Friday, October 14, 2005

Why Katherine Roberts is like a Japanese soldier

(B4) Parking Garage
Every time the SF Chronicle does a story on the new garage in the park or the MLK widening issue, they give the assignment to a different reporter, so that the wheel has to be reinvented. 

One of the mistakes reporters usually make is that by simply quoting the garage opponents they leave readers with the impression they represent anything but a tiny minority. It's a consequence of the pseudo-objectivity of mainstream journalism---on the one hand, on the other hand, etc. In today's story ("Controversial Garage for Museum Opens," Ilene Lelchuk), Katherine Roberts is in effect anointed as a credible source:

"Anybody who lives around the park either in[the] Richmond or the Sunset is in for a rude awakening when their neighborhoods get inundated with cars driving around looking for parking...It's[the Music Concourse Community Partnership] just a theft of public resources...It's Golden Gate Park getting sold to the highest bidder."

Uninformed readers will think that the potential loss of free parking in the park has been a major issue around the new garage and the widening of MLK. But the only people I've heard complain about the loss of free parking are the Ninth and Irving merchants who find it convenient that their customers use MLK as a parking lot for the nearby business district, not exactly the best argument against the widening of MLK. 

Privatization? MCCP is overseen by the Concourse Authority, a public body, which in turn is overseen by other public bodies, namely Park and Rec. and the Board of Supervisors. The privatization charge is a lie, though it's not always clear when garage opponents are lying and when they are just being stupid---and I don't use that word lightly---since they don't seem to have read any of the basic documents, like Prop. J itself, Judge Warren's two nicely-written decisions, and the long interview I did with Mike Ellzey, Executive Director of the Concourse Authority. 

Propostition J requires that 800 parking spaces be removed from the surface roads of the park for those in the garage, but, since there are still more than 3000 parking spaces on the roads of the park, there will still be a lot of free parking in the park. 

And garage opponents never mention that, before the advent of the new garage, the Concourse itself was virtually a parking lot; all of those 200 parking spaces are now gone, which is a major step toward creating the "pedestrian oasis" people like Roberts claim they want.

Ross "The Murk" Mirkarimi, as usual, sheds no light on the subject: "It[Prop. G] protects MLK Drive from being expanded from a two-lane to a four-lane road...We should be doing everything we can to encourage mass transit." Non sequitur anyone? The first statement is more or less accurate, though "protect" is not necessarily the right word. 

But what exactly does mass transit have to do with MLK and the garage? Nothing at all. So why mention it? Is everyone supposed to take the bus to the park? Of course many city residents do so now and will continue to do so. But many will drive their cars into the new garage to visit the de Young, the Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden, the band shell and the Arboretum. But Mirkarimi and the Bicycle Coalition/Critical Mass fanatics don't like anything that makes it easier for people to drive in the city. They actually seem to prefer gridlock in the park.

At least Lelchuk talked to Ellzey. There are six paragraphs of solid information in the middle of the article that probably came from Ellzey, though he's not quoted directly and only mentioned once. And there is some useful information in the sidebar next to Lelchuk's piece: Parking in the new garage will be only $2.50 an hour on weekdays, $3.00 an hour on weekends. Hence, it's going to cost less than $10 to drive your family into the park to make a three-hour visit the new de Young Museum---owned by the city---which will cost only $10 for adults, $6 for kids 13-17, and is free for children under 12. Sounds like a bargain to me.

The anti-garage folks are like those Japanese soldiers who don't know the war is over. One can imagine a disheveled, camo and spandex-clad Roberts twenty years from now, stumbling out of the brush in Golden Gate Park, pushing her bike and ranting about privatization as people stroll happily around the Concourse, oblivious to the evil regime that has allegedly seized control of the park. 

Someone needs to tell Roberts and her friends that the garage war is over, that they lost, both at the ballot box and in court. While they may be successful in the Proposition G campaign, they will lose again in the court of public opinion, as the people of San Francisco learn that they are getting exactly what they voted for---a garage built with no public money that provides easy access to the Concourse area of Golden Gate Park.

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