6.2.4 Electric cars cannot replace the current vehicle fleet.
There are alternatives to the conventional auto that do not use petroleum at all. One such automobile type is the plug-in electric car. However, there are significant infrastructure challenges in bringing electric vehicle use up to any meaningful scale. Electric vehicles require hours to fully charge, which eliminates the possibility of establishing charging stations that, like gas stations, could quickly recharge the vehicles.

Even if the City were willing to spend the necessary funds to build and maintain citywide electric-car-charging infrastructure, San Francisco does not have access to the significant electrical power that would be necessary to charge more than a fraction of the vehicles on the road: A recent study estimates that, given current capacity, California's electric grid would be unable to handle the conversion of more than 15% of the current automobile stock to electric vehicles.


Or has the task force just underestimated the City's ability to replace or retrofit over 465,000 vehicles and replace our fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure with a sustainable system capable of handling that many EVs? It's not hard to see a lot more promise in the comparatively humble "bicycle fantasy" of promoting reduced automobile use in the near term than the (very) long-term prospect of replacing enough gasoline-powered cars to make even the slightest dent in our consumption of oil and our automobiles' production of harmful emissions.

Not to mention that it's a hell of a lot more fun to ride your bike through Golden Gate Park than it is to drive a car into some dreary underground lot. I know, Rob: We're not all spritely young whipper-snappers capable of doing everything on a bike. But surely there are many regular motorists who would do well to get on one at least every once in a while. Or are you too bitter to even admit that?

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I haven't owned a car in 25 years, Shawn, so I don't have any car-related expenses. Your "peak oil" dogma is typical prog bullshit. Here's a website that tells us the transition from oil is likely to be a lot smoother and more gradual that you doomsters like to believe (http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/). You're comment is typical in that you confuse my contempt for your smug, trendy anti-car bullshit for personal bitterness. You folks find it hard to believe that anyone finds your prog belief system stupid. Typical that you have nothing to say about all the "improvements" the city is bringing to Divisadero.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"I haven't owned a car in 25 years, Shawn, so I don't have any car-related expenses."

By your own admission that you cannot afford one. If you are so removed from actual commerce that you can't afford a car, you can hardly claim expertise in local economics.

The Peak Oil debunked guy is just some guy sitting in front of his computer surfing Fox News for lies he can use to support his case. Truly an expert compared to say, the Ca ISO...

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

Okay, so you don't own a car... but you "commonly drive" to the 9th and Irving area, so clearly you incur some car-related expenses.

As for peak oil being "typical prog bullshit", well, that's your opinion. What I find hilarious is that even your precious debunker advocates conservation as an important component of peak oil mitigation strategy. And which activities, pray tell, does he list at the top of the conservation list? Why, walking and bicycling. That's some serious cognitive dissonance you've got going on in that head of yours.

I, obviously, think that conservation is going to have to play a much bigger role than you do, for the very reasons that the Peak Oil Task Force describes. Both our city and state are strapped for cash, and our federal government seems incapable of enacting serious policy that would upgrade our electrical grid, invest in renewable energy production, and reform both our national and municipal transit systems. The automakers (especially the US ones) sure as hell aren't in any position to replace the entire fleet of cars on the road today with EVs in a time frame that could be remotely considered "near term", and most people couldn't afford to trade their cars for (more expensive) EVs now even if that were the case.

You offer no solutions for any of these problems, yet you keep insisting that EVs will save us despite the obvious, myriad hurdles. And then you say that I'm crazy for thinking that riding a bike is going to make a difference.

Well, I've been riding my bike instead of driving for about 4 years now, saving untold thousands of gallons of oil, literally tons of environmentally damaging emissions, and improving my life (not to mention those of my friends and family, through personal advocacy) in many ways that can't be accounted for on a spreadsheet. Is that "progressive"? In the truest sense of the word. "Smug" or "trendy"? Perhaps. But if doing what I can to reduce my impact right now while simultaneously enriching the the lives of myself and others is "stupid", well, then I don't want to be smart.

Tell me, Rob: What have you done to make a difference?

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Some guy sitting in front of a computer," kind of like you at "work," when you do all your moronic commenting.

 
At 1:35 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

You commenting on "work" is even less appropriate than you commenting on bikes.

 
At 1:51 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I began working full-time when I was 17 years old, and, except for the time spent in school, worked until I was 64 and became my mother's caretaker, the worst job I've ever had. I've worked in garment factories, a lumber mill, a casino, in law offices, and in a number of kitchens as a dishwasher, the hardest job in every restaurant or food operation. I could outwork your punk ass any day, Murph, sitting there in front of your computer with your dick in your hand.

 
At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, your hatred is slowly killing the life you have and hurting the city you say you care about. Have you thought about checking out Buddhism? http://webdharma.com/ctzg/zenforbeginners.html

 
At 9:22 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Have you thought about kissing my ass?

 

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