San Franciscans want happy trails — not rocky roads

by Aaron Peskin: marinatimes – excerpt

Budget season has drawn to a close, and the city has made a significant investment in our city streets with the Board of Supervisors approving an additional $90 million in road work and resurfacing funds to be spent down over the next two years.

These are the funds that will be used to repave our city streets (600 blocks annually), extend or repair our sidewalks, paint our bike lanes, and fill pesky potholes. San Francisco Public Works is hiring more workers, and San Francisco has slowly increased its Pavement Condition Index Score…

The wrong signs get posted for the wrong projects on the wrong streets, construction equipment lies inactive for months in on-street parking spots, while a seemingly never-ending parade of orange-and-white striped A-frame signs line the streets letting merchants and residents know that they should brace for yet another construction project that might or might not have an actual public benefit. At the very least, it could be coordinated much better.

In addition, the hearing revealed that some repetitive projects are dropped from the city’s database, in violation of the city’s moratorium on digging up the city streets more than once in a five-year span. For example, the corner of Green Street and Columbus Avenue has been dug up at least four or five times in the last six years, yet San Francisco Public Works did not have that data for those jobs on file.

I am working with Supervisors Jane Kim and Norman Yee on legislation that would create stricter conditions for subcontractors and would trigger a construction mitigation fund for projects that run over budget or drag on endlessly.

The time has come to make sure that we are managing San Francisco taxpayer money responsibly when it comes to our city streets; these safety and road resurfacing projects are priorities that shouldn’t have to be painful… (more)

This pretty well covers the frustrations that residents and businesses are feeling with the street construction repair program being set up and “managed” by the SFMTA. The subcontractors were a problem for the residents dealing with street trees and damaged sidewalks and the Supervisors solved that one. Now it is time for them to take on the street subcontractors.

At the top of the list of issues, is the lack of skilled labor in the construction business due to the overwhelming number of projects underway. We are doing too much too fast and the quality of the work is suffering because of the unrealistic pace. This is why we need to slow it down. We will be having talks this month over various options for solving this problem. Thanks to supervisors Peskin, Yee and Kim for taking this on.

NO NOTICE: A number of other issues were raised at the meeting described here. One is the most familiar of all that accompanies every complaint being raised from “overnight” tow-away signs to sudden contractors tearing up sidewalks without a visible permit – NO NOTICE ahead of the sudden pop-up construction work. Obviously the multi-million dollar noticing system that SFMTA is using to communicate with the public is failing to do the job. We need a new procedure of noticing.

As Supervisor Breed pointed out at the meeting, unnecessary controversial bulblouts and other street “improvements” are going onto small side streets with no accident history under the guise of “Safe Street improvements.” The SFMTA staff had no real excuse for this when quizzed on the matter.

A similar issue is ongoing with regard to the hated Red Lane “experiments” that were put into areas of the city, in including Mission Street, that were not designated as “experimental” areas, and the required “studies” for the “experiments” were not done in a timely fashion.

Concerned citizens conducted their own “unpaid” studies and discovery, and obtained documents showing an uptick in accidents on certain Red Lanes were not included in the final reports given to the state agency in charge of approving the extension of the Red Lane “experiments”. The SFMTA cherry picked the test areas that proved the Red Lanes improved the speed of the buses yet neglected to “share” the data that showed an increase in accidents on some of the “experimental streets.

Complaints were filed and if the judicial system works, the matter should be investigated.

Supervisors attempt to reduce mayor’s powers with suite of new measures

Supervisor Yee needs support to get a Charter Amendment on the November ballot that would split the MTA Board appointments between the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors.

Grassroots Actions

By Riley McDermid :sfbusiness – excerpt

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors have introduced a suite of measures aimed at taking power away from Mayor Ed Lee in five major departments, as the deadline to introduce charter amendments for the November ballot arrived Tuesday.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a charter amendment introduced at the meeting by Supervisor Aaron Peskin would reconfigure how much oversight the mayor has over the Department of Real Estate, Workforce Development and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

In addition, Supervisor Norman Yee introduced a charter amendment that would allow the board to appoint three of the seven board members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors, while taking away the mayor’s power to appoint all seven.

The mayor’s office immediately pushed back against the measures late Tuesday, saying the moves came as a surprise and weren’t necessary –…

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Lack of Transparency Dogs Community Trust Fund

By Lori Higa : – excerpt from July 2010

///In 2007, TMG Partners created a $1.5 million community benefits fund as part of an agreement that enabled the developer to convert 650 Townsend – the brick building adjacent to the Concourse –from business services to offices without having to provide the hundreds of parking spaces that would otherwise have been required under the City and County of San Francisco’s Planning Code.  Brokered by Dogpatch-based real estate consultant and community advocate Joe Boss, the Eastern Neighborhoods Public Benefits Trust Fund (ENPBTF) has steadily drawn on these funds to support a number of local nonprofits. However, because of the way the agreement was structured, the Trust Fund’s operations, including the identification of which organizations have received funds, has largely remained secret.
The Eastern Neighborhoods (EN) is a geographic designation created by a decade-long, hotly contested City rezoning plan. The collection of communities that make up EN – Potrero Hill, Showplace Square, Dogpatch, the Central Waterfront and northeast SoMa – sprawls across 2,200 acres, almost twice the size of Golden Gate Park.  The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, approved last year, calls for the creation of up to 10,000 new housing units in the area.  The plan was designed to balance affordable and market-rate housing, and preserve production, distribution and repair jobs …
A complete list of grantees is unavailable due to the ENPBTF’s status as a donor-advised fund, as administered by the San Francisco Foundation, according to Boss.  Because of its legal designation, information on the fund, its grantees and award amounts is not “public domain,” stated Boss in an email to the View…
SFMTA received what appears to be the largest chunk of fund monies “because the greatest potential impact to the area is perceived to be the increased daytime population of the project, and the lack of strong transit service in the area…the donor conditioned that over $500,000 of the funds would…[go] to ongoing transportation planning.”  According to Boss, little progress has been made on the SFMTA transit assessment.  The View was unable to get comment from the agency before this story went to press …
“I’ve never heard of grants and grantees being kept secret,” said long-time local community organizer and author Mike Miller. “What’s going on with the ENPBTF seems typical of the nature of San Francisco politics…There’s no shortage of nonprofits who claim to give voice to the voiceless, but end up excluding their constituents…people are bought off in various ways, the conditions that started the protests, remain the same. What neighborhoods and communities need is the equivalent of a union,” said Miller… (more)

The lack of transparency makes you feel good about dealing with non-profits doesn’t it? When you consider the large percentage of the city’s budget that goes to non-profit contractors you begin to wonder whether farming work out to private entities is really the cheapest way to run a city.