Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SPUR, Smart[sic] Growth, and highrise development in San Francisco

Gabriel Metcalf

In this morning's New York Times (A Mayor in the Middle of Two San Franciscos):

In the 1970s, the city began passing regulations that made it extremely difficult and costly to build new housing in the city, said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of SPUR, a public policy center devoted to planning and urban research.

Bullshit. Lazy journalists in San Francisco routinely go to Metcalf for a soundbite on housing and transportation issues, usually characterizing him in neutral terms, like the above. Or as a "smart growth" advocate, which sounds pretty good, unless you actually know how dumb the smart growth ideas really are---and how bad they are for the city.

Metcalf gets the "smart growth" designation in the Chronicle this morning (Wiener: complaint on waterfront proposal "ridiculous"):

Texts and e-mails that [Supervisor]Wiener's office turned over under a public records request show that Gabriel Metcalf, the executive director for SPUR, a smart-growth think tank, suggested to Wiener that state law allows the Board of Supervisors to request specific information from departments about the fiscal and other impacts of ballot measures. That was on Feb. 4, the day after [Jon]Golinger's No Wall on the Waterfront group turned in more than double the 9,702 signatures needed to qualify their measure for the ballot. Two days later, Metcalf e-mailed a draft resolution and followed up later, saying in part: "Hoping to stay unmentioned for now. Till my board takes its vote."

The pro-development Metcalf and Supervisor Wiener are natural allies, since Wiener too is often described as a "good government" guy, though that's not any truer about him than it is of Metcalf.

Who is Metcalf and what does he stand for? 

As I pointed out several years ago, he personifies all the fashionable, half-baked ideas on planning and transportation that are now damaging the city: the Bicycle Plan (Metcalf is of course a bike guy and a negligent parent: "I take my kid around in a bike seat, but I haven't yet had to face letting him ride on his own, which scares me").

Metcalf supports the Central Subwayhigh-speed rail, and highrise development in San Francisco. Metcalf's vision for San Francisco:

People love to live in highrises. Rincon Hill and Transbay are the first attempts to create a whole new neighborhood on that concept. I think it's absolutely the right thing to be doing for the environment. Instead of sprawling outward and making people drive, we're going to build homes for people at extremely high density, where they can walk to work and walk to the store and finally grow up and embrace their urbanity.

Yes, why don't Jon Golinger, Art Agnos, and Aaron Peskin just "grow up and embrace their urbanity"?

It can't go "unmentioned" that it's not surprising that good old Gabe is scheming with the owners of the Giants and other fat cats to defeat the initiative against waterfront highrises.[Later: The end result of the machinations by Metcalf and Wiener can be seen on this city website, as city departments all sing for their supper in opposition to Prop. B.]

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