Monday, June 04, 2007

Matt Smith: SF Progressive

Like Tim Redmond of the SF Bay Guardian, you can count on the SF Weekly's Matt Smith to be wrong---or, at best, half-right---on everything. Smith has nothing but scorn for city progressives in his latest rant, but in truth he too is merely another city prog, running with the lemmings he claims to despise on both housing and the anti-car bicycle fantasy.

Smith knocks city progs on their opposition to new housing in the city, which is simply incorrect, as his riff on Supervisor Chris Daly makes clear. As Smith points out, developers love Daly for his support for the residential highrises on Rincon Hill, which means thousands of luxury condos in a city that desperately needs affordable housing. Smith applauds "the hundreds[sic] of desperately needed market-rate apartments Daly's dealing has helped create." Which means that Smith must redefine what being a progressive means in SF: "In other words, Daly's not a San Francisco progressive."

Smith arrives at this conclusion, because he too supports residential highrises as a solution to the city's housing crunch. He sneers at Mayor Newsom but doesn't mention that the mayor also supported the Rincon Hill projects. Daly wins points from Smith for Rincon Hill, but the mayor doesn't?

Besides, as I've pointed out many times on this blog, city progressives do in fact mindlessly support any and all new housing development in the city, because We Need Housing. They support Rincon Hill---notwithstanding the Guardian's tepid opposition---and they support the awful Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan, which, interestingly, Smith has never written about. This Plan encourages 6,000 new housing units and 10,000 new residents in the already densely-populated heart of the city, along with an undetermined number of highrises in the Market/Van Ness area. Supervisor Mirkarimi may "murmur" his opposition to highrises, but he's shown little inclination to oppose the M/O Plan. And he seems to be ready to roll over on the equally unwise UC proposal to pack 450 new housing units into the old Extension site on lower Haight St.

Smith doesn't bother to list any of the other issues that characterize city progressives---their bitter opposition to Care Not Cash, Critical Mass, the bicycle fantasy and the anti-car jihad in general, Josh Wolf and anti-Americanism, the pot clubs, etc. Smith can't seriously discuss the bicycle fantasy, since he's a bike nut himself. He cites opposition to the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as a progressive political sin, but the interesting thing about that movement is that it's not "progressive" at all. It's based in the small business community in the avenues. Those folks oppose the Geary BRT, because they understand that it will mean digging up Geary Blvd. for months---perhaps years---to achieve at best marginal gains in transit efficiency, not simply because it will take away parking spaces in front of businesses.

In any event, there's nothing wrong with transit on Geary to justify a project that could cost $200 million. Muni's #38 Geary line runs often and quickly between Van Ness and the avenues. It's the part of the line between Van Ness and Market that moves slowly, which isn't surprising, since it runs through one of the most densely-populated parts of the city.

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At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What looks to you like the 'anti-car bicycle fantasy' looks to me like a 'vision'.

Is there a difference? Sure-- fantasy doesn't get acted upon and planned into reality-- it remains intangible; impractical.

But a vision can be used to make goals, and goals can be used to make a plan, and and a plan means action.

When you reduce bike activity in this town to 'fantasy', you're playing fast-and-loose with language.

This is distorting and misleading-- both the younger siblings of lying.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

One man's vision is another's fantasy, I suppose. The recent litigation against the city's Bicycle Plan was where that particular fantasy met reality/practicality. The way the city pushed the Plan through the process was both illegal and violated the interests of a majority of city residents.

It's all very well to establish a goal of making cycling safer in the city; but it's another thing entirely when the city and the cycling community sees taking away vital space from motorized traffic---the anti-car agenda---as the essential means to that goal, that is, taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes for 2% of the city's population.

Before any more traffic lanes or street parking are eliminated to make bike lanes in SF, an environmental impact report must be completed.

Your vision is just being tested by the the legal and political realities in the city.

I do in fact think the notion that a significant number of people will ever use bikes as an everyday means of transportation is a fantasy. Even though I think cycling is a dangerous way to get around San Francisco, you folks are surely entitled to risk your lives going to work or doing errands. But when you go into the neighborhoods to eliminate traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes, your fantasy impinges on neighborhood realities.

Interesting, by the way, that you don't even mention the law, ignoring the fact that the city was flagrantly violating state law in how it was proceeding with the Bicycle Plan.

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the point I was making wasn't about the law, it was about vision vs. fantasy.

Listen, there were people like you dismissing Portland's MAX system saying that people wouldn't use it, essentially by saying, "look at the reality-- people use cars here! they want cars! nobody is going to use some silly rail system!"

of course, those people are pretty hard to find these days.

In Zurich, when they had their little freeway revolt people were saying "you can't stop progress (yes, they have their own auto and highway lobbies there)", but the public will won out the fact that transit and bikes worked far better than catering to cars.

I bet you'd get a kick out of reading the onld newspapers from the Netherlands, where the business community resoundingly dismissed the idea of bicycles as serious transportation and a threat to the economy, only to discover that it would turn out to be one of the healthiest economies imaginable and one of the healthiest transportation systems going."

Yes, it's too bad we've over-indulged in the automobile. Unortunately we are faced with the unpleasant reality that if we need to make space for other transportation priorities, we've got to take a little bit back from what the car managed to devour over the last century.

For f**k's sake, SF only has bike lanes on 4% of its streets!


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