Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mayor Newsom: "There will be a lot of parking spaces removed..."

The Bay Guardian's Steve Jones and other journalists cornered Mayor Newsom last week as the city implemented one of the Bicycle Plan projects allowed by Judge Busch. The mayor talked (below in italics) about implementing the rest of the projects in the Plan: "Newsom said he was supportive of the projects in the Bike Plan, even though many of them will cause the loss of traffic lanes and parking spaces, something he had decried in the past."

That Mayor Newsom has ever been an opponent of the bike people is pure mythology. The leftist Guardian has criticized Newsom on many other issues, but, except for his veto of Healthy Saturdays in Golden Gate Park several years ago, Mayor Newsom has given the city's bike people everything they've asked for, even appointing the SFBC's Leah Shahum to the MTA board of directors. I've been following this issue for years, and I've never heard Mayor Newsom "decry" the loss of parking spaces or traffic lanes in any context.

But it's interesting to note that the mayor admits he's a little uneasy about implementing the rest of the Bicycle Plan: "There will be changes[to the Plan]. There will be good ideas that we all agreed to and then we’ll go, wow, this has had unintended consequences, we’ve got to pull back. That doesn’t mean you’re going to reduce necessarily the amount of bike lanes, but it just might be that bike lanes that we do, based upon circumstances that we weren’t aware of that unveil.”

The mayor may have been thinking of the push-back the city has already gotten on the proposed Second Street project. Or he may be rightly worried about planned projects on, for example, Fifth Street, Masonic Avenue, and Cesar Chavez, projects that, according to the EIR, will have "significant unavoidable consequences" on traffic and Muni lines on those streets. Judge Busch is allowing the city to implement only ten small, low-impact projects before a hearing on the adequacy of the Bicycle Plan EIR next June, which shows that he too is concerned about the impact implementing the rest of the Bicycle Plan will have on city streets. He probably doesn't want to be known as the judge who allowed the bike nuts to screw up city streets.

If the mayor and Judge Busch are worried, the people of San Francisco should be worried, too.

But once the topic of the budget was exhausted and the questions turned back to bike and greening issues, the mayor seemed to brighten up. Newsom said he was supportive of the projects in the Bike Plan, even though many of them will cause the loss of traffic lanes and parking spaces, something he had decried in the past.

“There will be a lot of parking spaces that will be removed and there’s a lot of controversy. But I think they’ve been very judicious, the MTA, in having public hearings and engaging the community. I like the idea of broad strokes implementation as opposed to project by project. I think, to our credit, the city has done a very good job at doing more outreach than we have in the past,” he said. “But until you actually do it, then in abstract terms people may be accepting of it, until their parking space is gone and they say what they heck is this. But I feel much more confident than I have in the past that we’ve done the appropriate amount of outreach.”

But he also left the door open to modifying the plan. “There will be changes. There will be good ideas that we all agreed to and then we’ll go, wow, this has had unintended consequences, we’ve got to pull back. That doesn’t mean you’re going to reduce necessarily the amount of bike lanes, but it just might be that bike lane that we do, based upon circumstances that we weren’t aware of that unveil.”

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