Why is it so hard for the Bay Area to build megaprojects?

By Benjamin Schneider : curbed – excerpt

Major infrastructure projects are necessary for the Bay Area to address climate change and keep its growing population moving

When the newly opened Salesforce Transit Center closed to repair cracked steel beams in September 2018, local-news junkies and transportation boosters felt a sense of deja vu. The steel beam situation was eerily similar to the saga of the defective “steel rods” on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which needed structural reinforcement just as the new bridge was about to open. Both projects shared another defect: ballooning budgets that bore no resemblance to initial estimates.

These recurring difficulties with the Bay Area’s megaprojects have become the stuff of negative headlines around the country, and are seized upon as ammunition by opponents of visionary infrastructure projects. But a frank reckoning with the state of megaproject delivery in the Bay Area is just as important for supporters of mass transit and green infrastructure as it is for the naysayers. With even more (and more complex) projects on the horizon—including the high-speed rail, which will connect LA with SF via the Central Valley, and a second Transbay Tube—the Bay Area needs to get megaproject delivery back on track.

Curbed SF spoke to experts in this field to better understand where the Bay Area’s megaprojects have gone wrong, and what they can do differently in the future. It all starts with extensive preplanning, according to Karen Trapenberg Frick, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, who wrote Remaking the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge about the arduous replacement of the eastern span…

“As soon as we’re angling for the first dollar, when this thing’s real, we need to establish independent external peer review,” she says. With both the Salesforce Transit Center and the Bay Bridge, comprehensive, external oversight only came after major problems were detected. Planning and peer review can also help with budgeting and project management. Experts should be in the room with planners and policymakers, telling them, “These projects are hard, they take a long time, they’re going to cost more than we think,” says Trapenberg Frick….

“Don’t, unless absolutely necessary, try to invent anything new. Look at what is being done in other places where costs are low and performance is high, and just copy it.”

(more)

Considering all the problems we have seen unfold with megaprojects, the public should not trust the government process based on “optimism bias” as the author so aptly puts it.

Much the problem, as in the case of the Millennium tower, comes from lack of communication, between departments, designers, and engineers. Perhaps an earlier peer review would help.

Hiring experts who have successfully completed projects is a no-brainer as, is using existing systems.

Why traffic laws are not being enforced

Comments from a concerned citizen

The city outgrew the infrastructure and LOS (level of service) some time ago. There are too few police, firemen, Muni drivers, teachers, 911 emergency call center operators, etc. for the current level of population. Not only do we have more people living in San Francisco, the population swells during the day making it impossible for the traffic control officers to do a proper job. To make matters more difficult, City Hall dedicates huge amounts of money to planning for future growth instead of fixing the problems we have today. SFMTA can’t hire and train enough operators but they did manage to push their PR department from 4 employees to 55 to try to convince you that you should be happy with “their service”. Are you?

Keeping police officers on the streets is one aspect of the development policy that the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) was supposed to take into consideration, and did until recently. Now they just create a record that shows they took CEQA into consideration and found that they could do nothing to mitigate the “harm” that might come from the new project under consideration and approve it anyway. You may thank your state government and the courts for overriding the local government laws and policies and protections our residents voted for to keep a healthy balance between growth and services. Now we just have forced growth.

If you are paying attention to local Planning Commission hearings you have heard residents and local neighborhood organizations warning about the lack of infrastructure growth to support the increased population. Instead of taking these concerns into consideration, our state representatives have rewritten laws to avoid slowing growth to match LOS (the level for service needed to serve the community.)

In the next few days you will see a number of street actions that are an attempt to bring this unbalanced growth to the attention of the public and an attempt to suggest a better plan going forward to return the city to a more pleasant standard of living. You will also see some new faces running for office that offer a different narrative.

If you don’t like the way things are, you might consider making some changes when you can.

State Legislature & Governor Approve 18 New Housing Bills & Eliminate Single Family Zoning

By Sharon Rushton : marinpost – excerpt

On October 9th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed 18 bills designed to promote housing production. A number of these housing bills take away local control of land use, substantially increase housing density and population potential, and establish streamlined ministerial approval processes for housing projects, thereby exempting these projects from public engagement and the California Environmental Quality Act approval process.

And SAY GOODBYE TO SINGLE FAMILY ZONING!

The subsequent housing densification and population growth will increase the risk of adverse impacts on the environment, public health and safety, traffic congestion, infrastructure, utilities (water supply), public services (schools), views, sunlight, privacy, neighborhood character, and quality of life.

The bills will create unfunded mandates due to the fact that there is no funding for dealing with the above listed significant impacts. Communities will be forced to substantially increase taxes to try to alleviate the adverse impacts, although many will be unavoidable… (more)

RELATED:

Newsom Rejects California Housing Bill that would have raised Billions for Projects

By Hannah Wiley : sacbee – excerpt

… The legislation would have, for the next 30 years, shifted millions of dollars from local property tax revenues to pay for a variety of affordable housing projects. Local jurisdictions would have applied for the funding, to be used for initiatives like transit-oriented development and infrastructure planning…

State Sen. Jim Beall, a San Jose Democrat and author of SB 5, said the legislation would have added financial urgency to the state’s housing crisis… (more)

This is relevant to the changes coming to our streets because the Land Use and Transportation are now being driven by a joint effort to force changes through transit controls. The Transportation Authorities are now in the Housing development and funding business. These bills are a part of the larger plan to divide, disrupt and control. Elect people you trust to listen to your needs when you can.

Chase Center: A giant roomba that is still a bad idea

By Stuart Schuffman : sfexaminer – excerpt

Given this incredible propensity for screwing up huge projects, none of us should be surprised that The City went ahead with this absurdly placed arena.

With the official opening of the Warriors’ new home, the Chase Center, just a few weeks away, I’d like to take this moment to remind the Bay Area what an absolutely stupid idea it was to build this thing. For a town that likes to pride itself on being on the forefront of everything, San Francisco is irredeemably shortsighted when it comes to urban planning…

Given this incredible propensity for screwing up huge projects, none of us should be surprised that the city went ahead with this absurdly placed arena, despite plenty of public outcry…

From when this arena was first announced, much of the opposition to it centered around not just the fact that we’ve somehow decided to make traffic even worse for 50+ extra days a year, but the question of “How can emergency vehicles get through.”… (more)

For the last 10 years the Port and the SFMTA have conspired to turn SF into Battery Park West. Nothing they have done to improve the Bay or access to it has improved anything. We now have complete gridlock as planned. And that is not just private vehicles we are talking about. Try moving on the T-Line, The L-Tarval, or the BART. People are tired of the game. What is going to happen if PG&E shuts down service for a day? Five days? Better have an exit plan. It will not be pretty.

Braking problem brings SFMTA expansion plans for Siemens purchase to a screeching halt.

Three strikes and the new Siemens are out!

1. Dangerous doors.
2. Braking problems
3. Coupling problems

What will it take to convince the disillusioned pubic that they can trust the Muni Monsters who created this chaos to fix it now that we know they hid problems for months, using the public as guinea pigs. Wait for the lawsuits.

RELATED:

Braking problems putting Muni’s new trains out of commission

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

At any one time, roughly half of Muni’s fleet of new train cars is out of service due to mechanical issues, transit officials acknowledged Tuesday…

Many supervisors voiced concern they were kept in the dark.

“I’m a little shocked we are asked to fund a $62 million contract and yet we are not hearing this type of information on what happened and what you have discovered,” said Supervisor Sandra Fewer… (more)

 

 

UPDATE: State launches investigation into Muni doors that trapped and dragged a woman

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt (includes video)

State regulators have launched an investigation into Muni’s allegedly malfunctioning doors and broken couplers.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees rail safety in California, has confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner its staff launched a probe into both issues.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees rail safety in California, has confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner its staff launched a probe into both issues.

“Yes, we are aware and we’re investigating what occurred and why,” said Constance Gordon, a spokesperson for the CPUC. “We’re looking at both the door concerns and the coupler pin issue on the new SFMTA cars.”

Both stories hit this week in two investigative reports: Muni’s door problems were exposed by the Examiner, and its coupler pin issues were exposed by NBC Bay Area. NBC Bay Area first reported the state investigation(more)

How many mistakes does the SFMTA have to make before someone shows the director the door? Can we start applying expectations of honesty to our local officials? When does a false or misleading statement rise to the level of a lie?

We anticipate some lively discussion at the Board of Supervisors meetings this week. We will be shocked if they approve the purchase of these vehicles at this time, but, not holding out breath either.

 

Lengthy Ford GoBike approval process could get even longer

By Joe Fritzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

IMG_3417IMG_3530

Bike stands on Bryant Street are emtpy in the day. Staff fills them at night.

Members of San Francisco’s transportation board have asked transportation staff to delay the installation of a Ford GoBike station in Glen Park, citing a lack of neighborhood outreach…

Ford GoBike’s expansion has been slowed citywide by the concerns of neighbors and San Francisco’s elected officials, the San Francisco Examiner reported previously. Recently, however, that freeze-out has begun to thaw: The Marina District will see its first two Ford GoBike stations installed in March, for instance.

There are 152 Ford GoBike stations in San Francisco right now with about 1,900 available bikes, but a full planned build-out would place 320 stations and 4,500 available bikes in The City…(more)

Thanks to the people who showed up to speak on this subject at the SFMTA Board meeting today. At a time that Muni is failing in its efforts to gain ridership and keep their buses and trains running on schedule, it pains the public to see so much SFMTA staff time and energy being put into supporting a corporate giant like Lyft, who owns the GoBikes now. Why are city employees spending public dollars and energy to force this corporate giant down the throats of the citizens who oppose it?

Lyft should hire lawyers and the public attorneys should support the efforts of the citizens who pay their salaries. How much did this hearing cost the public today? How many staff hours went into the preparation and presentation and how much was spent developing the reports and statements in behalf of the corporate giant?

RELATED:
Supes, neighbors block Ford GoBike’s citywide expansion
Ford GoBike expansion fuels neighborhood conflict as Lyft plans bikeshare growth

 

 

 

Reopening Of Stockton Street Marks Milestone In Central Subway Project

sanfrancisco.cbslocal – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — After being closed for seven years, a portion of Stockton Street in downtown San Francisco reopened Thursday, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials announced.

Stockton Street between Geary and Ellis streets had been closed for construction of the underground Central Subway, which is set to connect riders from the South of Market neighborhood to Chinatown…

“Stockton Street is a major commercial artery and bus route that brings life into the heart of District Three,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin said in a statement. “For many residents in Chinatown and North Beach, this throughway also represents equitable and undisrupted access to downtown jobs and services…

The SFMTA has committed itself to building this vital link between two of San Francisco’s most iconic communities… (more)

“The SFMTA has committed itself to building this vital link between two of San Francisco’s most iconic communities.” 

How about reopening Mission Street to rebuild the vital link between two of San Francisco’s other most iconic Latino communities? Isn’t the cultural historical character of the Mission as important as any other in the city or do we detect a hint of discrimination against the Mission? Tear down the wall on Mission Street. Remove the barriers to trade and commerce in the Mission.

SFMTA Proposes Parking Changes to Prepare for Chase Event Center Opening

Public letter from SFMTA:

Dear Dogpatch and Potrero Neighbors and Visitors,

The Chase Event Center, located at 16th and 3rd Streets, is expected to open its doors in August 2019.

The 18,000-seat Event Center could host over 200 sports and entertainment events annually, including up to 50 to 60 Warriors home games, which will start at 7:30 pm on weekdays and 5:30 pm on weekends.

In anticipation of the opening, the SFMTA has worked with the nearby neighborhoods to develop a plan to discourage people from driving to Chase Center events and to maintain parking availability for nearby residents and businesses during events.  The SFMTA presented these plans to neighborhood associations for their feedback, including the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA), the Potrero Boosters and the Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA). Based on feedback received at these meetings, the SFMTA prepared a proposal for changes to the hours of parking enforcement and meter rates.

Special event meter pricing and extended Residential Permit Parking (RPP) enforcement hours on streets surrounding Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park), home of the San Francisco Giants, have proven effective at maintaining parking availability for residents and local business customers.  As you may have experienced during games and other events at Oracle Park, meter rates are $7 per hour during events, while RPP Area Y parking is enforced from 8 am to 10 pm every day.

The SFMTA proposes to implement similar measures on blocks potentially impacted by the new Chase Event Center. The proposed parking changes, which are illustrated in the attached map, include:

  •  Metered parking
    • The metered blocks listed below and shown on the attached map will have:
    • Enforcement until 10 p.m. Mon-Sat
    • Enforcement 4-8pm on Sundays with events
    • $7/hour special event rates starting an hour before events
  • Metered blocks affected:
    • 7th Street between Daggett Street and Hooper Street will be enforced until 10 p.m.
    • Metered blocks in the Dogpatch north of 22nd Street between Indiana and Illinois Streets
    • 16th Street between 7th and Vermont (meters already legislated, to be installed after 22-Fillmore transit improvements are completed)
    • New signs will be posted on special event metered blocks to inform drivers to check the meter for current rates
  • Residential permit parking
    • All Area EE blocks will be enforced Monday through Saturday until 10 p.m.
    • Some Area X blocks (see attached map) east of Wisconsin Street and north of 18th Street enforced Monday through Saturday until 10 p.m.
    • Existing time limits (1-hour or 2-hour, depending on the block) will remain the same
  • General time-limited parking                       
    • The 4-hour general time-limited parking will not change
    • 4-hour general time limits will continue to be enforced between 8 am and 6 pm, Monday through Friday

We want to know what you think. Comments on the proposal received prior to February 25th will be considered as we prepare the final proposal.  Please send your comments to pamela.johnson@sfmta.com

In order for the modified hours of enforcement to be in place by the time the Chase Event Center holds its first events, the final proposal would need to be presented at the SFMTA Engineering Public Hearing in March, tentatively scheduled for March 8th at City Hall. (Check the SFMTA website for actual public hearing date).

Depending on the outcome of the public hearing, the SFMTA Board of Directors could consider these changes at an April board meeting.  This will allow new signs to be ordered and installed in August or September.

We will send updates when the Public Hearing and SFMTA Board of Directors meeting dates have been finalized.

For more information visit: Special event meter pricing.

Map of Proposed Parking Enforcement Changes.jpg

SFMTA extends special event parking for sports fans into more neighborhoods.  SFMTA intends to turn most of Mission Bay, part of Dogpatch, and most of the SE part of Southbeach into event parking for the sports fans.

Let Mat Haney and Shamann Walton know how you feel about this plan. How much should the citizens of SF give up to the wealthy fans of wealthy ball teams and owners? How many ticket holders are going walk a quarter mile to a game, especially through the kind of streets we have in SOMA? Most will park and take an Uber or Lyft to the event. If you can think of an alternate plan, suggest it.

Bullying, verbal abuse, a ‘culture of silence’: independent investigator makes first report on sexual harassment inside SFMTA

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco’s transportation agency is a haven for bullying and verbal abuse — but there is hope for change.

Those are the conclusions of the first report from Mayor London Breed’s independent “ombudsperson” Dolores Blanding, who in October last year was assigned to investigate an alleged culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni.

Blanding’s appointment by Breed on October 5, 2018 followed a series of stories by the San Francisco Examiner that exposed unresolved complaints from women who were groped by colleagues and, in at least one case, allegedly bullied into sex by a superior… (more)