Monday, July 25, 2005

Taking MLK to the ballot: "Saving" the park

Judge Warren

One of the least attractive traits of SF progressives is a self-righteousness that evidently prevents them from ever admitting they are wrong about an issue. After all, they are the Good People, the Green People. How can they be wrong? Oh, let me count the ways! The latest exercise in wrong-headed righteousness is the plan, announced in the July 25 BeyondChron, to put the "widening" of Martin Luther King Blvd. on the ballot to stop the Concourse Authority from implementing a court-ordered plan to create a "dedicated" road to the southern entrance to the new underground garage.

It's a shame that Supervisor Mirkarimi is lending his support to this misguided, last-ditch effort to "save" Golden Gate Park from an eminently sensible traffic plan. These folks have always been a fringe group of diehard garage opponents. Why Mirkarimi, who reportedly has ambitions for higher office, is identifying himself with the fringe left is a bit of a puzzle.

Every so often, a new writer parachutes into Golden Gate Park to rewrite the garage-in-the-park issue. The latest is Alison Stevens Rodrigues in BeyondChron ("Ballot Measure to Stop MLK Widening.") Rodrigues gets off to a shaky start in her first sentence: "Efforts to stop the construction of an underground garage at Golden Gate Park look bleak..." Indeed, efforts to stop the garage couldn't be bleaker, since they died last August, when Judge Warren issued his Statement of Decision (to view the Decision and/or print it out, go to, enter case number 427163, and scroll down to August 10, 2004.) While you're at it, take a look at Warren's equally fine June 16, 2005 Decision, which should have been the last word on the matter. 

In the 2004 decision, Judge Warren validated the garage and everything else the Concourse Authority was doing, except access to the southern, inside-the-park entrance (no one has challenged the northern entrance at Tenth and Fulton). In his well-written Decision, Judge Warren ordered the Concourse Authority to design a "dedicated" route to the southern entrance that begins outside the park as per 1998's Proposition J.

Probably because she's new to the garage issue, Rodrigues fuzzes this crucial distinction in her account:

The legislation[Proposition J] also stipulated that the garage would be constructed within or near the Concourse "with a dedicated entrance and exit (or entrances and exits) outside the Park." However, both the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority (GGPCA), formed to oversee construction of the garage, as well as the City, approved an intra-park entrance/exit anyway. In August 2004 Superior Court Judge Warren held that such an entrance/exit inside the park violated Proposition J and he ordered that it be re-analyzed and re-designed. Widening of MLK drive from two lanes to four, with the two curbside lanes providing the required "exclusively dedicated entrance" for cars, was the answer to that order.

Rodrigues is confusing the access "route" to the southern entrance with the garage entrance itself. In spite of all the wishful thinking and/or outright deception---take your pick---by garage opponents over the past year, Judge Warren did not have a problem with the second, inside-the-park entrance to the garage; instead, he only ordered the Authority to design a "dedicated" route---that is, a surface road---to that entrance that begins outside the park. 

Rodrigues correctly quotes Proposition J, but you need to read the proposition in its entirety to clarify the issue (see, for example, the next paragraph in Prop. J: "...a dedicated access route (or routes) to and from the underground parking facility beginning at a location or locations outside of the Park...").

Rodrigues is also unclear on the "widening" of MLK, which she describes as "proposed widening of MLK Drive from two lanes to four, with the two curbside lanes providing the required 'exclusively dedicated entrance' for cars..." We can make it clearer than that: There will be no physical widening of MLK at all, since the two additional lanes in the Concourse's plan will be created by removing the existing parking spaces from both sides of the road.

At least Rodrigues talked to Mike Ellzey, Executive Director of the Concourse Authority, unlike previous writers in BeyondChron and the SF Bay Guardian. Ellzey notes that we've now come full circle on the issue: "The thing is, the design they're proposing is the one we had intended for the park all along, the one they sued us over." (For a D5 Diary interview with Ellzey, go here).

Rodrigues also talked to John Rizzo, the only Concourse Authority director to vote against the MLK plan (Rizzo has also pushed a bogus Sunshine Ordinance violation charge against the Concourse Authority). Rizzo: "I've been searching for a way to overturn the widening since the day after we voted on it...If we lose on this[ballot measure], we lose everything." 

Rizzo and his small group of anti-garage allies have lost everything so far, because their "save the park" movement has been baloney from the start. They lost at the ballot box in 1998, and they lost in court. Let's hope they lose one more time.

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