When the City Sells Your Street

By Laura Bliss : citylab – excerpt

Fordbikes.jpg

A new corner of a public street next to a public park and across the street from a Muni parking lot sprung up overnight without warning. photo by zrants

The San Francisco millionaires who had their street bought by real-estate investors might not get much sympathy. But when cities sell off real public assets, it’s everyone’s concern…

In a statement provided to CityLab, the HOA puts its perspective this way:[Lam and Cheng] waited over two years to notice the HOA presumably so the property sale would be more difficult to rescind. From their quotes in the newspaper it appears they are opportunistic, know exactly what they bought, and would like to exploit a bureaucratic oversight to their advantage…The mansion-dwellers who lost their street don’t need anyone’s pity. But on second glance, the story is instructive for anyone concerned about the rise of privatized public space and services.

Why did these rich people own a street in the first place?

The mansion-dwellers who lost their street don’t need anyone’s pity. But on second glance, the story is instructive for anyone concerned about the rise of privatized public space and services.

Central to this strange tale is the neighborhood homeowners association. The Presidio Terrace HOA states in its lawsuit that it had owned and maintained the oval-shaped street in question since 1905, when the neighborhood was developed. Its roots go back much further than most...

“Things can sometimes get done in a very off-the-record way, which can also affect what we’d expect from an entity that provides public services: to provide them fairly and efficiently,” says Cheung. Accidental or not, the sale of a road at an obscure city auction, without the knowledge of residents, is an extreme example of what can happen in a neighborhood in the hands of a quasi-private governing body with perhaps questionable management skills.

Similar questions of transparency and accountability come up when cities decide to sell off assets like water systems and parking meters, or contracting out services like trash collection or even police.

And what can the new owners do with it?

The fact that Presidio Terrace was sold to a new private owner—this time, a couple living in another city, with the full intention of turning a dime—echoes another concerning dimension of the privatization trend. When the agenda is profit, public space is no longer fully public…

when actual public streets turn over to private hands, it’s like a little bit of democracyerodes away. Rarely can people organize, gather, or rally in a space where a private owner is liable for injuries and lost business. Clearly, government does not always excel at upholding freedoms of speech and protest. But by nature, in the U.S., private owners are more restrictive...(more)

For a number of years we have been watching and writing about the privatization of public property and hoping that someone with means would take up the fight against the trend.

Hopefully that day has arrived and the courts can deal with the matter in a broader sense than this one event and this one taking and selling. Many excuses for taking public property and handing it over to private enterprises involve the government’s embracing of the so-called “sharing” economy, that is being exposed as a not-so-friendly corporate culture intent on disrupting our lives be convincing us we have not choice but to succumb.

This story raises a number of issues that need to be resolved and hopefully will get more media attention and generate more public involvement.

  1. Noticing is at the top of the list of every complaint being filed or mentioned. In this day of constant communications and overload of information, somehow, the simple task of properly noticing has been lost or abandoned. How can this be fixed? If you can’t notice a few people on a private street that they are in arrears of tax payments, how can you hope to notice a neighborhood that a large project that will change their neighborhood forever is under consideration?
  2. Taking of public property by a government from the pubic with intent to sell or lease it to private entities is a highly questionable practice for many of the reasons the author indicates and effects us all. Many questions need to be answered about this practice.
  3. Where does he authority come from to remove public property from public use?
  4. Who is benefiting from the taking, selling and leasing?
  5. Who is harmed by this practice?
  6. Who is upholding the private property rights? Are public tax-paid officials used by private entities to uphold private rules and regulations on these private properties? Do they send in the sheriff to tow a car or contractor’s vehicle as they send in a sheriff to evict a tenant?
  7. How does this work with the public streets that are being leased to corporations for their private parking use?
  8. What can the public do to take back control of the property?
  9. How can the pubic weigh in on the practice and perhaps reverse or stop it?
  10. Who will take the lead on solving this problem?

RELATED:

San Francisco’s privately owned streets: Do you live on one of them?

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/San-Francisco-s-privately-owned-streets-Do-you-11746359.php

You may want to check this list. It is not a small list of privately owned streets.

Chariot, an alternative to Muni for your downtown/SOMA commute

from Potrero Hill : nextdoor – excerpt

Hi neighbors. If you commute to downtown or SOMA, you might be interested in signing up for Chariot (those blue vans all around town). The route runs along much of the same line as the 10 Townsend but with minimal stops. What’s great about Chariot is that you can reserve a seat in the van, and the price is only $3-5 each way. Plus you can use your commuter benefits, so it’s a win-win.

They still need 49 more people to sign up for the Potrero Pronto line in order to put it into circulation, which is why I’m posting about it here. You can learn more and sign up at https://www.chariot.com/crowdfund/potrer…

Comment from next door… “This is what’s on Next Door Potrero Hill and I’m seeing more and more of the Chariots around town like the two filling up at the 76 where I see the UCSF transport fill up… When I asked if property values were increasing in Wyoming (because I know they are increasing just like here near Jackson Hole), I was told me that there may be transportation created to connect her area to the Jackson Hole airport. I think there is a boom in private transportation.  People are willing to pay for it.  $30.00 to $50.00 / week. Up to $200/mo or $2400 per year as opposed to Muni/Bart card ($120/mo?). SFMTA/Muni are losing customers and revenue… And it was a 7/11 24hour store who delivered the first coffee and diapers? by drone about a month ago…Is the SFMTA obsolete? Is their interpretation of all these changes wrong? Shouldn’t public transportation MUNI be a separate department from roads and parking? Is the SFMTA too big?

IS SFMTA OBSOLETE? Not until voters CUT OFF THE FUNDS and change the balance of power by supporting the SFMTA Charter Amendment on the November ballot. Details here:  stopsfmta.com

There is no way the SFMTA can compete with the comfort and efficiency of the private shuttles and maybe they should not bother. Muni is the cheap alternative cattle ride for the public that has no other option but standing room only crowded buses. This is the third world system – three public transportation options at three different price points for getting around. All we need to make the system complete is a return of the jitney.

 

San Francisco to Study Lowering Speed Limit to 20 mph–or is That an Increase?

By Stephen Frank : capoliticalreview – excerpt

San Fran is geographically a small town, with lots of traffic lights, winding, narrow streets and bike riders that own the roads. Try driving on the 101 freeway, being forced to then drive city streets to the other side of town and then get back on the 101 freeway. The traffic lights are not synchronized so you are forced to stop at almost every block. Yet, some feel good people—folks that want to feel good rather than do good, want to have a city wide 20 mph speed limit. Though almost impossible to drive even that fast, these folks think it will stop pedestrian deaths. We only wish we could drive 20 mph.

I have a better idea. Get the bikes out of the streets so cars don’t swerve into each other avoiding them. Synchronize the traffic lights so traffic can flow and you save gas and save the planet by not having cars idling, waiting for the light to change. Bottom line, these folks need to get a life—and let the rest of us live… (more)

By Bryan Goebel : KQED – excerpt

With growing concern about pedestrian safety in San Francisco, and the city getting on board with a plan to end all traffic deaths within 10 years, Supervisor Eric Mar wants to study lowering speed limits to 20 miles an hour, especially on streets with high collision rates.

“My hope is that as our Vision Zero process for San Francisco moves forward with engineering, enforcement and education, that we also look at policy changes like lowering speed limits, to save lives and make our streets safer,” said Mar. Vision Zero is a plan to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2024. Under the plan, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has identified the most troubling intersections and plans to undertake quick “cost-effective” measures to improve pedestrian safety… (more)

 

SF Leaders Begin $1.5 Billion Push for Transit Funding

by Michael Cabanatuan : McClatchy News Servicegovtech – excerpt

The push is in response to a report issued last fall which called for a series of ballot measures to raise $3 billion to invest in the city’s transportation infrastructure.

It’s no secret that San Francisco leaders plan to ask voters in November to make a big investment in improving the city’s transportation system. On Tuesday, they’ll announce the specifics: a general obligation bond measure and an increase in the vehicle license fee designed to produce $1.5 billion over the next 15 years…

Deadlines loom

The bond measure, which requires eight votes from the Board of Supervisors to make the ballot, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. The vehicle license fee also needs eight supervisorial votes to make the ballot but requires only a majority to pass in November. The advisory measure, which is not binding, needs only six votes to qualify and a majority to pass.

To qualify for the November ballot, the $500 million general obligation bond must be introduced by the Board of Supervisors by next Tuesday, with the vehicle license fee increase and the advisory measure following in the weeks to come. All of the measures face a July 22 deadline to make the ballot.

Proceeds from the ballot measures – if they pass – will be split between projects to improve Muni ($635 million), repave and maintain city streets ($625 million), and make pedestrian and bike improvements to increase safety on city thoroughfares ($296 million).

Muni plans to invest its share of the proceeds in implementing its Transit Effectiveness Project, a plan to overhaul the transit system, including improvements to make service more reliable on the 8X-Bayshore Express, 38/38L-Geary and 14/14L-Mission lines. The agency would also expand its fleet to try to increase service and reduce crowding. Money would also be spent on more transit-only lanes, better stops and updated Muni maintenance centers.

Street paving and curb ramps would be big beneficiaries of the transit tax proceeds. A 2011 bond measure that expires this year provided funds to repave thousands of city blocks. A total of 854 blocks were redone in 2013, and more than 900 are scheduled this year and next. Proceeds from the ballot measures would cover the cost of resurfacing 500 blocks a year.

“This would allow us to maintain the progress we’ve made with streets,” Reiskin said.

Street improvements intended to increase pedestrian safety as well as provide up to 65 miles of safer bike lanes would also be funded. The bike and pedestrian improvements, which include more pedestrian signals, better lighting, wider crosswalks and efforts to slow traffic, would also be funded as part of the city’s commitment to the Vision Zero project that seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.

Counting on passage

While the proposals aren’t on the ballot yet, city officials are banking on passage. The MTA budget, recently approved by the agency’s Board of Directors, tentatively includes funds from ballot measures. Mohammed Nuru, public works director, and Reiskin said the city has projects from street modifications and paving jobs to new bus purchases and transit improvements lined up and ready to build if voters give the go-ahead.

“As soon as the dollars are available,” Reiskin said, “we can start putting the projects on the ground.”… (more)

Everybody is asking where the bond money will go. Here is the answer of the day. The Muni will spend $635 million rearranging bus routes, eliminating bus stops and traffic lanes by creating BRTs on some of the major arterial streets. There is no mention of buying more buses or training more bus drivers.

$625 million to maintain and pave city streets. We know what happened the last time we voted for that one.

$296 million for bike and pedestrian safety. We know what that means.

If this is not your cup of tea, you might want to support the Restore Transportation Balance initiative instead.

Carmageddon cometh

San Francisco needs to radically rethink its transportation system to avoid gridlock. 

STREET FIGHT

San Francisco — already overwhelmed with private automobiles — faces a grim future of gridlock unless there is a radical change in how we think about city streets, parking, and regional transportation.

The facts are clear. Every day there are 1.7 million private car trips to, from, or within the city, according to the city’s transportation plan. Coupled with almost 10,000 vehicles registered per square mile, San Francisco today has one of the densest concentrations of cars on the planet, more than any peer city in the United States. In the business-as-usual scenario, the streets are forecast to absorb another half-million car trips. By 2040 there will be 2.2 million car trips on the exact same street grid we have today… (more)

We all agree on one thing: The system is flawed. Anybody think that the SFMTA will be able to get it together in 2030 when they can’t make it work in 2014? Time for any overhaul of the SFMTA.
Send your complaints to the city officials and demand reform: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/fix-the-mta

Supervisor Scott Wiener steps up heat on S.F. Fire Dept.

by Marisa Lagos : sfgate – excerpt

(04-29) 21:54 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Supervisor Scott Wiener has railed for years against the Fire Department‘s opposition to wider sidewalks and narrower streets – and on Tuesday, he declared an all-out war.

At the heart of the debate is a conflict between safety advocates, who want to see physical changes to city streets that make pedestrians safer, and fire officials, who contend their trucks are too big to navigate narrow streets and intersections.

The issue has been brewing for some time, but apparently boiled over because the Fire Department has been pushing for streets at the Hunters Point and Candlestick Point developments to be 26 feet wide, 6 feet more than what’s legally required. On Tuesday, Wiener accused the department of reopening a planning discussion years after neighbors, community leaders and city officials agreed on a development plan… (more)

The SF Fire Department is responsible for saving lives and property and nothing else. Who is qualified to tell them how to do that?  We put our lives in their hands each time they are called. Slowing down traffic and creating traffic gridlock is adding to their response time and if they don’t object they may be held liable for not doing their jobs.

We should all support emergency responders unless we think we can do a better job of putting out our own fires and rescuing ourselves the next time we need help. If you have had enough of people putting our lives in danger to meet their own objectives, tell the city officials you want to amend the Charter to Fix the MTA:  http://fixthemta.org/

Transit Lovers Oppose Mayor Ed Lee’s Move to Make Parking Free on Sunday Again

By Erin Sherbert : sfweekly – excerpt

Remember how pissed you were when the city decided to start charging drivers to park at meters on Sundays — the one day of parking freedom?

Well, that’s kinda how transit people feel about Mayor Ed Lee’s recent call undo all that and let everyone enjoy free parking on Sundays again. The Transit Riders Union has started a petition opposing the Mayor’s opposition to metered parking on Sundays.

So if you have thoroughly enjoyed shelling out more money the past year for parking, go ahead and sign the petition. On that note, you’ll probably be delighted to know that drivers have to pay for parking today even though it’s MLK Day(more)

Why do cyclists care about six hours of free Sunday parking? They are the ones who started the petition and protest and claim support of Muni riders and “pedestrians”, (as if we aren’t all pedestrian).
Unlike cyclists, people opposed to Sunday enforcement don’t have to run down to city hall to scream and protest. We merely point to the current condition of the streets and reports that accidents are on the rise, to prove that street diets and the war on cars has failed to produce safer streets.
The rise in unruly behavior noted by many is the result of a lot of frustrated people who no longer play by the rules because nobody knows the rules. Before we had freely flowing traffic and an easy going city with polite individuals. Now have a lot of pent up anger and individual animosity acting out on city streets.
It is time to end the war on cars, which is about as popular as the war on drugs. If you feel as we do, consider signing the Stop SFMTA petition:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-sfmta-san-francisco

And if you already signed the petition, write a letter to the Mayor and supervisors thanking them for their support.