Saturday, December 08, 2012

A property-owner against the Fell/Oak project

From: Andrew Smith
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2012
To: ''; ''
Cc: ''; ''
Subject: In support of appeal of Fell/Oak parking-removal project

Dear Supervisors and Mayor Lee,

I am writing to request that you take seriously the appeal of the MTA’s recent actions in going forward with this project without listening to the many valid concerns of people who live, work and do business in this neighborhood and without stepping back and looking at the big picture of all the people whose lives will be affected by these changes to traffic circulation.

I will not repeat the technical and legal reasons why the already-ongoing construction of the project is premature and why it seems to be going forward without following the normal rules of planning (and law) that are imposed on private citizens when they promote changes of their own. Why does this public agency, the MTA, believe that it is above the law that private citizens are made to follow? The agency has already suffered a previous judicial reprimand on the similar, but totally separate, Bicycle Plan EIR and it will undoubtedly suffer the same fate should it choose the same arrogant path in this case.

There is a common-sense principle that you should separate different types of traffic. In the days of horses and carts, people built boardwalks and sidewalks for pedestrians to keep them safe from the larger and faster animals and vehicles on the city streets; you build subways and dedicated transit lanes to allow transit vehicles to move rapidly across the City in a safe manner; likewise, most of the sensible, civilized world builds dedicated bicycle paths to keep pedestrians, bicycles and autos all safe from each other. Only a city like ours tries to push them all together on the same streets in order to slow everyone down to safe speeds: we are fortunate (or unfortunate depending on the argument you are trying to make) to have a grid of streets which provide many alternate routes to get from point A to point B, and it makes perfect sense to devote multiple parallel paths to different types of travel---quiet bike streets for bikes, major trunks for automobile and commercial traffic, transit streets and subways for buses and steeetcars and vehicle-free (yes, even bicycle-free!) passages for pedestrians. Why is the MTA not being instructed by you elected leaders to follow this approach? Why is San Francisco so special that it does not need to follow common sense?

My family owns and manages residential and commercial real-estate in the Haight/Divisadero neighborhood. The buildings that our family has constructed here over many decades, even when these were much less fashionable neighborhoods, provide neighborhood-serving businesses and residential rental units. We, as well as the numerous small businesses that operate in this central location, will suffer directly from the changes that are proposed for our neighborhood by this plan: to have our concerns and valid counter-suggestions dismissed as they have been by MTA staff without consideration is insulting. But this does appear to be the way this City agency has worked in recent years, now that its ranks are made up largely of political activists with strong social agendas of their own. This is not how unelected civil servants are supposed to act and our elected representatives (yourselves) must rein them in: civil servants must be made to check their agendas at the door when they accept appointments in the executive branch of our government.

I would ask that you accept the appeal of the MTA’s actions and direct the study of appropriate alternatives to the current ill-conceived project. Please use this opportunity to set a policy of serious study by MTA of the impact on all modes of transportation and the social aspects of street-use changes before it takes its jack-hammers to projects such as this.


Andrew Smith
San Francisco

Note from Rob: I added the links to Mr. Smith's letter.

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