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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