Stop Displacing SF Businesses!

OpEd

Notice-Complaints.jpg

photo by zrants

We know what SFMTA and SPUR have done to help developers remove longtime residents from the neighborhoods. Now we have proof that they are after the established businesses as well.

SFMTA USED THE GREEN ARGUMENT, CLAIMED “THE STREETS ARE NOT FREE”

SFMTA was the first tool used to run people out of town by threatening to take away our cars. This was step one in the plan.

They developed a number of methods to remove cars and make residents dependent on public transportation. We recently found out the real purpose is to prove that there is a demand for public transit so they can find private funding to invest in it, because public transit is too expensive to be supported by the public without any private support. It cost drivers less to get across town than it costs the government to move them.

First the government convinced the citizens of San Francisco to trust them to merge all the street management agencies and Muni, including enforcement, under a single umbrella organization. They claimed it would be more efficient and to save costs. It hasn’t turned out that way. Muni is still broke because most of the SFMTA efforts have gone into mode change not providing Muni service to those who need to rely on it.

Next SFMTA, SPUR, the banks and developers bought the media and at some point they created a number of non-profit relationships.

Then they bought City Hall. By sending out an army of precinct workers who helped elect their supporters. Let’s not continue to make that mistake. We need to elect people who will protect us, not them.

Once established, SFMTA threatened to blanket the Eastern Neighborhoods with meters. Citizens in all the districts fought back and won a reprieve with an amended contract, which is, even now, being threatened in the Showplace Square area, where the SFMTA is using the promise of removing the homeless parking in vehicles in the area, as a carrot to approve installation of parking meters. We are asking where they are getting these meters they claimed would not have under that amended parking meter contract. Did they lie?

SFMTA retaliated, by increasing enforcement hours, fines, and rates for parking wherever they could get away with it. The claimed they were trying to create a better parking experience for everyone, while making parking harder and more expensive for everyone. They lied.

SFMTA removed more parking spaces from public access by selling exclusive rights to private enterprises, including their “car and bike sharing” services, many of which benefit SFMTA directly or indirectly.

To create more havoc and traffic congestion on the streets, SFMTA re-timed traffic lights making it harder for pedestrians to cross safely and for cars to clear the intersection. Then they ticket cars stuck in the middle, adding to their revenue.

Under the street diets program, SFMTA removed or narrowed street lanes, forcing cars to “share” lanes with bikes on some streets, while restricting them from bike lanes on others. Confusion among drivers and bikers is a major SFMTA tool that is not appreciated by anyone. No one knows what to expect from block to block, as the lanes of traffic and bikes merge and separate without warning. Remember traffic merging signs? Many drivers and bikers ignore the lanes. It is pretty difficult to see them in the rain.

Not content with traffic jams and huge numbers of complaints, the SFMTA introduced transit only BRT lanes, with limited access for non-transit traffic, claiming the buses would move faster. They also removed a lot of bus stops, forcing their riders to walk longer distances, and removed seats on the buses, forcing their riders to stand on the bus. To save something somewhere, SFMTA also insisted on moving bus stops and bus shelters away from long-established spots to less convenient areas like driveways, claiming they are saving seconds.

Land Use and Transportation are now linked and the developers have reshaped the legal landscape that used to protect the residents and businesses, using all the legal maneuvers they can come up with, They limit on-site parking on new construction and force higher, denser buildings everywhere they can get away with it, creating a no-limit policy that, along with tax freezes has pushed land values through the roof.

While SFMTA was working on reducing cars on the street, the developers were busy obtaining land, starting with cheap foreclosures, and buying out as much land as they can talk owners into selling. As we have heard, huge amounts of cash have poured into property purchases in the recent years. The money is funding a lot of the political changes we are seeing that is making it easier for big developers to build higher and denser realizing greater profits.

Now they are poised to elect a new batch of politicians who will do their bidding and continue the plan, unless we stop them.

Many people, including scientists, and the courts, question the claim that transit oriented development is good for the environment. Cars are going electric and gas sales and tax revenues have gone way down due to more efficient car engines. ABAG questions claims that slower traffic is better for the environment. They find that the faster the cars move, the less time they spend on the road, they less emissions they produce. We have been thinking that all along.

The public, including affordable rent advocates, have become wise to City Hall’s Affordable Housing Bonus Plan and have effectively killed it. SFMTA needs a new excuse to push SPUR displacement plans. Enter Vision Zero.

ESTABLISHING VISION ZERO, CLAIMING SAFETY IS THE NEW SFMTA ANTI-CAR PRIORITY EXCUSE.

For the last two or more years, SFMTA has been trying to reduce parking spots by installing corner bulbouts, (at $150K a pop) and bus bulbouts (much starting at around $300K each), claiming they cut the time if takes pedestrians to cross the street. This is a much more expensive method than re-timing the lights or putting in more pedestrian cross switches or traffic countdowns. We heard they removed pedestrian crossing switches on Lombard Street (much to the dismay of the neighbors) before claiming they needed more expensive draconian safety measures.

Ed Reiskin admitted at the March 15th SFMTA Board meeting that the number of pedestrian fatalities has not gone down since Vision Zero was put into practice. This leads us to question their methodologies, but the Board is convinced that more stringent car taming measures are needed. Given these facts, we think we need an outside investigation into the efficacy of the program before spending another dime on it, especially since the SFMTA claims they are broke and have two years of deficits coming up. All they need to do is pause the complete streets program for a while and they will be caught up in no time. Lay off a few planners and they can hire bus drivers and mechanics.

Some of our questions about Zero Vision: Where have the fatalities occurred? How many drivers were at fault and how many occurred in areas where safety measures were already in place? We know some have involved Muni transit vehicles and other large vehicles such as garbage trucks with limited side vision and at least one involved a cyclist riding between two bus lanes on Market Street.

NOT CONTENT WITH THE DISPLACEMENT OF RESIDENTS, DEVELOPERS NOW WANT TO OUST ESTABLISHED BUSINESSES.

We only have some data on the fate of the Castro merchants so more needs to be done to find out how they dealt with the construction phase and why so many closed their businesses, leaving many empty retail spaces in the neighborhood. The increase in empty retail units also leads us to wonder what is driving the escalating retail rents?

We know more about the situation on Polk Street. The merchants have lost parking and loading zones and are huge increase in traffic on their narrowing street as the Van Ness project is expected to get underway. To make matters even more difficult, they are being threatened by major rent increases. Many long-established, popular businesses got together to produce a video of their community of merchants expressing their hope for a future on Polk Street. They are planning to request a Special District designation and whatever protection they can get.

I walked down to see how the results of the new Complete Streets plan and was pretty appalled. I saw produce delivery trucks parked in the traffic lane next to huge empty red zones, and crates of fresh produce on the sidewalk next to produce stands. One van had a Santa Clara license plate. This scene must be repeated daily for all the produce stores and all the restaurants on Mission Street that offer fresh food. If people want fresh produce from local farmers, they cannot expect to get it any other way.

I shot photos of the scene, including one of a notice that the bus stop has been moved a few blocks away. As I walked up Mission I saw more doubled parked produce trucks unloading produce parked in the traffic lane. The situation on Mission Street is pretty dismal and not sustainable. There are at least four or five produce stands within a block of16th and Mission, not to mention the restaurants and cafes. Each day they must have fresh produce delivered. They need loading zones.

If all this is beginning to sound familiar, there is a reason for that.

City Hall embraced the new smart economy, giving preference to high tech and forcing many existing residents and businesses out of the Market Street transit rich area. We know what happened there.

You can copy and paste this in any neighborhood in the city, or the country and you will see the same thing. This is the result of urban planners running the country building a better future while they enhance their bank accounts and ignore the needs of the people living today.

How much wealth is transferred from the workers to the landowners every year in rents? How much of our tax dollars go to subsidize these same landowners?

That is how the planners clear the ground for the vision of a new green future.
First they take your parking
Then they take your car
Then they take your job
Then they take your home
When you have nothing left you are on your own.

 

Small Business Commission and the MTA joint meeting and agenda

December 9, 2013 at 4:30 AM
Small Business Commission and the MTA Board, City Hall Room 400 – agenda

SMALL BUSINESS COMMISSION, – Presentation
MUNICIPAL TRANSPORTATION AGENCY BOARD
OF DIRECTORS, AND PARKING AUTHORITY COMMISSION

NOTICE OF JOINT MEETING & AGENDA
Merchants should go and let the MTA know how they are effecting economic vitality of your business or send a representative or write comments or a letter detailing how the parking and traffic problems are effecting you business. Copy the supervisors on the letter. contacts here.
5. Explanatory Documents: Slide presentation by Office of Small Business staff; Slide presentation by SFMTA staff. Presentation by Regina Dick-Endrizzi, Executive Director of the Office of Small Business, and Ed Reiskin, Director of Transportation of the SFMTA.
6. General Public Comment: Allows members of the public to comment generally on matters within the Commission’s purview, and suggest new agenda items for the Commission’s future consideration. (Discussion Item)

NOTE: The Small Business Commission requested more parking garages. We need to talk to them. We want parking transit hub garages near freeway exits with Muni, taxi, bike, and shuttles and jitneys. This needs to be a part of the plan.
SBC requested more frequent contact with the MTA to work out issues as they arise, especially with regard to the immediate plans SFMTA has for implementing further parking restrictions on Polk and other areas. The commissioners want to work out some compromises to mitigate the loss and lessen the effect it will have on the merchants in the effected areas.

Other comments that were made and concerns raised:

  • Delivery services are not being met in the scheme of things. Someone pointed out that Polk is not like Valencia. Many merchants on Polk rely on large service vehicles to unload groceries, hardware, and other heavy supplies on a regular basis. Everyone agrees this is a city-wide problem that is not being solved in any of the current TEP or other city street designs.
  • There is an eagerness on the part of SFMTA to reduce curb cuts, which means off-street parking egress. That is a backdoor mechanism they have to reduce off-street parking options. We need to stop this maneuver on their part. Let you supervisor know that you know what this means and you oppose it.
  • There are so many things in the presentations, try to watch the tape to see what you find that you support and what alarms you.
  • The SFMTA agreed to meet on a more regular basis with SBC and it appears the plan is to meet every two months within the MTA’s Policy and Governance Committee to review specific issues that are plaguing merchants. So, merchants should inform SBC about your SFMTA issues.
  • Hopefully we will have opportunities to write letters and show up in person to those meetings when the need arises.

San Francisco Considers Charging Drivers to Enter or Leave Downtown

Posted by KQED News Staff – excerpt

…“We’re going to be faced with severe congestion at some point. We’re not able to say exactly when, but it’s certainly within the next, I’d say, 10 years. And if we don’t move decisively now, it might even be sooner than that,” said Tilly Chang with the SFCTA.
Chang said a plan to charge drivers to enter or leave downtown, known as congestion pricing, is again emerging as one solution to alleviate gridlock. She said something more is needed to really slow down the growth of traffic flooding into that area.
“We definitely see parking management and congestion pricing as examples of how we can encourage people to review their choices and to really think about, ‘Do I really need to make this trip in a car?’ ” Chang said…
A congestion pricing plan from the city Transportation Authority will soon undergo an environmental review. Any proposal the city develops would need approval from the Legislature… (more)

How about building some new parking garages as suggested by the Small Business Commission? That would help as much as anything. How about building those garages next to the freeway exists next to public transit  hubs so that people could get into the city and then easily transition to public transit? Wow! They just built a new BART parking garage in Richmond. But, San Francisco would rather eliminate parking than make it easy for folks to use Muni. Do the voters get to decide on this plan? Or will it be part of the Plan Bay Area scheme, financed by federal and state government debt?

Small Business Commission Hearing

Small Business Commission hears complaints from Small Business Owners and Advocates April 22, 2013 meeting. Commissioners are all sympathetic the need for more parking for businesses.  Video link to that hearing: http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=45&clip_id=17346 (starts around item 7)

Notes on Commissioners’ comments at the hearing:

  • Lack of notice, outreach, and communication during the whole planning process is a major source of problems.
  • Would like to see a representative from the Small Business community on the MTA board.
  • They encourage the merchants associations to continue what they are doing in demanding consideration from the MTA.
  • Due Process important.
  • There appears to have been no real time studies or consideration for business operations in the areas that they are eliminating and limiting parking.
  • Effects of smaller projects on larger areas need to be taken into consideration during construction and after.
  • A pave it and paint it plan would solve many problems. It would allow for faster, cheaper and easier changes as the traffic patterns shift and needs change.  (i.e. the 17th street burp)
  • Most of the issues between traffic and cycles could be solved by paving the streets and fixing the dangerous potholes and other obstacles that cause erratic lane changes for all vehicles. Smoother streets and easily read signs would help the safe flow of traffic and the costs would be a lot lower.
  • Parking removal and lack of parking seems to be the major problem for everyone. We need to re-visit the policies that are driving these programs.
  • We must change the attitude that we are not building any more parking. We have got to change this attitude. We need parking as well as bike lanes. We are the tax payers.
  • We must realistically provide for the visitors and commuters who cannot take public transit into the city.
  • Mayor’s task force wants to do twice as much as it can afford. Why not do less at half the costs?
  • Blind loyalty to ideology, at the expense of the whole community is not the answer.
  • People are already avoiding certain neighborhoods due to parking difficulties.
  • Where did the anti parking attitude come from?

Small Business Commissioner: San Francisco Needs More Parking Garages

by Aaron Bialick : SF.Streetsblog – excerpt

As has become painfully apparent on Polk Street, there is a deeply-held belief among certain merchants that car parking is indispensable to their business — even if studies indicate that very few of their customers drive, and that removing parking spaces to implement safety improvements could actually draw more potential customers.

SF Small Business commissioner and former president Luke O’Brien. Image: SFGovTV

So it’s no surprise that when SFMTA officials came to the SF Small Business Commission to discuss its goals to make streets safer and manage parking demand, preserving parking spaces was pretty much the only priority voiced by commissioners… (more)