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.

Electric-Car Owners Hard Hit by Massive California Power Shutdown

By : caranddriver – excerpt

Tesla’s Elon Musk promises battery and solar solutions for the many EV owners who can’t charge their cars.

  • Nearly a million Californians are now without power as the electric company deliberately shut it off this week, fearing high winds would spark wildfire.
  • The affected area in Northern California surrounds Fremont, home of Tesla, and a great many electric-car owners who can’t charge their vehicles as usual.
  • Tesla’s Elon Musk is swapping in battery Powerpacks and solar power for Superchargers in the region as fast as he can get permits, he claims on Twitter…(more)

Of course if they have solar installations on their roofs, they can charge the cars using their own power during the day and suck off the car during the night. That is if they are free to arrange a schedule to fit that reality. If their job is reliant on energy anyway, they may be off work. Many possibilities for off-the-grid power solutions will no doubt surface soon.

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.

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

 

 

 

Muni oversight board to nominate new leadership as group calls for ouster

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

ed-head

The transportation oversight board that oversees San Francisco’s Muni system — and hires and fires its executive director — is set to see a shakeup in its leadership.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors is poised to vote among its members for a new chair and vice chair next week, the agency confirmed. The move comes during a time of great scrutiny for the agency…

The co-presidents of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, an influential political group in the local LGBT community, called on Mayor London Breed to oust its longest standing directors in a letter

The letter cites the summer Muni meltdown, ongoing Muni train “switchbacks,” and an agency contractor laying 3 miles of the wrong type of steel track as mounting grievances that it lays on the shoulders of the current SFMTA board…

The letter noted those directors could fire SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, who Breed herself put on notice with her own scathing letter earlier this year…

Heinicke, who has served on the board since 2008, has often been the voice for the ailing taxi industry, but is also known as a pragmatist who weighs both drivers and transit options.

“Drivers are people too,” he argued last September when asking SFMTA staff to reach out to local drivers while planning a pedestrian safety project.

Gwyneth Borden, another SFMTA board director and head of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, is expected to be voted in as vice-chair. She also is seen by some insiders as a vote to possibly oust Reiskin, the SFMTA director.… (more)

It is about time. Ten years of damage is enough for any city to put up with. Now is the time to hit City Hall with the personal letters you have been meaning to write. Now is the time to demand change at SFMTA.

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?

Glen Park GoBike station could add congestion to an already chaotic intersection

By Sally Stephens : sfexaminer – excerpt

An intersection in the Glen Park neighborhood has become the poster child in the fight over the placement of bike share docking stations in neighborhoods.

During morning and evening rush hours, the block of Randall Street between Chenery and San Jose Avenue is a mess. The narrow street is clogged with commuters trying to get to I-280, school buses, and parents double parking their vehicles to drop off kids at Dolores Huerta ElementarySchool (formerly Fairmount).

Motorists entering Randall from Chenery often have to back up into the intersection so buses and trucks going the other way can get through. Adding to the chaos, school kids — without the benefit of crossing guards — run across the Randall/Chenery intersection to a market to get drinks and snacks before school…

Now the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is considering putting a GoBike docking station on that intersection next to the school. Supporters say that the location is highly visible and has ready access to Chenery, the traditional bike route to the Glen Park BART. Its location will provide a “transit opportunity” for parents, teachers, and school staff, encouraging them to get out of their cars… (more)

I am getting confused now. This article leads one to believe that the SFMTA is taking some control over placement of these bike stations, and that some areas of the city are getting some notice before the bikes go in. That is not what we have been hearing from the SFMTA. They have been claiming they have nothing to do with the bike stations going into neighborhoods where they re not wanted. Now they are taking responisbility of “doing outreach.”

Do the bike/car/scooter rental corporations have the right to take San Francisco streets and sidewalks? Where are the documents that obligate San Francisco citizens to give up our access to our streets? Show us the documents. Who signed these documents and when? Was there any public discussion about the privatization of our city public property prior to handing it over to the enterprise? Where are the financial statements that show how much money these companies, who claim to be public/private enterprises, are making? If the public payments depend on them making a profit, they public has a right to see the financial records. We need an audit of there books.

 

MTC News Headlines

mtc – excerpt

Headlines For Dec 14, 2018

Ford GoBike will boost fleet of electric bikes in SF from 250 to 850
San Francisco Chronicle

Ford GoBike more than triples its SF electric bike fleet today
Curbed

Transbay Transit Center inches toward repair
San Francisco Chronicle

Holes cut into steel contributed to beams cracking at SF’s Salesforce Transit CenterEast Bay Times

Holes cut into Transit Center beams ‘probable cause’ for cracks
San Francisco Examiner

Video: No Date Set on When Transbay Transit Terminal Will Reopen
NBC – Bay Area

(more)