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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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News + PoliticsTransportationThere's a lot more to the GG Park debate than cars v....

There’s a lot more to the GG Park debate than cars v. bikes

This is part of a huge discussion the city needs to have about transportation -- and equity -- in a post-COVID world.


In the city of the future, the one that I want to live in, hardly anyone gets around in a private automobile. Public transit is fast, efficient, ubiquitous and free. Taxis – real taxis, with unionized drivers, not Ubers – using electric vehicles fill in the gaps and help people with mobility issues get to their destinations. It’s easy and safe to ride a bike most places.

That is not the city we live in today. In fact, in the COVID era, we are going in the other direction – Muni is close to collapse, taxi permit holders are desperate and facing bankruptcy, Uber is finding new ways to screw its drivers, and safety-conscious people who can afford it are getting around town in their cars.

A rally at the Academy of Sciences led by a tech angel investor featured a lot of expensive bicycles.

That is, when they get around. COVID has decreased all types of travel; people whose jobs allow it work from home, and they shop online or in local stores. With less traffic, and more incentive for people to get outside, the SFMTA has closed or partially closed streets all over town – and has shut down JFK Drive to cars every day.

That used to be just a Sunday thing. Now, the roadway that’s one of the major routes through the park is filled with kids running around, people riding bikes, roller skaters, dancers … it’s festive and fun, and safe.

And the MTA and Rec-Park are moving, pretty much on their own, to make the road closure permanent.

Five years ago, I would have been entirely on their side. But post-COVID San Francisco is going to be a very different place, and deciding what to do with roads and parks – and most important, public transportation – needs to be a thoughtful process with lots of community input.

That, Sup. Shamann Walton told me, has not happened. “These were closed-door decisions,” he said. “There were hidden conversations. I didn’t know anything about it.”

Walton is the president of the Board of Supervisors. Nobody at MTA or Rec-Park contacted him to explain what was going on. That seems like a pretty serious problem.

The MTA, he told me, “says they want to have these discussions, but they seem to have already made their decisions.”

Walton calls the decision “recreational redlining.” It’s pretty difficult for people from Southeast San Francisco to get to the park on public transit. It’s expensive — $33 a day – to park in the museum parking lot.

There are lots of other parking spaces – about 5,000, all over the park. And plenty of other roads are open. People from the Southeast aren’t the only ones who drive – it’s hard to get the barbecue grill, the picnic blankets, the balls and the bats and the volleyball nets all on the bus with you. If your kids are young, they aren’t riding their bikes all the way to the park (unless they live right next door).

Other than the young tech workers with their expensive bikes (who are among the most vocal advocates of keeping the road closure permanent) odds are pretty good that most of the families who are now enjoying the car-free stretch drove and parked somewhere.

It’s only 300 parking spaces, and it works fine on Sundays. But Walton says there’s more to it than the bikes v. cars. “This was tone deaf,” he told me. “They don’t have Muni up and running, and they are spending all this time and effort on something that has no benefits for the people I represent.”

The racial issues in SF parks policy are nothing new. I have spent a lot of time in Golden Gate Park, and these days I spend a lot of time in McLaren Park, and the difference is obvious: Far, far more resources have gone into making GGP a gem. McLaren is almost the same size, and is a beautiful space, on a hilltop with great views — but historically it has been an afterthought in the park system.

Everyone know GGP is a “crown jewel” in the city’s parks. Why can’t McLaren be a crown jewel, too, a destination for people from all over town (and the region) that happens to be accessible to people who live in the Southeast? Nobody talks about putting a Ferris Wheel or an arboretum in McLaren Park.

“They continue to neglect parks like McLaren,” Walton told me.

(There is, by the way, a closed road in McLaren where kids can bike and roller skate, and nobody at the Chron has made a big deal out of it. I wonder if Heather Knight has even gone there.)

The opposition to JFK road closures has come primarily from the DeYoung Museum trustees, who don’t want to make it any harder for people to get to the place. They were the ones who pushed for the underground (expensive) parking lot.

There’s also the Academy of Sciences – and according to academy figures, about 80 percent of their (pre-COVID) visitors are from out of San Francisco, 60 percent from the Bay Area. For the next year, at least, I am going to guess, families with kids aren’t going to be riding BART into the city to visit the academy. Nobody from Marin or the Peninsula will.

Still, the Academy says it isn’t against JFK road closures – as long as the process is well planned and everyone is at the table.

Matt Brezina, a tech angel investor, led a rally in front of the Academy today; it was, one observer told me, “a high-end electric bike convention.” The fact that the tech bros are a key part of this movement creates a certain degree of community distrust.

As does, frankly, Rec-Park.

The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council has not taken a position on the issue, its president, Lisa Awbrey, told me. “But our concern has to do with racial justice and limited access for people with disabilities. Besides, the way Rec-Park handles things has not given us a lot of confidence.”

Bruce Wolfe, a Haight resident and an outspoken activist for sunshine and disability rights, told me:

“There was no public process. The level of transportation access for people with disabilities was always poor, and if they are going to do this there has to be some sort of drop-off access.”

There’s a much larger issue here:

San Francisco is going to have to transform its entire public transit system in the next two years – and I don’t think Muni is even close to discussing reality.

The entire Muni system is designed to get people from residential areas to downtown. Two years from now, it’s entirely possible that downtown will have 20 million square feet of empty space, and that jobs and transportation needs will be far more spread out across the city.

Muni’s light rail can’t meet those needs (in fact, the folks in Bayview Hunters Point are so unhappy with the T-Third that they fought to get the 15 bus line back). The trolley coaches have limited flexibility. Five years from now, the city may need an entirely different fleet of battery-power buses that go on totally different routes.

One of them could take people from Bayview Hunters Point to Golden Gate Park.

But it doesn’t exist now.

And Muni planning needs to take into account communities that have been underserved for decades.

Maybe there are good solutions that will work not just right now but permanently. Making the garage free to San Franciscans. Providing easier, more effective shuttles (I’m thinking maybe golf carts paged by cell phone and radio) to get seniors and disabled people around the area. Maybe taxis – real taxis, not Ubers – get the rights to drive people with mobility issues into the park. The Academy may need some financial support as we figure out how this is all going to work.

But that’s the point: We have to figure out how this is all going to work.

I get that people don’t want to see a sudden end to car-free JFK Drive; neither do I. So maybe Rec-Park and MTA could extend it a year, while we all work out the post-COVID city. It’s going to be a lot of work.

I know a lot of tech workers hate public process; they want to move fast and break things. But that’s not how things work in San Francisco – and for the most part, that’s a good thing.  

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.
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  1. Tim: Do you have any reporting on the influence here of the wealthy members of the museum board? Dede Wilsey, or others? Is it true that they are using their power to try to bring back cars to JFK Drive?

    Here’s hoping McLaren Park gets some upgrades out of this discussion.

  2. Nobody here in the Inner Sunset was informed about the Ferris wheel, the corporate celebration and/or the closure before the fact.

    The entire process is about excluding the public (and the Board as well, it appears).

    When I called up John Avalos to ask about that huge glass restaurant that was set to open (again without neighbor or resident input), the staff member told me “We are just learning about this.”

    Life in a technocratic neoliberal state!

  3. Sorry I missed one.
    “McLaren is almost the same size”
    McLaren Park (312 acres) is a little under under a third the size of Golden Gate Park (1017 acres). Even without the numbers at hand, this should be readily apparent to people who have spent significant time in both parks or those who have consulted a city map. Your claim that they are almost the same size is like saying that Salesforce Tower (1070′) and City Hall (308′) are almost the same height.

  4. Just thought I’d pop in with some fact checking, since this piece is riddled with basic factual errors.

    “featured a lot of expensive bicycles.”
    A wildly expensive tricked out cargo bike still costs less than a single year of car ownership, maintenance, gas, insurance, window replacements, etc… in SF. A $1,300 RadRunner e-bike is a luxury item (that’s a bit more than a year of Muni “A” passes; are bus passes also luxury goods now?), but a $20,000 VW Jetta isn’t? The city’s goal is to have 80% of trips taken by sustainable modes by 2030. Perhaps this would have been a good place to mention ongoing state and federal efforts to subsidize e-bike purchases and adequately fund public transit to help achieve this goal, instead of just gawking at the bikes?

    “Walton is the president of the Board of Supervisors. Nobody at MTA or Rec-Park contacted him to explain what was going on. That seems like a pretty serious problem.”
    Wait, why? SFMTA is an independent agency with full authority over decisions about street use, authority granted by the voters in 1999 with Prop E and reaffirmed in a couple of ballot measures since then. Rec & Park has primary authority over changes to the parks. Why are they supposed to consult with President Walton on every item they’re considering at the staff level? Should they also be checking in with the President of the Board of Supervisors on asphalt composition and mulching? Why even have all these agencies and commissions and boards if Supervisors are going to play the “why wasn’t I consulted?” game every time these bodies try to do any work? Should President Walton have been consulted about the installation of stoplights on Haight St, or is there a particular threshold of transportation change where he needs to be notified? I’ll also note that President Walton has said he hasn’t been to JFK Drive in at least over a year, so perhaps anyone who might have considered contacting him thought he wasn’t very interested?

    “Other than the young tech workers with their expensive bikes (who are among the most vocal advocates of keeping the road closure permanent)”
    This is a pretty extreme erasure of David Miles and his 42 years of advocacy for car-free space, which has put him against the museums time and time again (https://www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/my-40-year-fight-with-sf-museums-over-street-safety-in-golden-gate-park/).

    “odds are pretty good that most of the families who are now enjoying the car-free stretch drove and parked somewhere.”
    That’s…fine? If anything, it points to a need for more car-free spaces like this spread throughout the city. Indeed, it proves the value of having the car-free 1.5 mile stretch of JFK: it’s become an attraction in its own right that people visit from all over the city. I know I grew up with my parents driving me to JFK on Sunday with a bike, because there wasn’t any space where I’d be remotely safe like it in my neighborhood. And as you note, there are thousands of free parking spaces in the park, so people who find driving the best way to get there can still do that, and then enjoy car-free JFK once they get there.

    “(There is, by the way, a closed road in McLaren where kids can bike and roller skate, and nobody at the Chron has made a big deal out of it. I wonder if Heather Knight has even gone there.)”
    I can’t speak for the Chron or Heather Knight (actually I can: about 20 seconds of searching on Twitter would have told you that she has visited and hopes it stays car-free too, but it’s easier for you to “wonder” things than exercise basic research skills), but I know I’ve spent a lot more time exploring McLaren this past year, as have a number of the “tech bros” you speak of, specifically because of the car-free space there. It’s great!

    “Still, the Academy says it isn’t against JFK road closures – as long as the process is well planned and everyone is at the table.”
    And we’re taking their word for it why? The museums have fought opening JFK up to people for years, even fighting to limit the number of Saturdays that the road is closed to cars. If they’re not against it, then they should be, well, for it, and talking about what we can do to make it work better for everyone. They’re not. The Academy went so far so as to circulate a wildly innumerate survey in which they surveyed 19 Black museum visitors and extrapolated from there to conclusions about how GGP’s 25M visitors/year get to the park.

    “There was no public process. The level of transportation access for people with disabilities was always poor, and if they are going to do this there has to be some sort of drop-off access.”
    There’s direct drop-off access right in front of the museums and to streets inches from JFK. I know Rec & Park is also looking at adding more ADA accessible parking at the northern end of Nancy Pelosi Drive where it meets JFK and seeing how to provide better access for people with disabilities to the Conservatory of Flowers, along with more ADA parking by the Music Concourse bandshell. There’s been talk about improving the shuttle, which continues to run up/down JFK Drive and connects to additional accessible parking lots in the park and taking control of the garage so prices can be set more equitably. That work isn’t done, and everyone wants to make this more accessible for people with disabilities. Tim, perhaps you could have done an interview to understand the work that’s going on and what options are being considered instead of just concluding it’s not happening because you’re unaware of it?

    “San Francisco is going to have to transform its entire public transit system in the next two years – and I don’t think Muni is even close to discussing reality. The entire Muni system is designed to get people from residential areas to downtown.”
    What an interesting observation! The city’s ConnectSF transportation planning process (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/101698114acf4b5f827d1cd0f60a72cc), which is happening right now, says the same thing almost word-for-word: “People are traveling differently these days, and our transit system must keep up with these changes. Well before COVID-19, an increasing number of jobs and services were located outside of downtown, in other parts of San Francisco, and around the region.” Perhaps you would have served your readers better, Tim, by reporting on this major initiative instead of just declaring that Muni isn’t aware of something that’s central to their whole major planning process.

    “One of them could take people from Bayview Hunters Point to Golden Gate Park. But it doesn’t exist now.”
    What an idea! A bus line from Bayview–Hunters Pointto Golden Gate Park? That should totally exist! We could call it the 44-O’Shaughnessy and the 29-Sunset and they could leave on a regular basis from, say, Third&Evans and Gilman Playground and take riders—I’m just spitballing here—right in the middle of the park including the museums and JFK Drive? I don’t know how you can write that it doesn’t exist when these bus lines, plainly, exist. It kind of hurts your credibility here, honestly. Most of San Francisco is within a short walk from a transit stop that provides a 1-seat ride to Golden Gate Park, with even more transit connections possible with a single transfer. If your answer is that these bus lines are too slow and take too long to get to the park from the city’s Southeastern neighborhoods: well then yes, perhaps we should scroll down to the ConnectSF plan for a five-minute network and more express service to provide frequent and fast service citywide instead of just to downtown. And of course, improving transit from the Southeastern neighborhoods to the rest of the city is crucially important for access to jobs, schools, and everything else and not just getting to GGP, but I’ve seen a lot more calls to immediately reopen JFK Drive to cars and contextless hand-wringing about equity than real reporting about the very tangible transportation challenges in Bayview–Hunters Point right now, challenges that go well beyond park access, what needs to be done to address them, and how that fits into the citywide planning process that’s going on right now.

    “I know a lot of tech workers hate public process; they want to move fast and break things. But that’s not how things work in San Francisco – and for the most part, that’s a good thing.”
    This is really the crux of your argument, and it’s where the problem lies. San Francisco’s public process is wildly biased toward the status quo at every turn. SF’s public process is constantly co-opted by those with money and power to stop projects in their tracks, and they just so happen to be the people who benefit from the status quo. We start a planning process to create a commission to create a strategic plan which, a few years later, says to create another plan, and then someone comes along and says “why wasn’t I consulted?” and the process starts over again from scratch. Public process is important, but San Francisco’s version of public process has become a reason for inaction and watering down safety projects to nothingness, and when the status quo in SF’s transportation keeps getting people killed and seriously injured (before the closure, JFK Drive was on the city’s “High-Injury Network” because it was so dangerous), inaction is downright deadly. Moving too slowly means breaking more of our bodies on the city’s fast-moving deadly streets.

    Car-free JFK and Slow Streets represent a threat to the 48 Hills crowd because they demonstrate that it’s actually possible for the city to act quickly and inexpensively, continue to seek feedback on the initial versions, reflect on what is and isn’t working, and make changes iteratively instead of the classic SF public input model that has, say, taken over a decade to fail to build a protected bike lane on Valencia and requires years worth of community meetings before someone can build 100% affordable housing. There also has been quite a bit of public process, including the public process behind the voter-approved Transit-First Policy and the city’s Climate Emergency declaration; at what point do we let city staff come up with plans to execute on these policies instead of layering more public process on top of process?

    There’s more work to be done to create a car-free JFK that’s accessible. SFMTA and Rec & Park staff are working on ways to improve access for people with disabilities and to untangle the parking garage cost situation; I’m not sure what kind of public process is even supposed to happen while they’re still doing that work—are we all supposed to be arguing about the governing documents for the garage or can we let the city workers who are experts in, for example, accessibility come up with a proposal first, a proposal that will surely go through numerous boards and commissions before being implemented?

    There’s an alternate narrative here, one in which a group of people have been fighting for four decades against some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the city who serve on the museums’ boards to create this safe and fun car-free space. You’d think that would be the kind of fight 48 Hills would want to champion, but you saw some tech workers, your brain flashed red, and so you barfed up this wildly inaccurate article instead of, say, talking to David Miles.

  5. Not as smart or as insightful about all the political nuances detailed above…just a selfish, self-absorbed, ego-centric remark no one will respect or agree with, but:

    Thank you, Tim, for acknowledging McLaren Park for the gem it is…unacknowledged, under utilized, under financed, virtually unknown, completely unappreciated, and beautiful to the max…

    I too hope Heather and Hillary make it out there some day…

  6. What is at stake here is more than public access to public property. The new government public/private entities created by MOUs and other agreements put money over people. We just took a look at the April 2nd draft of the THE SAN FRANCISCO PARKS ALLIANCE AND
    THE SAN FRANCISCO RECREATION & PARK DEPARTMENT MOU and it is an astonishing report. We assume some of our fearless independent investigative journalists will be looking into the contents and delving deeper into the true meaning of this relationship, who finances it and who decides which programs to support and which to deny.
    What is also at stake is our right to move around not just Golden Gate Park, but the city, state, and country in whatever mode of transport we chose without being observed, counted and categorized by the watchful stare of surveillance cameras scanners that collects data on our every move.
    We just went through four years of a less than friendly government. We must be aware that all government entities are fickle and computers make mistakes (EDD and DMV are prime examples.) and are being hacked. The more data that is out there, the less free we are.
    People will not be trapped by a system that manipulates them. They will simply drive away. This should make all you people who hate cars very happy. One problem is you will have less cars to pay for your bills so you will have to start charging everyone else to their roads.

  7. If JFK is to remain closed to cars, there has to be more frequent small tram service for people who can’t ride a bike or walk very far. There is such age-related discrimination in what is going on. I see a lawsuit coming for accessibility.

  8. SFMTA does have its problems with fairness, accuracy, consistency and transparency. Depending on the neighborhood and who in the neighborhood seeks it, SFMTA also genuflects to SFFD – or hides behind them. Sincere questions about profoundly different policy responses depending on the neighborhood go nowhere. The questions are ignored, presumably in the hopes they’ll just go away, because honest answers won’t match their posturing and rhetoric.

    A brief chronology of Covid-era community projects that I have been a part of. I don’t speak for anyone else, and I doubt there is full agreement among the various participants except that all of these were urgent. Also, I’m avoiding naming anyone in particular because I don’t know if they believed what they were saying or just were relaying the message.

    Last April, not quite a month after we began to shelter in place, a group of community stakeholders started organizing to get an SF Marin Food Bank pantry in the Tenderloin. Though organizations like La Voz Latina continued their weekly pantries, food distribution at the three closest public elementary schools ended abruptly, affecting three to four hundred students and their families which was exacerbated by the loss of daily school breakfast and lunch for kids who needed them. After the first (and for me only) Zoom meeting, I was cautiously optimistic that it wouldn’t take forever, despite real concerns that SFFD and SFMTA would postulate a logistical nightmare and horrific calamity if a semi-truck were parked on, let’s say, the 300 block of Ellis St. I don’t know what happened, but somehow they successfully battled all their hysterical fantasies and the pantry opened in late September (five+ months later) without a single doomsday scenario materializing. Clearly, immediate access to food wasn’t an emergency concern for SFMTA and SFFD in April, or May, or June, or July, or August, or even most of September. Fingers crossed, there will continue to be no catastrophe even though there is a food pantry on ….. drum roll … the 300 block of Ellis.

    Simultaneous attempts to get outdoor recreation spaces for the 3,500 kids in the TL haven’t fared a whole lot better. It is true that there were a half dozen or so Play Streets events on the 200 block of Turk Street last fall, and this past Saturday, there was one on Golden Gate Avenue – the first in almost six months. It is also true that starting next week, the 200 block of Turk Street will be getting a pilot project for safe passage and outdoor space for kids and seniors, with street installation work having begun this morning. As happy as I am that we have finally succeeded in getting that sliver of street repurposed for much better use, I am profoundly unimpressed that it has taken this long to get just those bits and pieces. That is all that “The City that Knows How” has figured out 13 months after the Public Health Order was issued.

    Elsewhere in San Francisco, SFMTA has bent over backwards to allow private enterprise to “share” public space that those commercial interests don’t have to actually share with the public. Full street closures in Hayes Valley, in the Castro, and on Valencia Street. Partial street closures in Upper Fillmore and Polk Gulch. Allowing restaurants to “share” the commute-hour northbound bike lane on the 1300 and 1700 blocks of Polk Street by building structures in it. (For those who are unfamiliar with it: that part-time bike lane was the bone SFMTA threw to us as a “compromise” after then-Mayor Ed Lee, doing the bidding of his optometrist, tried to kill the project outright. That was back in the day when merchants only cared about parking, unlike now when parking is the only thing they don’t care about.) Permitting other restaurants to “share” the tow-away zones that have long existed to facilitate the flow of rush hour traffic (the only spots where you used to be all but certain to have your car towed). And, in allowing this “shared experience,” SFMTA (and SF Public Works) have gone full Wild West – following the city’s grand tradition: pretending that live-work lofts really were live-work; doing nothing (except cheering) when Airbnb and Uber and other early monetization strategies pretended to be all about “sharing;” encouraging Google and other tech shuttles to squat in bus stop (sorry, “share,” it’s only squatting if you’re trying to get housing); and at least until Covid, still allowing tech companies to move into PDR buildings. I have yet to see a single “shared” space structure that conforms to the requirements issued by the city’s multi-agency “Shared Spaces” program. But there are a number of requirements, especially ones that pertain to ADA compliance, general sidewalk accessibility, safety (such as reflectors for night-time visibility); and emergency response (address visible on the street-facing side; access points).

    All of the rules, common sense and bureaucratic oversight that have been chucked out the window for “shared” spaces continue to rule over the Tenderloin. The project on the 200 block of Turk has been designed, redesigned, whittled away at, interrupted, delayed, and fretted about for months. Whether true or not, SFFD said at our last weekly meeting that they don’t set parameters, but just follow whatever SFMTA says. For their part, SFMTA raised “concerns” about a minor element of the design because it would violate the maximum height allowed for parklets (or “shared” spaces). Nevermind that those concerns were based on an incorrect statement of the height guidelines, nor that such concerns haven’t stopped all sorts of odd designs for parklets.

    There is one small project I want to mention since it reveals SFMTA’s double standard (to put it mildly). At the beginning of the pandemic, I proposed closing the first block of Elm Street (between Polk and Van Ness) to vehicle traffic to make a mini slow streets for kids in the neighborhood. Also, the alley closure would create an expanded recreation area for Tenderloin Community School when SFUSD reopened for in-person learning. SFMTA’s nay-sayers didn’t care for that idea at all. More generally, SFMTA pretended, “Slow streets isn’t a good fit for the Tenderloin.” In other words, a different or neighborhood-specific fit could only be a bad fit.
    In mid-July, closing Elm Street actually did seem like it was going to be an easy task – something one of the city staff called low-hanging fruit, ripe for the pick just in time for the upcoming public announcement of San Francisco’s recently-signed Memorandum of Understanding with UNICEF. That little block’s closure could show UNICEF and anyone else who was watching that the health, safety and happiness of all kids, even TL kids, matter in San Francisco. Over the course of months, the Elm Street proposal (and everything else) kept falling off the active agenda. Even as that happened, the value of closing Elm Street increased. Having more space would allow for social distancing during the school’s weekly supply pick-up and tech support days. With additional space, the school could abide by CDC and DPH guidelines while providing additional services to students and their families. Services that would actually be directly and immediately beneficial to those kids’ well-being – one of the same issues that, in a different context, elected officials such as the Mayor, some members of the Board of Supervisors and the City Attorney would be yelling, crying and suing to protect. (Cue Helen Lovejoy: “Think of the children!”) Grandstanding about SFUSD is a lot easier than paying attention to the problems you can actually address. And, yes, the Mayor’s Office was aware of this, both because I had written to her Chief of Staff asking for support after he’d admitted to a friend that the city had failed the Tenderloin and because staff from the Mayor’s Office were invited to and sometimes attended our meetings.

    In January, the excuse for not closing Elm Street was that in effect the proposed gate would be treacherous to SFFD (according to SFMTA). Unlike the gate on Sherman Street next to Bessie Carmichael Elementary School, which was my model, or the gates on Maiden Lane or on so many of the apartment complexes and co-ops in the post-Urban Renewal Fillmore or on Meacham and Antonio, two fully privatized formerly public alleys within half a mile of the first block of Elm St.

    Almost two months ago, in anticipation of SFUSD reopening for in-person learning, I again brought up Elm Street. Tenderloin Community School students will start to return to campus on April 19. There will still be a need for additional recreation space. Drop-off and pick-up times will be more complicated now than they used to be because of public health protocols, so that too will require additional space.

    Even as it became clear that – and when – TCS students would be returning to campus, SFMTA ignored Zoom meetings specific to closing Elm Street and failed to respond to quite a few emails. Once it was probably too late to do anything for this school year, SFMTA sent an email that revealed just how much they hadn’t been listening and just how little they value kids in contrast to their regard for private enterprise. After nine months of repeated requests, just twelve days ahead of the first day back to campus, we were told there would have to be a public hearing before the Covid Emergency Response closure of the alley could take place.
    Without answer I have asked why, as far as I could tell, no other Covid response street closure, parking space repurposing, sidewalk encroachment, bike lane theft (or, as is the case with the bike lane in front of the Friends School on Valencia, a pointless detour during school hours) needed a public hearing. There was no public hearing late last spring when the city temporarily shut down vehicle access to the greater Union Square area to protect luxury capitalism from the looters who took advantage of the political work of Black Lives Matter protestors.

    As the official response has demonstrated, waiving certain rules and overlooking some infractions might be good public policy, particularly during a long-term emergency. But such a policy needs to consistent or there is no chance of an equitable outcome.

  9. Actually, there isn’t much more to this than some folks wanting to ban cars from GG Park. Tim’s crying “racism” is a way to get the crowd fired up. Nothing more.

  10. I’m hoping that any closure of JFK drive would ban private motorized vehicles including these sport utility e-bikes that have no place zipping amongst human powered peds, skaters and cyclists.

    This is so totally Tim: Walton complains that the SFMTA did not bother to contact his office on a high profile and historically controversial policy choice. Tim’s response is to argue the technicals to tell the MTA how to do its job such that electeds are not perturbed when a decision comes in out of the blue.

    The SFMTA is a closed shop that operates in secret according to its own algebra. As often as not, insiders (Farrel in the past) learn of major MTA projects in the media. When I served on the MTA CAC, we were similarly kept in the dark.

    The solution is to structurally rework the MTA such that the cloak of secrecy, which enables contracting corruption too, is permanently removed.

    And get these damned sport utility e-bicycles out of the damn bike lanes and slow streets! These facilities were designed for human powered/weight/sized bicycles, not heavy large mopeds. Talk about an equity issue.

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While people sit in jail cells, SF courts delay criminal trials

Judges hear civil cases while violating the law and delaying the right to a speedy trial for criminal defendants, public defender says.
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