Friday, September 03, 2010

Taking space from cars in Noe Valley


From John Murphy's blog:

Last night, I got another email regarding "Public Space in Noe Valley". For those not following the saga, the Noe Valley Association wrote a grant which was looked upon favorably by San Francisco's San Francisco's Pavement to Parks program to put a Plaza on Noe Street in Noe Valley. I became a F-List Celebrity in Noe Valley---at least electronically---for advocating for this plaza but alas, we lost this battle in spectacular fashion . Instead Pavement to Parks decreed that Noe Valley would get two "parklets" along 24th Street.

Murphy is "Murphstahoe," the anti-car, bike zealot who used to obsessively comment to this blog. The "tahoe" part of his monicker comes from the fact that he owns property at Lake Tahoe he would like to rent (looks like it has a nice big, two-car garage to park your bike). The unsuccessful attempt to block off Noe and turn Noe Street at 24th Street into a "plaza" was evidently a bitter battle. Murphy admits that "the process was flawed": a neighborhood association was working with the city's Pavement to Parks program to get this done, someone "leaked" that information, and the shit hit the fan in Noe Valley:

If one thing was generally agreed upon during this whole saga, was that no matter the outcome, the process was flawed. While the NVA was very well meaning, many citizens felt that they figured out something they liked, and flung it upon an unsuspecting populace. They developed the idea, went to P2P, P2P approved the idea, and got set to roll it out. The idea was then leaked, a few people with enough influence to get their phone answered by our Supervisor[Dufty] put a bunch of DON'T BLOCK NOE signs in their windows, and the project was deemed to be too divisive before people who might like the project got to voice their opinions.

That is, the "people who might like the project" were the ones who came up with the idea, and, before the rest of the neighborhood knew about it, got some grant money from the city and a favorable reaction from the city's Pavement to Parks guy. Sounds like the pro-plaza folks were getting ready to spring a done-deal on the "unsuspecting" people of Noe Valley. It wasn't so much that, as Murphy says, he and the pro-plaza people lost in a "spectacular fashion," though there apparently was some shouting and disruption at the meetings on the issue. The city only backed off when it was clear that there was significant opposition to the plaza in the neighborhood itself, and the Pavement to Parks idea is supposed to be a win-win, feel-good deal for everyone. Once the consensus is in doubt on a neighborhood project with this impact---blocking off a city street---the project is in trouble, which may be the only good thing about district elections. (Opposition stopped an MTA "trial" to rearrange street parking and traffic lanes on Divisadero a few years ago.)

I wonder if the opponents of the failed plaza coup see it as part of the citywide anti-car movement in San Francisco. Murph of course is a hardcore bike guy, which one can see by his comments to this blog and to SFStreetsblog, the bike people's favorite website, which anyone interested in traffic and planning issues should read. The assumption of the anti-car movement is folded into the Pavement to Parks concept: pavement is bad and that parking spaces and traffic lanes are wasted on, well, cars and trucks and traffic in general, that the space would be better used by putting out furniture so that people can drink coffee, lounge around in public, and do anything but allow motor vehicles to use it. (Why anyone would want to drink coffee sitting on a busy street is a puzzle. Carbon monoxide with your latte?)

Murph and his allies in Noe Valley have received a consolation prize with the city's promise that they will be granted several parklets on 24th Street. That will require removing street parking, which of course is always welcome to an anti-car movement that wants to make driving in the city as expensive and difficult as possible. Eliminating parking is one way to do that (the Bicycle Plan will remove more than 2,000 parking spaces from city streets). The parklet in front of the bike-oriented coffee house on Divisadero removed three metered parking spaces, which is fine for that enterprise, but I bet local restaurants hate to see any parking in the neighborhood eliminated.

But the basic idea of the anti-car movement---whether it's plazas, parklets, or the Bicycle Plan---is to take space from cars whenever and wherever possible, which the Bicycle Coalition told us more than five years ago: ""We've done all the easy things so far. Now we need to take space from cars."

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