Friday, March 30, 2018

Question from Dennis Richards: Why rezone the city?

Thanks to Steven Nestel's comment in the Marin Independent Journal.

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Vision Zero, the MTA, Angela Alioto, and the homeless

My comment to the above: "For a complete account instead of PR rhetoric, what about the lowlights? How many people were injured and killed on city streets this month?" 

A rhetorical question to which I don't expect an answer, though presumably the MTA has that information.

From Monday's SF Chronicle:

...[Angela]Alioto has sparred for years with SFMTA’s transportation director, Ed Reiskin, whom she’s accused of stifling her efforts to construct an open-air piazza in North Beach. The project would require shutting down a block of Vallejo Street between Columbus and Grant avenues. Her proposal was put on hold indefinitely last year. After dispensing of[sic] Reiskin, Alioto also pledged to audit the agency to find out how much money she insisted the department was wasting. “It’s incredible,” she said...(SF mayoral candidate Angela Alioto vows to ditch department heads if she wins)

An audit of the MTA is a good idea, since it has a billion dollar budget and a seemingly bloated payroll of 6,345 employees as of 2016:

Alioto vowed to clean the city’s streets and house those currently living in tents within her first 100 days in office. “Do I think we can house the people who are in tents right now in San Francisco in the first 100 days? Yes. I absolutely do,” she said. If that sounds familiar, it should. Shortly before taking office, former mayor and current Chronicle columnist Willie Brown famously vowed in 1995 to “fix the Muni in 100 days.” It was one promise he couldn’t keep.

Alioto should know better by now.

Way back in Mayor Newsom's first term, he appointed Alioto to lead a group of citizens to study the homeless issue. They produced The San Francisco Plan to Abolish Chronic Homelessness.

The document's title highlighted the naivete of the project, as if homelessness was a San Francisco problem that could be solved by dealing with the 3,000 chronically homeless on city streets, those that were costing the city the most money, cycling in and out of emergency rooms and the city jail.

On the tenth anniversary of that project, Heather Knight wrote about it in the Chronicle:

A decade ago, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom made an unlikely promise. In 10 years, he pledged on June 30, 2004, the worst of San Francisco's homeless problem would be gone. The most seriously ill homeless people would be moved indoors, clearing downtown streets of in-your-face transients who were startling residents and tourists alike. Emergency shelters would cease to exist because nobody would need them, he said. And new arrivals to the streets would be helped immediately. "This is a dramatic shift," Newsom announced as he unveiled his Ten Year Plan to Abolish Chronic Homelessness. "This won't all happen tomorrow. But it will get done."

Wrong! Since the city did move thousands of homeless people off city streets in the intervening years, why wasn't the problem solved? A humbler Newsom provided the obvious answer in 2014:

Now, Newsom, the plan's biggest backer, believes homelessness can never be eradicated. You can house thousands of people, and for each of them, homelessness is over, he said. But for the city, it's not. "There's a mythology that you can---quote unquote---end homelessness at any moment, but there are new people coming in, suffering through the cycles of their lives," he said. "It's the manifestation of complete, abject failure as a society. We'll never solve this at City Hall."

Exactly. Because it soon became obvious that homelessness was a national problem, not an issue unique to San Francisco. This city is not just a destination for upscale tourists but also for the marginal and soon-to-be homeless, which was pointed out over the years by, among others, C.W. Nevius.

All the city can do is cope with the problem with humane and sensible policies, which it doesn't seem to be doing very well in recent years. 

But the least we can do is stop pretending/promising that it can be solved easily or quickly.

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Alfred Twu, Bay City Beacon

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