Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Proposition G was a mistake

More than three years ago, I wrote: "If Prop. G passes, how will an MLK with only two lanes handle the garage traffic once both the de Young and the Academy of Sciences are open?"

Recall that 2005's Proposition G passed by city voters prevented the Concourse Authority---which was responding to a court order---from widening MLK Boulevard to four lanes to handle traffic to the garage under the Concourse from the Southern end of Golden Gate Park. Now that both the new de Young and the Academy of Sciences are open, the traffic trying to get to the Concourse is backing up on the two-lane MLK as I predicted.

Anonymous #1 writes:
[The garage is] A huge success at flooding the park with a queue of cars that backs up both 9th Avenue and Lincoln Blvd (and every transit vehicle that tries to go through there). The garage is not invisible. There are giant entry/exit chasms that can easily be seen from the surface, one of which diverts pedestrian traffic around it at right angles. Having that garage there has some considerable impacts on the surrounding area and the issue of through-traffic cutting through the 'pedestrian oasis' concourse has not even begun to be resolved. The 'bike people' were right to be suspicious.

Rob replies:
The cars are lining up not because of the garage but because of the stunning success and popularity of the new Academy of Sciences. Recall that before the garage was built there were 200 parking spaces on the surface of the Concourse itself, which made it a lot like a parking lot. The garage is in fact invisible from the Concourse. 

Your lie is easily refuted by anyone visiting the park and taking a look at the reality. The question is, What would the traffic be like without the 800-space garage? If you look at the text of Prop. J, it contained no promise of a Southern entrance outside the park, which you seem to think had to be a tunnel. Prop. J actually promises "a dedicated access route (or routes) to and from the underground parking facility beginning at a location or locations outside of the Park." (emphasis added) That's what a widened MLK would have provided.

Both the Concourse Authority and Judge Warren rightly rejected the idea of digging a tunnel from that area, since it would have done serious damage to both the park and the neighborhood. Folks got their knickers in a great big twist about the idea of adding extra lanes on MLK to handle the approach traffic to the garage---a "highway through the park" shrieked the head on HANC's newsletter---but it now looks like that would have been a good idea, doesn't it?

Anonymous #2 writes:

While the garages have made it better on the Concourse, there's more traffic than ever coming from 9th Ave on the south end because the entrance was placed inside the park. We were promised the entrances would be placed outside the park when we voted for Prop J, but the Southern entrance was built inside the concourse, halfway through the park, and it means a line of cars all the way down to Lincoln honking at each other. Some progressives (your "bike people" I guess) sued to protect the voters wishes and keep the traffic out of the park, but the courts ruled against them and allowed this traffic jam to be created inside the park. I'm sure you have some way to justify this extra traffic being good because your "bike people" tried to make the garage more convenient and/or because no one walks to the park up ninth.

Rob replies:
The bike people---namely, Katherine Roberts and Chris Duderstadt---sued the city to prevent the garage from being built, not to protect the "voters wishes." City voters voted to build the garage. Traffic was already in the park, which, before the garage was built, was routinely gridlocked on weekends and holidays, much like it is now even with the garage. But the bike people actually liked it that way, since it allowed them to ride into the park and weave in and out of the cars (aka "death monsters") stuck in traffic looking for a place to park.

Once the decision was made to keep both the de Young and the Academy of Sciences on the Concourse, the die was cast on traffic into the park. The rejected four-lane MLK idea---which would have been created by removing the parking on both sides of that street for only the 500-feet to the garage---would have helped handle traffic to the inside-the-park entrance, but all good progressives---except Katherine Roberts and me---opposed that idea.

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At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The garage is an ok solution. Widening MLK doesn't seem desirable, as it would just mean more space dedicated to automobiles in something that is supposed to be a park.

The garage entrance on Fulton is can't be seen from the concourse, but it is not a lie to say that the garage entrance just off of MLK as you turn into the concourse is not only visible, but something that you have to walk around. Again, this is an entrance/exit and is not in any way invisible.

Perhaps some off-site parking would be a good way to mitigate the car traffic impacts to the area, but really that car traffic reflects the over-reliance on automobiles in general.

Folks who live in town might be able to walk there or take MUNI in (the museum is about ten minutes walk or 3 minutes bike ride from my place), but everyone else is going to be driving in. Unfortunately.

And there is no way we can provide space for all their cars without having some serious deleterious effects on the area (the same principle holds true of San Francisco in general). If we attempted this acommodation, SF would be one bike parking lot connected by over- and under-passes.

For examples of this lovely urban form one only need to visit 8th and Brannan, the 101/280 interchange, or take a stroll down any of the following streets: Fell, Geary, Van Ness, 19th Avenue, Park Presidio Blvd.

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

That part of MLK between Lincoln Ave. and the garage entrance is already mostly "dedicated to automobiles" in the form of parking on both sides of the road.
And if you're not looking for it, the garage entrance inside the park is easy to miss---it's unobtrusive and built close to the ground. If it was literally invisible, no one would find it, right? Yes, of course many people who live nearby or elsewhere in SF can walk to the park or take Muni. But obviously many people come to Golden Gate Park from all over the area, not just from SF. And not everyone---even in SF---can take Muni or walk to the park, since many have large families, including the very old, the very young, and even the handicapped.

And of course that influx of cars poses a problem for the city and the nearby neighborhoods, which was one of the points of my post. But this problem is apparently severe only on weekends and holidays, not during the week, when the garage has enough spaces to acommodate everyone who drives to the park.

"If we attempted this acommodation[of cars], SF would be one bike[sic] parking lot connected by over- and under-passes."

Freudian slip? Really, not many people, even in SF, can ride a bike to the park. I regularly walk through the Concourse and by the Academy of Sciences, and most of the visitors seem to be families, often of several generations, who are unlikely to see cycling as a sensible means of transportation to the Academy---or any other destination in the park.

At 10:48 PM, Blogger Tag said...

Fair enough that tons of people are driving to the park, and that biking is a tricky option for transporting one's whole family, but it's fairly disingenuous to say that "not many people, even in SF, can ride a bike to the park." I was at Outside Lands this year and the valet bike parking lot, which could accommodate 1000 bikes, filled right up. Hundreds more bikes were scattered along JFK drive. I can't imagine you care about these numbers or this anecdote, but I thought I'd share anyway.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Tag's comment about Outside Lands applies to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass as well. Bikes all over the place. I took MUNI as I was going to be having several beers. The day we start considering the walk from the N Judah (which connects to BART and Caltrain!) to the concourse a "long walk" we have truly become a slacker obese society. And as I made this walk, I did not observe difficult traffic conditions.

The difference is that the HSBG and Outside Lands people were trained to take transit to the event (unless music lovers are just smarter than art and aquarium lovers). We should try to get people to do the same thing for the Academy of Sciences. Frankly my Nephew would prefer riding Thomas the Train to getting in the mini-van anyway.

In retrospect it seems sort of a blunder to not just move the DeYoung or Academy out of the park and place it near regional transit. Apparently the people near the Presidio don't want a repeat performance.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Okay, but we're talking about the Concourse in Golden Gate Park, not these other venues and events. And the traffic problems only seem to happen on weekends or holidays. Imagine how much worse it would be without the 800-space garage.

At 9:19 PM, Blogger grrlfriday said...

Rob -- Please get your facts straight and stop slandering me. I did *NOT* "sue the city to prevent the garage from being built", as you put it, but to ensure that it was built in accordance with voters' wishes. If it couldn't be built in accordance with what voters authorized, then yes, I believed it should not be built at all. But this is a matter of respecting the democratic process, not suing to stop something once it had already been voted in. I stated this very clearly many times in the press, and the briefs we filed said as much as well. We never, ever claimed to be trying to stop the garage in contradiction to voters' wishes -- in fact, we consistently said the opposite, and our actions reflected this. If you still believe our lawsuit was an attempt to stop the garage after Prop J passed, then you're not reading things carefully enough. Either that, or you "continue to cling tenaciously to [your] fact-free account of what's happened in the Concourse", which is exactly what you accused me of doing.

That, plus -- I've never seen Chris Duderstadt on a bicycle in my life, and just because I ride a bicycle myself, that does not make me a "bike person". I'm a human being, just like you, and I resent your attempts to objectify and dehumanize me like that.

All that said, I do not think it was ever possible to build the garage in compliance with the terms of Prop J, and I think Prop j was always extremely disingenuous for that very reason. Considering that the PRIMARY purpose of Prop J was not to build a garage, but to "reduce the impact of automobiles on Golden Gate Park", I don't think that anyone, yourself included, would say that building the garage has accomplished this. Having the garage in the Concourse has clearly NOT reduced traffic in the park to pre-1998 levels. Given that, the garage has failed in its stated purpose, and its proponents have failed in the promise they made to the voters. Judge McCarthy, in issuing his injunction, recognized this, but he was followed by a corrupt judge who didn't much care about the law. That is the only way this project got approved.

The vision Prop J presented of the garage was pie-in-the-sky from the get-go. The problem is that the fix was already in, because of the powerful, monied interests who wanted the garage to be built. These people have no qualms about lying about the ultimate impacts, so long as they get the "voter mandate" for what they wanted.

McCarthy also understood that the revenue generated by the garage belonged to the Rec and Park Department, and was never meant to be diverted back to the people who offered the garage to the city as a "philanthropic gift". This means that Prop J's promise to use no public money on the garage was a lie, as well. Whatever money Rec and Park loses as a result of this scam has to be made up from somewhere else in the budget. Or else the park deteriorates from lack of funding, which is exactly what we see happening. These deteriorating conditions were what prompted the idea of a garage in the first place, as a cash cow for the city. If people voted for the "Golden Gate Park Revitalization Act" with the understanding that garage revenue would be used to revitalize the park, and it's not, then that's voter fraud. I think you would be hard-pressed to argue that the park budget is so much better off now because of the huge influx of garage revenue that Prop J promised.

Finally, your memory seems to be remarkably short with regards to Prop G. You praised it to the heavens when it was on the ballot, and excoriated me for opposing it. If your memory needs jogging about this, the link to your blog post is:


I'm curious to see how you're going to wiggle out of this one.

--Katherine Roberts, aka "bike person"

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Jym said...

=v= It is with much regret that I find I must disagree with the esteemed grrlfriday over whether Mr. Duderstadt qualifies after a bike nut. One doesn't actually need a bicycle to be a bike nut. After all, Mr. Anderson doesn't have a wing.


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