Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How the anti-car Jihad hurts the city #2

Tom Radulovich

The city's anti-car policies are beginning to pinch, since the folks who want to put a new shopping mall in the most blighted part of Market Street---between Fifth Street and Sixth Street---are being hassled for wanting to put 200 parking spaces underneath the mall. John King in the Chronicle:

Closer to Fifth Street, developer Urban Realty seeks approval for what it calls CityPlace---a five-story mall that would replace three buildings on the south side of the block and house discount retailers...As for CityPlace, the buildings it would replace sit vacant---and while there's support from business groups, the underground parking spaces included in the proposal are opposed by transit advocates who want to keep cars away from the area.

"Transit advocates"? As King surely knows, these "advocates" are the bike people, and they don't really give a shit about Muni. But the anti-car jihad has been internalized by all good city progressives, including of course the Board of Supervisors. We're supposed to pretend that we're Amsterdam or Copenhagen, not a major American city.

Randy Shaw of BeyondChron has an angrier take on the city's delay in approving CityPlace:

I met with developer David Rhoades of Urban Reality and his consultant when this project was first submitted. I told them---in words that now seem naïve---that I could not imagine anyone opposing this effort to bring 250,000 square feet of retail to a long neglected commercial corridor (the City Place site was previously approved for a giant condo project, whose abandonment by a prior owner left the area bereft of commercial activity).

For years Market Street has been targeted by the SF Bicycle Coalition for a total ban on automobiles---otherwise known as "death monsters"---and lo that great day has come to pass, though, along with the sacred bicycle, trucks, taxis, and Muni buses are still allowed. But it will take more than banning cars on Market Street to get rid of the long-standing commercial blight that mars a large part of the city's main street. It will take development and, in the real world of commerce, some of that development will require parking spaces for residents, customers, and workers.

Shaw continues:

But in San Francisco, even a game-changing project like City Place could not escape Planning’s obsession with achieving consensus. And since at least one credible person had problems with including parking in a project that would create hundreds of construction and permanent retail jobs (and even the lowest paid are governed by the city’s higher local minimum wage), that meant that City Place’s approval pace had to be slowed down to address such concerns.

Yes, Shaw was naive to think that a major retail development in downtown San Francisco could get away with including adequate parking in its proposal. But the anti-car political consensus was formed years ago, even before the litigation on the Bicycle Plan began way back in 2005. It's hard to believe that someone who runs an online publication covering local issues isn't aware of the anti-car movement in the city---a movement that not only wants to redesign city streets on behalf of the bicycle fantasy but is also undermining the long-standing requirement that developers provide adequate parking for projects. 

It used to be that housing developers, for example, were required to provide a parking space for every new housing unit built, but the city has carved out so many exceptions to that sensible rule---the massive UC development on the old extension property, and the huge Market and Octavia project, for example---that it's essentially a dead letter now.

And who is this "one credible person" who is opposed to parking? [later: probably Tom Radulovich] If the list of suspects is limited to the credible, it has to be short, but the anti-car virus infecting our policy makers is widespread---in the Planning Dept., the Planning Commission, the MTA, and the Board of Supervisors.

One might naively think, by the way, that the term "transit" refers to vehicles like buses, trains and streetcars. But here in Progressive Land, according to our City Charter, it also means bikes: "Bicycling shall be promoted by encouraging safe streets for riding, convenient access to transit, bicycle lanes, and secure bicycle parking." (Section 8A.115, Transit First)

Get it? Now when the city's Bicycle Plan takes away traffic lanes on busy streets to make bike lanes, they can say that are just following Transit First as defined in the City Charter, even if that snarls traffic and delays our actual transit system, which the EIR on the Bicycle Plan tells us is what's going to happen.

More information
on the project from the Planning Dept.

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Public power through the back door

C.W. Nevius writes about last week's election on his blog after attending the Clemens/Latterman post-mortem at SPUR:

Proposition 16: Much predictable hoots and applause for the defeat of the cynical PG&E-sponsored initiative that would have required a two-thirds vote of the public before starting a new utility district, meaning that it would restrict communities like San Francisco from choosing an agency rather than PG&E to provide power. The PG&E campaign, which cost a reported $46 million tried to frame the issue as a vote for democracy---"shouldn't you have a vote on the issue?"---rather than admitting that it was actually a power grab that would make it extremely difficult to get power from anyone other than PG&E. Latterman said it wasn't a complete surprise that it lost, but the margin, 52.5 to 47.5, was unexpected.

Of course Prop. 16 was a failed power grab by PG&E, but it's not clear whether Latterman thought that the result was closer or not as close as expected. But PG&E is right that communities should get a chance to vote on this. Where they went wrong is insisting on the 2/3 vote instead of a simple majority. They would have won easily with the latter. 

I always vote against public power when it's on the ballot in SF. Only a simple majority was enough to defeat it, which is how it should be. And how many times over the years have city voters rejected public power? Twelve! With community choice aggregation, city progressives are able to essentially bring public power in the back door in defiance of the will of city voters.

Unlike the Bicycle Plan---which we'll never get a chance to vote on---and like closing Golden Gate Park to cars on Saturdays, city voters made it clear that they didn't want City Hall to run our power system. But that's what they're going to get, whether they like it or not!

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