Monday, March 14, 2016

Journalists and lobbyists

Chronicle columnist Charles Johnson was duped by lobbyists in his single-source column the other day in the Chronicle (Bay Area housing crisis fueled by greed, study finds):

“It (CEQA) has been abused in this state for 30 years by people who use it when it has nothing to do with an environmental reason,” said Carol Galante, faculty director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Galante spoke to me by phone as she traveled to Sacramento to provide testimony on the housing crisis to the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. “NIMBY-ism is connected to the fact that for everyone who owns their little piece of the dream, there’s no reason to want development next door to them,” she said. “CEQA gives them a tool to effectuate their interest,” she said. “It’s a sense of entitlement that comes with an incentive, because it makes their property worth more money.”

Galante is hardly an objective observer, since she also works for development firms, including the Bridge Housing Corporation, not mentioned by Johnson. 

I blogged last year about that anti-CEQA Holland & Knight study Johnson refers to in response to an anti-CEQA Chronicle op-ed by a lobbyist. (Speaking of lobbyists, check out the list of firms Holland & Knight represent).

The other source Johnson quotes is one of the authors of the Holland & Knight study!

For a different take on CEQA litigation, see CEQA: The Litigation Myth by the National Resources Defense Council and this from Kamala Harris's office. See also this.

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Red light cameras: About safety or money?

Automated Speed Enforcement

A reader @ sends this:

I saw your comment on the Hoodline article and thought you might like to know about this.

Last August the SFMTA staff which operates The City's 41 red light cameras looked at the effect the nineteen-year-old program has had upon the incidence of broadside crashes with injury. While their 28 page report (copy attached) leads off with an impressive looking graph (Fig. 1) showing a dramatic decrease in crashes citywide*, the intersection-by-intersection charts for just the intersections having red light cameras (Figs. 2 thru 26) tell a very different story: At the vast majority of those intersections, the red light camera(s) clearly had no beneficial effect. Instead, the times when crashes dropped coincided with changes like making the yellows longer, adding an all-red interval (both of which are cheap to do), the addition of an arrow for left turns, or a general upgrade to the signal. (Another measure that reduces running is having large "backplates" on the signals, so that the lights stand out from the background. Backplates should be SOP in San Francisco, even on Market Street.)

*Note: The citywide graph (Fig. 1) covers only 1999 to 2011, while the notes above it say: "Red light running collisions have shown a general decrease since the early 1990's...."---well before the program began. (Emphasis added.)

I got my copy of the report because it was finalized about the same time I submitted a routine public records request for a copy of The City's "annual report" about the camera program. (The annual reporting is required by a 2013 California law; but most cities produce a report of just one page.) Even though the report was finished six months ago, as of last month the report had not been published on the SFMTA website nor had it been distributed to the SFMTA board.


Rob's comment:

If the cameras aren't about safety, they are about raising money. According to the Transportation Fact Sheet (page 5), San Francisco's red light cameras resulted in 19,122 tickets in 2013.

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