Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Polk Street rejects anti-car "improvements"

Polk Street shows how to deal with City Hall

Matier and Ross tell us this morning what happened at the Polk Street meeting Monday night:

Rough ride: City plans to eliminate parking spaces on Polk Street to make room for bike lanes hit a big political pothole Monday night when neighborhood residents and businesses turned out in force against the idea. At issue: the estimated 150 parking spaces that would be lost between Union and Webster streets. Many in the overflow crowd of more than 300 people who turned up at the Old First Church on Sacramento Street said they supported biking, but most were dead set against losing the parking. As a result, Muni Chief Ed Reiskin said he was going back to the drawing board---a place where big dreams and misbegotten schemes alike have a way of dying.

People and businesses in the Polk Street neighborhood are pleased with Monday night's turnout, which was standing room only. Save Polk Street:

Thanks to the nearly 400 folks who showed up at the Old First Church March 18 to protest the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) plan to Remove 20 Blocks of street parking on Polk St. from Union St. to McAllister St. SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin has agreed to go back to the drawing board with plans for Polk St. This is good news, but we are not out of the woods yet. Keep up the pressure on the SFMTA and Supervisor David Chiu to Save Polk St. Street parking is vital to Polk St. businesses. If you eat, live, work or shop along Polk Street this WILL affect you. If you want the restaurants, shops and services on Polk Street to survive make your voice heard.

Someone who was at the meeting told me it was an angry crowd that booed and hooted at MTA head Ed Reiskin's presentation. Not surprisingly the folks at Streetsblog were disappointed in the meeting, but they verify its emotional tenor:

But terms like “parklets,” “wider sidewalks,” and “separated bike lanes” elicited strong “No”s from the crowd when mentioned by SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin. Reiskin explained the agency’s impetus for the project---taking advantage of a bond-funded street re-paving scheduled for 2015 to improve conditions for biking and walking---but didn’t discuss the details of the project proposals. When the crowd pressed Reiskin to provide the maximum number of parking spaces that could be removed from Polk, he gave an estimate of 170---just over half---and the crowd roared in disapproval.

The anti-car bike people like parklets because their construction means eliminating two or three parking spaces for those wicked cars, which by definition is always a Good Thing. Streetsblog lectures the business owners on Polk Street that the "improvements"---losing all that street parking in front of their shops---will actually be good for business. Funny but the people Monday night seemed to think that they know best what's good for their neighborhood and businesses, not the anti-car bike people, who were represented by city employee Reiskin.

City taxpayers, by the way, are paying dearly for this "bond-funded repaving," since the city is borrowing money to pave neighborhood streets. The bond was nominally for $248 million, but with interest it will actually cost city taxpayers $440 million. Even though the city makes $180 million a year from its parking meters, parking tickets, and parking lots/garages, it still has to borrow money to pave our streets! But we shouldn't forget that the MTA itself has more than 5,000 employees in its bureaucracy to support:

Reiskin said SFMTA planners “will go back to the drawing board” and propose new options with more car parking at community meetings within the next couple of months, but that the project’s timeline hasn’t changed...“This meeting was not going to be a forum where we were going to be able to articulate [the project's benefits] successfully,” Reiskin told Streetsblog. “Obviously, a lot of the folks here tonight had not been engaged earlier on, and whether that was because they weren’t paying attention, or didn’t care until they found out it was parking, or because we didn’t adequately reach out, I don’t know. People are engaged now, and that’s what’s important.” (emphasis added)

Yes, and, as the folks at Save Polk Street seem to understand, they will have to remain "engaged," since dealing with the anti-car bike movement---especially with City Hall behind it---is a lot like dealing with religious fanatics; they keep coming at you, as "the project's timeline hasn't changed" clause suggests.

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