On housing policy, is everything really “going to be OK?”

By Calvin Welch : 48hills – excerpt

NOVEMBER 24, 2015 — In a recent Chronicle Open Forum (November 20, “We Can Resolve Housing Crisis With Teamwork”) Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director of SPUR, penned an oddly argued, personal, upbeat exhortation about how our affordable housing crisis is going to be solved if we just understand that “its going to be OK.” He says we can take his word for it: “I want to say to everyone already here, as compassionately as I can, is that its going to be OK.” He says that if we “take taller buildings,” “take more transit,” and “make room for more people” “it’s going to be OK.” That’s pretty much the sum total of his argument.

It seems clear that Metcalf’s reason for directing his remarks to “everyone already here” is that so many of us simply do not agree that under current development policy, strongly urged by Metcalf’s organization, SPUR, that “everything is going to be OK” for the obvious reason that everything, now and in the recent past, has not been “OK” and it’s clear for all to see which is why Metcalf’s musings are so odd. In the same edition of the Chronicle that his article ran — November 23 — three stories made this point.

A new market-rate development at Van Ness and Market will have only 20% of its units affordable to current San Francisco residents; the city is scrambling to find a short term $200 million “bridge loan” to continue the construction of the Transbay Terminal while having no idea how to finance the additional $2.5 billion to move CalTrain and other commuter transit service to the facility; and a front page report measures how the “Awful Commute is Getting Worse” in the Bay Area as the working class is priced out of Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose ( “all three are dynamic and growing” says the rather breathless Metcalf) and must commute, by car, from Tracy, Stockton and Ripon…

San Franciscans correctly understand that the housing crisis we face is one of affordability, that housing affordability is dependent on household income and that household income, for San Franciscans, is often dependent on the ability of local businesses to continue to be located in San Francisco. The three go hand in hand and are, all three, dependent on a system of informed local land use policy that integrates the three (see Section 101 of the San Francisco Planning Code, drafted by the people and made law by the passage of Prop M in 1986 ).

That’s what the six ballot measures on this November’s ballot were mainly about: housing affordability and jobs for San Franciscans. What Metcalf calls for is the disaggregation of local land use policy (“we need to make some different planning decisions”), centered not on the needs of San Franciscans but for “waves of new arrivals” even as the “new arrivals” of yesterday are being displaced and evicted today!…

We need a comprehensive development policy that places housing in its true social context, that protects and enhances our neighborhoods, communities and businesses, that preserves space for the arts, the very young and the very old. To do that will produce real social change that will preserve and enhance a city not only for us but all in the world who, like us, yearn for such a place to live.

Calvin Welch teaches classes in the development history of San Francisco at USF and SFSU. He was a founder of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and the Council of Community Housing Organizations... (more)

 

SFMTA officials changed legislation. Claimed they were “simplifying and clarifying”

Support the November Ballot initiative: Restore Transportation Balance in San Francisco.  It is important to get the facts out about Props A, B, and L. Props A and B will will give the SFMTA license to spend over $500 million dollars as it pleases, and Prop L seeks to Restore Transportation Balance. We contend that SFMTA is out of control and needs to be stopped.

This video explains how unelected SFMTA officials changed street parking legislation while claiming they were “simplifying and clarifying” the language. It is important to understand this process because other unelected government bodies are attempting to do the same thing. We feel the best way to stop these practices is for our elected supervisors to hold public hearings to investigate them. If you agree with us, please sign the petition to Restore Parking Oversight of SFMTA.

Even after appeals from 20+ neighborhood and business associations and the agency’s Citizen Advisory Committee to rescind the policies, the SFMTA Board has taken no action. The Board of Supervisors must step in to provide oversight and accountability.

Don’t have faith in Prop. A funding direction

B : sfexaminer – excerpt

Randy Shaw, in a Sept. 11 op-ed piece in The San Francisco Examiner, lauds Proposition A, the $500 million Transportation and Road Improvement Bond that funds desperately needed public-transit infrastructure improvement. Shaw says while voters know how Prop. A funds will be spent, that is not the case with Proposition B.

I beg to differ. Shaw reveals the hidden agenda of Prop. B’s surreptitious $22 million transfer of funds from needed services, police, parks, street cleaning, homeless programs and mental health service, while the language of Prop. A reveals less of its hidden agenda. Prop. A will cost more ($500 million plus $350 million in interest) in the long run than Prop. B.

Prop. A should be called the faith-based proposition because it does not specifically say how the funds are to be spent or what part of the funds will be allocated to the number of specific measures outlined in the bond. For instance, instead of using the more legally binding language of shall or will, the bond language is riddled with maybes. Ironically, the only time the words shall is used is in Section 10, page 8 when it comes time to pay off the bond. Part of the language: “For the purpose of paying the principal and interest on the bonds, the Board shall, at the time of fixing the general levy … collect annually each year until such bonds are paid.”

Examples of past propositions indicate how important the word shall is. These are state propositions 116 (1990 $2 billion state rail bond), 1B (2006 $20 billion state transportation bond) and 1A (2008 the state high-speed rail bond), as well as San Francisco Prop. B (2011 road and street maintenance bond). All of these bond measure not only used the term “shall be allocated,” but also made specific fund or parentage allocations to well-defined projects or programs.

As Shaw says in relation to Prop. B, “Why should voters approve a ballot initiative that raids other city department to give [the] SFMTA more money?” Ditto for Prop. A. Why should homeowners and their tenants pay over a 30-year period for a vaguely worded measure where the money might be spent for other projects other than the listed ones in the proposition (the overbudget cost for the Central Subway could be one).

Denise D’Anne is an environmentalist and political activist on the board of San Francisco Tomorrow and San Francisco Gray Panthers as well as the president of the Dance Mission board... (more)

MTA BOARD, TUESDAY, NOV. 5, 1PM, City Hall Room 400

MTA BOARD, TUESDAY, NOV. 5, 1PM, City Hall Room 400
AGENDA:  http://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/11-5-13%20Agenda%20-%20MTAB_0.pdf
DOCUMENTS:  http://www.sfmta.com/calendar/meetings/board-directors-meeting-november-5-2013

ITEM 10.6:  On Consent Calendar – comments to:
MTABoard@sfmta.com, or Roberta.Boomer@sfmta.com
DOCUMENT:  http://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/agendaitems/11-5-13%20Item%2010.6%20Pagoda%20Palace%20expenditure.pdf
Item 10.6 adds $550,000 cost to the $9.15 Million Pagoda Theater’s cost—for a new total of $9.7 Million.  This cost increase is a continuing trend of more money being taken from Muni operations.  Especially galling are extra costs for outreach to adjacent businesses—when in reality several businesses have been financially hurt by construction way into the night.  As a reminder, the Tunnel Boring Machines can be extracted in Chinatown, or buried underground like many projects around the world—saving Muni anywhere from $21 to $79 million (depending on which MTA estimate one accepts).  With the Central Subway’s overall contingency falling below 4%, we need to save money for Muni services—not continue to cut services.    

ITEM 12:  Draft Transportation Task Force Report
DRAFT REPORT:  http://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/agendaitems/11-5-13%20Item%2012%20Mayor%27s%202030%20Transportation%20Task%20Force%20Report.pdf
Muni riders want to improve the entire Muni system in every neighborhood—to reverse recent service cuts, route eliminations, shortened lines, missed runs, switchbacks and deteriorating vehicles.  Instead of a well-conceived Master Plan for a world-class transit system, the Transportation Task Force’s Report is merely a pre-determined justification for a huge General Obligation Bond in 2014 and sales tax extensions.
The Task Force’s members put in pet projects and vaguely-defined capital projects.  We need a more holistic Transit-Priority Program throughout the city—like many cities around the world.
Muni riders want SFMTA to address San Francisco’s long-range transportation needs.  The TEP focuses on rapid lines that decreases transit in neighborhoods—hurting seniors, the disable, the disadvantaged and many others.  Also, be aware of hidden agendas.  With looming Central Subway cost overruns, please stop any more funds being taken from the rest of the Muni system.

Central Subway Pagoda Deal Will Take $9 Million From Muni Operating Funds

by Aaron Bialick : sf.streetsblog.com – excerpt

A deal struck by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency to extract tunnel drills at the site of the abandoned Pagoda Theatre will cost the agency an estimated $9.15 million. While the deal with site owner Joel Campos allows the SFMTA to move forward with an extraction plan that’s less disruptive to the North Beach neighborhood than the original one, agency Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said the money will come out of Muni’s operating budget, unless it receives an additional grant from the Federal Transit Administration to plug the gap, according to the SF Examiner.

The site of the abandoned Pagoda Theatre at Powell Street and Columbus Avenue. Image: Google Maps

The news confirms fears that the Central Subway’s ever-ballooning costs will eat away at funds needed to provide existing Muni service. Put in terms of bus service lost, $9.15 million equates to roughly 100,000 service hours, based on a back-of-the-envelope calculation using the cost savings estimated by the SFMTA when it proposed service cuts in 2010
“Diverting $9.15 million in precious funds from MUNI’s operational budget will steal that money directly from the bus service we desperately need for an unnecessary drilling machine extraction site we absolutely don’t,” said Sonn… (more)

RELATED:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/rapid-transit-light-rail/sfmta-reaches-private-property-lease-terms-for-central-subway-construction.html
…Total costs to SFMTA, including the lease, demolition of site and extraction of the TBMs, will not exceed $9.15 million.
The Pagoda Palace is the preferred location to remove the TBMs. As a result of community objections to the original plan that was approved in 2008, SFMTA initiated a review of alternatives, which called for the removal of the TBMs on Columbus Avenue near Washington Square Park. Removing the TBMs at the Pagoda Palace, a building that has been vacant for nearly 20 years, minimizes local construction impacts and leaves no physical impediments to a potential extension of the Third Line to North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf.
The project will also require National Environmental Policy Act clearance by the Federal Transit Administration. If all of the necessary legislative processes and approvals occur by April 1, 2013, then the demolition of the Pagoda Palace site can then commence. Before any construction begins, SFMTA will conduct building surveys on the properties adjacent to the Pagoda Palace site to assess existing conditions (more)

Why is the SFMTA signing a contract prior to the EIR? Isn’t that what happened to Plan A. They signed the contract to extract the TBMs four years before they presented the plan to close down Columbus Ave. to the neighborhood. (That is what I heard at the November 19th meeting.)