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Beating our heads against the wall

August 14, 2019

Opinion – (download doc)

How many times must we make the same mistakes before we try something different?

There is a lot of talk about the failures of the MTC and ABAG and the loss of trust the public has in our state government to solve the housing and traffic problems they are accused of creating. I will take a more local view of the effects the plans have had on San Francisco neighborhoods.

There is a hysterical knee-jerk reaction to the homeless situation that might be amusing if it were not so sad. The media keeps parroting claims that we can build our way out of the housing shortage if we just get rid of all our local controls. More growth and faster production is the only solution. Where is this plan working in our city? Where are the streets and sidewalks safe, clean and clear and where does the traffic flow better than before?

Most agree that the MTC has failed to solve the traffic problem. many would like to curb the authority of the regional organizations, yet, our state representatives are working on bills to turn the regional transit authority into a housing development organization.

There are also bills pending that would allow the development arm of the MTC to increase taxes, fines and fees without voter approval of such increase, handing that privilege to the regional overlords. Taxation without representation. What has happened to our state? What will it take to stop this?…

Before releasing any authority to the state and a group of regional unelected appointees, cities need to determine what is being built and for whom.

If building more was the solution to the housing crisis we should see some reduction in the number of homeless as the new buildings go up and people move into them, but, the homeless counts are going up not down. The trickle-down housing premise is flawed.

Take a look at our neighborhoods and you will see that the current policies and priorities are negatively affecting all of us. We are all sharing the pain.

The cries against gentrification in the Mission started years ago. When the trendy infill theme that started on Valencia clawed its way through the neighborhood rents went through the roof. Long-time residents and businesses are forced out as soon as the applications were filed at the Planning Department. No entitlement is needed when you have an empty building to flip. An ad in the paper announcing a new shiny project to change the street is all it takes to clear the street.

The process has been so successful tht we are seeing gentrification being rolled out into all the residential neighborhoods. Laurel Heights is fighting a huge mixed-use complex at 3333 California. Opposition to building offices in the residential neighborhood is fierce. The neighbors have an alternative plan that preserves historical buildings, provides for more affordable housing and deletes the office space.

We have a similar situation in the Excelsior where neighbors object to market rate housing in their working-class neighborhood. They have garnered support from a broad number of groups and generated a fair amount of press.

SFMTA has a role to play in the people removal game as well. Evictions and move-outs follow close behind the announcement of a new transit corridor project. Commercial tenants have no protection so as soon as their leases are up they go.

Take a look at every street the Red Lanes have hit and you will see a lot of closed shops as merchants retreat. We just got word that federal laws were ignored by the SFMTA and our city authorities when they allowed them to be installed without proper studies. What will happen to those who broke that law and mislead the public? Will they face charges or will a slap on the hand suffice?

The illegal red lanes and the privatization of our streets and the taking of public property for private enterprise are part of the larger Bay Area Plan being rolled out by the MTC. That is how they operate. Should they be trusted to do a better job of developing our cities than they have done with traffic control?

More fights are coming as people get wind of the bills being pushed in Sacramento that would override much of what is left of local controls over development and zoning decisions and erase due process laws that allow citizens the right to review and comment on projects that are negatively impacting their lives and destroying their homes.

San Francisco run by developers is not a pretty site these. Loopholes are popping up faster than the city authorities can fix them. There is also a lot of concern over our lack of proper infrastructure to support the anticipated growth in population. The entire west side of the city lacks the fire fighting capacity it needs now to control a large fire. The list of unanswered questions is endless.

One thing we do know is that it is a losing game if the Sacramento politicians have their way and we lose local jurisdiction over our city planning and zoning.

One thing we do know is that nobody is safe unless we are all safe. Carpetbaggers treat all neighborhoods equally. We see the tactics that decimated the Mission, moving into Laurel Heights with the same results. Gentrification is not limited to underdeveloped or blighted areas. You can follow the new Muni rails to see where they will strike next. They can’t wait to tear down Taraval and Geary.

Our hope is that the public will get the truth in time to protect our city from Sacramento politicians and push back against the power of regional organizations being set up to tax us to pay for the development we oppose. There are a number of things that we may still do this month to stop the bills that are still in play. See this page for action items: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/sf-actions/

Links below include many of the backup stories with specifics on the state bills we are concerned about and details on the various neighborhood issues.

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