SAN FRANCISCO CAN BE ONE OF THE MOST LIVABLE CITIES IN THE WORLD

By Howard Wong, AIA SaveMuni

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Australia’s Melbourne has similarities with San Francisco’s urban genetics—art, culture, diversity, innovation, quirkiness, scale, character, history…. But Melbourne has been ranked #1 as the world’s most livable city for six years in a row—while San Francisco’s ranking has dropped.  No American city ranks in the top tier of livable cities.  But San Francisco has a spectacular beauty and geographic uniqueness that should surpass any waterfront city in the world.  Learning from Melbourne, I was struck by the around-the-clock vitality—networks of pedestrian alleyways, bars, cafés, coffee houses, small businesses, historic arcades, public art, parks and tram transit.  Melbourne seems to have a democratic distribution of benefits to all its citizens—a fine-grained urban grittiness that charms and entices.  Such democratic quality of life issues should be discussed—like at the D3DC forum below.

ECONOMIST:  The World’s Most Livable Cities  http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/08/daily-chart-14
Liveability is declining in a fifth of cities surveyed. The index, measured out of 100, considers 30 factors related to safety, health care, educational resources, infrastructure and the environment to calculate scores for 140 cities. Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries. Melbourne tops the list for the sixth year in a row (see chart, right), and six of the top ten cities are in Australia or Canada. Some American cities, including Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago have also dropped down the rankings after spikes in civil unrest.

THE ABC:  Melbourne ranked world’s most liveable city for sixth consecutive year by EIU http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-18/melbourne-ranked-worlds-most-liveable-city-for-sixth-year/7761642  The EIU [Economist Intelligence Unit] index scores 140 of the world’s major cities in healthcare, education, stability, culture, environment and infrastructure.  Melbourne scored 97.5 out of 100, one basis point more than Austria’s Vienna.  Canada’s Vancouver and Toronto ranked third and fourth respectively. Adelaide was rated equal fifth most livable city, tied with Calgary, Canada.

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Polk Streetscape Construction Update

Only the SFMTA and the DPW would use a construction photograph as a greeting. They must think we appreciate the appearance of the mud and orange cones as much as they do. Guess what, to us ROAD CONSTRUCTION SUCKS! No one except you thinks they look attractive, so quite sending us these hideous photos of broken streets in your cheerful greetings. You are looking a head to spending more of our tax dollars disrupting our lives. We are NOT! How tacky can you get.

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Water work on North Point Street, January 11, 2017 – San Francisco Public Works

9b48ec82-e298-4bfd-85f6-f6ff3bfb7911.jpgJanuary 13, 2017
Greetings Polk Street Community Member and Happy New Year!
View the latest construction information for the Polk Streetscape Project. Project Activity Summary – Crews have resumed work in segment 5 on North Point Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Larkin Street performing water main replacement work.

Week of January 16, 2017
Crews will continue water main replacement work on North Point Street from Van Ness Avenue to Larkin Street. Work will resume Tuesday January 17, 2017.

Week of January 23, 2017
Crews will continue water main replacement work on North Point Street from Van Ness Avenue to Larkin Street.

Anticipated construction schedule for Segment 5:
Water work: 01/02/17 – 03/27/17
Concrete Flatwork: 01/09/17 – 02/01/17
Final Grind & Pave: 03/31/17 – 04/03/17

Anticipated construction schedule for Segment 4:
Sewer work: 11/2016 – 04/2017
– Bay to Greenwich
– Filbert to Union
Water work: 01/2017 – 04/2017
– North Point to Bay (16″ Main)
– North Point to Chestnut & Chestnut from Van Ness to Polk (8″ Main)
– Lombard to Filbert (8″ Main)
Concrete Flatwork: 04/2017 – 09/2017
Electrical work: 04/2017 – 05/2017
Final Grind & Pave: 09/2017 – 10/2017

Looking Ahead: Construction for the Polk Streetscape Project is anticipated to be completed in six segments over a 24 month period. Construction in segments 5 & 4 are currently underway, with segments 3, 6, 2 and 1 pending. Work for the Polk Traffic Signal Upgrade Project (Contract No. 2568J) is anticipated to begin January 2017 and will occur at nine intersections from Union to Post streets in segments 4, 3 and 2. We will be working closely to coordinate construction activity in these segments.

Polk Streetscape Project – Things to Know… (more)

SF voters approve better transit, reject tax to pay for it

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

San Francisco voters voted overwhelmingly to approve $150 million for improved transit and homeless services Tuesday night — while rejecting by a similar margin a sales tax increase that would provide the funds.

Election night results in San Francisco show Proposition K, a three-quarter sales tax increase that would have taken effect in April of next year, failing with 67 percent of voters against the increase.

The 0.75 percent sales tax increase — to 9.25 percent — would have provided funds for Proposition J that would create the Homeless Housing and Services Fund and the Transportation Improvement Fund… (more)

“San Francisco’s current sales tax is at 8.75 percent, but will decrease to 8.5 percent after Dec. 31, 2016.”

Voters need to look forward to lower taxes in this volatile, unpredictable economy with high rents and evictions looming. They are watching SFMTA roll out one ridiculous future project after another non-stop while they are being squeezed out of the city.

In spite of all the back-slapping at City Hall the public does not appreciate the constant “improvements” being slapped down on the streets at our expenses, and no amount of PR and advertising dollars will convince us to spend another dime on systems we will never live to see.

Supe. Peskin predicts death of the sales tax

By Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the last one before next week’s election, Supervisor Aaron Peskin predicted the defeat of a sales tax assumed in Mayor Ed Lee’s city budget, offering some last-minute election drama.

Peskin was the only supervisor who voted against the budget earlier this year, citing objections to balancing the budget by assuming revenues The City had yet to receive. He also voted against placing the sales tax, Proposition K, on the ballot in the first place.

In 2017, San Francisco’s sales tax would decrease from the current rate of 8.75 percent to 8.5 percent, but if Prop. K passes it would increase by .75 percent, to a total of 9.25 percent.

With 25 local measures, supporters of multiple measures have talked about the challenge of reaching voters and getting them to vote down ballot.

“Many of those items are conflicting with one another,” Peskin said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “I want to say as the only member of this body who voted against the budget on the theory that it was being predicated on a tax that would have to pass next week, which is polling terribly, we’ve got to get this right the next time we go to the ballot.”…

Propositions D, H, L and M would, respectively, strip the mayor’s board appointment power, create the position of a public advocate, allow the board to appoint some members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Commission instead of just the mayor, and create a housing commission, which would oversee the Mayor’s Office of Housing(more)

San Francisco Public Press writes:

Proposition D – “Proposition D Drains Mayor’s Power in Filling Supervisor Seats, Other Major Vacancies” – By Zachary Clark

Proposition H – Creating a ‘Public Advocate’ Watchdog

Proposition L – Giving Supervisors More Say Over Transit

Proposition MThis Charter amendment would make two major city agencies accountable to a new, third body, called the Housing and Development Commission.

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)

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)

 

San Francisco’s Mayor Lee Sheds Light On Financing Muni’s Light Rail Expansion

Margie Shafer : cbslocal – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee may have already announced a major expansion of Muni’s light-rail fleet, but at a news conference he said options to finance the multi-million dollar project are still being considered.

Lee made an announcement Tuesday morning at the Muni Metro East Maintenance Facility at 601 25th Street at Illinois, where the aging fleet of cars is maintained…

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will seek up to $153 million in California cap and trade funds and the $57 million balance from the MTA. If that doesn’t work, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is expected to guarantee funds to fill in the gap… (more)

Lee and Pelosi talk middle class jobs in unequal SF

By Rebecca Bowe : sfbg – excerpt

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-SF) joined Mayor Ed Lee at a press conference yesterday [Tue 12] at Yerba Buena across from the construction site of a Central Subway station. It was billed as an event highlighting how “San Francisco has been in the lead” on creating middle-class jobs, investing in transportation, and ensuring fair wages for workers.

But as these words in the press advisory leapt out at us, we at the Bay Guardian responded with raised eyebrows. Really? It has?

The point of this media appearance, we learned upon arrival, was to promote House Democrats’ newly unveiled Middle Class Jumpstart agenda – a legislative package floated to bolster the middle class, in advance of the upcoming midterm election. Pelosi and Lee also sought to highlight the Central Subway as a transportation infrastructure project that’s spurring middle-class job creation (The $1.6 billion Central Subway project has also spurred mystifying questions as to how the money is actually being spent, but that’s a different story).

Creating middle class jobs

The message was clear: San Francisco Democrats are here to support the middle class. But that’s a tough sell. Everyone knows that the middle class is vanishing from San Francisco as skyrocketing property values make it increasingly untenable for middle-income earners to reside here.

Instead, recent studies have shown that what’s really on the rise is income inequality: Even the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that the city’s own customized Gini Coefficient, a formula used to measure wealth distribution, puts San Francisco on par with Rwanda in terms of its economic inequality.

Earlier this year, a Brookings Institute report found that the income gap between the city’s rich and poor is growing faster than in any other US city.

We asked Lee about that growing income inequality trend at the press conference… (more)

How much does this job creation program cost per job? Exactly how many middle class jobs do they claim were created by the Central Subway project for San Francisco residents and at what cost. That would be an interesting metric to look at. Total cost of the project divided by the number of middle class jobs.
This must be one of the most expensive job creation programs in history.

 

Alternate Caltrain Extension Study is a Waste of Taxpayer Money and Time

As noted in the press, San Francisco’s self-anointed “Planning Triumvirate “, (comprised of SPUR, the Mayor’s staff and Department of City Planning), wants to remove the northern end of I-280 and replace it with a beautifully-landscaped surface arterial, something on the order of the perpetually-congested Octavia extension of 101.  One of the problems with this scheme is that it would dump I-280 freeway traffic onto a new surface arterial somewhere in the vicinity of 16th Street, thereby preempting the space now occupied by the Caltrain main line tracks, and adding billions of dollars and years to a well-thought-out project that is underway.

If San Francisco adopts this new plan, to proceed with rerouting the main line tracks between 22nd Street and Second & King, it will add billions of dollars to the cost of getting Caltrain to downtown San Francisco and delay the Caltrain extension by an estimated 8 to 10 years.  In the process, this momentous set of changes would result in the unraveling of decisions that were studied, publicly debated, environmentally-cleared and approved by many agencies over a decade ago.  In addition, these late coming bright ideas risk losing funding for the Downtown Caltrain Extension (DTX) entirely, with George Miller gone, and Nancy Pelosi possessing less power to send home the bacon.

Here’s some of what’s wrong with the Planning Triumvirate’s plans:

  • First, it would dump northbound I-280 traffic onto SF surface streets much farther south.
  • Second, in part to make way for the new roadway and shave an inconsequential 90 seconds off the high-speed trip, there is a plan to relocate both the tracks and the current Fourth and King Caltrain Station. These changes, reportedly concocted by individuals with no experience in engineering, tunneling or rail operations, would push up the cost of getting Caltrain downtown by billions of dollars.
  • Third, there’s no money for removing the freeway, much less building the surface-level replacement streets, much less relocating and undergrounding elements of the main line railway.  There are claims that these added infrastructure costs will be covered by proceeds from the planned new development.  Many similar claims in recent years have proven to be inaccurate.
  • Fourth, there is also a plan to move Caltrain’s vital Fourth and King rail storage and staging area to a new site outside San Francisco County.  This action would significantly increase both the capital cost of the project and Caltrain’s operating cost, to the point where it could easily kill Caltrain’s San Francisco service all together.  There are at least two less expensive ways of accommodating Caltrain’s train storage and staging needs, neither of which would require relocation and neither of which would blight the Fourth/Mission Bay area.
  • Fifth, if the Triumvirate’s program were adopted, it would send a decidedly negative signal to prospective private and public DTX investors.  The message would be that, despite the fact that in 1999 the people of San Francisco voted 69.3% for Proposition H extending Caltrain to the new First and Mission Street downtown Terminal, San Francisco’s government is prepared to deviate from this mandate.  If the city with the shining, oncoming $2 billion Transit Terminal slows down the process of connecting the trains, then who from the outside will step in and provide the needed leadership?

The plans for developing the Mission Bay Area, electrifying Caltrain and extending it into downtown San Francisco have been ongoing for over 20 years.  A small group of entities, starry-eyed over replacing the end of I-280 with large-scale development has arrived belatedly on the scene.  They bring with them grandiose development plans and poorly thought-out infrastructure adjustments that threaten to bring progress in that part of San Francisco to a screeching halt.  Moreover, their insistence in making light of long-standing DTX decisions and policies is threatening to knock DTX out of the running for New Starts funding.  Given the vigorous competition between States and cities for coveted New Starts grants, playing around in this way is risky.  As the San Francisco voters said loud and clear in 1999, DTX brings great benefits.  Losing it would be a very big loss for San Francisco.

Concerned Muni Riders

Deal reached to lease out North Beach theater for Central Subway work

By: Will Reisman : sfexaminer – excerpt

A deal has been reached to bring up Muni’s Central Subway machinery at an abandoned theater in North Beach.
The transit agency, along with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and the Mayor’s Office, had been locked in talks to lease out the Pagoda Palace as a way to store equipment and extract tunnel-boring machines needed for the 1.7-mile transit extension project.
Per the agreement, Muni will pay $9.15 million to use the site, which includes up to $3.15 million to building owner Joel Campos for 24 months of rent and other reimbursements. The rest will be spent tearing down the existing building and extracting the machinery.
Originally, Muni had planned on bringing up the machinery in the middle of Columbus Avenue, but backed off after a strong outcry from local residents and merchants.
As part of the deal, city officials have agreed to waive some zoning restrictions for future development at the site. That requires naming the site a special-use district. The Planning Commission is scheduled to vote today on whether to declare the site a special-use district… (more)

RELATED:
Deal Reached for Central Subway Project