Happy May Day!
NEWS BITS: INSPIRED PERCEPTIONS AND SOLUTIONS
2. Celebrating Urbanologist Jane Jacobs’ Birthday
3. Muni Transit = Hospitality Industry
4. Public Transit: Electioneering vs. Reality
5. Commuter Buses: Muni and Neighborhoods
6. Whistleblower Awarded by Journalists
7. Affordable City: Data and Trends
NorthBeachCLEAN: Everyday, everyone picks up 1 piece of paper.
SaveNorthBeachVillage is beta testing its neighborhood project NorthBeachCLEAN, which asks all 20,000 residents, as well as merchants and visitors, to keep our streets clean— by simply picking up 1 piece of paper everyday. If 20,000 people pick up 1 piece of paper everyday, that’s 7.3 million pieces of paper per year. Collective spirit can solve a multitude of societal issues—starting with the world’s cleanest city.
HUFFINGTON POST: Cleanest Cities In The World: Tokyo, Singapore Top TripAdvisor’s 2012 City Survey
THE TRENT: 10 Cities With The Cleanest Streets in The World (Photos)
CNN VIDEO: Future Cities—A Clean Kigali [Rwanda]
Cleaning Day: This promotes teamwork, and gives everyone a personal stake in the beauty, progress, and success of their city.
In Kigali City, Rwanda, the last Saturday of each month, is a compulsory day of cleaning, when all business comes to a stop in Kigali City, Rwanda. Everyone including the President partakes in cleaning the city, and this cleaning day has helped Rwanda recover from genocide and civil war in multiple ways by creating a sense of purpose and togetherness amongst the people.
“Keeping our streets clean, keeping our homesteads clean, ourselves clean, is not something we need to go out looking for resources. It is something we have within ourselves, why not start from that? It becomes a culture, it becomes a way of life.”
—Paul Kagame, Rwandan President
SUNWORDS.COM: Why is Kigali [Rwanda] so clean and orderly?
Seeing is believing. Even so, the evidence of my own eyes was hard to believe. The roads and pavements of Kigali are spotless. Forget about plastic bags, which are banned: you would struggle even to find scraps of paper or food lying around.
How can this be, I asked myself? How can this city pull this off, this feat that most cities in Africa and Asia patently cannot? So I set off on foot around Kigali, to observe for myself, to talk to the ordinary people and not just the policy-makers.
Here’s what I saw: people simply do not litter. They don’t step out of their doorways and throw stuff out on the street. They don’t toss things out of their cars like imbeciles. Even children in schools seem to dispose of things properly.
GLOBAL POST: The 10 safest cities in the world
NOTE: Cleanest cities and safest cities seem to have a correlation. Perhaps, the commonality is a collective self-discipline. No harm in engaging everyone—from children to seniors every day of the year.
Everyday, everyone picks up 1 piece of paper.
Celebrating Urbanologist Jane Jacobs’ Birthday (May 4, 1916)
Jane Jacobs, famed urbanologist and community activist, simply observed what made neighborhoods great and livable—what many took for granted and what others wanted to supplant. Her simple urban wisdom helped save Greenwich Village, stopped Manhattan/ Toronto freeways and transformed the field of urban planning. Her longtime editor, Jason Epstein, said: “Every time you see people rise up and oppose a developer, you think of Jane Jacobs.”
Jane Jacobs Walk 2015: The Embarcadero to Chinatown
SATURDAY, MAY 2, 10AM—NOON
SaveNorthBeachVillage’s Interactive walk with potluck lunch.
Start: 10am at Washington & Drumm Streets (at The Embarcadero). Strolling west on Washington Street past Portsmouth Square, we turn northward on busy Stockton Street to North Beach.
End: Noon Potluck lunch at Piazza (Rossi) Market, Vallejo & Columbus Avenue.
Cost: Free (just bring food or drink).
What makes a neighborhood vibrant … or not?
We will discuss the contrast between the Washington Street area near the Embarcadero and the neighborhoods in Chinatown and North Beach (both honored as top neighborhoods by the American Planning Association). Share your observations and bring Jane Jacobs material.
For the potluck lunch, bring food or drink to share. Potluck items may be dropped off Saturday morning at Piazza Market (Vallejo & Columbus) before the walk from 9am–10am. Plates, cups & utensils will be provided. For a last-minute contribution, Molinari Deli is next door, or put a few bucks in the jar to help pay for ice and supplies.
BIBLIO FILE: Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City
Flint [author] talked about Jane Jacobs and her battle with Robert Moses over city planning issues. He talked about how she essentially single handedly challenged Robert Moses’ vision, the status quo at the time. Jane’s battle also took place in a man’s world and not likely to give in to the demands of a woman, who was a mother, no less. The odds were against her. Jane Jacobs had an intuitive sense of what makes a neighborhood thrive, without the backing of a formal education. By simply opening her eyes she took in all the sights and sounds of a busy bustling city.
Anthony Flint’s story of the clash between Jane Jacobs a courageous woman from humble beginnings and Robert Moses who had never lost a fight is legendary. Jane and her family moved to Toronto at the end of the 1960s. She died in Toronto on April 25, 2006. This last excerpt is from the last paragraph of Anthony Flint’s book Wrestling with Moses.
“The morning after Jane Jacobs died, the owner of the Art of Cooking, the housewares store occupying 555 Hudson Street in Greenwich Village, went to unlock the door and open for business. She found bouquets of lilies and daisies at the doorstep and an unsigned note: ‘From this house, in 1961, a housewife changed the world.”
Muni Transit = Hospitality Industry
Although Muni’s per capita ridership has declined over the decades, other businesses have grown exponentially. Irrespective of scale or luxury, simple things add up—cleanliness, courtesy, design, details, neatness, safety…. By management skills, not necessarily funding, Muni transit can assume the mantra of the hospitality industry.
SaveMuni = FRISC
Fast, Frequent, Reliable, Inexpensive, Safe, Clean and “Cool”.
URBANFUL: The epic ads that make us want to ride public transit [Funny Videos]
The Nickel Tour: Public transportation can get a bad reputation. So some cities are getting creative with their marketing.
Public transportation may be a common staple in every city, but just because it’s everywhere doesn’t mean it’s used by everyone. In fact, getting people to take public transportation can be a bit like getting an entire city to collectively take medicine: People know it’s good for them, but will fight it, anyway.
According to a recent report by The New York Times, there are also negative social connotations associated with riding mass transit that deter people from doing so, especially when it comes to riding the bus. The report cites a 2009 study in which researchers found that “riding the bus carries a ‘shame factor.’” Of the sample studied, most of the “choice riders” said they wouldn’t consider riding the bus, and if they did, they’d feel ashamed.
Public Transit: Electioneering vs. Reality
It’s an election year! SFMTA’s press releases are heavy with good news—new vehicles (many years away), new bus shelters/ maps and more transit-preferential streets. But despite billions of dollars of past expenditures, per capita Muni ridership has declined. As long as politics and land-use schemes trump transit, bad funding choices will hobble Muni—as the below data demonstrates.
▪ MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) data for 2015 modal shares (for all trips) show 41% by car, 33% by walking, 25% by transit and 1.4% by bicycle. Transit modal share of 25% has not changed since 2000. In fact, it declined from 1990’s 31% and 40%+ in past decades.
▪ Worse, MTC predicts stagnant 25% transit modal shares in 2025 and 2030—no gains.
▪ Far worse, MTC predicts more traffic gridlock in 2025—with 166,000 more daily car trips within and entering San Francisco. By 2030, an additional 95,000 car trips.
▪ Meanwhile, Muni’s 2014 on-time-performance dropped from 60% to 54%—far below the 85% mandated by 1999’s Proposition E.
▪ New Muni improvements do not implement a citywide Transit-Preferential Streets Program, prioritized by voters in 2003’s Proposition K. New rapid bus corridors come at the expense of neighborhood connector routes (shortened bus lines, less frequency, eliminated bus stops…).
▪ New Muni improvements do not restore past service cuts. Since 2006, Muni has cut service in every neighborhood, decreased annual vehicle revenue miles/ hours, eliminated 6 bus lines, shortened 22 routes, deferred maintenance, increased missed runs/ switchbacks/ late buses, increased fares/ fees/ fines/ meters (1,549,518 parking citations yearly)…
▪ Without a citywide Transit-Preferential Streets (TPS), San Francisco will not reach the 60% transit modal shares of Zurich, Bogota and Curitiba—all creating integrated TPS decades ago.
▪ SaveMuni’s 2015 Goals include definitive objectives to transform Muni.
1. Double transit ridership by 2025, from 25% of all trips to 50% of all trips.
2. Make the Caltrain Extension to the new Transbay Transit Center the #1 funding priority.
3. Raise Muni’s on-time performance to 85% by 2025.
4. Implement a citywide Transit Preferential Streets Program.
▪ SFMTA has ignored established priorities—instead funding boondoggles like the Central Subway (draining $605 million of state/ local funds from the rest of Muni)).
1. 1973: San Francisco adopted the Transit-First Policy.
2. 1999: Voters approved Prop H for the Downtown Caltrain Station.
3. 2003: Voters approved Prop K, prioritizing citywide Transit-Preferential Streets.
4. 2010: Voters approved Prop G for the Downtown Caltrain Extension.
▪ Real Estate interests are lobbying for projects not set as priorities in the Mayor’s Transportation Task Force Report, such as the Central Subway extension to the waterfront.
▪ Modernization of the entire Muni system should take priority over a short subway with small new ridership .
▪ The highest transportation priorities should be the Downtown Caltrain Extension, E-Line, citywide Transit Preferential Streets, restoring cuts of night/ neighborhood services and Free Shuttle Bus Loops—quicker and cheaper for the short 1.5 miles from Downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf.
CHRONICLE: “Bay Area transit ridership down despite subsidies, enticements”
“Despite tens of billions of dollars in government subsidies and countless incentives, the percentage of Bay Area commuters taking mass transit hasn’t gone up a bit in more than two decades — in fact, it’s declined.
A new study by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission found that while ridership has hit record numbers on BART and Caltrain as the Bay Area’s population has grown, per capita usage of transit has dropped 14 percent since 1991.
In other words, despite all the BART extensions and the new light-rail and bus lines, the slice of the morning commuters jumping into their cars to go work has pretty much stayed the same since before Bill Clinton was president.”
“Another issue is the politics of mass-transit spending. Millions have been pointed at bike lanes and the Central Subway to San Francisco’s Chinatown, while heavily populated corridors such as Mission Street and Geary Boulevard remain bus-only afterthoughts.”
“One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that car use shows no sign of letting up.”
Commuter Buses: Muni and Neighborhoods
Corporate bus delays Muni 24 Bus at southbound Castro/ 25 Street.
Dolores between 22/ 23 Streets.
No fee is paid at parking stalls.
Corporate bus obstructs narrow 2-way Vicksburg at Elizabeth Street.
Corporate buses delay traffic at Muni bus stop—24th/ Church Streets.
Private corporate buses have had deleterious impacts on Muni, streets, traffic, pedestrians, bicycles, neighborhoods, livability and quality of life. The commuter buses are huge vehicles (noisy and polluting), difficult turning on narrow streets and clogging traffic. Ironically, the City has banned even smaller tour buses from neighborhoods.
Violations of Muni’s current pilot program include illegal stops, travel on narrow streets, damage to street paving and the blockage of Muni buses. After years of improvement, Muni’s 2014 on-time-performance dropped from 60% to 54%—still far below the 85% mandated by 1999’s Proposition E. The trend for more corporate buses will further disrupt streets and Muni schedules.
Current corporate buses are the tip of the iceberg. More future corporate buses (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Facebook, Salesforce, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Adobe, Netflix, Genentech and other companies) will burden city streets more and more. With additional private shuttles (UCSF, Kaiser, Academy of Arts, PresidioGo, Mission Bay, SF State…) and for-profit commuter buses (Chariot, Leap…), the City’s public transit trends are untenable and unsustainable.
A better transit plan is needed, integrating Muni public transit.
Muni transit can connect to commuter hubs. Smaller vans in neighborhoods can connect to transportation hubs for inter-city buses. A regional express bus system can be implemented—as studied ten years ago but never implemented. The Downtown Caltrain Extension should be accelerated. Separate transportation expenditures by uncoordinated companies can fund an integrated Muni free shuttle system—available to the general public connecting transportation hubs to regional nodes.
As an example to follow, Mountain View recently initiated a free public shuttle bus loop connecting downtown and Caltrain—paid for by Google. Otherwise, private corporate commuter shuttles will widen social and transportation inequity—with elite buses for the privileged and a hobbled Muni transit system for everyone else.
MOUNTAIN VIEW: “Free shuttle to connect tech companies and downtown”
The service will be a consolidation of five separate employer shuttle systems. “Through this consolidation, approximately 12,000 shuttle vehicle miles are saved per year,” said Denise Pinkston, chair of the board operating the system.
The biggest employers and office developers in the city are paying for the service, including Google and LinkedIn, thanks to a requirement placed on new office development by the Mountain View City Council.
Whistleblower Awarded by Journalists
The Northern California Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ Norcal) Freedom of Information Committee hosted their 30th Annual awards dinner on March 12, 2015 at the San Francisco City Club. Among the honorees was LaVonda Atkinson, who received a Whistleblower Award for exposing wrongdoing in her city government.
Acceptance Speech: Video of LaVonda Atkinson’s inspiring speech.
LaVonda Atkinson speech starts at 3:40 minutes.
Whistleblowers Exposing Corruption In Public Agencies—Stacie Plummer and LaVonda Atkinson – YouTube
Whistleblower Revelations Lead to Better Reports
Due in part to LaVonda Atkinson’s efforts, a new independent Project Management Oversight Consultant (PMOC) is writing more thorough reports, in assessing potential cost overruns of the Central Subway.
In the latest PMOC Report:
SCHEDULE: “Although, in the opinion of the PMOC, if the contractor’s schedule update is accurate, the available float in the schedule has been consumed.”
COST: “The total available contingency is $81.22 million, which is below the minimum required contingency of $140 million.”
Remember that the $1.6 billion Central Subway Project has already drained $605 million of state/ local funds from other Muni needs—impacting service and maintenance. Any further cost overruns will take more state/ local funds from the Muni system.
Affordable City: Data and Trends
Affordable housing is a public policy choice. Government is responsible for balancing the consequences of public policy on land/ property values—whether disproportionate luxury development, rezoning, special use districts, variances, transit-oriented development, subways…. Government can plan for and incentivize a broad range of housing:
NBC NEWS: “Tech Boom Fuels Elderly Evictions in San Francisco”
HUFFINGTON POST: “Mary Phillips, 98, Evicted From San Francisco Apartment After Living There for 50 Years”
YOUTUBE: “Hitler Tries to Rent an Apartment in San Francisco” [Fun video]
NEW YORK TIMES: Stream of Foreign Wealth Flows to Elite New York Real Estate
Vast sums are flowing unchecked around the world as never before — whether motivated by corruption, tax avoidance or investment strategy, and enabled by an ever-more-borderless economy and a proliferation of ways to move and hide assets.
Alighting in places like London, Singapore and other financial centers, this flood of capital has created colonies of the foreign super-rich, with the attendant resentments and controversies about class inequality made tangible in the glass and steel towers reordering urban landscapes.
48% of the buyers in the San Francisco Bay Area used shell companies.
The precise impact of wealthy foreigners on the city may be more complex, though. As nonresidents, they pay no city income taxes and often receive hefty property tax breaks.
48 HILLS: San Francisco is almost losing ground on affordable housing
San Francisco isn’t coming anywhere near close to its affordable housing goals and is actually close to losing
ground, a new study shows.
The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project has tracked the gain in new below-market housing – the units that the city has managed to build – but also the loss – the number of affordable rent-controlled units destroyed by evictions and TIC or condo conversions.
The data shows that the city has lost nearly as many units as it’s gained. Since 2007, 4,978 affordable units have been produced. In the same period, 3,278 have been lost. That leaves a net gain of just 1,700 units.
ANTI-EVICTION MAPPING PROJECT: http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/develop.html
48 HILLS: Affordable housing built in the Mission: Less than 7 percent
A community that needs more low-cost housing is getting exactly what it doesn’t need.
EXAMINER OPINION: Public land ideal for affordable housing
There’s been a lot of talk lately about using our publicly controlled lands for housing development. This would be an important step in city policy. However, we need to go one step further and be clear to reserve public lands for affordable housing if The City is to meet its affordable housing goals for all residents of San Francisco.
Despite a 2002 Surplus Property Ordinance that resulted in two properties for affordable housing, The City has not aggressively pursued securing a portfolio of public sites for this purpose.
As new discussions get under way about the potential development of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Balboa Reservoir and City College of San Francisco seems poised to sell its property at 33 Gough St. to market-rate developers, it is more important than ever to establish a firm policy that underutilized publicly owned lands — a scarce and precious public resource — go to achieving The City’s critical affordable-housing needs. The City needs to be very clear that there is a priority for low-income housing on every suitable public site.
This is not just our recommendation, but The City’s obligation, as set out in the housing element of the general plan and last year’s Proposition K. Updated every five years, the housing element is a legally required plan for housing all of San Francisco’s current and projected residents, including the amount of housing The City needs to build at each level of affordability.
According to the current housing element, 60 percent of housing built in The City should be affordable to moderate- and low-income residents. Furthermore, voters passed Prop. K last fall, mandating The City to achieve a minimum 33 percent balance of affordable to market-rate housing, as a step toward reaching the housing element goals.
NEW YORK TIMES: “Middle-Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up”,
“However the lines are drawn, it is clear that millions are struggling to hang on to accouterments that most experts consider essential to a middle-class life.”
“The middle class has shrunk consistently over the past half-century. Until 2000, the reason was primarily because more Americans moved up the income ladder. But since then, the reason has shifted: There is a greater share of households on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.”
“As the middle class has shrunk, its composition has changed, with people 65 and older making up the fastest-growing segment. Meanwhile, married couples with children, who have seen their incomes grow, have diminished as a share of the middle class.”
Supervisor Race Sparks Ideas.
District 3 is a microcosm of San Francisco’s complex issues. With persistent problems hitting more and more people, experienced and knowledgeable leaders are a good thing—to get the best ideas. Irrespective of political bent, as Rose Pak said: “Aaron Peskin has been good on most issues.” His candidacy will certainly stir complacency and the status quo.
EXAMINER: Peskin announces candidacy for SF District 3 supervisor seat
In an interview with The Examiner, Peskin said he was running because San Francisco needs its politically experienced leaders to step up. “It’s the best of times and the worst of times in San Francisco,” Peskin told The Examiner. “I don’t feel like I can sit on the sidelines, when I have experience fighting for decades for everyday San Franciscans.” District 3 encompasses Chinatown, North Beach and Telegraph Hill.
Peskin was elected to head the district in 2000 and 2004, and also served as board president.
Peskin said amending the Costa Hawkins act, a state rent control ordinance, would be a key tenet of his campaign. Though the Board of Supervisors has no direct control over state law.
FOG CITY JOURNAL: Political Shock Wave: Peskin Announces D3 Candidacy
Known for his creative legislative talent, oration skill, and for a Machiavellian style of politicking to achieve results, Peskin made the announcement outside the Nob Hill apartment building where 18 months ago an elderly Chinese-American couple and their disabled daughter was evicted after living in the building for 34 years. The Lee family was ousted by their landlord using provisions of California’s Ellis Act, taking advantage of the soaring costs of housing due to the influx of highly paid tech workers seeking housing.
“The facts are stunning and frightening,” Peskin lamented. “Evictions caused by the Ellis Act have doubled every year for the past three years. Median rent in San Francisco today has shot up to over $3,500 per month. Homelessness, always a vexing issue, is growing and seemingly more intractable each cycle. And it’s not just renters and the poor; the middle class is rapidly disappearing from San Francisco.”
Seventy percent of District 3 residents are tenants, the highest ratio of renters to homeowners in the City.
“Last year alone, some 2,000 tenants were evicted, told to pack up, get out and move – and after eviction they faced rent prices that could be double or triple what they could afford,” Peskin added. “Of the 14,448 housing units approved, but not yet built in this city as of the third quarter of last year, only 839 (units) are to be affordable to the middle class – that’s just 6 percent.”
48 HILLS: Peskin announces run as former mayoral ally slams Ed Lee and his D3 appointee
Rose Pak, endorsing Aaron Peskin, calls the mayor “isolated” and says all he cares about is tech money as D3 campaign moves into full gear.
Peskin chose the site of the Lee family eviction to hold his first formal campaign event – and Mrs. Lee joined him. “It was not my plan to run again for office,” he said. “But small businesses, artists, tenants, even legacy businesses are being forced out of town. … Last year alone, 2,000 tenants were evicted. Of 14,480 housing units approved or in the pipeline for construction, only 839 are afford able to the middle class, and that’s less than six percent.
WEBSITE: Aaron Peskin For Supervisor