Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gabriel Metcalf: "We have to take a much bigger share of regional growth"

The recent interview in the Wall Street Journal provides more evidence that SPUR's Gabriel Metcalf is the perfect embodiment of all the half-baked planning ideas that predominate here in Progressive Land. San Francisco must welcome developers---especially those who want to build highrises---to limit suburban sprawl in the Bay Area. Like our Planning Dept., he supports dense development along city transit corridors, even though San Francisco is already the second most densely populated city in the country, trailing only New York City.

Like all good city progressives, Metcalf supports the California High-Speed Rail boondoggle, which SPUR praised in a muddled study of that dumb project. (Even the Wall Street Journal has called high-speed rail "a fiscal pipedream.") To Metcalf the CHSR project is good because it's both anti-car and it provides opportunities to implement the dense development theories. Fortunately for California, that liberal fantasy project is increasingly unlikely to be built. 

What will San Francisco be like if Metcalf and the Planning Dept. have their way? Metcalf provides a clue when he praises the awful Octavia Boulevard:

“It’s still an arterial,” said Gabriel Metcalf of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. “But it provides a transition between the car-centered space of the highway and the pedestrian-centered space of The City.”

The reality: Pedestrians now scurry across Octavia Blvd. to avoid the 45,000 vehicles a day that now use it on their way to and from the freeway.

Naturally, Metcalf also supported the Rincon Hill highrises. In the same magazine article, the Planning Dept.'s Josh Switsky answered a question about who would occupy the luxury highrise condos on Rincon Hill: "Certainly a number of units are going to be pieds-a-terre, more than we'd like. But in terms of planning, it's hard to prevent."

Switsky's prediction, as we recently learned, was spot-on, as the condos on Rincon Hill are increasingly being bought as pieds-a-terre by foreign nationals.

This is the inevitable result of the Metcalf/SPUR vision of San Francisco's dense development future: traffic jams and highrise housing for the international rich, who will of course forgo their wicked motor vehicles and ride bikes to shop at Union Square and eat at our upscale restaurants.

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At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Kindle Krakker said...

Rob, if you're not smart enough to support High Speed Rail, you're not smart enough to live here. You have 2 days to leave. I'll be sending a truck on Tuesday. If you're not out by then, we'll just start loading your stuff, okay?

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You're too intellectually lame and lazy to inform yourself about high-speed rail, which makes you a San Francisco progressive in good standing.

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Even the Wall Street Journal has called"

The Wall Street Journal is owned by FOX News. It isn't the high bar.

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Switsky's observation, as we recently learned, was spot-on, as the condos on Rincon Hill are increasingly being bought as pieds-a-terre by foreign nationals."

What is wrong with that?

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The Wall Street Journal is where the respectful interview was published.

We need affordable housing for SF residents, not luxury housing for international millionaires. Recall too that Chris Daly crowed about the Rincon deal at the time as if it was a great victory for city progressives.

We're still waiting for an accounting of the development fees that were alleged to be such a great deal for the city.

At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if we added a means test where you can't have a pied-a-terre in Rincon Hill, then you'd be for this project?

At 7:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The project never should have been built. It's nothing but s manifestation of the dense development, residential highrise planning fad that threatens to overdevelop every city neighborhood on a major Muni line.

Chris Daly tried to give it a patina of political respectability, but it's just another big development project modeled on Vancouver's downtown. John King, the Planning Dept. and SPUR are pushing projects like this. SF is supposed to degrade its quality-of-life because ABAG thinks we must provide more housing for the region.

Oddly enough, there's no affordable housing shortage for rich people, for pieds-a-terre or anything else.

How much is the city making off the Rincon Hill project in development fees and taxes? We need to see an accounting.

Let's tally up the political scorecard: SF progressives have screwed up the homeless issue---and all quality-of-life issues, like sit-lie, graffiti/tagging, etc. They've also botched the housing issue, instead encouraging grandiose development schemes, like Rincon Hill, Treasure Island, and the Market and Octavia Plan.

And, finally, they are in the process of botching the traffic/transportation issue, deliberately underfunding Muni and throwing Prop. K money into the Central Subway pit, not to mention the Bicycle Plan and anti-carism in general.

Great record! City voters have already rejected public power and legalizing prostitution. How about running Congestion Pricing by city voters? Maybe city progs can convince them to pay a fee to drive downtown in their own city.

At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SF is the second densest city in the nation. If NYC, the one place more dense, were such a horrible place, then making SF more dense could be seen as a problem. But it's not - NYC is the international benchmark. Density is not a dirty word.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The big difference is that the densest part of New York has a subway system. SF progs seemingly underfund our Muni system deliberately, throwing scarce transit dollars into projects like the Central Subway, not to mention an inability to keep our streets decently paved.

And they continue to support projects that will completely swamp our already inadequate Muni system: the Market/Octavia Plan, UC's extension development on lower Haight Street, Treasure Island, and Parkmerced.

The only thing that's saved city neighborhoods so far is the Great Recession, which made it a lot harder for developers to get loans.

At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that progressives are _in favor_ of the Central Subway?

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I am. Except for the folks who do this website, where's the dissent? I haven't heard a peep of protest from a single prog leader in SF, not to mention the Asian caucus---Chiu, Chu, and Kim.

This is another issue---like the Bicycle Plan---that's too important to allow without putting it on the ballot for city voters to decide.

At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SF is nearly as dense as NYC. NYC is implementing a bike plan that pales any effort here in SF. NYC's bike plan is roundly accepted and applauded by everyone sans the media. SF's plan is roundly accepted and applauded by everyone sans Rob.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What New York's bicycle plan has in common with SF's plan: voters in neither city have had a chance to vote on it. Interesting to note too that this post isn't about bicycle plans but about the goofball planning theories that now prevail by default. City neighborhoods---especially those along major traffic corridors---now have to play defense against a City Hall that insists on foisting various "improvements" on them.

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bike plan has everything to do with developments. Your biggest gripe against development is an already strained Muni system. Cycling is a great alternative. Shame you are so blind to that.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Thanks for trying to tell me what my "biggest gripe" is Anon, but it's not correct. My concern is traffic in general, of which Muni is an important part in our allegedly "transit first" city. If you screw up traffic in general with unwise developments---the M/O Plan, UC Extension, Treasure Island, Parkmerced---you are also going to screw up Muni. Got it?

There's nothing to prevent anyone from riding a bike in SF, but, since cyclists are a very small minority here, it's dumb to take away street parking and traffic lanes on busy streets to make bike lanes. Got it?

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nope. Don't got it. You don't got it.

I win. You lose.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Okay, I get that you don't get it, but tell me what I don't get.

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that progressives are _in favor_ of the Central Subway? - "Yes I am."

You're smoking crack. Notice that nobody ever rebuts your CS arguments here?

For example - is Tom Radulovich a "prog"?

A lot of them are against the project and have admitted as such privately, but there are some chicken skinned ones out there. Of course this applies to pretty much EVERY politician around here. The bike plan is *peanuts* compared to the CS. You whine that nobody on the Mayoral bandwagon is bringing up the bike plan? That's such a tiny issue. The CS is billions of dollars and might hamstring our transit system very badly. Radulovich is really the only elected official or even candidate to really say, publically - "This project is BS".

Anyone who cares about MUNI and knows a lot about it, hates this project.

But nobody feels like patting you on the back - even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Nobody "rebuts" my claim that city progs support the Central Subway because it's true. You cite a Radulovich blog post that has one wishy-washy sentence critical of the Central Subway buried in a long post on BART.

Like so many commenters here, you misunderstand what the "bike plan" means. As I've pointed out for years, it's only a part of the city's overall anti-car policy, though it's the dumbest and the most ambitious part of that policy.

If so many SF progs are against the Central Subway, why don't they speak up? Because they're basically chickenshit political lemmings. As I've pointed out before, SF is a one-party town, and the progs are too timid to challenge the dominant ideology, especially if it challenges the Asian-American demographic on the Central Subway. None of the mayoral candidates will touch the issue for that reason.

Debra Saunders challenges city progs regularly, but she's dismissed because she's a Republican. Ken Garcia and C.W. Nevius also do it on occasion, but I don't recall those folks writing anything critical of the Central Subway.

"But nobody feels like patting you on the back---even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn."

I don't care about getting the approval of people I don't respect. Unlike city progs, I don't see politics as a self-esteem exercise. Except for the aforementioned Saunders, Garcia, and Nevius, who else in SF politics and journalism is coming up with any acorns?

At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Name a "Non-prog" (of merit - you don't count) who is against the Central Subway.

"Chickenshit" doesn't need to preceed "politician" - it's implied.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

But non-progs don't count in SF, but I take the point: SF is a one-party town. For a city that prides itself on its history of rebellion and cultural innovation, its residents are ferocious conformists.

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob's the only rebel left!

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

Any of your concerns could be ascribed to more specific interest groups, Rob. Drivers basically oppose anything that takes their precious road space away, be it transit priority, bike lanes, traffic calming, or road closures. Anyone who uses transit—and even anyone who doesn't, but recognizes its importance—is deeply disturbed by the city's chronic underfunding of Muni. Cyclists and pedestrians are substantially more concerned with safety because they're more vulnerable, and they will fight for changes that make the streets less threatening out of self preservation; whereas drivers instinctively protect their right to swift, unhindered road access. You're essentially acting on behalf of the much richer, better connected, and entrenched lobbies of oil, auto, and highway construction when you argue against safety infrastructure on accounts of its potential traffic impacts. (And you've got your heels dug in so far that it's impossible to convince you of something as apolitical as health impacts, so I won't even try.)

You act as though these are distinct concerns, uncommon among people who do one thing but not the other: cyclists aren't drivers; transit riders aren't cyclists; etc. And in attempting to oversimplify everyone's concerns you've formed an opinion shared by no one but other angry old white guys. That's why you were never able to find anyone willing to join your Coalition for Adequate Review, and that's why there are only a handful of similarly jaded people willing to support you on your blog. There are two possible reasons for this: Either the San Francisco electorate are too stupid, sheepish or powerless to oppose their government and elect political leaders who act in their interests; or there are simply very few people in this city who, despite all their god-awful rhetoric in the SFGate comments, really believe that (for instance) density is bad per se, or that transit, pedestrian and cycling facilities should trump private automotive access. And I know enough intelligent, responsible, politically engaged people personally to say that the former is simply not true.

And as for the Central Subway, you don't have to dig very deep to find even Streetsblog writers and readers in opposition. So it's disingenuous to suggest that "bike people"—or, more broadly, "progressives", which as a political designation seems to have completely lost its meaning—are a uniform class distinguished by ideological groupthink. But hey, the truth matters little when it comes to finding inflammatory rhetoric to fit your narrative that we cyclists are no better than "Islamic fanatics", right?

P.S. Rot in hell, Bin Laden.


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