Wednesday, November 25, 2020
News + Politics A new subway system in SF: Brilliant. Now who...

A new subway system in SF: Brilliant. Now who pays?

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Sup. Scott Wiener wants to put the city into a new era of reliable, fast transit. So which developers and speculators will he force to pay for it?

Yes, Scott -- more subways! But who's going to pay?
Yes, Scott — more subways! But who’s going to pay?

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 9, 2015 – Imagine if San Francisco had transportation planning 70 years ago that envisioned a city where cars weren’t the dominant mode of travel. There might still be a train line on the Bay Bridge (and we might still have a vibrant port). And we might have a real subway system, like the major East Coast cities (New York, Philly, DC) do.

Subways make sense in cities – trains that run below the streets don’t have to deal with traffic. That’s why I can take BART (designed not as a city system but as a regional transit system that only serves small parts of SF) from 24th St to downtown in less than ten minutes, while Muni takes at least half an hour to run the same distance.

So I am happy that Sup. Scott Wiener, who is a big transit advocate, is proposing that the city adopt a subway plan and that we think big and look at ways to radically expand the underground transit system.

San Francisco, he wrote recently, should always be building a subway.

Yes. Correct. Problem is, the rich people in San Francisco are unwilling to do what it takes to pay for that – and neither, as far as I can tell, is Wiener.

His argument sounds not only good but ambitious and bold:

Yes, revolutionizing our transit systems will be hard and expensive. Yes, there will be political and funding fights with the forces (both local and beyond) that couldn’t care less about funding good transit. Yes, there will be ups and downs over this lengthy process. Yet, with a forward-thinking, aggressive, can-do attitude — the same attitude that got us the interstate highway system, the Golden Gate Bridge, BART, and the world’s great subway systems — we can get it done.

Yes we can. I agree.

But since the feds and the state (as Wiener admits) aren’t going to put up the money, how is San Francisco going to pay for this? Saying it’s “hard and expensive” isn’t enough; you need to come up with a plan for the cash.

And we can do that. San Francisco is right now among the richest cities in the history of the world. There’s plenty of money to pay for robust transit.

But you have to be willing to ask the people who are making all the money to pay their share.

And that’s where Wiener’s talk becomes empty. He’s already proposing a transit impact fee that lets developers escape vast sums of money they ought to be paying for the impact of their projects.  If the out-of-town speculators who are seeing a modern gold rush, extracting vast sums of capital from this city, can’t be forced to pay for a transit system, who will?

New York has it easier – that city can raise taxes, and San Francisco, thanks to Prop. 13, pretty much can’t. But we can at least say: If you are going to profit off the growth of the city, you need to pay for the costs of that growth.

Or you can say: Unless the developers are willing to pay the costs of adding 100,000 more people to SF, we simply can’t afford to take that population increase.

Because the current residents, who can barely pay the rent, are in no position to fund multiples of billions of dollars in new subways.

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 9, 2015 – Imagine if San Francisco had transportation planning 70 years ago that envisioned a city where cars weren’t the dominant mode of travel. There might still be a train line on the Bay Bridge (and we might still have a vibrant port). And we might have a real subway system, like the major East Coast cities (New York, Philly, DC) do.

Subways make sense in cities – trains that run below the streets don’t have to deal with traffic. That’s why I can take BART (designed not as a city system but as a regional transit system that only serves small parts of SF) from 24th St to downtown in less than ten minutes, while Muni takes at least half an hour to run the same distance.

So I am happy that Sup. Scott Wiener, who is a big transit advocate, is proposing that the city adopt a subway plan and that we think big and look at ways to radically expand the underground transit system.

San Francisco, he wrote recently, should always be building a subway.

Yes. Correct. Problem is, San Francisco is unwilling to do what it takes to pay for that – and neither, as far as I can tell, is Wiener.

His argument sounds not only good but ambitious and bold:

Yes, revolutionizing our transit systems will be hard and expensive. Yes, there will be political and funding fights with the forces (both local and beyond) that couldn’t care less about funding good transit. Yes, there will be ups and downs over this lengthy process. Yet, with a forward-thinking, aggressive, can-do attitude — the same attitude that got us the interstate highway system, the Golden Gate Bridge, BART, and the world’s great subway systems — we can get it done.

Yes we can. I agree.

But since the feds and the state (as Wiener admits) aren’t going to put up the money, how is San Francisco going to pay for this? Saying it’s “hard and expensive” isn’t enough; you need to come up with a plan for the cash.

And we can do that. San Francisco is right now among the richest cities in the history of the world. There’s plenty of money to pay for robust transit.

But you have to be willing to ask the people who are making all the money to pay their share.

And that’s where Wiener’s talk becomes empty. He’s already proposing a transit impact fee that lets developers escape vast sums of money they ought to be paying for the impact of their projects.  If the out-of-town speculators who are seeing a modern gold rush, extracting vast sums of capital from this city, can’t be forced to pay for a transit system, who will?

New York has it easier – that city can raise taxes, and San Francisco, thanks to Prop. 13, pretty much can’t. But we can at least say: If you are going to profit off the growth of the city, you need to pay for the costs of that growth.

Or you can say: Unless the developers are willing to pay the costs of adding 100,000 more people to SF, we simply can’t afford to take that population increase.

Because the current residents, who can barely pay the rent, are in no position to fund multiples of billions of dollars in new subways.

I texted Wiener today to ask about this problem. He almost always gets back to me within a few hours. Today: Nothing.

Sup. Wiener: Please, tell me which rich people you are willing to make pay (here, with local laws and fees) to create what is a very beautiful vision of a better city. Then we can take that dream  and make it real.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

176 COMMENTS

  1. Prop 13 reform would make a lot more sense than developer fees, TBH. There are literally people paying $1000 in property taxes while the house next door is paying $10,000. Often they are houses in low density suburbs, where the price per person to put a subway is much higher than in denser areas. All the new condos will be paying full property tax from the get-go.

  2. San Francisco is not Tokyo, New York, Paris, London, or Hong Kong; especially in terms of population. And there is no reason for people to continue to commute to work; you have heard of computers, no? And what do you care anyway? You’ll be dead and gone before another boondoggle like this gets built.

  3. Aww, poor, lazy, automobile-addicted American! The world feels your pain. The City can’t even develop a coordinated regional transportation plan, or operate the present rail system we have efficiently. The (false) reason given (for everything)i s “not enough money.” So where is the money for this completely un-requested subway to come for?

  4. Like most statistics, these were likely made up on the spot.
    What you are describing is called “churning.” What I’m talking about is housing those who are presently unhoused or poorly housed.

  5. San Francisco is a very compact city, only 49 square miles, but has a tiny 26%
    transit modal share of all trips. Like Zurich, Bogata and Curitiba (60%+ transit modal shares), we could have built a citywide/ integrated bus rapid network—instead of diverting $610 million of local matching funds to the Central Subway. Poor project choices also torpedoed the Downtown Caltrain Extension to the new Transbay Center—the highest regional transportation priority. In the context of effective choices versus inefficient expenditures, a subway master plan is similar to the freeway plans of the 1950’s and 60’s—taking scarce funds away from the citywide street system. Beautiful transit-preferential streets are the latest trend even in large cities. For Mediterranean scaled San Francisco, we can have a fast, reliable and world-class surface transit system in every neighborhood—in our lifetime.
    Howard Wong AIA
    http://www.SaveMuni.org

  6. And now this, from the city economist:

    “Over 97% of upper-income movers to San
    Francisco do not move into new housing. They instead
    occupy units from the existing housing stock, whose
    natural turnover process creates far more vacancies than
    the production of new housing does. To look at the question the other way, new movers to the
    City are not actually the primary occupants of new
    housing. […] The vast majority of the
    people who do live in new housing in San Francisco are
    not new residents of San Francisco – whether high-income
    or otherwise. 84% of the occupants of new housing lived in
    another residence in San Francisco one year previously.”

  7. Prop taxes are all over the map. But total take is greater than US average. New purchasers pay 5-10x long time holders.

  8. (from http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk )

    Despite CA having pop = 12% of US, CA pays 16% of total US taxes, which breaks down as:

    14.7% prop tax,

    22% of Income tax,

    17% of license tax and only

    12% of sales taxes, These are totals, not “rates”.

    Someone could do the math to determine if CA is #1; but its definitely “above average”.

    About the only category CA pays less is “Other” (like Severance or ‘Death’ taxes); but those taxes comprise only 3% of total tax.

  9. I live on Telegraph Hill and I use the 30. Maybe you can save your gross generalizations for some other group. And the bus on Telegraph hill is very limited and helps elderly people get out and about, but it is mostly used by tourists.

  10. Nancy, please let us know what revenue measures can be used to tax “the rich” under existing state and federal law, law that we cannot change. I’ve looked into it, there are no options. Remember that previous similar local measures failed, such as the anti-speculation tax.

  11. Sup. Wiener: Please, tell me which rich people you are willing to make
    pay (here, with local laws and fees) to create what is a very beautiful
    vision of a better city. Then we can take that dream and make it real.

    I’d love to see “the rich” pay. But Tim’s been around the block on this for decades and should know the score on what the law permits and forbids. Whenever Tim and his friends talk about “the rich” they generally mean anyone who makes more money than they do.

    By what legal means can San Francisco make “the rich” pay for subways? Keep in mind that San Francisco cannot amend the Ellis Act in Sacramento and cannot elect a “progressive” supervisor in district 5, the most “progressive” district, so operating within existing federal and state law is a requirement.

  12. It’s the responsibility of government to be sure all citizens have equal access to the spoils of the conquest of the Americas. Presently most wealth, and therefore power, is in the hands of a clueless elite and their wannabe enablers. The Great Redistribution is coming; Capitalism is finally devouring…..itself.

    http://sco.lt/856Kpd

  13. I’ll concede the Willie Brown point, but CALTRANS did fail spectacularly as well. I’m no advocate for endless wars, but my point was: we, as a city or a state, cannot effect policy that creates them.

  14. The drivers I see are true costs to the transit chain. Local value is one, but much bigger would be rail throughput (for Long Beach and Tacoma) or institutional support (Singapore).

  15. Maybe, but I’ve seen a few posts from Greg recently indicating that he has relented on his Soviet-style quest for global socialism.

    It is possible that he has finally taken on the values of his adopted homeland, having rejected his communist roots

  16. So your big idea here is that CA is a low tax state and Texas is a high tax state?

    Do you want to call a friend?

  17. Low property taxes are offset by high property values. CA prop tax receipts increase by an average of 7% a year. How much do you think they should increase by?

  18. The average length of home ownership in SF is 7 years.

    Please provide evidence of how many SF homeowners pay $500 a year. I am guessing exactly none

  19. Noe Valley consistently donates about 10X as much money to Democratic Presidential candidates as to Republicans.

  20. You believe a bunch of nonsense that the Far Right has been spreading about California and ask us to explain why that is?

    You are easily mislead. I don’t think there is any other good explanation.

    California has high personal income and sales taxes and low property taxes, due to Prop 13. They overall balance each other out and make California a middle of the pack state overall. Maybe a bit higher than the middle, I can dig up some more info if you like, though I think wcw has done admirably.

  21. What would your mechanism be for enforcing such a priority? Should some houses only be built for Campos supporters, and only rented out to those who have demonstrated Party loyalty? But how could you gauge that?

  22. Au contraire, mon ami. The Bay Bridge contract was pure cronyism, starting and ending at City Hall. That’s why it’s called the “Willie Brown Span,” or whatever. And Endless Wars are the main reason the City (and the country) can’t get the Federal money they need for housing, transportation infrastructure, and school buildings.

  23. Only luxury housing development? We have a ton of affordable development in the mission. 17th and Folsom, 16th and van ness to name a few. Not t to ment On all the projects, affordable housing already existing and the sros. We need a lot more “luxury” building just to even it out it a bit.

  24. Oakland may be a dump but it is still more expensive that those other ports.

    First SF is too pricey. Then it trickles out to the entire Bay Area.

  25. Whether or not you think San Francisco needs more people, more people are coming to San Francisco. If you don’t build to accommodate that growth, the way we have for 40 years, you will continue to see rising housing costs and evictions. It’s a shortage. It’s predictable. It’s avoidable.

    “Everybody who WANTS to live in San Francisco simply…..can’t.”

    Yes, but this is no less true for people already living here, if they’re amongst the 70% of the city that rents. I want to live in San Francisco, because I already live here and I love it. If someone buys my apartment and evicts me, I…can’t.

    You can be against building or against displacement, but not both.

  26. And yet, despite once being the top container port on the west coast, Oakland lost out to Tacoma and Long Beach. Expensive downtown real estate doesn’t seem to be the main driver.

  27. Most downtown financial districts don’t start as water lots on which buyers of Peter Smith sales sink ships to establish title.

    Oakland itself was supplanted as a major port long before anyone would have described Oakland as ‘high value’.

  28. What is clear is that, ceteris paribus, ports will tend to migrate to cheaper locations nearby. The migration of port business from SF to Oakland can be seen in that context. Likewise Manhattan to Brooklyn and Newark. Victoria Port to Kwai Tsing, London docks to Tilbury, Southampton, Avonmouth and so on.

    Downtown financial districts are not great for container traffic.

  29. I think it’s around 3% of value in Maine. Texas and New Jersey are similar. But at least in two of those cases, property values are MUCH lower than here.

    3% on a 200K home is still less than 1.2% of the average million dollar SF home. SF and CA do just fine out of property taxes, Prop 13 notwithstanding.

  30. Enjoyable as meaningless sparring can be, there is no real question that sometimes ports move, and sometimes they do not. It could be interesting to think through why that happens.

  31. Ask Tim if we need to restrict homeless people from entering San Francisco because we can’t take the population increase.

  32. Let me give you an example of the kind of analysis I expect from you. Is tax per GDP a meaningful metric? CA enterprises probably have a lot more foreign earnings than, say, West Virginia. And foreign product isn’t counted in GDP, only GNP.

    Given that CA is near universally regarded as a high-tax state, any metric that indicates otherwise is suspect. You didn’t question that anomaly but rather just tried to rationalize it.

    A good analyst does not practice religion but rather questions anything that doesn’t smell right.

    You can do this. I’ve worked with worse.

  33. The goats tell me not knowing a $2,000-a-square-foot city is the #3 port in the world requires a different sort of concession.

  34. Expensive real estate had nothing to do with it: Santa Monica never made sense as a port once San Pedro had a breakwater.

  35. The only thing that will ever allow us regular people to live in SF is high density housing and expanded transit. That’s how cities work.

  36. I didn’t ask you for endless reams of data. I asked you for understanding. Two different things.

    The best paid research analysts know how to distil, deduce and deconstruct.

  37. Both the Bay Bridge and endless wars have nothing to do do with the city government, incompetent and corrupt as it may be. That said, we need large infrastructure/transportation improvements and we need them yesterday. We’ve got to look at why it costs so much to do anything. The Golden Gate Bridge was built in four years and under-budget. The entire Bay Bridge cost less than $1.3B in today’s dollars.

  38. There was a plan for a bypass road through SF. It was extending 101 to the GG Bridge and the NIMBY’s killed that off decades ago

    Instead they complain about all the traffic on residential streets. A big fat old duh.

  39. cutting off market to cars, BMR housing are great ideas, but they aren’t going to decrease commute times, that’s what this plan is about. Making it so more people can live without a car and get to work without a car. I believe it’s more practical to put subways underground vs cars, but I’d welcome some kind of bypass road with no exiits through SF.

  40. PSA is right by the city. Why hasn’t it migrated away?

    Santa Monica hasn’t had a cargo port for a hundred years.

  41. Hey, Greg, you’ve come a long way recently. You have learned from the best.

    But yes, of course, you are correct. Raise the costs of any enterprise and one of two things happen. Either:

    1) The extra costs are passed on, making housing more expensive. Or

    2) Fewer projects pencil out, meaning less new homes, meaning higher housing costs

    So either way, making housing more costly makes housing more costly. Who’d have think it?

  42. You don’t get anywhere in politics by calling people names just because they won’t agree with you.

    Maybe you should take up pro sports instead where it’s all about tribal aggression?

  43. Again, Tim should treat his political enemies with respect. The fact that you cannot explains much of why you have given up on politics, having achieved little.

  44. I know the history of the wharf side labor movement and how bosses played workers off against one another so that nobody could make a living. Back in the day when San Francisco was the pre-eminent labor town, a general strike shut down the city for days after the bosses tried bullets when their other manipulations failed to have effect.

  45. The best way to help the under-privileged is to first attach the oxygen mask to those whom you want to pay for that help.

    Envy and class warfare are not great ways of trying to achieve welfare

  46. Not only does Tim coddle his opponents, he gives them subsidized space to squelch any non-controlled progressive discourse. Thus, he creates the false dichotomy of the responsible, ethically compromised sinecure progressives versus those crazies on the internet. Thus, the loyal opposition secures its position as conditions deteriorate for their stated political positions.

  47. I have always found that people who refer the less fortunate as “losers” are always projecting. “We” all are paying for “largesse;” the Bay Bridge and Central Subway boondoggles, the tax breaks, subsidies, and theft of public resources by corporations (enabled by “government”, and oh, I don’t know, why not throw Endless Wars into the list of giveaways to corporations. I don’t consider providing basic human services a “gift, “but giving more to those who already have more than they need is certainly a bad idea.

  48. Your use of the word “fight” belies the reason for your political failures. You achieve political success by working with people with whom you disagree, and not be pissing all over them like a whiney kid

  49. W –

    around the bay and up to Oalkand (and out thru the flat Delta route) is 100 miles. Are they really gonna ship-then-transfer to rail in the E Bay?? Talk about time-n-labor. Far easier to load directly onto rail. And, if you can cut “100 mi/ 3 hrs” off the trip …

    “Blue collar elites” was my phrase; sorry if you infered or imputed anything about or to you – not my intent. Of course those “elites” to which I refered are the Longshore Workers and all the other myriad of unions that once strangled jobs in this town (closed shop meant ‘relatives & friends ONLY).

  50. I do not support less affordable housing. I just think that the way that gets paid for (and it does need huge subsidies) is not to build nothing, or increase zoning restrictiveness, or to tax and punish the people who might help pay for it.

    Taking seriously those with different views is a key factor for success in politics. “Neener neener, I’m right and you’re wrong” – not so much.

  51. Reducing the desire for affordable housing, and a city that isn’t merely a venue for the wealthy to ‘envy’, is not a view that I can take seriously.

  52. How do you reconcile that alleged claim with the higher rates of taxation in CA? Especially when the underlying asset values and incomes here are also higher.

    In fact, even Prop 13 is offset by the much higher RE valuations here

    Oh, and CGT is taxed as ordinary income here.

    Your claim does not compute.

  53. Again, where in Singapore? The downtown financial region?

    Anyway the trend for heavy dock work to migrate to cheaper locations nearby is hardly new or shocking. The LA ports are in grim Long Beach and not expensive Santa Monica.

    Locally, Oakland makes far more sense than SF for docks, industry, manufacturing, transportation etc

  54. It used to be the busiest in the world, but is #3 now. If high value cities lose their capacity as a port, what explains Singapore?

  55. No, the point is that by the time freight has squeezed through the bridge and tunnel bottlenecks of the near island that is SF, costs and delays have increased by a factor that far exceeds the six mile distance.

    And where would all the drivers on the Bay Bridge go? Take a passenger train that gets stuck behind a freight train?

  56. I had paystubs with withholdings being shown. There *was* an income tax but I it was challenged in the courts. Stick with what you know.

  57. Disagree. Tim is being a decent man as well as an advocate. Playing childish games to try and diminish his political foes would not make him more credible.

    MLK: ” we have to learn to disagree without being disagreeable”

  58. I’ve sailed between San Francisco and Oakland many times and I can state without equivocation that it’s about six miles–not “one hundred.” In case you missed it, this thread started out in reference to the former Bay Bridge’s capacity to handle *heavy* rail.

    Sausalito shipbuilding was a phenomenon of the war–though there had been a long tradition of boatbuilding there.

    ps–I never mentioned your mythical “blue collar elites” and your putting in quotes to suggest I had is troll-like behavior.

  59. Because the number of times that Tim has thrown incoming “friendly fire” incoming at people who’ve done the difficult work of running viable progressive campaigns has grown too large to count.

    Why would an advocate journalist humanize his opponent by referring to him by the familiar, by his first name?

    Why would an advocate journalist post the official photograph of his opponent instead of a neutral or less flattering photo?

    Tim says he thinks like me. But actions like this, repeated over the years, indicate that irrespective of what he says he thinks, he bolsters the conservatives as often as not.

    Tim does this by techniques as noted above or by supporting sinecures who by any measure of performance evaluated against progressive values should have long since been dismissed if success were a job criterion.

    No critical mention here of Wiener’s declared ambitions for State Senate and how this might play into that, the likes of which one would expect from an advocate journalist.

    Progressives ate the shit sandwich under Tim and his clique’s watch. This sucks and it needs to stop.

  60. Last time I was there I didn’t see any major working freight docks in district 6.

    But I feel sure that your googling skills trump anyone’s real world experience

  61. You want a Big Dig project like Boston’s $20 billion disaster?

    Under-grounding transit makes a lot more sense than under-grounding normal street traffic.

    Oh, and what about the people who live on Market Street and paid for parking? Are they SOL in your grand plan?

    10K cheap homes? Great. Where is the funding? The required subsidy for that would be several billion

  62. Yes, I’ve noticed a reliably high correlation between people who advocate for higher taxes and people who aren’t affluent enough to ever have to pay them

  63. My point is we DO NOT “need” a subway. Maybe a couple of tunnels to underground Hwy.’s 1 and 101 so they don’t run through the City? Maybe making Market Street a pedestrian plaza from Castro to the Embarcadero? Maybe 10,000 units of BMR housing in the next five years? Weiner is painfully conservative, and has not proposed anything remotely innovative…..ever.

  64. News flash. When you add a bunch of fees on to new development the developers don’t just say, “no problem, I’m happy to accept a 5% ROI rather than 10%”. They just pass these costs on to buyers. This is the reason we only have “luxury development” in SF.

  65. Yes, I’m absolutely a NIMBY. And the people already here; the homeless, mentally ill, seniors, people with disabilities, single parents with children, and new families are living in “mother-in-laws,” garages, sheds, trailers, cars, basements, SRO’s, and cramming families into studio apartments in the Tenderloin, Mission and Chinatown. Carpetbaggers, flatlanders, and prospectors come and go (Ohhh, the fog! The fog!). The people born here and the people who have contributed to the City should be the first priority for any new housing schemes.

  66. No, he’s right, I’ve heard that Tokyo, New York, Paris, London, Hong Kong ad Beijing all plan to rip out their underground systems based on the new “Subways? For What?” movement.

  67. Well then, YOU are incorrect, Wt. 20 years ago small props came under rent control.

    You don’t honestly think I would ever step in a ‘pile’ that deep, do you? I studiously avoided RC props; so you can imagine my dismay when … BOOM … it landed on me anyway.

    But, thx for the tears.

  68. CA already has the highest rates of state income and sales tax in the nation, along with egregious “user fees”.

    The challenge is not to endlessly raise taxes and invent new taxes, but rather to learn some fiscal restraint

  69. You are entitled to think that. But personally I think that public policy should favor the people the city needs and not the people who just happen to be here at some frozen point in time.

  70. or, he could do what you and yours do: just whine and call everyone “liars” and then whine some more when people don’t like you

  71. and, why do you and yours behave this way: anything to demoralize or demonize people who do not act or think or look like you?

  72. All politicians are corrupt, but not all politicians are competent. Lee is competent which is why he is a runaway to be re-elected.

  73. hopefully, not the corrupt guy who now occupies City Hall: his so-called “competence” = pay to play. Not good.

  74. “The worst section of the 30 route is where it crawls through Chinatown. The central subway will presumably alleviate that to some extent.”

    Yes. I’ve always suspected the reason it was left to fester is older Asian people who seem to be a majority of its ridership don’t vote, unlike the squeaky wheels on Telegraph Hill who have a bus of their own.

  75. As a customer, BART is much better, warts and all.

    CalTrain is a line, not a system. And SF streetcars are ponderous and congested.

    It’s BART or nothing for me

  76. The worst section of the 30 route is where it crawls through Chinatown. The central subway will presumably alleviate that to some extent.

    I don’t think a 4th rail system is what we need – we already have BART, CalTrain and the streetcars, and they really don’t interchange well because you have to go through barriers to switch.

    And Muni’s reputation is too shot for the voters to entrust them with a brand new system.

    BART to the ocean under Geary would make sense, but we may have missed the boat on that one.

    Prediction: More muddle through, and don’t sell your second car.

  77. BART is no better, run as a profit-maximizing monopoly for the benefit of its lavishly paid management and unions, and its first dibs on county transit budgets have gutted AC Transit and Samtrans.

  78. and we could mandate fresh flowers every week.

    Cost! Cost! Controlling rent increases cost.

    20 years ago I was lucky to get $600 for a(n uncontrolled) 1BR. Today the asking rent is 5x that. The difference – rent control!

  79. “All of Weiner’s plan’s are self-aggrandizing.”

    Of course they are. He is staking his ground for a future mayoral campaign (not sure how that would work given he will also run for the State legislature). There are worse issues to ride (remember Newsom’s Care not Cash?).

    BRT works for smaller low-density cities, and lower volumes of traffic, but anyone who has ridden the 38 Geary, the 47/49 along Van Ness or the absolute disgrace that is the 30 Stockton knows it’s just too slow and unreliable. The original BART plans called for a line going roughly along the 38 corridor all the way to Marin.

    As for walking, good for you, but not all Richmond residents are in physical condition to walk 2 hours a day to work and back, or have that much disposable free time on their hands.

  80. And those “bllue collar elites” gladly helped them – in exchange for 6-digit fork-lift jobs. They even had the political power to stop that, but sensed ‘going with the flow’ (of tech change & Red scare) was the better way.

    As for the Bay Bridge – yes, great point. First & MIssion would have made a great stop-over for Hi Speed Rail. Instead, it will dead-end downtonw (… if …) and make San Francisco a back water (instead of a ‘deep-water’). However, same could be said for Sausalito and ship building.

    With all its advantages, the Bay Area is really not the best place for modern industrial operations. Oakland rail gets a 100 mi jump over SF anyway. That pays for quite a bit of dredging.

  81. Well, the fastest B2B time is something like 33 min. And thats running. So, unless you’re a Nigerian athelete, it’ll take much longer than an hour.

    Even Tim sez he saves 20 min by taking BART from Bernal, as opposed to surface travel.

    Weiners’ got a big one (idea, I mean). Maybe Sacramento is where he should be?

  82. I guess Tim was supposed to follow the example of some of his reputable colleagues, and try to score a candid pic of Scott in the bathroom.

  83. The “people already here” already HAVE housing.

    Thank you for the NIMBY sentiment. I do agree that all those who “want” to live here can’t – specially if they can’t afford it. But new people arrive every dya – people with money in their pockets. Their either gonna buy your place (renter or owner) or they will buy something new.

    Which do you prefer?

  84. All of Weiner’s plan’s are self-aggrandizing. He really doesn’t care about the City.
    Subways? For what? You can walk from the Bay to the Ocean in an hour. Dedicated bike freeways, pedestrian paths, and improved BRT service is all we “need.” His scheme is all about the appearance of doing something “grand” in his run for the Senate.

  85. Ah yes, the “I’ve got mine and you can’t have yours” syndrome.

    AKA the “Pull up the drawbridge the day after I arrive” syndrome.

  86. Yes, Tim seems to imply that the city can control its population and who moves here. It cannot, of course. All it can really do is control the housing pipeline.

    If the city builds no new homes, people will still move here. But instead of buying a new home, they will displace existing poorer residents.

    So Tim gets a constant population but still loses. The people he prefers move away, to be replaced by the people he doesn’t like.

    This social engineering thing is tough

  87. “We”don’t need anymore people in San Francisco. What for? To buy “market rate” condos? Leave the bleepin’ neighborhoods alone, fer Christ-sakes! Everybody who WANTS to live in San Francisco simply…..can’t. The people that are already here are the ones who NEED housing.

  88. Even with the cost of that dredging, it’s still much cheaper to use Oakland.

    High value cities tend to lose their capacity as a port. Same happened in London, NYC, Hong Kong etc.

    Anyway, the horse has long bolted the stable on this one.

  89. “Or you can say: Unless the developers are willing to pay the costs of adding 100,000 more people to SF, we simply can’t afford to take that population increase.”

    This is a common refrain here: the idea that SF is “full.” Honest question: how exactly do we “say” we can’t take the population? How do we legally prevent people from moving here? Housing is already so expensive that only those with substantial means will consider moving here. How do we stop them? More rationing by price?

  90. So Tim should have used a picture that makes Scott look bad? Like the Hitlerian one that Tim loves to use for Ed Lee?

    Is that mature?

  91. Before my time, but I believe the state bans any municipality from introducing a local income tax. The only cities I know that have one are some large cities back east that have had structural problems in the past or still do, e.g. NYC, DC, Philly, Detroit ec.

  92. Great point about the heavy rail capacity which was stripped off the Bay Bridge along with the Key System. San Francisco’s natural deep water port would still be thriving if it had been kept and the tunnels down the peninsula had been enlarged to accommodate containerized rail. The City’s “elites” consciously worked to stifle San Francisco’s blue-collar communities.

  93. This is where Tim really shows his hand. First, he posts a big favorable photo of Weiner who is going to run against one of his friends for Senate front and center to add to Weiner’s name recognition. Then he refers to Weiner, a political adversary, using the familiarity of the solo first name, as “Scott,” as in “hey, buddy!”

    Why would a self proclaimed advocacy journalist behave this way, in a way that does everything that it can to undercut his advocacy?

  94. A condo conversion is the biggie. DBI charges about 4K in fees (for a 2-unit; more for larger buildings). Then Planning hits you for a few grand “application fee” (or some such).

    But at least at the end of it you are free of rent control

  95. Seem to remember paying $700 for a fence permit a few yrs ago.

    That would be digestible if it were to go to something like a subway to somewhere!

    Not so palatable for six-digit ‘Homeless-movers’ and their $75k orange-vested assistant ‘cleaners’

  96. Yeah, it’s great when the city charges you a fee for the privilege of paying taxes.

    And then the city wonders why property owners remodel without permits. For a kitchen or bathroom redo, figure $1,000 in DBI fees plus of course the ongoing hike in property taxes.

    It’s almost as if the city doesn’t really want us to get permits.

  97. This was a clever disguise to rope in every LL with a $75 ‘fee’ each year – even if your “receipts” are minimal.

    I’m sure some large corps benefited who had high employee costs. Helps to be large.

  98. Although I am a big fan of my local supervisor, I don’t generally like his transport policies. That said, his job is to ensure that the city develops so a kneejerk punitive attitude towards developers is not what his constituents elected him to enact.

  99. Wiener only proposed this as he’s making the move to the next level, after he’s given developers much of a pass to get to this point.

  100. In November, the voters will again choose between Ed Lee’s quiet competence and fiscal restraint, and Tim’s ideological purity and confiscatory principles.

    I wonder who will win?

  101. Tim always sees these issues not so much in terms of finance, but more in terms of how he can punish his political opponents. In Tim’s world, taxes are paid only by the people that Tim personally dislikes.

    The way this should work, of course, is that transit increases land and property values along its corridors. And the city gets a share of those profits in return for not obstructing that development.

    With those future cashflows assured, the city can then float a bond. Seems to work in the rest of the country anyway. But then those other places do not have such a dysfunctional planning regime.

    Wiener’s subway will never get built. We will continue to do what we are doing – adding piecemeal segments of streetcars and BART, with the odd new bus line here and there. And 80% will continue to drive

  102. Yes, I’ve often thought that the sclerotic disadvantages of rent control could most easily be rolled back by simply de-controlling units as they become vacant.

  103. Tim is always quick to spend other peoples’ money, especially when it is other people that he personally doesn’t like.

    Wiener’s idea is cute but it needs federal money. I’d much rather expand BART than build yet another new system that doesn’t integrate with BART and the streetcars.

    But make no mistake – EVERYONE in SF would have to pay for such an extravagant system. And many taxpayers are reluctant to give a cent more to MUNI, with its self-serving unions, rigid work practices, and its bloated employee pay and benefits.

  104. Even if SF could levy an income tax, the main effect would be to push jobs to just outside the city boundary. The geographically size of SF is so small that it would be suicidal to implement such a tax on job unless every other Bay Area and city did the same.

    Even without a city income tax, companies like Twitter consider moving outside the city limits, and to good effect.

  105. In a theoretical country with semi-competent transit engineers and planners and non-rent-seeking private infrastructure builders, the building of subways and other transit infrastructure could and should be paid for by the increased value and usage of land close to the new line(s), not by random developers throughout the city.

    There are so many ways to capture value — TIFs, Value Assessment Districts, Joint Development (heresy!) — especially since building rail should be accompanied by increasing density limits around all new rail lines.

    Call me a skeptic logistically — we can’t even deliver 2 not-really-BRT lines in 10 years because of The Worlds Most Democratically Idiotic Planning Process and The Worlds Finest Transit Planners and their Outside Con$ultant$.

    But as a North Star for what we should be doing that’s easily understandable by the public, I kind of like it.

  106. Stick around long enough, and you’ll see amazing things.

    Like, this post. All of a sudden progressives are worried about “who pays?” This, from the political faction that does almost nothing but come up with expensive ways to spend other people’s money.

    The city offers to spend $600,000 per taxpayer-subsidized unit to build a few dozen affordable units at 1950 Mission, and progressives shout “victory!”

    But a supervisor proposes to create a transit system worthy of a growing metropolis, and suddenly 48Hills starts concern-trolling about viable funding. LOL!

  107. I have one other suggestion.

    Take all the (some say ‘imaginary’, but I’ve got two of ’em) Vacant units, and re-certify their occupancy as ‘new’ construction. Those would thus be free of RC. Then we can get a better sense of how many vacant units are out there, held off the market. Combine this idea with allowing units to be let, free from Eviction Controls in exchange for charging 50% of the market rent, and Ed Lee could have his “30,000 units” without borrowing a dime! (which itself may be another problem)

    Talk about ‘low cost housing’ – all it would cost is imagination and a willingness to experiment.

  108. Well, Weiner is talking about linking up the SE and W parts of town – and allowing them to increase density. We need 200,000 new units (for 500k people) outside of eastern core, which can probably take an added 80k units.

    And the way we pay for the subway is the same way Redevelopement paid for “affordable” housing – future RE taxes. Yes, lots more than subways will be needed. But a somewhat smooth permitting process cutting construction by 30% could make all those new units possible.

    Of course all those new units will not be Rent Controlled (the crowning mantel of Prog SF). But they could lower housing costs.

  109. The $2B extra annual tax revenues (compared to 5 years ago) would pay for one subway line a year, even one with grossly inflated costs like the Central Subway. We could save money by reusing tunnel-boring machines instead of burying them when they are done. Before asking for more taxes, we should ask ourselves: where did the windfall we already enjoy go?

    Part of the answer is gross incompetence and corruption at Muni (annual budget $1.4B). We should outsource any new subways to people with a clue like the Paris Metro, RATP, who now operate light rail under contract for Greater Manchester (pop 2.7M), FirstGroup, Arriva, Veolia Transdev and so on, many of which already have a presence in SF.

  110. That’s true. Lee inherited a deficit of $380 million and now we have a modest surplus. Ignoring Tim Redmond has been great for San Francisco.

    Steven Colbert is back on tonight, but we owe Tim Redmond thanks for keeping us laughing in the interim. Well done!

  111. “Saying it’s “hard and expensive” isn’t enough; you need to come up with a plan for the cash.”

    Affordable housing, on the other hand, magically pays for itself if you ban new development in a neighborhood. Ask the moratorium proponents about it!

    Anyways, reading this, you’d never realize the city’s actually running a budget surplus, and raking in more revenue than it has in years. Those new condos Tim hates so much do bring in the property tax revenue.

  112. Bond issues are mostly supported by real estate taxes.

    Somebody really needs to help Tim with this.

    We’re not going to float a bond based on one-off impact fees, we’re going to float them based on the annuities basis of RE taxes.

    If you were a banker would you accept the notion that your repayment over the next 30 years depends on new development fees or would you rather know that it will be based on RE taxes.

    One of the problems with Tim’s world is: no new projects=no new tax revenue.

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