TWO BITES: MUNI SERVICE CUTS AND GENTRIFICATION

PROTECT CHINATOWN & NORTH BEACH & MUNI!
PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO YOUR GROUP

Wong

Muni cuts, subways, land values and gentrification.
Chinatown, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill and the Waterfront are Mediterranean-like villages. But their affordability, beauty, character and diversity are vulnerable to economic forces. In the Wall Street Journal: “Housing costs near rail stops increased after light rail service started.” (SEE BELOW)

As Muni cuts surface transit, developers push for costly subways. The Central Subway takes $595 million of state/ local matching funds from the Muni system—cutting service. With cost overruns, more service will be cut. (SEE BELOW)

“If they build the Subway, it will ensure major, major new development at the stops in Chinatown and North Beach; and in terms of scale, these neighborhoods will never be the same again.”—Allen B. Jacobs, Past SF Planning Director & Dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design

WALL STREET JOURNAL: “Rail Lines Bring Housing Clashes”\
FOR SUBSCRIBERS: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324031404578483241630147144

Professors at Northeastern University in Boston examined 42 neighborhoods in 12 U.S. cities in 2010 and found that housing costs near rail stops increased after light rail service started in many markets. “A new transit station can set in motion a cycle of unintended consequences in which core transit users are priced out in favor of higher-income, car-owning residents.”

Others think the affordable-housing funds compound what they say is an inefficient form of transportation. “The way that you get affordable housing is by stopping the government policies that make it unaffordable in the first place,” said Wendell Cox, a demographer and urban-policy consultant in Illinois.

NEWS AT NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: “Public transit policies may lower ridership”  https://www.northeastern.edu/news/stories/2010/10/transitreport.html

Extending public transportation to a metropolitan neighborhood for the first time can, in some cases, raise rents, bringing in a population of wealthier residents who would rather drive than take public transportation.

That’s the conclusion of a report by the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, which found that new public transit investments can sometimes lead to gentrification that prices out renters and low-income households—people considered core public-transportation users—working against the public goal of boosting transit ridership.

REPORT: “Maintaining Diversity in America’s Transit-Rich Neighborhoods”
http://nuweb9.neu.edu/dukakiscenter/wp-content/uploads/TRN_Equity_final.pdf

BROOKLYN BUREAU: “How the M-Train is Gentrifying Bushwick”
http://www.bkbureau.org/2013/05/24/how-the-m-train-is-gentrifying-bushwick/

Gentrification that has spilled over from industrial East Williamsburg to residential northeast Bushwick is spreading inexorably southward—thanks to a little help from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“It’s all based on the transit system,” said Andrew Clemens, director of retail leasing for Massey Knakal, a real estate brokerage firm. “The proximity to Union Square on the L train made Williamsburg attractive. Now proximity to midtown on the M train is driving the south Bushwick market.”

CURBED LOS ANGELES: “Black-Owned Businesses Already Being Pushed Out of Leimert Park Ahead of the Crenshaw Line” Link
But it looks like the gentrification train is already headed into the station in the predominantly-black neighborhood–a few weeks ago, Our Weekly reported that, recently, “A number of Black businesses in the Village have been notified that their leases won’t be renewed.” New property owners have been coming in, presumably to get in ahead of the subway, and they’re cleaning house already–several commercial properties have changed hands and tenants say they’re being forced out.

GRIDSKIPPER: “The Most Important Chinatown in the World”
http://gridskipper.com/archives/entries/065/65050.php

“Once spread out over nine city blocks, Washington DC’s Chinatown now comprises a minuscule area that laugh-it-up hipsters refer to as ‘Chinablock’. Even though the community dates back to the 1850s, the most recent census only counted 700 Chinese residents in the neighborhood, making DC the smallest Chinatown in all America. Gentrification happens, right? In 2006, the city of Washington DC spent $200 million to make Chinatown safe and nice for tourists and Virginians. Subsequent side effects included Chinatown becoming much more expensive, really cheesy, and a lot less Chinese. Now it’s that place by the metro to grab lunch before the game at the Verizon Center or a way to break up a day of shopping. It’s also the place to buy a condo if you happen to be a millionaire who wants a room without a view. It’s all quite tragic really, but even more worrisome is the thought that DC Chinatown is the proverbial sparrow in the mineshaft. Will our want of safety and shopping erase the ethnic hoods we love? Let’s discuss!”

“The extension of the Subway tunnels to Washington Square to make a ‘removal pit’ will transform North Beach into something it mustn’t be — and permanently mar its traditional village feeling. With the extension of the Chinatown Subway into the very heart of historicNorth Beach, the special ambience of this fragile quarter will be greatly diminished.”Lawrence Ferlinghetti & City Lights Books, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus

Improving the entire Muni transit system is quicker and less costly—rather than a commuter-oriented subway and gentrification.

MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE: Implementation of Zurich’s Transit Priority Program – pdf   “Zurich is famous for the quality of its public transportation system and it has one of the highest levels of per capita transit ridership in the world. This is because its transit service is fast, frequent, reliable and inexpensive due in large part to its transit priority program.” [NOTE: 63% of modal work trips are by public transit].

“The transit priority program enabled all of Zurich’s surface transit lines to improve more quickly and for less money than constructing a new underground line. Consequently, the entire transit network could be improved rather than just building a single line. This was the choice that Zurich faced in a 1973 election that asked voters to spend 1.2 billion Swiss Francs (SFr) for construction of a new underground transit system. Voters rejected that measure and voted instead to provide 200 million SFr over 10 years to implement transit priority measures to make the existing surface transit system more effective.”

MUNI SERVICE CUTS Since 2007, Muni cut service, eliminated 6 bus lines, shortened 22 routes, deferred maintenance, increased missed runs/ switchbacks, increased fares/ fees/ fines/ meters…. In northeastern neighborhoods, the Central Subway’s Phase 1 eliminated the 15-Kearny Bus/ 20-Columbus buses and cut hours for the 41-Union Bus. Later, SFMTA shortened routes for the 10-Townsend/ 12-Folsom buses, decreasing waterfront connectivity. The Central Subway’s Phase 2 will cut 34,000-76,000 bus hours/ year from the 8X, 30 and 45 bus lines. Phase 2 also eliminates the T-Line’s Embarcadero Loop, decreasing trains to Market Street’s BART/ Metro Stations. More buses/ cable cars/ streetcars and new circulator routes would have increased Muni service years ago—quickly and inexpensively.
Redevelopment eradicated the Western Addition and Fillmore neighborhoods. Victorian neighborhoods and its middle-class were demolished Before and after 1906,Chinatown fought off total relocation by developers. Nihonmachi failed in fighting redevelopment and displacement. The Lower Fillmore Jazz District and Afro-American institutions were splintered.

Suit says SamTrans retaliated against ex-employee for questioning accounting practices

By Bonnie Eslinger : Bay Area News Group – excerpt

Accountant claims she ‘suffered’ after raising concerns over practices; is second former employee to do so. Ling La, who sued Wednesday in U.S. District Court, worked for SamTrans between May 2011 and July 2013 as a senior accountant. She names as defendants the San Mateo County Transit District, SamTrans CEO Michael Scanlon and her former supervisor Sheila Tioyao.

“If you stand up and do the right thing, you’re supposed to be rewarded in our culture,” said La’s attorney, Dow Patten. “She’s suffered a lot from it.”

SamTrans Communications Manager Jayme Ackemann said she couldn’t comment on La’s allegations, citing the pending litigation. But she did provide a copy of the investigative findings into La’s complaint, completed in May…

West also concluded that La’s interactions with vendors created “tension” and that she was disciplined for her “harsh and inappropriate” tone, not her whistle-blowing activities.

“I do not find the request” to attend training was in any way retaliatory for coming forward with her concerns about the shipping charges,” West wrote.

Patten said that although La’s specific accusations are different, her concerns about the agency’s accounting practices were similar to those of David Ramires, a former SamTrans accountant who told NBC Bay Area last year that the agency created fake and inflated expenses so money could be secretly set aside. The agency has said its own independent auditors have found nothing illegal with the bookkeeping.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said his office is investigating Ramires’ accusations as well as those subsequently made by the NBC affiliate. SamTrans officials told Wagstaffe they’ll cooperate with the investigation, which he said will be “lengthy.”

“A complete forensic audit is necessary,” the district attorney wrote in an email Friday…(more)

follow her at twitter.com/bonnieeslinger.

Muni: The City’s Schizophrenic Treatment of its Transit System

by Joe Eskenazi : sfweekly – excerpt

Continuing a long, if not proud, tradition of knuckling under to whatever the hell the mayor wants, Muni’s board yesterday voted to do away with Sunday parking meters.

This was utterly and totally predictable. Muni’s board is not an entity to which anyone should extend the courtesy of taking seriously. If you do, you must also buy into the notion of the dead rising from their graves to vote in Chicago or 105 percent of the electorate throwing in with Kim Jong-Un.

So, yesterday, the Muni board obeisantly voted to do away with Sunday meters, a program Muni transit experts have been planning for at least five years. Muni boss Ed Reiskin told the media that it’s all okay since the mayor doesn’t ask for much.

The mayor doesn’t “ask” for anything. Press releases were ready even prior to the vote…

Let’s hand untold quantities of cash to an agency that, once again, proved that it’s wholly and totally a subsidiary of the office of the mayor, which dictates its finances down to the line-items.

Message from Muni’s riders: Piss off… (more)

 

CENTRAL SUBWAY: ACCOUNTING ILLEGALITY

PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO APPROPRIATE PARTIES & AGENCIES

For the $1.578 billion Central Subway Project (CSP), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) requires cost overruns be paid by San Francisco. The CSP already includes $595 million in state/ local matching funds. More state/ local funds will be needed—taking money from the rest of the Muni system. The City will ask voters for $500 million in a Muni Bond Measure in November—not clearly defined. And business and development groups are pushing for CSP’s extension into North Beach and the Waterfront—usurping more money. Meanwhile, Muni has fewer riders now than it did a decade ago—the only major transit agency to lose customers among the nation’s top six transit districts. The priority should be to fix the citywide Muni system first.

accounting : The system of recording and summarizing business and financial transactions and analyzing, verifying, and reporting the results; also: the principles and procedures of accounting.cooking the books : Falsification of accounting records to give a misleading picture of a firm’s financial position or the results of its operations. Unlike creative accounting, it is an illegal practice.

SFWEEKLY: “Covering Their Tracks: The Central Subway Project Buries Millions in a Deep Dark Place”
http://www.sfweekly.com/2014-04-02/news/muni-central-subway-whistleblower-budget/full/#livefyre

LaVonda Atkinson, the cost engineer for the Central Subway project, this year filed a complaint with the city’s whistle-blower program alleging serious lapses in accounting procedures and unethical behavior on the $1.578 billion project. Among her more disturbing charges reported to SF Weekly.

  • A Muni official, in writing, acknowledges plugging a “make-up #” into a federally reported document in order to maintain the desired total budget: a “make-up #” $30 million off from the data within that very document and $43 million greater than the prior month’s reported total.
  • Atkinson claims she was instructed to override computer formulas and manually reduce cost variances to zero — obscuring millions of dollars of month-to-month reassignments of budgets and expenditures, often on projects completed as long ago as 2010. As such, budgets are retroactively altered to match actual expenditures, and then the alterations themselves are hidden by zeroing them out.
  • There is a $40 million gap between the figure Muni reports to the city controller and what it reports to the Federal Transit Administration regarding its spending on preliminary engineering.
  • A $17.1 million computer program purchased, explicitly, for budgeting the Central Subway project is going unused — in favor of Microsoft Excel.

PMOC REPORTS: The independent PMOC (Project Management Oversight Consultant) analyzes the project for the FTA (Federal Transit Administration).
REPORT: February 28, 2014
http://www.centralsubwaysf.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/PMOC/1402_MD_183_SFMTA_MiniMR.pdf  The PMOC made the following admonishment—in multiple PMOC Reports: “Monthly cost reports prepared by the CSP [Central Subway Project] over the past year were found to have numerous unexplained changes. The Project Management Oversight Consultant (PMOC) has notified CSP to make corrections and provide details for budget changes.”

PAST REPORTS: http://nonorthbeachdig.org/CSContingency.html
Some comments from a retired financial economist on the PMOC November 2013 Report: “The budget contingencies remain largely unchanged (based on my memory). But the reason for the lack of change is that SFMTA hasn’t submitted any real budget data to the Feds since the end of May. Hence, the only changes the Feds appear to have made in their estimates of the contingency is based on the variance between the actual size of new contracts let and what had been the pre-contract estimate. As noted in previous PMOC reports, the Feds question the veracity of SFMTA’s budget/cost reporting and accounting system for this project. SFMTA in turn is blaming the software system (purchased from outside vendor) for the problem or at least part of it. In my days [as a financial economist], if I were to see a corporation do this I would raise red flags.”

SFWEEKLY: “Shock and Awe: The Little Hybrid Engine That Couldn’t”
http://www.sfweekly.com/2014-01-08/news/muni-bae-allison-hybrid-buses-new-flyer/full/

“By the time the board [Supervisors] unanimously greenlit their mere existence [50 new hybrid buses] on Oct. 29, scores of these buses were already squirreled away at a warehouse in Alameda.”
“The city’s initial batch of BAE-powered hybrid buses compounded a steep cost with a predilection to break down at rates far exceeding Muni’s much older — and cheaper — non-hybrid vehicles. San Franciscans have for years been left soaking in the rain and/or crammed into substitute diesel buses while crippled hybrids are continually towed to the shop. (And kept there).”
NOTE: A disturbing article about questionable, if not illegal, Muni contracts and poor transit planning—systemic inefficiency and waste. Transit professionals should competently analyze technical criteria, performance data and options. Little wonder that Muni service levels and ridership are declining.

CENTRAL SUBWAY: A History of Data Falsification

From 2003 to 2012, as shown in the charts below, the Central Subway Project “punched in” numbers to suit desirable results—in contradiction of transportation standards and federal guidelines. FTA queries led to less favorable numbers—still disputable today.

Project Costs steadily increased from $647 million to $1.578 billion
—with cost overruns looming.
Ridership Projections steadily decreased from 61,000 to 35,100—“New Riders” from 21,000 to 5,000. Travel Times were skewed with “on-board train” times—instead of total travel times. Bus is faster.

The Central Subway’s impacts have been concealed with extensive public relations. The distance from Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf is only 1-1/2 miles. But Muni has been cutting bus service to offset deficits and operating costs for the T-Line (Central Subway Phase 1); and will cut 34,000-76,000 bus hours/ year when Phase 2 opens in 2019. The subway will eliminate the T-Line’s loop into Market Street’s BART/ Metro Stations and to the Transbay Terminal —the city’s busiest transit spine. Instead of decreased service, more surface buses/ cable cars/ streetcars and new circulator routes would have increased transit reliability and service years ago.

MORE WORRISOME ACCOUNTING
PMOC Reports are independent analysis—written in New York. From Public Records Requests, beginning in November 2013, PMOC reports were delivered as a mix of MS Word and PDF docs. Previously all reports and attachments were delivered as a single PDF file. Save Muni phoned and informed the PMOC that Word Docs were being distributed—easily falsified.
Additional construction costs have yet to be negotiated and reported. In the February 28, 2014, PMOC Report: “PMOC Concern: Numerous CORs [Change Order Requests] have yet to be resolved, some dating back to 2012, between the contractor and the SFMTA.” The credibility of Reports and “Earned Value (EV) Analysis” to justify budgets and schedules are suspect—at best.

Not only is SFMTA not using its $17.1 million EcoSys Enterprise Planning and Controls database, SFMTA is not even using Excel spreadsheets—punching numbers into documents to fit predetermined results.

Accounting illegalities raise questions. What other fiscal irregularities exist? Are project costs being shifted to other contracts? Is CSP staff charging time to other projects or overhead—to hide cost overruns?

The fiduciary responsibility of elected officials, accountants, controllers, city departments and city staff has been entrusted to them by taxpayers. Whether irregularities by corporations, banks, brokerages, Madoff-type managers or government, the public must be protected.

For Further Information: : Howard Wong, AIA, www.SaveMuni.com
 www.SaveNorthBeachVillage.org

SF MTA City Whistle-Blower’s Lament: An Itemized List of How Muni Obscured Its Budget

By Joe Eskenazi : sfweekly – excerpt

LaVonda Atkinson, the cost engineer for the Central Subway project, this year filed a complaint with the city’s whistle-blower program alleging serious lapses in accounting procedures and unethical behavior on the $1.578 billion project. Among her more disturbing charges reported to SF Weekly:

A Muni official, in writing, acknowledges plugging a “make-up #” into a federally reported document in order to maintain the desired total budget: a “make-up #” $30 million off from the data within that very document and $43 million greater than the prior month’s reported total.
Atkinson claims she was instructed to override computer formulas and manually reduce cost variances to zero — obscuring millions of dollars of month-to-month reassignments of budgets and expenditures, often on projects completed as long ago as 2010. As such, budgets are retroactively altered to match actual expenditures, and then the alterations themselves are hidden by zeroing them out.
There is a $40 million gap between the figure Muni reports to the city controller and what it reports to the Federal Transit Administration regarding its spending on preliminary engineering.
A $17.1 million computer program purchased, explicitly, for budgeting the Central Subway project is going unused — in favor of Microsoft Excel…
An overrun delayed is not an overrun denied. The reckoning will come.

It turns out there’s a name for this practice: Transit expert and accountant Tom Rubin dubs it “the William Tell school of budgeting.” Rubin, the former CFO of AC Transit and the Southern California Rapid Transit District and a longtime Central Subway skeptic, scoured documents supplied to SF Weekly by Atkinson and came away with the following assessment of Muni’s financial planning for the massive project: “They fire the arrow at the barn and then draw the bull’s-eye around where it hits.”…

…By March, even the feds were aware that this multi-billion dollar transit endeavor was being budgeted on Microsoft Excel — the same program used to tabulate rent and groceries in apartments throughout San Francisco…

In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment…. (more)

This can’t help the reputation of San Francisco’s most controversial agency and disliked agency. This allegations may also affect legal issues winding their way through the courts. Stay tuned…

RELATED:
Covering Their Tracks: The Central Subway Project Buries Millions in a Deep Dark Place Muni Instructs Employees How to Contact Whistle-Blower Program Following SF Weekly Story on Muni Whistle-Blower