Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Leave Divisadero alone

I read with some dread the head on the Examiner story the other day: "Divisadero Street corridor overhaul planned":

New trees, streetlamps, footpaths, bus shelters, traffic lights, street crossings and businesses will breathe fresh life into the Divisadero Street corridor in 2009 under ambitious plans unveiled recently by city officials. Hundreds of people who live and work around the corridor took part in community meetings over the past year to help city planners sculpt a new vision for the historic strip, officials said.

So the city is finally getting around to screwing up my neighborhood, too. One of the great things about this neighborhood---or, at least, Divisadero Street---is that it always seemed more or less resistant to efforts to gussy it up. There are always some empty storefronts, which is bad news for property owners but not necessarily for the neighborhood. Of course we already have bus stops, crosswalks, and street lights, but I suppose the city is going to bring in some of those phony looking "streetlamps" like those they put on Octavia Blvd.

"Bus shelters"? They must mean the ones with the glass walls---who thought up that dumb design?---that vandals routinely shatter into a billion pieces. We already have those at the McAllister/Divisadero intersection, at Hayes/Divisadero, and at the Haight/Divisadero intersection. It's not clear that more will improve the look of the street, which, in any event, looks good enough as it is. 

Planting a lot of trees is the city's way of achieving what I call the John King Effect: If you have a poorly designed building (the de Young Museum) or a street with freeway traffic (Octavia Blvd.), try to cover it up by planting a lot of trees and bushes. "Footpaths"? Hard to say what that can possibly mean, but John King himself once called the six-lane Octavia Blvd. a "path."

Whenever "city officials" talk about a "new vision" for your neighborhood in San Francisco, you should feel dread. Look at what the city has done to the Hayes Valley neighborhood: 45,000 cars a day on the hideous new Octavia Boulevard. And they aren't done yet: The Market/Octavia Plan will bring 10,000 more people to that area to live in the 6,000 new market-rate housing units planned, if you can call creating a free-fire zone for developers "planning." 

The city is also "planning" the coup de grace for that unfortunate area, since they are now busily helping UC rip off the old extension property for a massive housing development, which means another 1,000 people moving into that already densely-populated area. All of this awful planning is based on the Planning Department's complete misunderstanding of the "transit corridors" idea.

Of course Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is on board for the Divisadero effort, as he is for the M/O Plan and UC's land-grab. Is there a single half-assed "progressive" cause or idea he hasn't embraced in the last three years?

“Divisadero historically has been a very populist corridor with a high quotient of small, minority-owned businesses,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the neighborhood. “But in recent years, it’s had a significant downslide.” Mirkarimi blamed wear and tear, rising crime and failed businesses for the downturn, but he says the $3.4 million project between Waller and Geary streets will make a “comeback kid” out of the area. “It will be more inviting and safe,” he said.

Bullshit. Why doesn't he go fuck up/"overhaul" his own neighborhood? What does he mean by "populist corridor"? Nothing in particluar, I bet. He just liked the way it sounded when he was talking to the reporter, which is why I call him "the Murk." I've lived in this neighborhood since 1995, and it's simply untrue that it has "had a significant downslide" recently.

Mirkarimi, by the way, is responsible for the Harding Theater eyesore on Divisadero. Recall that several years ago the newly-elected Murk ratified the preservation effort by David Tornheim and his prog friends to save that empty, derelict, and completely undistinguished building from being demolished so that housing could be built on the property. Why save the Harding? Because it was, like, you know, a theater. And, more importantly, the Grateful Dead once played there. Isn't that enough? Well, no, it isn't, but of course the Murk signed off on that misguided effort. After three years it's still empty, looking crappy and dominating the whole block.

As I suggested a few years ago in response to the Planning Dept.'s aggressively pro-development projects with the Orwellian name, the Better Neighborhoods Program: What we really need is a Leave the Neighborhoods Alone Program.

But the thing about planners and progressives is that they can't leave us alone; they are inherently meddlesome. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, they still think they know best for our neighborhoods. 

The city's aggressively pro-development Housing Element was, fortunately, thrown out by the courts, thanks to some alert neighborhood groups that sued the city. And there's the Bicycle Plan that proposes taking away neighborhood street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes for the city's tiny minority of bike nuts. And then there's the completely unnecessary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) idea for Geary Blvd., a project that will cost $200 million and tear up our primary East/West traffic corridor for years. Good for the neighborhoods? Only a "progressive" and a "planner" could possibly think so.

But these folks are like Jehovah's Witnesses and the Islamic crackpots: they keep coming at us.

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At 10:49 PM, Anonymous those dudes said...

well, if nothing else, this blog is great comic relief.

cities change rob, and despite your doomsday outlook on anything that involves a change to san francisco's urban form or transportation system, the world (and the city) won't end. not even those darned bicyclists or urban planners will end it.

you write "the city is finally getting around to screwing up my neighborhood," but i wonder if the hundreds of people who participated in the community meetings would agree with you? i wonder if the store owners along divisadero would agree with you? or the folks who ride the muni line 24? or the seniors who have difficulty crossing the street?

your point about vandals shattering glass bus shelters is a good point - and getting rid of all bus shelters is probably the best solution, and while we're at it, we ought to get rid of parked cars too, as car windows are what are routinely shattered in my neighborhood.

this city was once dominated by pedestrian, bicycle, and horse-powered transportation. technology was embraced (not by everyone, of course), and along came streetcars, and eventually the all-mighty motorcar. horse shit in the gutters was replaced by nasty exhaust spewed into the air.

the motorcar had a good run, but as the world's population continues to grow, and as global warming becomes a more immediate threat, the car simply isn't cutting it any more. then there's the fact that those damned cars maimed 3,000 folks in san francisco last year (and killed 28 more). the bottom line is that automobiles are not a very inefficient way to move about a city, while bicycling (in terms of energy consumed per mile traveled) is more efficient than any form of transport known to man.

i know you don't own a car - but your argument that we should continue to plan for cars simply because that's the way most people get around now is regressive and unconvincing.

san francisco's population density will continue to grow, and if the city has any chance of remaining the vibrant livable place that so many want it to be, reliance on motorcars will need to decline. so why not embrace the change?

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't care if the people who participated in the community meetings agree with me or not. I live in that neighborhood and use Divisadero every day. Nor, as a "senior," do I feel at all threatened when I cross that street, except for the occasional cyclist running a red light. I often ride Muni's 24 line. There is no problem with that line that more buses won't cure, since it's always crowded.

"The motorcar had a good run"? According to the DMV, there are 460,150 motor vehicles registered in SF. According to the 2000 Census, only 2% of the city's population commutes by bike. And Muni has 600,000 passenger boardings a day. You bike nuts like to think that bikes are the wave of the future, but there's no evidence that that is the case. But we do know that bikes aren't presently a particularly popular transportation choice. Bikes are mostly a political accessory here in Progressive Land, not a serious transporation "mode" for a significant number of people.

I got a laugh out of this bit of doublespeak: "...your argument that we should continue to plan for cars simply because that's the way most people get around now is regressive and unconvincing." Ha! Right. Why should we design our traffic system based on how the people of San Francisco actually "get around," i.e. on reality? Instead, we should completely redesign city streets based on your crackpot bike fantasy.

Maybe we should start redesigning our sidewalks for skateboards while we're at it. Somewhere, deep in the bowels of DPT, there's probably an overpaid drone working fulltime on the San Francisco Skateboard Plan.

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous those dudes said...

PLANNING - as in, for the future. That's why i think planning for the way most people get around NOW is regressive - we should be PLANNING for a better way for most people to get around in the future, and hopefully in a more sustainable, safe, and efficient manner.

You don't care if the people who participated in the community meetings agree with you or not. I guess this helps explain why you don't care that motorists maim and bicyclists and pedestrians on a daily basis.

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Darien Austin said...

THANK GOD!!! I have lived on Divis for 11 years and have constantly railed about what an ugly street it is. Ideally, they should ban cars from it altogether and just have a quicker bus line going down the middle.

There are so many fantastic restaurants and businesses on Divis that get overlooked because the street is treated like a dump. Widen the sidewalks and bring our 'hood to life!

Bob - thanks for posting the link to the article. This is going to get huge support.

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Darien Austin said...

By the way! A new neighborhood is born! The name is DIVCO!!!!

(Divisidero Corridor)

You heard it here first.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Darien: I get the impression that you are a bike nut. Banning cars from one of the few significant North/South traffic corridors we have in the city just so you and your twit, foodie friends can stroll around under faux streetlamps? This neighborhood has plenty of life already, thank you, without any help from the same folks that brought us Octavia Blvd. and Rincon Hill.

We heard "Divco" here first and, with any luck, we heard it here last. How about "Twitco"?

At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Ray Taunen said...

Divco = Cool.

I'm not sure about banning cars, but I'm all for improving Divis. This time I don't agree with you Rob. I've been through the planning docs on the sfgov site about this and it all seems very reasonable. Divis badly needs an upgrade.

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Shay Rightwell said...

Darien - totally agree. My friends and I have been calling it Divco for a couple years. We just need a "Divco" cafe and it's settled!

This proposal seems mostly cosmetic, but I'm cautiously in favor of it. Getting rid of extra bus stops is the best thing I've heard in years. Glad to see muni starting to "get it"...

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Dawkins said...

Rob, I'm not sure this is such a big deal. I would welcome wider sidewalks so that cafes can seat more people outside.

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"You don't care if the people who participated in the community meetings agree with you or not. I guess this helps explain why you don't care that motorists maim and bicyclists and pedestrians on a daily basis."

When I say "I don't care" what others think, my point is this: I don't put my finger to the wind before I write. I try to say as clearly as possible exactly what I think.

"I would welcome wider sidewalks so that cafes can seat more people outside."
You can't make wider sidewalks without taking away street parking, a dumb idea for Divisadero, which has a serious parking shortage. I bet even windsock Mirkarimi doesn't support that.

I notice none of these commenters have anything to say about the points I made about Rincon Hill, Octavia Blvd., and Mirkarimi's blunder on the Harding Theater. If the city had a decent recent track record at improving a single neighborhood in the city, I would be more receptive to the impending attempt to tart up Divisadero.

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Ray Taunen said...

Bob - if you don't like yuppies and "foodies" then why would you want street parking? Having parking attracts people from the Marina. Less parking means real neighborhood people get to enjoy it more. You don't even own a car so what's wrong with you? Bring on the sidewalk cafes! Viva cafe Div-co!

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I was responding to a comment by a food twit, whose vision of how Divisadero should be transformed into Yuppieville I found less than compelling. Actually, there aren't that many upscale restaurants on Diviz yet. It's mostly regular neighborhood businesses. Those small businesses need parking for their customers. There's nothing at all wrong with this neighborhood as it is. I'm concerned about having the same nitwits that brought us Rincon Hill and Octavia Blvd. come into my neighborhood to "improve" it. Got it, Ray?

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

negative fucking nellie

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Where are the positives? The city government doesn't know anything about the neighborhoods.


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