Uber and the Ongoing Erasure of Public Life

By Nikil Saval : newyorker – excerpt

Uber has become a subsidized alternative to the public-transportation systems that it claims to support.

Last September, Uber rolled out a rebranding campaign. A new television commercial showed car doors being flung open and the young and the old crowding in, flying out, and ending up in a small open-air mercado or at a lake. Though there were a few drivers, the image presented was of ceaseless, liberating mobility for passengers, anywhere in the world. Uber changed its logo, too, to a demure sans-serif display—white against a black background, its only flourish a modest pair of mirrored stems attached to the “U” and the “b.” This was a significant change. Since 2016, the phone app and the stickers that identified Uber-enabled cars had enjoyed an image designed partly by the co-founder and then-C.E.O. Travis Kalanick: a circle bisected with a cord, placed against the background of a colorful tile. When tilted ninety degrees counterclockwise, some design and technology journalists noted, it looked unmistakably like a human bent over and seen from behind.

The era of what has been referred to as Uber’s “asshole” logo happened to coincide with the company’s longest stretch of bad press, including multiple reports of sexual abuse inside the company and by its drivers. In 2017, the company’s investors ousted Kalanick. His successor, Dara Khosrowshahi, has made considerable efforts to improve the company’s image in advance of a likely I.P.O. this year. Last October, Khosrowshahi, like many corporate leaders, pulled out of a summit held by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, in Riyadh, following the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Uber still benefits from vast infusions of Saudi funding.)… (more)

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California Autobahn? Long-shot bill proposes freeway lanes with no speed limit

By Alyssa Pereira : sfgate – excerpt

Motorists sick of idling in traffic on Interstate 5 in California would theoretically have another option, if a new bill introduced on Friday to the state legislature turns into a reality. But critics say that’s not likely.

State Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange County) introduced SB 319 as a way to ease congestion on I-5 and State Route 99. Moorlach pitched the idea as a way to ease greenhouse gasses from idling cars.

The plan calls for the Department of Transportation to build two additional traffic lanes on the north and southbound directions of both highways. Those lanes would not have speed limits, although drivers in the other pre-existing lanes would still need to abide by the official 65 miles per hour limit… (more)

Replacing High Speed Rail with a High Speed Highway, another bay crossing, and train electrification sounds like a cheaper, easier, faster solution to reducing traffic and congestion, if that is the goal. Without taking a position on any these options, we applaud the thinking outside the box on how to do more with less taxpayer transit dollars. Recent over-budget large public transit projects have not gone well. It is time to shift priorities and do more with less.

San Francisco’s Street-Cleaning Trucks Overloaded, Unsecured

By Bigad Shaban, Robert Campos, and Tony Rutanashoodech – nbcbayarea – excerpt (includes video)

Following an NBC Bay Area investigation, the state agency responsible for investigating workplace hazards, Cal/OSHA, has launched its own probe into potential safety violations inside the San Francisco Public Works Department..

San Francisco’s process for routinely hauling away garbage is inefficient and dangerous, according to whistleblowers, who spoke to the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit. Their concerns come amid a months-long NBC Bay Area investigation, which revealed serious safety violations inside the city’s embattled street cleaning program, including a failure to properly secure loads when transporting garbage across town to the dump. While it’s unclear how long San Francisco Public Works has potentially been breaking state safety laws, violations may date back at least several years.. (more)

 

For people who call vehicles home, SF supe wants to provide safe haven

Supervisor Vallie Brown has been preparing the latest of a round of city legislative efforts to help the rolling homeless get into permanent housing and avoid racking up pricey parking and registration tickets. But getting those people to accept help is always a tough task.

The measure calls for the creation of a “triage center,” where people living in a vehicle could come to access services like showers and bathrooms without fear of their vehicle being towed. They could also then be assessed by homelessness specialists en route to services, if they choose to pursue them.

Brown’s ordinance also seeks to create a pilot program for what she’s calling a “Vehicular Navigation Center,” a safe place to park overnight for people living in a car or RV. Similar initiatives in Seattle and other California cities have been met with mixed results…

Plans in Los Angeles, where the latest official street counts show at least 9,000 people living in vehicles, and in Seattle, where counts show the surrounding county has 2,300 vehicle campers, have been met with such resistance that few have been actually launched. The most successful program is in Santa Barbara, where a program begun in 2004 has grown to include 133 parking spaces…

Sonoma County ran a lot in Santa Rosa with about 80 safe parking spots for several years until 2017, when the state funding used to run it ran out. County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who helped spearhead the program, called it “very successful,” and said she’d like to see it replicated if money ever comes available again…(more)

Supervisors call for financial aid fund for merchants harmed by construction

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

From Chinatown to Van Ness Avenue, long-running, much-delayed Muni construction projects have threatened businesses and even caused some to shut down.

Now San Francisco leaders may have a solution: cold hard cash.

The Board of Supervisors, acting in their capacity as the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, pitched the idea for a “city construction impact mitigation fund” Tuesday morning

Later in the day, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin told the San Francisco Examiner the proposal could potentially throw a wrench into future transit projects.

Right now, “we’re doing record levels of public construction, the likes we have not seen,” he said. But if project costs go too high “depending on how you set the parameters, it limits the amount of work we could do.”

On Tuesday, however, nine out of the eleven supervisors either signaled future support for a construction mitigation fund openly during Tuesday’s transportation authority meeting or told the San Francisco Examiner that they support it… (more)

Right now, “we’re doing record levels of public construction, the likes we have not seen,” he said. But if project costs go too high “depending on how you set the parameters, it limits the amount of work we could do.”

DO NO HARM sounds like a better goal. Protect the businesses by limiting the projects. The goal to finish the projects not start them. The Supervisors could limit the number of contracts in each neighborhood by only awarding one at a time. Finish the Central Subway before cutting up any more streets within a quarter mile of it. If the project is overly complex, move the businesses into empty storefronts on other streets during the construction.

I remember hearing rumors about rules that used to exist that precluded more than one construction project per block. Limiting SFMTA projects to one per neighborhood would save the taxpayers money instead of adding to the cost. Maybe we should have some incentive built into the system that would award the contractor and the project manager for finishing the projects instead of starting them. All those workers can be directed to the few projects that are underway instead of spreading them thinning all over the city.

If you agree, write your supervisors. This could be the key to solving many of our traffic problems faster than anything else we can do. Less construction would get traffic flowing again. Limiting the noise and dust in the air would improve our healthy and relive the stress on our streets while protecting our businesses.  And best of all, it would cost us nothing because doing less costs less.

CASA ‘compact’ needs major changes to protect tenants

By Aimee Inglis : sfexaminer – excerpt

The Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) process has come to a close. The proposal will now move forward through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), and the state legislature. The policies that come out of this process will impact housing, development, and displacement in the whole Bay Area and perhaps even the state.

But at the final vote of the Technical Committee on CASA, Tenants Together voted that the CASA “compact” should not move forward without major changes. We do not endorse the CASA “compact” as-is, and we disagree with many of its proposals. We are releasing this statement to clarify where we disagree and shine a light on this committee process.

What has come out of the process reads as a developer wishlist with few meaningful tenant protections. The tenant protections presented in CASA are more of a baseline from which to build, not model policy. There were several key problems with CASA, as follows:… (more)

NEED A REASON TO HATE CASA?
CASA Compact is supported by San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and (for some reason) Santa Rosa. This is primarily a legislative plan to force development where is is not wanted on hundreds of other cities and counties that do not perform according to the dictates of the Big Four. The real killer is who pays for the development. The plan is to float more taxing legislation at the regional level by promising to fix the roads and relieve traffic congestion THIS TIME, if only the taxpayers will give them more money for red lanes and HOV lanes and bridge tolls and gas taxes. The long plan is to use our money against us. But, don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself.

RELATED:

42 people flew to Manhattan for a three-day event that had no real policy purpose — and MTC is stonewalling on releasing the price tag.

By Zelda Bronstein : 48hills – excerpt

During the final meeting of the CASA Technical Committee on December 12, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf let slip that she and unnamed others had recently taken a trip to New York City. No such trip had appeared on any public agenda.

CASA is the organization that is trying to create a “grand bargain” on housing, although it’s really a developer-friendly coup... (more)

Will a “front door” help San Francisco steer the stampede of emerging technologies testing on its streets?

By Hannah Norman : bizjournals – excerpt

Electric scooters. Delivery robots. Uber and Lyft. Even the soon-to-be shuttered van service Chariot started operating without the approval of San Francisco, with city policies as a secondary thought.

Now San Francisco, which has been ground zero for many emerging technologies, is looking to better keep tabs on the various startups keen on testing or operating their new products in the city. After six months of meetings attended by representatives from over 100 companies, city agencies, think tanks and community organizations, a new report was released Thursday by the Emerging Technology Open Working Group, led by city administrator Naomi Kelly.

“It is clear that technology is part of the social fabric of life in San Francisco,” the report says. “Yet as keepers of the public right-of-way and other public spaces, we must develop appropriate policy measures to mitigate risks and unintended impacts on San Franciscans and our infrastructure.”

The report will next be presented to city’s board of supervisors, likely sometime in January, followed by a hearing… (more)

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Paradise narrowed its main road by two lanes despite warnings of gridlock during a major wildfire

: latimes – (excerpt from November 20, 2018 article)

After a fast-moving fire swept into town a decade ago, burning more than 200 homes and trapping thousands of fleeing residents on gridlocked mountain roads, a grand jury called on officials to improve evacuation routes.

But six years later, the city decided to narrow a portion of the main road through town from four lanes to two as part of an effort in the downtown area aimed at boosting commerce as well as traffic and pedestrian safety.

Two other roads in the city were also narrowed, records show..

The so-called Skyway “road diet” slowed traffic, and a local civic group donated benches and landscaping to beautify the zone.

Nearly two weeks ago, Skyway was the scene of unspeakable horror when the worst wildfire in California history besieged Paradise. Up to 27,000 residents trying to escape the flames instead were stuck in traffic, the buildings around them burning. Some died in their cars when the fire roared over them… (more)

A number of people have raised this issue with San Francisco authorities. How are the evacuation plans supposed to work in San Francisco? We have very few lanes for traffic to flow from the Bay side of of the city to the Western side. Only two streets cross both 101 and 280, and one of those is up for major alterations. How is this making San Francisco safer? How does removing street lanes from evacuation routes make these neighborhoods safe?

City impoundment of RV dwellers’ vehicles challenged as unconstitutional

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

Advocates for the homeless filed a lawsuit against The City and other agencies Wednesday for towing, impounding and selling RVs and other oversized-vehicles without a warrant, alleging that it violates the rights of an already at-risk population.

Under current policy, vehicle owners who have received five or more unpaid parking violations in a given time frame are subject to towing.

The lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday names The City, its Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco Police Department and towing contractor Auto Return. It alleges that owners are often not provided with proper notice or an opportunity to dispute the seizure, even if their vehicles are legally parked, “not involved in any crime or traffic urgency” and provide their only means of shelter… (more)

We were expecting this would go to court. Courts in southern California have so far upheld the rights of the citizens against seizure of property in these cases.

 

 

Towing worsens hardships of Oakland’s homeless

: sfchronicle – excerpt

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has been advising people to stay indoors as smoke from the Camp Fire makes air quality hazardous. I’ve been concerned about how the smoke is impacting people living in the Bay Area without homes.

I thought about Kelly Thompson and his friends, some of whom sleep in tents. Thompson is retired and a Vietnam veteran who lives in a small camper in a West Oakland field. I wrote about him this month after his pickup truck was towed at an RV encampment near 20th and Campbell streets…

The East Bay Community Law Center is part of a coalition of legal aid and civil rights organizations reviewing constitutional issues around the towing of vehicles belonging to homeless people. On Nov. 7, Osha Neumann, a supervising attorney at the law center, sent a letter to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf chiding the city for towing vehicles before it opens places for people to park their RVs and campers without hassle… (more)