Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Street Fight 3

Jason Henderson's elaborate, book-length polemic against cars in Street Fight not only misrepresents events in San Francisco, it often gets facts wrong. In the introduction Henderson claims that San Francisco "should probably be emulated by other cities in terms of addressing GHG emissions, energy policy and social concerns related to mobility." "Probably"? He cites the MTA's 2010 Transportation Fact Sheet that "thirty percent of San Francisco households are car-free" (page 9), even though that document clearly says that only 20% of city households are car-free.[Later: As a commenter pointed out, I'm wrong about this. Henderson was looking at an earlier Fact Sheet, and I was looking at the current Fact Sheet, which says only 20% of city households are car-free.]

And some fakery: "While less than 10 percent of all daily trips in the United States are by walking and bicycling, in San Francisco 20 percent of all daily trips are taken by these nonmotorized modes" (page 10). By combining walking trips in the city (17%)---skateboarding is included in the walking tally!---with trips by bike (3.4%), Henderson puffs up the significance of bikes (See page 5 of the MTA's 2011 Mode Share Survey for these numbers). 

"While federal estimates are that 1 percent of all trips[in the US] are by bike, bicycling for daily travel increased in San Francisco from roughly 1 percent of trips in 2000 to 6 percent of all trips by 2009" (page 10). Not so. The latest figure for bike trips is 3.4% of all trips in the city, not 6% (see page 5 of the 2011 Mode Share Survey). Henderson cites the MTA's 2011 Climate Action Strategy for the 6% claim, but I can only find 1% in 2007 in that document (page 19).

Then fakery on the numbers morphs into outright bullshit when Henderson refers to the Planning Department's Better Neighborhoods plan as part of 

an ambitious urban  planning effort called Better Neighborhoods. The project re-zoned large swaths of former industrial areas for intensive residential and commercial infill development centered on transit and walkability and have  new zoning rules that restrict the amount of new parking made available to residents and visitors (page 11).

Henderson is a chairman of the Market/Octavia Community Advisory Committee, so he knows that the area that makes up the Market/Octavia Plan---part of the Better Neighborhoods project, though it's not a neighborhood---is not a "former industrial area" but instead an already densely-populated part of the city that the Orwellian-named Better Neighborhoods Plan has tagged for more dense development---eliminating backyards, set-backs, allowing higher buildings, and, as he notes, restricting parking for the new housing units.[Later: I should have included this Market/Octavia Plan map showing the location  of all the 20-, 30-, and 40-story highrises planned for the Market and Van Ness area.]  

Limiting parking for the thousands of new housing units is why the Bicycle Coalition likes the M/O Plan, but that's only one reason developers love it. No backyards, no set-backs from sidewalks, and limited parking make housing projects much more profitable for developers, as if they need incentives to build in San Francisco.

And the M/O Plan provides no money for an already crowded Muni to deal with the 10,000 new residents it will bring to the middle of San Francisco.

Henderson almost gets a grip on the problems with the dense development theory as it's being applied in San Francisco:

San Francisco's built environment is the concept of livability overlaid by continued high rates of automobile ownership, and this makes San Francisco a trial run of how livability may or may not unfold in other places (page 14).

This is the paradox that People like Henderson don't seem to accept: people who live here---and the many people who want to live here---think San Francisco is just fine the way it is, without all the "improvements" that carpetbaggers like Henderson, the MTA, and the bike lobby are determined to foist on the neighborhoods. 

What's going to "unfold" with the dumb Smart Growth, transit-oriented development, anti-car policies is make traffic a lot worse than it has to be on behalf a small minority of cyclists by taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes---even as the city restricts parking in new housing developments! Hard to see how that will enhance the city's "livability." Especially when you consider that 80-90% of home buyers in SF want parking.

See also Henderson's dishonest account of how city progressives allowed UC to hijack the old UC extension property one block from the Market/Octavia intersection on lower Haight Street.

Street Fight #4

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At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of book long polemics - did this book really merit three TLDR posts?

I love to pick on you but even I have limits.

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you think the population of San Francisco will be in 2020? 2030? 2040? Not having an answer means you are clueless.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, you're just a bike guy who hates it that the city's designated bike intellectual is demonstrably full of shit.

Henderson is not just making the usual unconvincing arguments on bikes versus cars, he's trying to rewrite the city's history for the last ten years.

Besides, he's taken seriously not just by the usual suspects at Streetsblog and the Bay Guardian but by other folks here and here.

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"What do you think the population of San Francisco will be in 2020? 2030? 2040? Not having an answer means you are clueless."

You mean bicycles are going to be a significant factor in dealing with the city's population boom? I don't believe it.

What City Hall should do is stop facilitating that kind of population growth with its dumb "smart growth" policies, like allowing projects that will put 19,000 people on Treasure Island and 5,000 more new housing units at Parkmerced.

All these bobblehead that are now making these kind of decisions in City Hall will be retired on their lavish city pensions when all these chickens come home to roost years from now.

At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly! Facilitating population growth must be stopped now. Before I moved here, San Francisco was underpopulated by one person, but now that I've found my housing, the population has hit the maximum and all new housing must be stopped.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Nope. The issue is these huge, grandiose housing projects that City Hall seems to think are "smart growth." Housing in SF should be built with a lot more care and on a smaller scale. Otherwise we're throwing the quality-of-life baby out with the bathwater.

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That wasn't my question, Rob. What do you think the population of San Francisco will be in 2020, 2030, and 2040?

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I have no idea. I assumed the question had some relevance to this post. Why do you ask?

At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm asking because I want to know how we're going to reduce congestion if the population grows. We already have horrible congestion on our streets which have no bike lanes. So, what do you think the population of the city is going to be? Is it going to shrink, stay the same, or continue to grow?

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As I've been saying on this blog for years, the problem in SF is not with growth per se but the way City Hall is going about it. Instead of carefully managing new housing growth with modest sized projects, it's instead giving developers nothing but a green light to build in a relatively small city geographically with a dysfunctional, under-financed transportation system.

This aggressively pro-development policy is cloaked in green-sounding slogans like smart growth, dense development, transit corridors, while not allowing developers to provide adequate parking for all those new housing units.

On top of that, City Hall is aggressively making it harder and more expensive to drive in the city with the MTA's anti-car, pro-bike projects in the neighborhoods, as if the thousands of new residents will ride bikes instead of drive cars in a gentrified San Francisco.

Growth should be managed more carefully and our transportation system must be maintained adequately to deal with that growth, neither of which is the city doing now. Got it?

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

When discussing Henderson's gloss on the Market/Octavia Plan, I should have mentioned that this dumb "smart growth" project includes 20-, 30-, and 40-story residential highrises at Market and Van Ness.

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, you have no idea how we're going to grow, do you?

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

And you have no idea how to read, do you?

At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Who can read? said...

The article "2010 Transportation Fact Sheet" that you link to states on page 2 that 30.3% (98,265 households) in San Francisco have "No vehicle" ie. car free.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You're right. I was looking at the latest Fact Sheet---published by the MTA in November, 2012---that says that only 20.5% of SF households are car-free. Shouldn't we assume that the current report is correct? It was published in plenty of time for Henderson to get it right.


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