Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Richmond District is okay

San Francisco is home to thousands of know-it-alls, mostly young guys and gals who parachute into Progressive Land from elsewhere and immediately begin setting us right about our city, which we mistakenly thought was pretty nice in the first place. The recent comments on the Geary bus rapid transit (BRT) issue provide a rich harvest of the know-it-all genre:

This is one of my major complaints with our current district elections implementation. It is FAR FAR too easy for even one single person to hijack planning processes and delay massive projects for years. How much money has been spent appeasing David Heller? It's absolutely insane that a tiny percentage can keep pushing and pushing and pushing projects until it is no longer feasible. The basic tenet that the richmond needs to continue to have shizzy transit to support small businesses is another example of the provincial micro thinking of these tin hats---how about improving transit enough that people travel INTO the hood to do shopping? Oh, no that might bring the riff raff from lower left adjacent laurel heights. Seriously grow a pair SF. Some people will never EVER be happy. The 38 is the most used bus line west of the mississippi and people who ride it spend more than 50% time WAITING. It's way time to address the issue.

I don't know of any instance of "one single person" delaying "massive projects for years" in the city. Not surprisingly, Mr. Know-it-all---all the commenters to Curbed seem to be anonymous, a great opportunity for folks like him to spread stupidity and misinformation---doesn't give us any examples. In fact the opposite is closer to the reality in District 5. Consider how Supervisor Mirkarimi and David Tornheim have singlehandedly prevented the derelict and undistinguished old Harding Theater property on Divisadero from being turned into housing and retail storefronts. Consider too how Mirkarimi has taken the lead in turning a state and national landmark---the old UC Extension property on lower Haight Street---into a massive housing development to fatten poor old UC's bottom line. Mirkarimi---who fancies himself a radical---would never have been elected supervisor in a citywide, at-large system of representation.

No money at all has been spent "appeasing David Heller," a small businessman who's only offense is that he's been skeptical of the Geary BRT from the start. The Geary BRT idea has undergone a feasibility study and is now undergoing a full EIR. Nothing about the project has been delayed for a minute by Heller or anyone else. What the writer seems to hate is the very idea of someone not immediately and enthusiastically endorsing the Geary BRT, because that idea is the latest brainchild of the so-called planners at the MTA and the aggressively pro-development Planning Dept.

The notion too that the Richmond district is somehow an isolated city neighborhood is laughable. How can that be true if, as the writer correctly notes, the Geary #38 line is the "most used bus line west of the Mississippi"? Anyone who's been on Clement Street recently either at night or during the day can only be impressed by the awesome vitality of the area, which is already blessed with a natural commercial and residential density that people like this commenter ignore. The Richmond needs more visitors? No doubt during a recession the many bars, restaurants, coffee houses, book stores, and fruit stands in the area think so, and they aren't wrong; but that part of town is hardly dying on the vine from isolation and neglect.

This comment on the same thread attacks me for republishing the article from the Richmond Review on an informational meeting on the Geary BRT:

relying on coverage from a nitwit liar like Rob Anderson is like relying on coverage about the imprisoned jouralists from kim jong il. if it were not for rent control and free lawyers, his ass would be out of SF long ago, and his attempts to nullify the people's will with lawyers says it all. Geary had a fucking streetcar for years, and the only reason they took it out was to avoid duplicate service when BART (which omg would have been hell with that trench they'd need to dig) was going to go in. 50 years later and shitty bus service that was a temporary measure is still with us. Now, a not great but not bad solution is proposed and a few whiners get all the attention. WTF? Fuck David (the liar) Heller and Rob (the loser) Anderson and fuck all the little minded nimby fucks who drag out planning processes and more at the expense of the taxpayer to satisfy that hollow soul of theirs that never got validated in fucking high school or because your life is a sad existence best portrayed on an A&E tv show.

It's no use pointing out that I didn't write the article; I just republished it. Or that the article itself wasn't an op-ed opposing the Geary BRT. It was simply coverage of what went on in a particular meeting in the Richmond, during which some people voiced skepticism about the project. How dare they? The writer seems to see himself as a hard-hitting critic of something or other---in addition to me and David Heller, that is---who thinks using the word "fuck" is an effective way to make his points, such as they are. Nor has any particular "solution" been proposed yet. All we have is a feasibility study; the EIR will presumably focus on the pros and cons of the different alternatives.

Like the views of the previous commenter, it's the implied conformity that's interesting. How dare anyone question what City Hall wants to do to any part of our town? Doesn't City Hall know what's best for our neighborhoods? Well, no, it doesn't. Residents of the Richmond are right to be skeptical of a city government that thinks the Market/Octavia Plan is sensible planning: rezoning more than 4,000 properties in the middle of the city to encourage developers to build market-rate housing in an already densely-populated area, including 40-story highrises at Market and Van Ness! The M/O Plan, by the way, is explicitly based on the half-baked "transit corridors" idea---that we should build a lot more housing, including residential highrises---along our major traffic arteries. People in the Richmond surely know about this neighborhood-destroying idiocy coming out of City Hall, and they rightly worry that the Geary BRT is the first step in turning that part of town into still another target for radical densification.

And my alleged "attempts to nullify the people's will with lawyers says it all" is a reference to our successful litigation that forced the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan before it began redesigning our streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists. When exactly was "the people's will" expressed on the Bicycle Plan? "Never" is when, since the Bicycle Plan has never been on the ballot and would be rejected by city voters if it was, which is why it never will be on the ballot. The people in the Richmond understand that the elitists in City Hall think they know what's best for the neighborhoods. They remember that the bike people were still insisting a few years ago---after construction on the garage was nearly complete---that all the traffic to the new, 800-space garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park should use the Tenth and Fulton entrance, and that there was no need for an inside-the-park entrance to the garage. Fortunately, both the Concourse Authority and Judge Warren rejected that stupid idea, which would have gridlocked Fulton Street and the surrounding neighborhood.

Don't we all just love bloggers who purport expertise around things they know not a bit about? What the hell has happened to this site in the past few months? Its slowly morphing into the daily lecture, sort of a "Guardian-ton Post." The Richmond is just a big city neighborhood, relatively newish by SF standards, that has changed little on the outside while changing mightily in terms of demographics. It hosts some of the best Dim Sum, Housewares stores, street scenes by day and dining scenes by night, of anyplace in the city. Parking is tight-ish, it's well served by transit, and the people who "get" it, love it. The people who would never "get" it because they are dull ideologues, insist that it must be massively changed to fit the latest hype out of the UC Berkeley graduate school of urban studies. Good luck with that.

This "gets it" about the Richmond, especially the crack about the latest fad in "urban studies." San Francisco is crawling with overpaid "planners" in the MTA and the Planning Dept. who encourage population density in city neighborhoods via the "transit corridors" theory, even as they push the crackpot, anti-car Bicycle Plan. These folks have read Jane Jacobs and seem to think that encouraging population density in already-densely populated city neighborhoods is the height of planning wisdom, along with the planet-saving transportation "mode" of cycling.

This comment is even better:

It is fine the way it is and will be better when the BRT is completed. What do you mean be a viable urban neighborhood in the future? Its the same as its always been and it will stay the way it's always been. It's a nice relatively affordable middle class neighborhood with a nice mix of housing options, a nice mix of retail and residential, and at least seven bus lines. 1, 1x 2, 38, 38L, 38ax, 38bx, 31, 31ax, 31bx, 5, 29, 28L 18, 21, 28, 44, and 33 and eventually, BRT. No one is more than 2 blocks from a bus and there's owl service as well. If you can't get around with all that then you aren't cut out to live here.

The big problem the Geary BRT proposal is trying to address is essentially the stretch of Geary between 33rd Avenue and Masonic Blvd., where there are stoplights and stop signs at nearly every intersection to allow north-south traffic to cross Geary. That's what's slowing the #38 line down, along with the stretch between Van Ness and the terminal on First Street, which goes through a very densely populated part of the city. How exactly would a Geary BRT deal with the cross-streets problem? Just giving the bus line its own lane doesn't automatically provide a solution. And what about the intersections at Fillmore and Masonic? These are difficult issues, for which the collected works of Jane Jacobs and the inane "transit corridors" theory provide no ready answers.

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