Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Joel Ramos is annoyed


Joel Ramos didn't like the Dogpatch/Portrero Hill uprising against MTA's plan to put parking meters in those neighborhoods:

“I thought that a lot of the tenor that was coming from the community was rude, to put it nicely. I certainly hope that we can move forward in this conversation with a little more respect with one another...From the way that I see it, we are looking at a budget deficit, and if we don’t get this hole addressed it’s going to translate to service cuts and that translates into attacks on our most vulnerable population."
 
The people objecting to parking meters in their neighborhoods didn't understand that, in Ramos's mind, MTA and City Hall are their overlords and that people who own cars in the neighborhoods are primarily sources of revenue for an improvident city government.

Ramos claims to be worried about Muni's budget deficit, but he and other "smart growth" advocates support the Central Subway project, to which MTA itself is contributing $163,890,000 in---wait for it---parking revenue! (see page 4 of this document) And of course he and his pals at TransForm support the grandaddy of all boondoggles, the high-speed rail project.

Mayor Lee appointed bike guy Ramos to the MTA board last year. I warned readers at the time that, like Cheryl Brinkman, he would be another militant anti-car person on the board. The MTA website provides a brief overview of his background:

Through his personal transit advocacy and professional work in community planning at TransForm, Mr. Ramos has been active on several other Bay Area committees that are committed to providing better pedestrian, bicycling, and transit infrastructure, as well as more affordable housing through transit oriented development. Since 2008, Director Ramos has been an active volunteer on the Geary Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit Community Advisory Committee.

Like a lot of organizations in the dumb "smart growth" movement, TransForm is anti-car. "Smart growth" is the umbrella concept under which other sketchy ideas, like "affordable housing through transit oriented development," flourish in planning circles. This means that San Francisco, for example, can supposedly build an almost unlimited amount of new housing along any street in the city that has a major Muni line. Both UC's massive housing development on lower Haight Street and the Market and Octavia Plan are touted as "transit-oriented," but neither really includes a significant amount of affordable housing. Nor does either project provide more money for transit. And developers are limited in the amount of parking they can provide for the thousands of new housing units in both the UC development (1,000 new residents in 450 units) and the Market/Octavia project (10,000 new residents in 4,440 units).

Check out this height map from the Market/Octavia Plan for the Market and Van Ness intersection. This is what our Planning Department and folks like Ramos consider "smart growth." These will be residential highrises, not commercial real estate, and that plan includes no money for Muni to handle thousands of new residents. Let them ride bikes!

Interesting too that Ramos is on the Geary Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit Community Advisory Committee. There's already some suspicion in the avenues that the Geary BRT is a project fronting for eventual "smart growth" along Geary Boulevard. The fox is now in the hen house! 

A few years ago Ramos and TransForm tried to push through a poorly-conceived BRT project in the east bay, where their tactics prompted this criticism:
 
TransForm is recognized as a completely undemocratic organization that is primarily funded by pro-development groups to promote construction of high-rise residential buildings. This group regularly organizes outsiders to come into communities to try to manipulate their decisions about transit systems and development. TransForm routinely mischaracterizes its involvement with the communities it claims to represent—calling what it does “cooperative engagement,” when it is really coercion and manipulation. And its representatives routinely misrepresent the views of the public at regional and local meetings. (They actually do this so often that they ought to be called misrepresentatives.)

I challenged Joel Ramos, the community planner for TransForm, to attend at least one meeting with the community members in Berkeley if he was going to continue to talk about their beliefs, but he failed to do so. He also refused my request to debate him in public about BRT. You may have noticed that this a common behavior among BRT supporters—they always shy away from a fair fight in public, preferring instead to use one-sided forums to propagate their suspect values where they won’t be challenged in any way. 

by Rachel Gordon
Municipal Transportation Agency staff has been emphasizing that the meters are needed as a tool to better manage parking in neighborhoods where finding a legal spot is already tough and expected to get worse. But Joel Ramos, who serves on the oversight board and who supports the meter expansion plan, said the prospect for more money also is at play.

“From the way that I see it, we are looking at a budget deficit and if we don’t get this hole addressed it’s going to translate to service cuts and that translates into attacks on our most vulnerable population,” Ramos said.

Much of the city’s parking revenue is used to fund Muni transit service, which has been hit with fare increases and service cuts.

Ramos also took some of the most vocal opponents of the meter proposal to task. “I did hear a lot of hyperbole at that meeting,” he said in reference to a packed community forum he attended on Jan. 30 in which members of the public vented their anger and frustration at Reiskin and other transportation agency officials in the room.

“I thought that a lot of the tenor that was coming from the community was rude, to put it nicely. I certainly hope that we can move forward in this conversation with a little more respect with one another.

“We do need to come to some sort of compromise,” Ramos added, “and I think that the MTA has demonstrated that willingness to reach out to the community, but we have to come to a place starting where we agree, and I think I did hear refreshingly that there was a substantial amount of folk that did recognize that free parking isn’t free, and we need to find a way to accommodate the needs of the city through a better look at how we can better manage the parking there.”

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