Friday, October 05, 2018

Ending rape as "a weapon of war"

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George Gascon: A preliminary retrospective

Photo: Luke Thomas

District Attorney George Gascon won't run for reelection next year.

Gascon is remembered on District 5 Diary for his significant gaffes.

He got off to a rocky start politically in San Francisco when, as Police Chief in SF for less than six months, he criticized Critical Mass. That pleased me and a lot of other people in the city, but it went against the political grain here in Progressive Land, since the Bicycle Plan was still being litigated, and City Hall was in full pander mode to the anti-car bike community.

A few months later he made some dumb comments about Arab countries and terrorism, for which he apparently tried to overcompensate by saying dumb things during the Muni jihad ad controversy.

The worst thing he did was lead the mob against Ross Mirkarimi during that shameful episode in San Francisco history. But it showed his praiseworthy personal qualities when he and his wife later reached out to Mirkarimi and his wife.

On the other hand, he showed thin skin when he blocked former Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders from his Twitter feed.

He was suspiciously slow to bring charges against a cyclist who hit and killed a pedestrian on the Embarcadero (See also Matier & Ross on the subject).

More importantly, he's been reluctant to bring charges against city cops who kill city residents in suspicious circumstances. Even if it would have been hard to convict the killers, bringing charges in court would have sent a useful message to city cops on the homicidal use of force.

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BART, parking, and housing

Photo: John Storey

Last weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2923, which gives BART the authority to ignore local zoning rules and build high-density housing on its own land in the Bay Area. This bill faced fierce opposition from mayors and city councils in Contra Costa County, but was supported by affordable housing advocates.

Ignoring the debate over density at the moment, what makes anyone think that BART, which can’t even effectively run a transit system, can suddenly become an expert housing developer? BART estimates that, with passage of this bill, it will be able to build 20,000 units of housing, about a third of which will be “affordable” (which in the Bay Area can mean affordable to people who earn $115,000 a year or less). 

While the region could use 20,000 housing units, there is no reason to think that BART can build them affordably or that high-density housing can even be affordable.

BART is well known for the cost overruns, maintenance problems, and crime problems on its transit system. It will be interesting to see how it applies these skills to housing. It’s hard to imagine the results will be very desirable.

While it isn’t specifically BART’s problem, San Francisco is also in the news for finding cracks in the beams supporting its brand-new $2.2-billion transit center. This transit center is where riders on California’s unlikely-to-be-completed high-speed rail line were supposed to connect with local transit lines. 

The 1.5-million-square-foot transit center cost almost $1,500 per square foot to build; just think how affordable housing would be if it were built by the same people!

As the Antiplanner has noted before, mid-rise and high-rise high-density housing costs 50 to 68 percent more per square foot than low-rise housing. Add in the cost of government inefficiency and poor design and the A.B. 2923 is more likely to produce boondoggles than affordable housing.

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