Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Grizzly Bears of San Francisco

San Francisco's progressives live in an alternate universe that only occasionally overlaps with the reality recognized by the rest of us. The newsletter published by the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) provides us with a monthly bulletin from this alternate reality that I call Progressive Land.

In a short piece with no byline ("Killing the Coyotes is a Symptom of a Bigger Problem"), we learn that "The ambush[of the coyotes] was no different from the slaughter of San Francisco's grizzly bears, mountain lions, elk, deer, and the native people." Grizzly bears in San Francisco? Seems unlikely on the face of it, since the area---especially the part of the city that is now Golden Gate Park---was mostly sand dunes before Whitey arrived, not the usual grizzly habitat. But one encounters all kinds of unlikely monsters in Progressive Land!

Now that the city's grizzlies are gone, the biggest monsters in Progressive Land are those wicked automobiles (or "Death Monsters," as the Bay Guardian's Steve Jones calls them). Which brings us to Lisa Feldstein, one of the District 5 candidates for supervisor in 2004. In the same HANC newsletter, Feldstein weighs in against the Parking for Neighborhoods Initiative, which has the city's progs in such a dither---until last week, that is, when the Board of Supervisors included a section in the Muni ballot measure that will nullify the parking initiative.

Feldstein makes much of the fact that the parking initiative is 61 pages long, though it's a mere 16 pages if you print it out from the initiative's website.

Feldstein claims that the alleged length of the initiative was calculated by Don Fisher (The Gap) and Andy Ball (Webcor) so that the "length...and technical language ensure that few voters will read the whole thing...that even those who read it will have a hard time making sense of it." In fact, the text is mostly boilerplate reproduction of the laws the initiative would change; there's no obscurity or ambiguity in the initiative's language at all.

Feldstein, a former member of the Planning Commission, shares common prog assumptions/illusions about the Market/Octavia Plan:

Carefully crafted neighborhood plans like the Market-Octavia Plan, in which neighbors worked with the Planning Department to reduce parking in their transit-rich neighborhood, would no longer be allowed to craft location-appropriate parking standards. Owners of buildings of up to 4 units would be given the right to add garages, even if doing so removes significant street trees, degrades conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, or interferes with transit. So much for the city's Transit First Policy.

There's nothing "carefully crafted" at all about the Market/Octavia Plan, unless you think its aggressive anti-car content represents some kind of craftsmanship (The anti-car elements are obviously why the SF Bicycle Coalition likes the M/O Plan). The "neighbors" who worked with Planning to "craft" the Plan were really a small minority of folks from the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association who showed up at every meeting to push their pro-development, anti-car agenda. 

The EIR on the M/O Plan that emerged from this process is an unwieldy document to which the Planning Department was still adding pages months after the public comment deadline passed. That meant that the public was denied the right to comment on---or even understand---thousands of pages of changes and additions to the Plan. The Market/Octavia Plan is a lot like the Bicycle Plan: City progressives routinely approve of it without really knowing much about it.

And why shouldn't property owners be allowed to put garages on their property? In fact, it's already a common practice in SF, with the contractors that specialize in putting garages under existing buildings doing a brisk trade. A few years ago the owners of my building did just that, with no impact on street trees, no added danger to pedestrians and cyclists, and no interference with transit. Instead, the new garage takes several cars off the street and out of the increasingly desperate quest for street parking in my neighborhood. Why does Feldstein think that's a bad thing? Because, like all knee-jerk SF progressives, she assumes anything that makes it more convenient to drive in the city is a bad idea. (On parking in the city in general, see a NY Times article linked on the initiative's website. Turns out that motorists looking for parking generate from 30% to 45% of the traffic in NY City).

City progressives are much happier now that the Board of Supervisors inserted a poison pill into the Muni ballot measure that will essentially kill the parking initiative even if city voters approve it:

The best change to the [Muni]Charter Amendment is a small provision that, if passed, would effectively trump the Downtown[sic] Parking Initiative. Besides all of the parking initiative's awful parts that would take us in the wrong direction to creating a sustainable city. It would also make it impossible to ever change the City's parking policy without going back to the ballot. If passed, the Muni Charter Amendment would keep parking policy where it belongs---in the legislative process---and protect our commitment to a transit-first city (Paul Hogarth, BeyondChron, August 1, 2007).

Right. Take parking policy out of the hands of the city's voters---it took 10,500 valid signatures to get the parking initiative on the ballot---and put it in the hands of the anti-car politicians who dominate the Board of Supervisors. This deal to thwart the will of city voters is reminiscent of the recent "compromise" on closing part of Golden Gate Park to traffic on Saturdays, even though city voters already made it clear at the ballot box in 2000 that they didn't want to close the park to autos on Saturdays.

All of this scheming may backfire on the anti-car jihad in SF. Regardless of the deals city politicians make between now and election day, both the Muni measure and the parking initiative will be on November's ballot. Even though Mayor Newsom has already said he isn't going to campaign against the Muni measure because of the parking poison pill, the city's voters may surprise city officials who are quick to make deals without public support. After all, Newsom didn't campaign very hard against the proposed hike in the city's parking tax last year, and it still lost badly. Proposition E, which would have raised the tax on parking in the city by 25-35%, lost by more than a 2-1 margin: 151,628 to 73,922.

Let's send the anti-car jihad based in City Hall a clear message: Vote No on the Muni measure and Yes on the parking initiative.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a side note regarding bears. Though of course metaphor was their primary function in your post, there is in fact historical evidence that bears frequented beaches in many parts of the state. Dunes and beaches aren't nearly so barren to a bear as they appear to a person with less acute senses and abilities to get the food that's present there. You know that colony of elephant seals that appears yearly at the beach near Ano Nuevo? They never did that until relatively recently. They would never have dared haul out in such numbers on the mainland, as bears would have preyed on them. Historically, they congregated on offshore islands instead.

Your pal, thatguywhokeepscorrectingthings


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home