Tuesday, May 13, 2014

John King's amen chorus: Norquist and Macdonald

Elizabeth Macdonald and John Norquist

John King and some of the other perps who brought us the Octavia Boulevard that replaced the Central Freeway ramp in Hayes Valley revisited the scene of the crime this week. The Central Freeway used to carry 90,000 vehicles a day over Hayes Valley. Shortly after it opened to traffic, Octavia Blvd. was carrying 45,000 cars a day through the middle of the neighborhood, and by 2012 that traffic was up to 63,000.

Back in 2004, King consulted John Norquist in a column that declared the city's plan for Octavia Blvd. a success long before the street opened to traffic in 2005:

"This is an area where San Francisco is really leading the nation," says John Norquist, executive director of the Chicago-based Congress for a New Urbanism and former mayor of Milwaukee. "Not everyone has the benefit of an earthquake like San Francisco did, but if the boulevard works, it could end up being replicated across the country"...Octavia's attention to detail intrigues Norquist. His Chicago-based organization of architects and planners has teamed with traffic engineers to create new national guidelines for urban thoroughfares that are neighborhood-friendly. There's a practical reason: Many elevated freeways are near the end of their structural lives. "If you design it right, you can have a civilized place," Norquist says. "Even with lots of traffic, it can still be a pleasant place to be."

King and his pal Norquist revisited Octavia Blvd. the other day and declared it a success:

The group was organized by the Congress for the New Urbanism, a Chicago planning advocacy organization. Executive director John Norquist has made freeway removal a priority, and he saw the Bay Area as a showcase to drive home the point that turning back the clock can be beneficial. "It helps when people see physically, with your own eyes, that you can take down a freeway and life goes on," said Norquist...

Yes, life goes on---does it have any choice?---even when there are more than 60,000 vehicles a day coming through the middle of your neighborhood. Commercial life? Not so much. Unlike nearby Hayes Street, there are few businesses on this part of Octavia Blvd., since it's essentially an expressway leading to and from the freeway, a function the Central Freeway used to perform by bringing the traffic over the neighborhood.

Like Norquist King likes the life-goes-on trope, especially in conjunction with a lot of landscaping to cover up planning blunders and all that traffic:

Now the freeway touches down at Market Street before shifting to a boulevard with two lanes of traffic on either side of a median filled by thick poplars. On either side, there's an additional lane for local traffic, set apart from the central lanes by elms and shrubs to buffer the adjacent blocks from the commuter slog. The visitors from New Orleans and Syracuse, N.Y., were greeted by Elizabeth Macdonald, an associate professor at UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design. Her firm, Jacobs Macdonald: Cityworks, designed the boulevard with the city's Department of Public Works. "One of the big issues we faced was the transition of the freeway to the city," Macdonald said. "Touching down at Market Street has some issues." Indeed, the central lanes are jammed for much of the day and cause backups on Page and Oak streets...


Yes, there are "some issues" with the freeway touchdown at Market and Octavia.

There are "backups" not just on Page and Oak Streets; the whole area is now a chronic traffic jam for most of the day. Think traffic is bad there now? Soon it will be a lot worse after some other planning fiascos are completed---the UC development a block off Octavia Blvd. will bring 1,000 new residents to the neighborhood, and the Market and Octavia Plan's residential highrises will bring another 10,000 new residents to the area. Neither of these projects provides more money for Muni.

Maybe all those new residents will ride bikes after they get here.

The highrise zoning for the Market and Van Ness area.

Labels: , , , , , ,

13 Comments:

At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Neither of these plans provides more money for Muni."

Not sure why that's a bad thing. As Wendell Cox has shown repeatedly (ti.org/antiplanner), adding more funding to bloated, union-ridden transit services only makes them worse, and few people use it anyway - most people drive in single-occupant cars. Probably the best thing would be to shut down or privatize Muni at this point.

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

Life goes on, because life is strong, but it sure got a hell of a lot harder for a lot of people. That doesn't matter to these clowns.

 
At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Unlike nearby Hayes Street, there are few businesses on this part of Octavia Blvd., since it's essentially an expressway leading to and from the freeway, a function the Central Freeway used to perform by bringing the traffic over the neighborhood."

What a shame the overpass is gone! Under highways are often thriving business areas, especially grassroots industries such as can collection, prostitution and drug dealing. Of course, these once-thriving small businesses were all but wiped out by the "Smart Growth" social engineers that have remade Octavia according to their own whims.

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Hard to understand why jerks like you think you're so clever, but then that's why you're anonymous.

What you and people like John King, Jason Henderson, and all the usual prog suspects who voted to not rebuild the Central Freeway are in denial about: that awful, traffic-clogged Octavia Blvd. was always the trade-off of not rebuilding the freeway there.

You can argue that this is better than the old freeway---which was not a hard act to follow---but not, like King and his fellow boosters, that the present Octavia Blvd. is some kind of planning and traffic triumph.

 
At 11:27 AM, Anonymous sfthen said...

Anon wrote, "What a shame the overpass is gone! Under highways are often thriving business areas, especially grassroots industries such as can collection, prostitution and drug dealing."

This Anon person is either not from San Francisco or is very new to San Francisco and obviously knows nothing about that area. Monday, on the sidewalk of an alley between Gough and Brady (just a block from the fabulous McCoppin Hub that "will revitalize and enliven") there was a little pile of refuse by a cardboard sign, "HUNGRY", and in the pile was a bunch of crumpled Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers and six or eight plastic syringes with the orange caps covering the points.

That Potemkin village tour John King wrote about was just showing the visitors what they wanted to see, not what is there. As Civic Center/ mid-Market is "revitalized" the homeless addicts will just do like they've always done: move to an adjacent area. These 'New Urbanist' types just squeeze the balloon and rush in to write a feel good article about how they've tranformed the neighborhood before the tide washes back in.

 
At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You can argue that this is better than the old freeway---which was not a hard act to follow---but not, like King and his fellow boosters, that the present Octavia Blvd. is some kind of planning and traffic triumph."

So you're not even sure if the situation is worse or better than before with the freeway? What are bitching about, then?

 
At 2:50 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You provide my exact words about what I'm "bitching about," and you still don't get it!

 
At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I get it. You can't decide whether it's good or not that the highway was torn down or not, but you're pissed off that no one cares what you think about it.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You can make a good argument about the ugly Central Freeway overpass, but it's ridiculous to tout the new, unimproved Octavia Blvd. as some kind of great planning and traffic achievement. Octavia is now in fact the "highway" that used to carry all that traffic over the neighborhood carrying it through the middle of Hayes Valley, spreading traffic gridlock throughout that part of town.

And you morons also allowed UC to rip off the old extension property a block away, where it's fattening its real estate bottom line with a massive development that brings another 1,000 residents to the area.

Not to mention the M/O plan that will bring another 10,000 new residents to the area. You call this "smart growth," right?

 
At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" a massive development that brings another 1,000 residents to the area. "

Why is that bad? Should we build a wall across the peninsula and blow up the bridges to keep people from moving here?

 
At 4:25 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another bike guy with a reading disorder. If you already have a chronic, area-wide traffic jam, it's bad planning to allow a huge development like that because it's going to make traffic there even worse. Got it?

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger Tim Halbur said...

I hesitate to stroll into this, but I'm the communications director for CNU and I helped organize this tour. While the article does not get into all of our internal discussions, we didn't shy away from noticing the very few homeless people we saw, and one of the visitors from New Orleans noted the way the park at Hayes actually made everyone welcome and comfortable, including the 1-2 homeless people. The tiny strips of land that are currently small gardens are actually very close to being sold to developers, so you will see more activity along the spine of Octavia.

And more to the point, if you were actually outside of your car bubble and walking down the street, you'd find that even with intense traffic it is very pleasant to walk along Octavia Blvd., which is the point. Now in addition to the cars that move through the neighborhood - perhaps a little slower than before - more people can move through, on bikes, on foot, on transit. When the cars were overhead, the traffic was out of sight but the neighborhood was in terrible shape and no one wanted to walk there. Delaying people in their cars by a few minutes (mind you, I'm not saying they are delayed, the system is designed to avoid that in numerous ways) is a small price to pay for a restored neighborhood and ease of movement for pedestrians and bikes.

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Pure, happy-talk bullshit. Yes, once those properties are sold to developers, there will be "more activity"---that is, more traffic---on Octavia Blvd. And after those 40-story residential highrises are built at nearby Market and Van Ness and UC's development a block off Octavia, there will be a lot more "activity" in that part of town.

Walking on Octavia Blvd. is a lot like walking on a freeway with landscaping in the middle of the traffic lanes. Those trees and plants must be carbon monoxide resistant, since there are now more than 60,000 cars coming through the middle of Hayes Valley. "A little slower than before," aka an area-wide traffic jam.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home