Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Friends of the park?

Looking over my notes from the Dec. 9 HANC meeting, the subject of my first post, I found a few more things worth mentioning.

Chris Duderstadt and Jim Iverson claimed that the process resulting in the decision to widen MLK was not really a public process, that, according to Duderstadt, members of both the Rec. and Park Commission and the Concourse Authority merely "do what they are told to do." For his part, Iverson thought the decision was essentially made by the same forces that "have been running this town since the Gold Rush," that the public process was just a bunch of "dog and pony shows," that there were "a lot of stealth meetings" along the way. 

Unless there's real evidence of conflict of interest or dereliction of duty by either Commission or Authority members, questioning their motives is a poor political tactic. The implication is that, conversely, their motives are pure, and those of their political opponents are corrupt, a scattershot ad hominem argument that qualifies as a logical fallacy. 

If there's evidence of secret meetings and a stealth process, Iverson and Duderstadt should produce it. The issues must be argued on their merits; denigrating those who disagree with you is not a persuasive argument.

During that meeting, Pinky Kushner threw a well-deserved bouquet to Channel 26, the city's TV channel, that televises many public meetings from City Hall, including those of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission. She urged the city to also televise Rec. and Park meetings, an excellent idea, though the current budget crunch probably makes that unlikely soon. Kushner also noted that there were 80,000 people in the park recently for a concert and that there were no great traffic problems. My question: why do those who claim to be Friends of the Park think it's a good idea to allow events of that size in Golden Gate Park?

Enabling Vandalism:
Outgoing D5 Supervisor Gonzalez's last art show in his office features graffiti "artist" Barry McGee, "whose work first appeared anonymously in the 1980s on outdoor walls and tunnels" (SF Chronicle, Dec. 10). The message to young vandals/taggers: it's okay to vandalize walls and fences all over the city, because, if you persist, you'll eventually be recognized as an "artist" by the authorities. Yet Gonzalez wouldn't let a Chronicle photographer take pictures of McGee's "art," because he was concerned that "the newspaper would sensationalize the graffiti angle and not give proper respect to the artist"! 

This is not the kind of leadership we need in a city deep in red ink that now spends millions of dollars every year to erase graffiti/tagging. An egregious case in point: the former J&J Auto Parts storefront at Grove and Divisadero, a soon-to-be furniture store that is painting and readying that space for opening. The freshly-painted white walls facing both Diviz and Grove have been quickly defaced by a vandal with his creepy, inartistic gang scrawls. Matt Gonzalez is enabling this kind of vandalism, and he and his delusional cultural allies should cut it out. This kind of "art" shows contempt for small businesses, small property owners, and city neighborhoods.

Girl Meets Freeway:
Joanne Minsky wrote this to PROSF on Dec. 8: 

"Three elections and thousands of dollars later, the Octavia Boulevard is closing in on a finish date. Take a drive over Hayes Street and turn south on the present Octavia Street[sic]. You will fall in love. MLK doesn't need to handle more traffic. Drivers need to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the scenery. It's a park for God's sake, not a freeway. Accept the difference." 

I'm afraid Minsky has it backward: the new Octavia Blvd. is going to be more like a freeway and MLK is in a park. I hope she's right about Octavia Blvd, but that seems unlikely. When I was down there recently, I saw a lot of pavement, with six lanes being readied to handle a lot of traffic, since the freeway entrance/exit has been relocated to the south side of Market St., Minsky and others---like the SF Chronicle's John King---clearly want to believe that Octavia is going to be a great boulevard. 

Alas, love is often blind. We'll see what happens next summer when the project is finished, even though the neighborhood as a whole won't really be finished---finished off?---until the housing units are built on the old freeway parcels (see The Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan, a document that tells that neighborhood what city planners have in store for it).

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