Friday, February 10, 2012

Christina Olague: "Just fucking say no"

When Christina Olague was on the Planning Commission, she voted to allow the city to begin implementing the Bicycle Plan on city streets even though the city had done no environmental review of that project in violation of the most important environmental law in the state, the California Environmental Quality Act. (We tried in vain at the time to warn the commission.) 

She and the commissioners even endorsed giving the ambitious Plan a General Rule Exemption, which, under CEQA, can only be used for projects that can't possibly have an impact on the environment. Taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes clearly could have an impact on the city's environment, which is why the court rebuked the city and ordered it to do an environmental review of the 500-page Bicycle Plan project.

The ambitious Olague understood that she wouldn't be elected to higher office in this city if she antagonized the Bicycle Coalition.

That was only the first bit of political opportunism in Olague's career. Two years ago she abandoned the Green Party when President Obama made being a Democrat fashionable again. Then last year she jumped on the Ed Lee bandwagon and, not coincidentally, the newly-elected mayor appointed her the District 5 Supervisor.

This week the Bay Guardian has a chummy story on our new supervisor. (The story is by Steve Jones, who used to be the Guardian's go-to guy on the bicycle issue.)

Olague, appointed to the Planning Commission by Matt Gonzalez, has always been a San Francisco progressive:

Olague worked with then-Sup. Chris Daly to win more community benefits and other concessions from developers of the Trinity Plaza and Rincon Tower projects, but now she is critical of Daly's confrontational tactics. "Daly's style isn't what I agree with anymore," Olague said, criticizing the deals that were cut on those projects to approve them with larger than required community benefits packages. "I think we romanticized what we got."

Daly's "style" on the Rincon Hill luxury highrise deal didn't prevent it from going through, thanks to Olague, the Planning Commission, and the "progressive" Board of Supervisors, including Supervisor Mirkarimi. So what exactly is it that "we got" to mitigate the Rincon Hill highrise, a blot on the city's skyline and housing for the well-off? I haven't seen any accounting of the "community benefits package."

While she says her approach will be more conciliatory than Daly's, she says the answer is still yes. "You push back, you make demands, and if you don't think it's going to benefit the city holistically, you just fucking say no," Olague said.

Seems like Olague shares Daly's style in how she uses the language.

Bike guy Jones asks Olague about the Bicycle Coalition's push to eliminate street parking---I count 39 parking spaces on the south side of Fell Street between Scott and Baker and 51 on Oak Street for a total of 90---near the Panhandle to make bike lanes:

But Olague said she understands that part of her job is making decisions that will disappoint some groups. For example, after Mayor Lee pledged to install bike lanes on Fell and Oak streets to connect the Panhandle to The Wiggle and lessen the danger to bicyclists, he recently stalled the project after motorists opposed the idea. "I'm a transit-first person, for sure. I don't even drive," Olague said of her approach to that issue, which she has now begun to work on. "We'll try to craft a solution, but then at some point you have to fall on one side or the other."

Sounds like Olague might oppose the bike people on this project. She will see which way the wind is blowing before she falls "on one side or the other." By the way, it's the "motorists" who live in that neighborhood---Olague's constituents---who have to park on the street who oppose eliminating parking where it's already scarce.

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