Tuesday, February 06, 2018

On the ballot: No eviction without representation

January 26, 2018: A coalition of tenant groups, neighborhood leaders, and senior advocates gathered today on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to submit 21,946 petition signatures---more than double the number of signatures required---to the Department of Elections to qualify a historic tenant protection initiative for the June 5, 2018 San Francisco ballot. At least 9,485 valid petition signatures from registered San Francisco voters are required to qualify the initiative for the June ballot.

“The overwhelming success of this petition drive shows that voters are ready for bold steps to stop our displacement crisis,” said Dean Preston, longtime tenant advocate and the ballot measure proponent. “A right to counsel for tenants facing eviction will deter unfair evictions and prevent homelessness.”

If qualified for the ballot and approved by voters in June, the No Eviction Without Representation Initiative would give all San Francisco being evicted from their home the right to legal representation, making San Francisco the first city in California to provide a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction. Last year, New York City became the first city in the nation to enact a tenants’ right to counsel law. Currently, in eviction legal proceedings in San Francisco, most tenants have no legal representation.

“I grew up here, and my living situation is stable, but I’ve been collecting signatures because I want others whose home is here in San Francisco to not be needlessly uprooted, especially working class people of color,” said Rhonda Smith, a tenant in the Visitation Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.

“Tenants have been scared out of their apartments by corporate landlords for too long, but with legal representation, we have a chance to stay in our homes,” said Sekani Moyenda, a retired elementary school teacher who has lived in the Western Addition neighborhood for over 20 years. She was able to prevent being evicted from her home because she had legal representation – which the vast majority of tenants now do not.

The Department of Elections has 30 days to review the petition signatures to confirm that more than the required number of valid signatures were submitted.

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SF's traffic congestion among the worst

From Fortune Magazine:

San Francisco is the third most congested city in the US and the fifth most congested city in the world---and we already knew that city streets are among the worst maintained in the country:

Five of the top 10 most congested cities in the world are located in the United States, according to a global traffic scorecard published annually by Inrix, a company that aggregates and analyzes traffic data collected from vehicles and highway infrastructure.

Los Angeles is the most congested city in the world, followed by New York City and Moscow, which are tied for the second place spot. San Francisco is the fifth most congested. (emphasis added) Atlanta and Miami also make the top 10 list.

The scorecard is based on an analysis of 1,360 cities. The congestion data provides insight into each city’s unique set of transportation problems and how they might be solved (or made worse) with technology and new forms of transportation such as ride-hailing, car-sharing, and eventually self-driving vehicles. 

It also shows what the transportation headaches are costing drivers and the city (meaning taxpayers) that must pay for road improvements and infrastructure maintenance.

Angelenos spent an average of 102 hours last year in traffic jams during peak congestion hours, costing drivers $2,828 each and the city $19.2 billion from direct and indirect costs. Direct costs relate to the value of fuel and time wasted, and indirect costs refer to freight and business fees from company vehicles idling in traffic. Those fees are then passed on to households through higher prices, according to Inrix.

The top 10 most congested cities in the world are:

1. Los Angeles
2. New York City (tie)
2. Moscow (tie)
4. Sao Paulo, Brazil
5. San Francisco
6. Bogotá
7. London
8. Atlanta
9. Paris
10. Miami

The top 10 most congested cities in the U.S. are:

1. Los Angeles
2. New York City
3. San Francisco
4. Atlanta
5. Miami
6. Washington, D.C.
7. Boston
8. Chicago
9. Seattle
10. Dallas

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"Stop throwing good money after bad"

The Cedar Viaduct of California's high-speed rail project is under construction in Fresno, California, on Monday, July 10, 2017. A $20 billion segment between Fresno and San Jose is scheduled to open by 2025. (Gary Reyes/ Bay Area News Group)
Gary Reyes, Bay Area News Group

The state's proposed High-Speed Rail project has been getting some well-deserved bad press. In this message we are providing you with some links to the most important stories and editorial statements. If you haven't seen these stories, then click on the links and find out how newspapers around the state are finally reporting on what is really going on.

Here is the bottom line: Reality is closing in on the state's High-Speed Rail Authority and its mismanaged project. Even the legislature has now recognized that an audit of the project is absolutely necessary. Maybe, when that audit is filed, the legislature will take action to stop wasting more state and federal dollars...

The "vision" of a High-Speed train linking the state from north to south has always been attractive. At some point though---and we may be there---our public officials need to compare the "vision" to the actual facts in the real world, and to realize that the people of the state have been sold on a "vision" with no reality to back it up.

That kind of analysis is what the press is now doing. Public scrutiny has led to the recently mandated state audit, and here is what any fair audit is going to discover: the authority has ignored the requirements of the law, has tried to wish away the facts, and has wasted the money that both federal and state taxpayers have made available. The authority's proposed project cannot be completed as promised, so every additional dollar spent will be wasted...

You can read all about it by clicking these links:

On January 21, 2018, in a very well researched article, The Los Angeles Times' reporter Ralph Vartabedian says the proposed project is facing an "existential crisis," because it doesn't appear that the project can be completed, period.

On that same day, January 21, 2018, a letter to the Mercury News accurately noted that the "high-speed rail project is raiding highway funds," as the governor and the authority scramble to avoid the total collapse of the project.

On January 22, 2018, an article in The Business Journal outlined all the problems and said, "we're all on the hook."

On January 25, 2018, in a strong editorial, the San Jose Mercury News says, "it makes no sense to continue wasting billions on a high-speed rail system that will probably never be completed and certainly will never live up to its billing." The Mercury News started out supporting the project, but when it became clear what was going on the paper deemed the project a "fraud." In this editorial, the Mercury News called it a "fiasco," and said the state "should stop throwing good money after bad."

On January 30, 2018, as reported in The Sacramento Bee, an official audit of the project has been ordered on a bi-partisan basis. Until this moment, no Democratic elected official has ever been willing seriously to question what's going on.

On February 4, 2018, in another article in The Los Angeles Times, Ralph Vartabedian documented what he called "a painful spectacle up and down the Central Valley." The Authority has bought up more than 1,272 parcels which they are not even close to using, creating "a 119-mile corridor of abandoned commercial buildings, vacant lots, dying orchards, boarded up homes and construction sites," which are now "an eyesore and a magnet for criminal activity that is affecting the surrounding areas. It has put stress on already hard-luck communities that grapple with poverty, homelessness and crime."

A rail property is strewn with trash in Fresno.
Los Angeles Times

It may just be that the end is near for the state's proposed High-Speed Rail project. It is great to have a "vision," but that's not enough. Actual performance is always the bottom line. CC-HSR will definitely keep you posted. We will let you know about our pending court challenge, too, which is now scheduled to be heard this month. 

As a final news story, read this analysis from The Almanac by CC-HSR Board Member Mike Brady, who documents some of the outstanding issues about the Caltrain electrification project, pointing out that viable alternatives to the current project can reduce costs up to 80%.[Rob's note: The comments to this op-ed are interesting]

Rob's comment:
From the beginning, this group has done the most thorough analysis of every issue on this dumb project.

To make a credit card donation, please go to the CC-HSR website and find the "Donate" button. Or, you can just click here. Credit Card donations will go 100% to CC-HSR.

To contribute by check, please send your contribution to:

Community Coalition On High-Speed Rail 
2995 Woodside Road #400
Woodside, CA 94062

If you would like most of your contribution tax-deductible, please make your check out to CC-HSR, but mark the memo line as follows: "75% Tax-Deductible." You should mail that check to CC-HSR at the address above.

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