Wednesday, April 12, 2006

John King and Octavia Blvd: Love is blind

John King on why San Francisco fails to make itself prettier:

Here's a guess: Something else is always more pressing. San Francisco is a city where every faction pursues an agenda in all-or-nothing terms. Why invest in parks when there are homeless people on the streets? Why fix a plaza when the education system is in tatters? Why spend money on "aesthetics" that could go toward social programs? Or health services? ("Scenic, Sure, But Our City Needs Tending," SF Chronicle, April 11, 2006)

Aside from Warren Hinckle's "old people or old paintings" argument for a new Laguna Honda and against a new de Young years ago, I can't think of a single instance where this is true in the city. But we do hear that argument being made against the war in Iraq: "If only we weren't spending so much money in Iraq, we could spend it on..." (plug in your favorite issue here).

John King is just as clueless on the city's political process as he has long been about Octavia Blvd:

You can also see progress on Octavia Boulevard, where a freeway was replaced by a path with separate lanes for commuter and local traffic and a small park. [Allan] Jacobs and Elizabeth MacDonald did the design; Jacobs admits there are flaws, but it's a wonderfully urbane step above what existed before.

"Progress"? "Wonderfully urbane"? Octavia Blvd. is a "path"? This is preposterous. The Octavia Blvd. "path" is now a six-lane street that carries all the old freeway traffic---80,000 to 100,000 vehicles a day, according to Caltrans[45,000 cars a day now, according to the city]---that used to go over the neighborhood right through the heart of the Hayes Valley neighborhood. Is that "progress"? 

Yes, the Central Freeway overpass is gone, along with the shadows it used to cast over that part of the city. And there will be 900 new housing units built on the old freeway parcels. But surely the obvious trade-off---the overpass gone, but all that traffic now on a surface street in the neighborhood---has to be acknowledged.

King also throws an undeserved bouquet to Marshall "Mr. Vibrant" Foster, formerly of the Planning Dept., now on the mayor's staff as "director of city greening," whatever the hell that is. The last time we heard from young Marshall Foster he was in Planning and wrote a pro-UC document supporting the idea of turning the old Extension property on lower Haight St. into a massive, 500-unit, for-profit housing development. That misguided project certainly involves a lot of "green," but not the kind that neighborhood needs and wants.

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