Friday, February 18, 2005

Marshall Foster's "Policy Guide"

One of the features of last night's public relations exercise the Planning Dept. calls a "Community Meeting" was Marshall Foster's incoherent and disingenuous sales pitch for a document he wrote last December ("A Policy Guide to Considering Reuse of the University of California Berkeley Extension Laguna Street Campus"). As the title of the document suggests, Foster is not a man of few words. In spite of his protestations to the contrary, the Policy Guide is clearly a pro-development document (See "Planning and the English Language," an analysis of the Policy Guide elsewhere in this blog). Unfortunately, Foster had to rush off to catch a plane to New York last night---he's probably going to give New York planners some pointers on how to destroy their neighborhoods---before I could ask him about the textual evidence of his pro-development bias in the Policy Guide.
But there is a positive alternative to shoe-horning 424 mostly market-rate housing units into five acres: New College, which has two campuses, a law school on Fell St. and a main campus on Valencia. It was good to meet Eduardo Waller, Director of Marketing & Communications for New College last night. Waller told the gathering that New College is very much interested in leasing the UC Extension site, as they are outgrowing their other locations with more than 1000 students. Allowing the genuinely progressive New College to lease the UC Extension site would do several important things for the neighborhood---preserve the Public Use zoning the parcel has had for 150 years, preserve the historic structures on the site, and provide a good neighbor for the whole neighborhood (I bet New College would give the kids of the neighborhood more access to the gym. And maybe they would take down the wall, which has always been bad symbolism and, lately, a big target for the tagger vandals).

Actually, there is another alternative, one that only I advocate, as far as I can tell: preserve the most important buildings on the site and make one into a branch library. Then turn the rest of the area into a park, a major public space like Dolores Park or Alamo Square.
In any event, what's clear from last night's meeting is that the Planning Department is dominated by the We Need Housing mindset. Planning is eager to bulldoze whole neighborhoods in the housing uber alles cause.

For those who think the four, already-approved, 35-40 story, Rincon condo Towers were an unfortunate aberration---merely Chris Daly's folly---the Market/Octavia Plan should be an eye-opener. Check out pages 34-36, wherein Planning tells us they want an undisclosed number of similar towers for South Van Ness and Market Street. Is anyone paying attention? Is this the kind of city we want? Is the board of supervisors going to sign off on this kind of over-development?

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