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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Best Video of the Year: The Cyclists

I forgot to include the Best Video of the Year---"The Cyclists"---in my recent annual awards:

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