Friday, March 11, 2016

Exposing a racket

A letter to the editor in today's Chronicle:

Regarding outrageous towing fees, it is a massive racket, and pure corruption. The SFMTA is using the money bilked from car and truck drivers to finance their aggressive anti-driving pro-transit/pro-bicycle social engineering programs. These include projects that eliminate street parking and driving lanes throughout the city, and boondoggles such as the Central Subway, and free Muni — which, in addition to being ridiculous, selective and unfair, would not be free without the money coming from somewhere. Now we know where.

It is high time this racket got exposed.

Alan Ain
San Francisco

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Octavia Blvd., I-280, and the Caltrain railyard

Developing the railyard property

More thoughts on the earlier post about the city's plans to tear down the I-280 freeway. 

From the story in the Examiner:

A one-mile portion of Interstate 280 at 16th Street could come down to make way for a boulevard, which would link Mission Bay with its surrounding neighborhoods, say city planners.

Like eliminating the Geary/Fillmore underpass will "link" Japantown and the Fillmore? ("Hi, I'm from the Planning Department, and I'm here to link your neighborhood.")

More from the Examiner story:

Though many defended I-280 as vital for drivers, it was recently listed as one of the Bay Area’s most congested freeways by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “A lot of the congestion on 280 is commuters, people by themselves in their cars,” said Tony Kelly, a long-time Potrero Hill community activist. “These people should really be in high-speed rail,” he said.

But there is no high-speed rail system, and there never will be, in spite of the recent court decision. Kelly's comment implies that people using that part of the freeway all come from the same place and are going to the same/similar destinations. After all people can now take Caltrain, which runs along the same route that will never carry high-speed rail.


Surrounded by angry neighbors at the rec center, former Mayor Art Agnos — no stranger to fighting development, as evidenced by the recent “No Wall on the Waterfront” campaign — told the San Francisco Examiner he will personally combat any effort to tear down I-280...“I’m going to make the [No Wall on the Waterfront] fight look like a minor league skirmish,” he said.

It’s a switch in position for a former mayor who, in the 1990s, not only tore down the Embarcadero Freeway, but played a key role in tearing down the Central Freeway at Octavia Street[sic] as well. “Listen,” he said, “there’s no one in this city who has demolished more freeways than I have.” But tearing down I-280 “will absolutely choke all of this area.”

Like tearing down the Central Freeway has "choked" Hayes Valley with the traffic that used to go over the neighborhood on the freeway. Most of that traffic is now on Octavia Blvd. and other surface streets, creating an area-wide traffic jam for most of the day. 

Maybe Agnos had that in mind, which was a completely different outcome than tearing down the Embarcadero freeway. Typical that the Examiner reporter didn't know enough about the issue to ask Agnos about it.

And---surprise!---tearing down I-280 and the Caltrain railyard is also about development (see the graphic above):

Enhancing transit isn’t the only reason to tear down I-280, according to the mayor’s office. The controversial portion of I-280 and Caltrain Railyard together occupy 30 acres of land, which city officials note is valuable for future development.

That’s the argument laid out by the mayor’s office in a 2013 memo to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “San Francisco’s traditional downtown job center is almost completely built out,” wrote Gillian Gillett, the mayor’s transportation policy director.

In light of that, future economic development should take place at the current site of I-280 and the Caltrain railyard, Gillett wrote. “These sites also become the catalyst for the next round of center city job creation,” she continued, “in the same ways that the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway and the former Central Freeway elevated off-ramp became economic catalysts.”

In reality taking down the Central Freeway only "catalyzed" getting all that freeway traffic on the surface streets of the Hayes Valley neighborhood.

The quote by Tony Kelly in the story shows that the folks on Portrero Hill understand that:

Tony Kelly, the community activist, said Hayes Valley and the Embarcadero are reminders of what can happen when a freeway is removed to beautify a neighborhood and boost its economy. “It could be brilliant,” he said, “but it could be a total disaster.”

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Canada won't build a wall