Stuck in the zone

By John McDowell : smdailyjournal – excerpt

The Governor want to take land use out of local control and convince residents to pay extra taxes for less services. How dumb are we?

Imagine, if you will, a democracy where your voice doesn’t count, where regional unelected bureaucrats make decisions for you, and where your city is shaped by Sacramento and not your city council. You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not of responsible citizens but of faceless bureaucratic control. A journey into a land restricted on all sides. Your next stop, the Plan Bay Area zone.

That’s right; when it comes to the shape of your city, development, roads, density, land use and other decisions about the quality of your life, your voice no longer counts. Instead, an unelected regional bureaucracy is in charge. It’s an eye-glazing, alphabet soup of government agencies designed with one thing in mind — take control over cities and towns.

Their mandates aren’t secret; in fact, they are laid out in glossy publications available from the Plan Bay Area website. However, what is described with beautiful pictures of smiling people and sweeping vistas is a one-size-fits-all mandate that demands that Menlo Park, Millbrae, Milpitas and Mill Valley look the same, local residents be damned.

Plan Bay Area is the spawn of Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 375, which mandate super regional planning agencies draw up plans to reduce so-called greenhouse gasses. The result is that Association of Bay Area Governments, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission now decide how you and your family will live, travel and in some cases, work…

A dedicated group of citizens is pushing back against this regional, bureaucratic overreach. They call themselves the Nine County Coalition; their website explains they are an “informal diverse assemblage of ordinary citizens who share a mission to oppose the relentless trend towards the governance by bureaucrats that obliterates the government [by citizens]” so that, “regional challenges can be met without abdication of our constitutional right to vote in or out the officials who make decisions for us.”

We are living in a world that is far away from that of citizen control and responsibility for local decisions. Fortunately, there is a way out. This November, ask your city council candidates where they stand on retaking control over our lives. Listen carefully to their answers, then decide if they are willing to stand up to the regional bureaucrats, or if they’re stuck in another dimension, that of the Plan Bay Area zone.

John McDowell is a longtime county resident having first moved to San Carlos in 1963. In the intervening years, he has worked as a political volunteer and staff member in local, state, and federal government, including time spent as a press secretary on Capitol Hill and in the George W. Bush administration(more)

This former California governor has signed on to fight Warriors’ S.F. arena

By Ron Leuty : bizjournals – excerpt

Former California Gov. Pete Wilson is joining the team fighting theGolden State Warriors’ planned $1 billion arena in San Francisco’s Mission Bay.

Wilson was in San Francisco on Wednesday for a lengthy strategy and tactical session with his new employer — the law firm Browne George Ross LLP — aimed at stopping the Warriors’ project, said a source, who asked not to be identified. Wilson’s exact role, however, is unclear…

The emergence of Wilson, largely out of the spotlight since he finished his second term as governor in 1999, could add a degree of political heft to the Mission Bay Alliance. But if nothing else, it may signal that the deep-pocketed group of benefactors, former and current administrators, faculty and staff of the University of California, San Francisco, isn’t backing down from its fight against the Warriors’ plans…
The alliance has pledged to continue its fight against the Warriors until the franchise moves its plans for an 18,000-seat arena from the 12-acre site across Third Street from the UCSF campus and hospitals. Although it has so far lost every battle at the city level and its first legal case, its challenges have forced the Warriors to push the arena’s projected completion to summer 2019… (more)

VTA: Test trains at Milpitas BART Station up and running in six months

By Aliyah Mohammed : mercurynews – excerpt

The 10-mile Bay Area Rapid Transit Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension project is on track to be completed by fall 2017. Here in town, test trains are expected to run on tracks leading into and out of the Milpitas BART Station in about six months, according to Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

The station, the newest gateway into the city continues to take shape near the corner of Montague Expressway and East Capitol Avenue adjacent to the Great Mall, as critical elements come online including completion of a six-story parking garage, according to Nicole Franklin, a VTA spokesperson.

“Right now for the Milpitas station they are putting in some of the track work in the boarding area, some improvements for the pedestrian overcross which will connect the BART station to the VTA station,” Franklin said. “The parking garages have been topped off, the whole structure is complete and both the Milpitas and Berryessa stations will have 1,200 parking spots.”

She added all related trench work — where trains go underground in places between the Milpitas station and the Berryessa BART Station in San Jose — for the $2.3 billion extension has also been completed…

Alaniz said a 30-year eighth-cent Santa Clara VTA sales tax for BART passed by Santa Clara County voters in 2008 and a 30-year half-cent sales tax for public transit capital improvement projects and operations approved in 2000 are being used to fund the construction and will also be used to fund maintenance and operations.

Alaniz said bringing BART into the South Bay is intended to relieve the “horrible traffic” on Interstates 680 and 880…

VTA is contributing to 60 trains, with 40 intended to be used in this extension. When we add the extension it increases ridership overall…BART is getting all new trains we are contributing, they will just add them in as they come, we are contributing to the cost of the vehicles and we are sharing them,” Alaniz said.

According to VTA, the line and track systems for the entire 10-mile extension costs $772 million. Also, a six-story parking garage in Milpitas and a seven-story garage in Berryessa together cost an additional $86.9 million… (more)

280 Underpass and Railroad Crossing

This has to be one of the worst intersections in town. It has a railroad crossing, bike lanes, car lanes, one of which comes from behind a pillar with no traffic signal and very poor vision. To make matters really strange there are multiple traffic lights that so confuse people that many cars just drive through the red light across the tracks to make a right turn on red, since there is a right turn arrow in the mix. For some reason, sometimes the train signal goes off, all the lights light up and the bells and whistles indicate a train is on the way. After a while, no train passes but the signals go off. This has been going on for months.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Op-ed: Jesse Arreguín is right to oppose Jerry Brown’s anti-democratic give-away to the real-estate industry

By Zelda Bronstein : berkeleyside – excerpt

Zelda Bronstein is a former chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission.

In his July 19 op-ed published on Berkeleyside, Garret Christensen slammed Berkeley City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Jesse Arreguín for opposing Governor Jerry Brown’s Trailer Bill 707. Christensen called the legislation “an important state affordable housing bill” that “Berkeley and its councilmembers, especially those with aspirations of becoming mayor should welcome…with open arms.” “[I]t is truly baffling to me,” he declared, “why anyone who calls themselves a progressive is opposed to the governor’s proposal.”

In fact, Trailer Bill 707 is opposed by many people besides Arreguín who call themselves progressives— for example, the representatives of the 60-plus organizations, including Public Advocates, the Council of Community Housing Organizations, Jobs with Justice San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and SEIU 1021, who signed a July 8 letter urging the state legislature to reject the bill.

Brown’s proposal, they wrote, “gives developers the power to force approval of projects “’by right’ without public or environmental review.”

For Christensen, the lack of public or environmental review is a boon that would eliminate “Berkeley’s extra layers of approval requirements.” What he deems “extra” is anything beyond the “objective zoning standards” specified in the bill.

The problem: zoning is an essential but limited land use planning tool. A development could meet a city’s zoning and still displace existing tenants, small businesses, and jobs. By removing the right to negotiate with developers over such issues, Brown’s bill puts communities, especially disadvantaged ones, at the mercy of the real estate industry. Meanwhile, as the letter cited above notes, “privileged communities…can merely maintain or redesign zoning restrictions to keep out affordable housing.”

In any case, the amount of affordable housing created by Trailer Bill 707 is piddling, as Christensen himself intimated: “If a multi-family housing project includes a certain percentage of affordable units (the exact percentage depends on the level of affordability, but ranges from 5% to 20%) and meets the city’s zoning laws, the city must grant the permit.” In other words, as much as 95% of the new housing authorized by Brown’s proposal could be unaffordable.

Moreover, a proposed development could meet a city’s zoning and still damage the environment. That’s why Trailer Bill 707 is also opposed by the Sierra Club.

Christensen acknowledges that “[t]here is some environmental opposition to the bill…, since infill developments including the requisite amount of affordable housing would be exempt from CEQA [California
Environmental Quality Act] review.” But in his view, “these concerns are misplaced, since any honest accounting shows much lower carbon and water impact from allowing people to live in a denser, transit-rich city like Berkeley instead of making them commute from a far-flung car-dependent suburb.”… (more)

Comments are appreciated on the source as well as on social media sites. This is the most important campaign in the state. The more to remove local control over deciding how to build our cities by removing the options we have now to oppose projects we don’t like. This includes good ones as well as bad ones, but if this goes the state has taken away our options to control our environment. The only way to overturn this is to put new politicians in office who want to decentralize power and protect our rights to choose how we live.

Rose Pak’s opposition could slam brakes on car-free Stockton Street project

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco’s preliminary plan to make part of Stockton Street a car-free pedestrian walkway may be threatened by opposition from Chinatown community organizer Rose Pak.

Pak slammed the car-free project as harmful to Chinatown in an email June 16 to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, which the San Francisco Examiner obtained…

The SFMTA and businesses agreed in February to research making the walkway permanent after construction is complete…

n her letter, Pak wrote on behalf of the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce that the neighborhood “understood we would suffer” inconveniences due to construction of the Central Subway, but believed they would be temporary.

However, making the project permanent also would “make permanent all the problems we’ve experienced,” she wrote, calling it “unacceptable to our community.”

The proposal would need to go before the SFMTA Board of Directors for community input and subsequent approval, which hasn’t yet been scheduled, said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose.

Karin Flood, executive director of the Union Square Business Improvement District said property owners on Stockton Street generally support the project.

“They’ve seen it as a boost to sales,” she said.

Pak later told the Examiner she met with Reiskin to discuss Chinatown’s concerns.

She said “he apologized they never did a better job of outreach” to the Chinatown community, and “he has agreed” the project would not work, because closing that section of Stockton Street would stop the flow of traffic into Chinatown and harm businesses.

“So I consider the issue closed,” Pak said… (more)

Rose is wise to see the folly in the plan to cut Chinatown off from the rest of the city.

When is the SFMTA and City Hall going to consider how dangerous it is to cut a neighborhood out of the normal traffic pattern of the city? How will trucks and other regular delivery services get to Chinatown with no easy access? How will emergency vehicles get in and out? Many people could be trapped in an emergency evacuation situation.

Motorists flocking to newly-opened I-580 express lanes in Alameda County

By Erin Baldassari : eastbaytimes – excerpt

Motorists took nearly 1.9 million trips on Interstate 580’s new express lanes in Alameda County in the first four months the lanes opened to vehicle traffic earlier this year, according to a recent report.

The $345 million project opened on the notoriously congested Tri-Valley corridor in mid-February to solo drivers, who pay an extra toll to use the lane, and to carpoolers, who can drive for free.

The first full month of operation saw around 549,000 trips along the east- and westbound lanes, growing to 647,000 trips in May — an 18 percent increase from March — according to a report presented to the Alameda County Transportation Commission on Thursday.

Tess Lengyel, ACTC’s executive director of planning and policy, said motorists are already seeing the benefits. Average hourly speeds in the express lanes are estimated to be between 10 and 33 mph faster than the average hourly speeds in general purpose lanes during the morning rush-hour commute, according to the report.

So far, Lengyel said there’s been a bit of a learning curve to using the lanes correctly. The majority of motorists — or around 67 percent — were either carpool or HOV-qualifying vehicles with a valid FasTrak Flex tag, or single-occupant cars with either a flex or standard FasTrak tag, which is required to use the lane. The remaining 33 percent either had no tags or invalid tags, according to the report.

“It’s a new system, so people are just getting familiar with the lane,” she said, adding that the agency has been seeing more people adopting the correct toll tags.

Drivers paid an average toll of $1.55 to use the westbound lane and $2.40 to use the eastbound lane in May, and have generated over $2 million in total revenue since the lanes opened, the report said. It remains to be seen, however, whether that revenue will cover the costs of operating the lanes, Lengyel said… (more)

Power Failures Ail BART’s ‘Fleet of the Future’

By Jaxon Van Derbeken : nbcbayarea – excerpt – (video link)

A key electrical component of BART’s new train cars has failed recent performance tests due to overheating, creating the possibility of a delay in getting the new fleet in service, NBC Bay Area has learned. Jaxon Van Derbeken reports. (Published Friday, July 29, 2016)

A key electrical component of BART’s new train cars has failed recent performance tests due to overheating, creating the possibility of a delay in getting the new fleet in service, NBC Bay Area has learned.

“We can’t afford to have a fleet of cars that are breaking down in our system,’’ John Garnham, manager of BART’s “Fleet of the Future” project, acknowledged this week in an interview… (more)

CA: $6.3M Granted for Upgrades at Oakland BART Station

By Jenna Lyons : masstransit – excerpt

July 29–The U.S. Department of Transportation will award $6.3 million to the city of Oakland and BART to support renovations to the 19th Street BART Station and nearby streets, officials said Thursday.

The transportation agency and the city partnered to apply for a government grant to help fund the $28.7 million Gateway to Oakland Uptown — or Go Uptown — project aimed at revitalizing the Uptown district.

A portion of the funds will go toward replacing aging BART infrastructure, modernizing the 42-year-old 19th Street station with new glass elevators at its north end and interior upgrades like art features, glass fare barriers, and energy efficient LED lighting, officials said.

Riders will also have a new entrance directly into the old Sears building.

In addition, officials said, several blocks along 20th Street between Broadway and Harrison Street will receive improvements such as widened sidewalks, new bike lanes and street lighting upgrades.

City officials said $4.8 million will go toward BART station projects and $1.5 million will fund city projects improving connections to the station.

“The 19th Street BART station and surrounding 20th Street corridor form a major hub for public transit riders, bikers, pedestrians, and motorists accessing business, entertainment, and residential offerings in Oakland’s Uptown and Downtown districts, as well as other points throughout our city, the rest of the East Bay and San Francisco,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement. “As a city that is fortunate to sit at the center of the Bay Area’s transit systems, Oakland is incredibly grateful to be working with partners at the federal, regional, and local levels to improve the safety, accessibility, and enjoyment of this part of our vital transit network.”

Construction of the initial phase of renovations was set to begin in 2017, officials said.

This is the story. Now let’s see what happens.

Note the use of the words “renovation, replace and modernize”, rather than repair. Maybe that is what we should be asking for instead of maintenance and operations money. We want to renovate, replace and modernize the Muni buses by replacing the buses and parts that don’t work.

Final Ruling On SCIG Railyard Requires New Environmental Impact Report Before Project Continues

By Jason Ruiz :ibpost – excerpt

Citing flaws in how the environmental impact report was conducted, a Contra Costa Superior Court Judge handed down a final ruling on the proposed BNSF Railway’s Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) project, stating that the Port and City of Los Angeles must complete “a more robust and accurate analysis” of possible environmental impacts before proceeding.

The announcement comes after over three years of contentious litigation and protests from communities that stood to be impacted by the rail-yard, especially those in West Long Beach. A number of groups, including the City of Long Beach, Long Beach Unified School District and the South Coast Air Quality Management District were among the original petitioners that filed suit after LA and its port adopted the EIR in 2013.

Judge Barry P. Goode, who in March handed down a similar ruling regarding the deficiencies in the methods used by Los Angeles, again rejected the findings of the EIR. The final ruling mandates that the project approval be vacated and any project activities suspended until it’s brought into compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), leaving the Port and BNSF with several options, including carrying out a new EIR or potentially scrapping the project altogether. They have 60 days to appeal the decision… (more)