Sunday, January 22, 2017

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Saturday, January 21, 2017




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Friday, January 20, 2017

Chronicle: Going to women's march? You're fired!

Newly named Chronicle Editor in Chief Audrey Cooper Photo: Mike Kepka / The Chronicle / ONLINE_YES
Audrey Cooper, Chronicle Editor

From the Cal Alumni magazine:

...San Francisco Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Audrey Cooper raised eyebrows recently by notifying newsroom employees that participation in the January 21st Women’s March on Washington, or any similar marches, would be considered a violation of the newspaper’s ethics policies, a potential firing offense.

“No newsroom employee, regardless of job function or title, can participate in political demonstrations of any sort,” Cooper wrote, as part of a longer email to staff. “This is effective immediately.”

Political reporters, especially at legacy media, generally embrace stringent limits on personal expression. Most commonly, journalists are forbidden to donate to candidates or political causes, or take public positions on issues they are assigned to cover, specifically including participation in marches or protests.

But the Chron’s non-marching orders apply equally to workers far removed from political coverage: copy editors, page designers, sportswriters. And while the Women’s March was specifically made off-limits, the Chronicle has long encouraged employees to participate in San Francisco’s annual Gay Pride Parade, with staff and management marching beneath a Chronicle banner.

“I believe [management’s] argument has something to do with Pride being a celebration, and the Women’s March, while billed as a civil rights event, is perceived as more of a protest,” said a Chronicle staffer, one of several who declined to be identified for this story. “But a lot of people see equal pay, gender equality, and reproductive rights as civil rights. Nobody can tell us why the Women’s March is considered political and Pride is not.”...(Non-Marching Orders: Newspaper Bars Employees from Women’s March)

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Streetsblog worries about high-speed rail project


This project is like all big rail projects: it begins with lies by its supporters to get it started. See Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition, by Bent Flyvbjerg, Nils Bruzelius, Werner Rothengatter.

The authors studied a lot of infrastructure projects and came to this conclusion: "Cost underestimation and overrun cannot be explained by error and seem to be best explained by strategic misrepresentation, namely lying, with a view to getting projects started" (page 16, emphasis added).

Once a project is started, it's hard to stop, and good money has to be thrown after bad. Besides, even dumb projects create jobs for powerful construction unions, a major part of the Democratic Party's base here in California. 

And for Streetsblog's readers the great thing about trains is they aren't cars and are therefore morally superior. Only bicycles rank higher in their estimation.

Randal O'Toole nailed this delusion: "All you have to do is mention the words 'public transit,' and progressives will fall over themselves to support you no matter how expensive and ridiculous your plans."

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We're also going to miss Michelle

rtswjbx
She couldn't even pretend to be polite, unlike her compulsively civil husband.

A comment: What's Obama saying to Trump? "You're in big trouble now, you stupid bastard."

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Tjeerd Royaards


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Thursday, January 19, 2017

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Republicans and Obamacare: The dogs that caught the car

Matt Bors


Dear Leader declares that he’ll give everyone coverage; Republicans explain that he didn’t mean that literally. CBO says the obvious, that repealing the ACA would lead to immense hardship for tens of millions; Republicans declare that this is wrong, because they will come up with an alternative any day now — you know, the one they’ve been promising for 7 years...(Health Care Fundamentals)

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Getting out of the way for "smart growth"

Oracle Arena

I laughed when I read the first sentence of the Bruce Jenkins story in this morning's Chronicle: "Sometimes it's best to get out of the way."

His story was ostensibly about how Draymond Green ran into LeBron James the other night, but it could have been a reference to his 2015 opinion questioning how necessary it is to build a new arena for the Warriors in San Francisco:

In the process of addressing the media before Game 1, Commissioner Adam Silver proclaimed the Warriors “need a new arena. There is no doubt about that.” You figure he can’t say much else, hanging out with co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber as they chart the path to San Francisco, but the Warriors’ East Bay fan base begs to differ. Fenway Park is a structure from some other time, but its treasures are preserved. Wrigley Field didn’t get torn down, just renovated. Oracle doesn’t have that brand of charm or tradition, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, especially now as it thrives in the Finals spotlight...

As one of the few dissenters in the local media---except for Jenkins and me, are there any others?---to question the big push to build a new, traffic-snarling arena on the city's waterfront, Jenkins has to get out of the way on a day when the Chronicle is full of self-congratulatory crap about the ground-breaking on the waterfront.

There's nothing at all inadequate about Oracle Arena: It has a 19,000 capacity and is sold out for every Warriors' game. The waiting list for season tickets is more than 32,000 names long. Oracle has acres of parking and is right next to the freeway. 

If Lacob and Guber don't like Oracle, why don't they just buy it, remodel it, and put in more luxury boxes?

Because they want the prestige of a San Francisco address, and Mayor Lee wants a "legacy "project." Big bankrolls and big egos, and the city gets a legacy of traffic gridlock on the waterfront. 

City Hall calls this sort of thing "smart growth." Let the next generation deal with the traffic.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Panhandle project: No stop signs for cyclists

SFStreetsblog

Howard Chabner sends a message to City Hall:

Dear Mayor Lee and Supervisor Breed:

SFMTA performed a preliminary feasibility study about implementing bike lanes on Fell and Oak along the Panhandle, from Baker through Stanyan. Attached is the Final Memorandum dated August 22, 2016 from MTA. There have been articles recently in The Examiner, Hoodline and other media about the possibility of these bike lanes. 

The linchpin of the project is that cyclists in the bike lanes wouldn’t be required to stop for red lights at the intersections of Fell and Oak with Lyon, Central, Ashbury, Clayton, Cole and Shrader (emphasis added).

I’ve lived on Fell near Clayton since 1988. I use an electric wheelchair, spend a lot of time in the neighborhood, and cross the Panhandle several times each week. 

I emailed MTA and received a response dated January 9 from Luis Montoya, Livable Streets Director, stating that “…at this time the SFMTA does not have an active project to reduce lanes on Oak and Fell” and “SFMTA has not studied this in detail and does not have funding programmed to do so at this time.”

Although MTA doesn’t have current plans to implement this project, I believe it’s important for you to be aware of the possibility, features and problems of such a project.

The project described in the Final Memo includes:

· Moving the parking lanes on the South side of Fell and the North side of Oak away from the Panhandle, and constructing one-way bike lanes. The parking lanes would “float” away from the curb, like those on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park; people parking wouldn’t have a curb to guide them.

· Reducing the number of vehicular travel lanes on Fell and Oak from four to three.

· Bicyclists in the bike lanes wouldn’t be required to stop for red lights at the intersections of Fell and Oak with Lyon, Central, Ashbury, Clayton, Cole and Shrader---pedestrians crossing Fell and Oak couldn’t rely on the red lights but would have to make sure no cyclist is coming. Indeed, the ability of cyclists to go fast and not have to stop at traffic signals would be a major attraction of the bike lanes. (See Final Memo, page 12)

· Around 75 of 280 parking spaces on the South side of Fell and North side of Oak along the Panhandle would be removed. (These would be in addition to the parking spaces lost on Masonic due to the Masonic project (all spaces on both sides of Masonic from Fell through Geary), and those lost elsewhere in the neighborhood to exclusive use by corporate shuttle buses and car sharing rentals.)

· Cyclists could continue to use the existing pedestrian/bicycle path in the Panhandle, besides using the new bike lanes.

As mentioned, the linchpin of this project would be exempting cyclists from having to stop at red lights along Fell and Oak. In discussing the intersections of Fell and of Oak with the “minor cross-streets” (Lyon, Central, Ashbury, Clayton, Cole and Shrader), MTA says something remarkable: 

“The preferred control for the protected bike lane at these 'T' intersections is to exclude it from the traffic signal, allowing bicyclists to proceed through the intersection without stopping unless a pedestrian is crossing the bikeway. Due to the relatively low pedestrian volumes at these intersections, it is expected that people using the protected bike lane would routinely violate the signal if required to stop during every pedestrian phase, creating unpredictability and likely conflict between users on foot and on bicycles. This treatment also recognizes that in order to attract many bicycle commuters, the new protected bike lanes would need to be time-competitive with the existing multi-use path that has the advantage of a single traffic control signal for the length of the Panhandle.” (Final Memo, p. 12)

Also: “Pedestrians would be required to wait for gaps in bicycle traffic to cross the protected bike lane (which may present new challenges to people with low or no vision).” (Final Memo, p. 12) 

This is extraordinary: MTA is actually arguing that, in order to attract bicycle commuters, and because bicyclists are likely to ignore the basic traffic laws that require them, like motor vehicles, to stop at red lights, cyclists should be rewarded for their anticipated bad behavior by not being required to stop at red lights. MTA would prioritize the convenience of bicyclists who want to ride very fast and not stop at red lights above the safety (and convenience and time-sensitivity) of pedestrians. 

At their peril, blind people and those with low vision would have to suck it up and deal with the “new challenges” the bike lanes would present whenever they crossed Oak or Fell! Under the project, besides keeping their ability to use the multi-use path in the Panhandle, where of course there are no traffic signals (nor should there be), cyclists would have a second path around 50 feet away where they would not have to stop at traffic signals. 

If this project were implemented, a pedestrian making a round trip across the Panhandle would have to avoid four streams of zooming cyclists in these bike lanes---twice at Fell, and twice at Oak. That doesn’t include having to look for cyclists on the multi-use path in the Panhandle twice; but that’s necessary because it’s legitimate for cyclists to use that path, and that path has been part of the fabric for decades. So pedestrians making a round trip across the Panhandle would have to cross the path of fast-moving cyclists a total of six times.

MTA cites no data or other support for its statement that pedestrian volumes are relatively low. Based on my experience of crossing Fell and Oak at Clayton, Cole and Ashbury countless times in the 28 years I’ve lived on Fell Street, I strongly believe that the pedestrian volumes at these intersections are not low. When I cross at these intersections, there are almost always other pedestrians crossing at the same time; often there are many.

The multi-use path in the Panhandle is already one of the most protected bike paths in San Francisco---there are no cars, and therefore no conflicts whatsoever between cars and cyclists. Instead of this bike lane project, that path should be repaved, smoothened, better lit, and, if justified by the volume of pedestrian and bicycle traffic, widened. In fact, Rec and Park is planning to improve this path and the other one in the Panhandle (and to make other improvements in the Panhandle). 

One hopes that the reason MTA isn’t studying this project in detail is not primarily because of lack of current funding for a study, but because of a recognition of the many problems that would be inherent in this project or any similar one, especially one that exempted cyclists from stopping at red lights and that actually aimed to attract more cyclists because of this exemption. 

The project described in the Final Memo would endanger pedestrians (especially seniors, people with mobility and vision disabilities, small children and those in strollers), increase congestion, delays and pollution, make the shortage of on street parking even worse, and increase conflicts between motorists and cyclists. 

Moreover, exempting cyclists from stopping at red lights along Oak and Fell would violate California law and set a dangerous precedent for other streets in San Francisco.

The Masonic construction currently underway is causing major congestion, delays, more drivers circling in search of parking, potholes, extremely uneven pavement, uncertainty, dust and other pollution from the excavation and construction, and other impacts on the neighborhood, and the work on Hayes is adding to the mix. The final impact of the Masonic project won’t be known until after completion, which is still a year away. Now is not the time to even contemplate any additional road projects, bike lanes or parking removal in this neighborhood.

Finally, it is essential that MTA notify the entire surrounding neighborhoods, not only residents along Fell and Oak, if in the future it contemplates any changes on these streets, including the bike lane project analyzed in the Final Memo, and do so in a timely, meaningful and effective manner.

Thank you for considering this email.

Sincerely,
Howard Chabner

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Clock boy SLAPP suit dismissed

Sometimes conservatives are right, especially if the issue is about Islam, about which liberals and progressives are in a continual muddle. I could see this hoax coming back in 2015. Good to learn that the court threw out this SLAPP suit

From the conservative Christian American Freedom Law Center:

Following a nearly three-hour hearing held yesterday in Dallas, Texas, newly appointed District Court Judge Maricela Moore dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by Mohamed Mohamed on his own behalf and on behalf of his 15-year old son, Ahmed Mohamed.

Ahmed is better known as “Clock Boy” for bringing a hoax clock bomb to his Irvine, Texas middle school in September 2015 and causing a bomb scare that led to his arrest and suspension from school.

The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed the motion to dismiss, along with local counsel Pete Rowe, on behalf of the Center for Security Policy (“CSP”) and Jim Hanson, two of the defendants in the defamation case, which also named as defendants the local Fox affiliate, Glenn Beck, and Beck’s production company.

Mohamed had sued Hanson and CSP for statements Hanson had made on Beck’s program about the connection between the Clock Boy hoax bomb affair, the attendant media frenzy created in large part by his father Mohamed, civilization jihad, and the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations (“CAIR”), the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas front group in the United States that promotes civilization jihad.

During the hearing, AFLC co-founder and senior counsel David Yerushalmi explained to Judge Moore that the purpose of the lawfare-driven lawsuit was to intimidate into silence those who might comment publicly on the connection between jihad, terrorism, sharia, and Islam. As such, Yerushalmi argued,

“This case is a classic Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or ‘SLAPP’ case and should be dismissed.”

During the lengthy hearing, Judge Moore pressed Mohamed’s lawyer, Fort Worth attorney Susan Hutchison, to provide any facts that would suggest that Hanson and the other defendants had said anything false or defamatory about Mohamed or his son during the television broadcasts. 

After spending a painfully embarrassing 15 minutes flipping through reams of paper, Mohamed’s lawyer was unable to provide any such evidence.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Moore took the matter under advisement but informed the parties that she would rule by the end of the day. Today, the Court published Judge Moore’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit against Hanson and CSP with prejudice...

Rob's comment:
I mean, come on, does this look like a clock? Sorry to see that President Obama bought the CAIR bullshit. Funny but I haven't seen anything on CAIR's website since the court decision. Of course the political left saw nothing but Islamophobia and welcomed a new martyr to bigotry. 

This is the kind of foolishness that gives Trump and his supporters political ammunition.

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Morons with guns

Woman dies after being shot at South Carolina gun range

From Daily Kos:

...This week’s list, covering the first seven days of the year, identifies 20 separate incidents of celebratory gunfire-related GunFAIL, including two fatalities and another 10 injuries. In fact, we saw our first child under 15 years of age accidentally shot to death just six minutes into the new year. Eighteen people accidentally fired their weapons into the homes or property of neighbors. Sixteen people accidentally shot themselves. Six people accidentally fired weapons they were cleaning, and five people accidentally shot family members. In other words, a pretty typical week, with the added bonus of hundreds of people across the country still not getting the message that firing their guns in the air is a spectacularly bad idea.

Unsurprisingly, Texans were among the top offenders in the celebratory gunfire category, and as if to put an exclamation point on the need to dial it back, this time they accidentally shot a sitting state legislator. Will the NRA will allow legislators to send a sternly worded letter to reckless gun owners? Will the NRA allow legislators to say there even is such a thing?

Sadly, we also saw that other annual event: someone being accidentally shot with a brand-new Christmas gun. This time, an 11-year-old North Carolina boy showing off his brand-new shotgun cost us the life of his 6-year-old cousin...

The TSA blog

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Monday, January 16, 2017

We were warned

An image representing the article Writing in Place: On Geolocating Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem in the Dec. 15 London Review of Books:


...Are we to reach out to the Trump voter in tender empathy for their fear and pain, which is surely experienced as real, yet was partly cultivated by lies? Or should we do so out of cynical realpolitik (we need those states)? They’ve smashed themselves in the face again, electing this craven, gold-plated Ponzi-capitalist. But they’ve smashed us in the face too. Perhaps all empathy should be nipped in the bud, in righteous condemnation of the racist and sexist complicity---the betrayal of American idealism! of American exceptionalism!---reflected in a Trump vote. 

Anyhow we’re pretty sure that, taking account of lynchings, internments, black ops, waterboarding, drones, inequities, America was never great to begin with. The clearest evidence is also the nearest to hand: all the intolerant voters in the woodwork. This is our Naked Lunch, then, in William Burroughs’s words, "a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork"...

When the time comes, we’ll all report ourselves to the registry as Muslim: since we’re all Spartacus around here, that’s the way we roll. Sanctuaries for the persecuted are being readied, as well as vibrant protests; we’re scheming from within our own woodwork, from under the floorboards, and trust me, we’ll be heard from. I could tell you more, but then I’d have to, you know, empathise with you.

Such mania is the only antidote to despondency and disassociation, but, really, we’re taking both the poison and the antidote in one cocktail on a daily ‘hair of the dog that bit me’ basis. We should have known, of course. We were warned by Richard Rorty in 1998:

Something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for---someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.

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Scott Wiener undermines local control on housing

Scott Wiener

by Zelda Bronstein
January 13, 2017

2017 is already shaping up as a year in which local control of development will come under unprecedented assault in California and in the Bay Area in particular.

We have rookie State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 35, submitted only a few hours after Wiener was sworn in to office on December 5. Still in placeholder form, the measure would put legal teeth into the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation and force cities to “meet” the allocation allotted to them by the state. This radical proposal—as Tim Redmond has observed, it could set off a housing war—did not appear on Wiener’s campaign website, nor, to my knowledge, did he ever he mention it on the campaign trail.

And now a new, Bay Area-centric attack on local control is on the way, via the Association of Bay Area Governments’ proposal to have the U.S. Economic Development Administration certify our region as a federal Economic Development District (EDD). Planning for this initiative began in June 2015, when ABAG staff broached the idea to the agency’s Executive Board and Regional Planning Committee...

Rob's comment:
Wiener has always been an elitist, though his intellectual credentials are questionable. See Supervisor Wiener: Worst city legislator---again

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The art of restoration


A Velázquez portrait of a young girl, before conservation treatment
From this...

A Velázquez portrait of a young girl, after conservation treatment
...to this

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

The birth of an illusion



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Saturday, January 14, 2017

High-speed rail: "huge waste of taxpayer dollars"

In a December 2016 file photo, a viaduct for elevated tracks of the high-speed project through the central San Joaquin Valley takes shape near Cedar and North avenues and Highway 99.
Fresno Bee

From yesterday's LA Times:

California’s bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that’s just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by The Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion...

The federal document outlines far ­reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property. The California High­ Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won’t happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule. 

The report, the most critical official assessment of the project to surface so far, is labeled a “confidential­ draft deliberative document for internal use only” and was presented by senior Federal Railroad Administration executives to California rail authority board Chairman Dan Richard and Chief Executive Jeff Morales on Dec. 1 in Washington. 

This analysis puts the state on notice that it could face bigger cost overruns than anticipated and much longer delays than have been made public, a troubling critique by an agency that has been a stalwart supporter and longtime financier of the nation’s largest infrastructure project...

The Federal Railroad Administration is tracking the project because it has extended $3.5 billion in two grants to help build the Central Valley segment. The administration has an obligation to ensure that the state complies with the terms, including a requirement that the state has the funding to match the federal grants. 

Rep. Jeff Denham (R­ Turlock), chairman of the House rail subcommittee, said Friday he would conduct an oversight hearing in the near future and fight any further federal funding. “Despite past issues with funding this boondoggle, we were repeatedly assured in an August field hearing that construction costs were under control,” he said in a statement. “They continue to reaffirm my belief that this is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.”

CCHSRA

...Other recent documents paint a dark picture of California’s ambitious transportation project and help explain some of the performance problems. Audit reports last year, for example, found that the rail authority lacks consistent management processes, takes on unnecessary contract risks, does not have orderly records and is short on clearly defined responsibility for its top officials. 

And an internal report obtained by The Times notes a just­ completed survey in which employees complain that morale is low and has declined in each of the last three years. Employees interviewed by The Times say turnover is consistently high, leaving staff overworked. The rail authority’s senior deputy, its chief administrative officer and its top information technology executive recently left. Rail authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley said that the authority takes the issue seriously and that it is “currently making changes that we expect will help in that regard.” 

About 80% of all bullet train systems incur massive overruns in their construction, according to Bent Flyvbjerg, an infrastructure risk expert at the University of Oxford who has studied such rail projects all over the world. One of the biggest hazards of such mega­projects is a government agency that is attempting to do something highly complex for the first time. The California system is being built by an independent authority that has never built anything and depends on a large network of consultants and contractors for advice. 

Engineering and construction experts have warned that early cost and schedule problems will be difficult to reverse and that early cost increases likely will drive up the final cost of the project. Proponents of the project, including many veteran transportation experts, have said that California’s massive economy can handle higher costs for the project — even more than $100 billion — by increasing sales taxes or making firm commitments for additional future funding from the state’s general fund. 

But the Legislature already has balked at giving the rail authority the ability to borrow against future state revenues, saying it would have to make do with existing allocations. And that was before Gov. Jerry Brown warned Tuesday that California’s projected 2017/­18 budget shows a $1.6­ billion deficit...

Brown, meanwhile, has sought to shield the project from interference. He vetoed a bill with bipartisan support in September that would have increased oversight of the project and clarified estimates of how much the project will cost. And last January, a joint committee rejected a proposal to ask the California state auditor to examine the project for the first time in four years. 

The federal risk analysis identifies several major problems that have dogged the project for years and proved difficult to remedy. In January 2012, the rail authority said it would start construction in Fresno by June, but it had not purchased a single piece of land. Farmers resisted from the start, saying the route would cut diagonally through some of the nation’s most fertile acreage, devastating their operations...

The federal report also raises concerns with the rail authority’s billing system. It found that the state authority requires three months to process an invoice — too long, the report suggests. State employees say they are stymied by high turnover, cumbersome computer systems and poor record keeping. 

The effort to get through environmental reviews also has taken much longer than expected and is getting worse, according to the federal review. The rail authority has said for at least two years that it would have all of its environmental statements and decisions completed by this year. But the federal review projects that all of the environmental work will not be completed until 2020...

Possible delays do not surprise community activists in the San Fernando Valley. David DePinto, an opposition leader in Shadow Hills, has noted that the rail authority is still conducting geological soil investigations in the San Gabriel Mountains to determine the routes for lengthy tunnels that will pass through the range...

John Pritchard

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Anti-car lobby in action

The intersection of Union and Buchanan Streets. (Image via Google Maps)
Was the woman killed in Cow Hollow jaywalking or was the truck driver at fault?

According to the Examiner's story, that was unclear right after the accident:

According to SFPD the truck and its driver remained on scene and is cooperating with the investigation. The Traffic Collision Investigation is conducting an active investigation, and the intersection is closed at Union and Buchanan. It’s unknown if the driver ran a stop sign, was driving under the influence or committed any crime (First pedestrian fatality of the year takes place in Cow Hollow).

But that didn't stop Walk SF from blaming the driver:

“We’re heartbroken to hear about San Francisco’s first traffic fatality of the year,” Nicole Ferrara, Executive Director of Walk SF, told the Examiner. “Our thoughts go out to the victim’s loved ones. On behalf of the Vision Zero Coalition, we continue to call on The City to work on improvements to our streets that would prevent the dangerous driving that claimed another innocent life today. We also call on the City to focus their enforcement on the top two violations that cause the greatest number of severe injuries and deaths on our streets: speeding and failing to yield to people in crosswalks.”

Ferrara is never too heartbroken to advance her organization's anti-car agenda. Maybe she could take the time to explain how "enforcement" or Vision Zero could have prevented this accident. And, by the way, the reporter knew she could get that sort of sound-bite from Walk SF for the story.

Streetsblog's Roger Rudick describes the same accident: "Pedestrians[sic] Killed by Truck in Cow Hollow."

There was only one fatality, Roger. 

Okay, it was only a typo, but it also qualifies as a Freudian slip, since Streetsblog can never overstate how dangerous our streets are: See Another hysterical traffic safety campaign.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

San Francisco builds housing



Thanks to Curbed San Francisco

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Good news! Crap art museum goes to L.A.

Mad #77
You have to go to LA to see the original

Matier & Ross in today's Chronicle:

...The call came around 1 p.m., with Lucas telling [Mayor]Lee that although San Francisco put forth a solid proposal, he was going to build his museum in L.A.’s Exposition Park — where it will join several other museums in the heart of a low-income community in need of a lift. What’s more, the area is easy to get to by car...(emphasis added)

The LA Times:

The newest proposals, both featuring designs by Chinese architect Ma Yansong, were aesthetically similar but seemingly opposite in other respects. One was a remote, four-acre site on a breezy island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, beautiful but accessible only by bridge and ferry; the other was a seven-acre location in public transit-friendly, museum-heavy Exposition Park near Lucas’ alma mater, USC.

The LA project design includes an underground garage with 1,800 parking spaces. Why would Lucas want his "art" collection located on the relatively inaccessible Treasure Island that will be gridlocked with traffic after that dumb development project puts 8,000 new housing units there? Or visitors have to take a ferry from the Embarcadero to get there?

Here's what we'll be missing:

“People will visit from around the world to see the original Darth Vader mask and Norman Rockwell paintings,” he[Mayor Garcetti] said.

Maybe someday we can all take that great California high-speed rail system Mayor Lee supports to see the Darth Vader mask...But Mayor Lee still has the Warriors arena project as his real legacy to the people of San Francisco: traffic gridlock. 

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017



This is old news, but it's President Obama's biggest mistake. The Feds wasted $3 billion on California's high-speed rail project.

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City won't screw up Panhandle traffic "at this time"

Panhandle and Golden Gate Park

Howard Chabner got a response to his letter to Ed Reiskin the other day:

Hello friends and neighbors:

Here is an email I received from Luis Montoya of SFMTA. If you wrote to MTA, you may have received the same thing. Good news.

Before receiving this I made a Sunshine request to SFMTA seeking documents relevant to this study. I'm not withdrawing the request---as Ronald Reagan said, trust but verify.

Cordially
Howard

From: Montoya, Luis [mailto:Luis.Montoya@sfmta.com
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2017 7:30 PM
To: Howard Chabner; Reiskin, Ed
Subject: RE: Fell and Oak Streets Panhandle-Adjacent Bikeway

Hi Howard,

Ed asked me to follow up with you to clarify that at this time the SFMTA does not have an active project to reduce lanes on Oak and Fell. The North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA) and bicycling advocates have requested that we add on-street bike lanes and calm traffic to improve conditions for people walking and bicycling along the Panhandle, but the SFMTA has not studied this in detail and does not have funding programmed to do so at this time. 

I think there has been some confusion because we provided a detailed response outlining issues that would need to be resolved before a protected bikeway could be installed along the Panhandle, and it has misled some people to think that we are pursuing this.

We will keep you in mind if discussions arise around this or other possible changes to Oak and Fell along the Panhandle. On that note, are you aware of Rec and Park’s proposed Panhandle Path improvements that they worked with neighbors and park stakeholders on in 2015? We participated and will follow up with some intersection improvements for people bicycling and walking at Shrader and at Masonic.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any further questions.

Thank you,
Luis Montoya
Livable Streets Director
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

Rob's comment:
Montoya's message is not reassuring, since he says that "at this time the SFMTA does not have an active project to reduce lanes on Oak and Fell." Of course that "time" will eventually arrive. (By the way, no one should trust NOPNA to defend neighborhood interests against these "improvements" by City Hall.)

He calls the letter Chabner attached to his message merely "a detailed response outlining issues that would to be resolved before a protected bikeway could be installed along the Panhandle." 

Bullshit. That memo is called by its authors Fell and Oak Streets Panhandle-Adjacent Bikeway Feasibility Analysis. It's a detailed feasibility analysis that will be used when the city gets around to doing it. Funny he mentions a lack of "funding" to screw up traffic on the Panhandle, since his bloated agency has a billion dollar budget and 6,263 employees. I bet they will somehow come up with the money to do this project.

And who exactly are those "bicycling advocates" Montoya refers to? Surprise! None other than the SF Bicycle Coalition:

As biking has boomed and the multi-use path is the main commute option for people biking from the Avenues to downtown, we’re hearing more and more desire for the Fell and Oak protected bike lanes to connect all the way to Golden Gate Park. Want to be part of making that a reality? Join our Panhandle mailing list below to sign up for our Biker Bulletin and also receive specific project updates.

Recall that Montoya was in charge of implementing the present configuration on the Panhandle, which was simply done to make cyclists more "comfortable" riding on Oak and Fell Streets. Why anyone with any sense would want to ride a bike on streets with that fast-moving traffic I'll never understand. When I asked Montoya to provide a safety justification for the changes, he couldn't plausibly do it, probably because not enough cyclists used Fell and Oak Street.

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Monday, January 09, 2017

HSR in Morocco: "The equivalent of 25,000 schools"



...Unemployment remains a major issue for Morocco, with a countrywide rate of over 20 percent. For young people, the figure doubles. Fabiani tells CityLab that the country’s urban/rural divide is particularly stark. “If you go outside the main cities,” he says, “the state of the roads is very poor, as is access to clean water, schools, and hospitals.” 

A high-speed train linking Morocco’s main urban centers will likely be out of reach, both geographically and financially, for the majority of Moroccans. “The people who will be able to afford it—residents of cities and professionals—are not that many,” he says, noting that the money and effort might be better spent on more effective education efforts.

Omar Balafrej, who heads a campaign to stop the train project, concurs. He told the BBC that the cost of the project is the equivalent of 25,000 schools. “Each time you have 10 meters of [high-speed train], it’s one school that you don’t build,” he says...

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Rethinking high-speed rail in China

From Adam Minter on Bloomberg (Just Say No to High-Speed Rail):

...The original case for high-speed rail in China was strong. In the mid-1990s, the country was considerably less developed than today; the average speed on Chinese railways in 1996 was 37 miles per hour, thanks to outdated technologies and overcrowding on too few tracks.

At the same time, the government faced far fewer obstacles to building high-speed lines than countries such as the U.S. do. Labor costs were low and acquiring land wasn’t difficult. (Eminent domain isn't much of an issue when the government owns all the land)...

Even with these advantages, however, the costs have been considerable. In May, state-owned China Railway Corporation, the operator of China's rail network, reported that its debt had grown 10.4 percent in the past year and now exceeded $600 billion; in 2014, roughly two-thirds of that debt was related to high-speed rail construction. That’s more than the total public debt of Greece. The company runs only one profitable line---the massively traveled Beijing-Shanghai corridor (emphasis added).

Costs are set to rise further. Now that most heavily trafficked areas are served by high-speed lines, construction is expanding to China’s less-populated and less-developed western regions, in part as a de facto fiscal stimulus. The government is building lines over greater distances and across more difficult geographies. Few can hope to earn back the investment.

Doubts about the wisdom of these projects are rising. As far back as 2010, prominent voices in China had warned that binge spending on high-speed rail could lead to a debt crisis, and that the same benefits could be achieved with conventionally built lines that cost about one-third as much. 

Traditionally ignored, concerns about rail-related debt are now gaining weight, leading to prominent calls to break up the massive China Railway Corporation. So far, however, the government has yet to take the natural step and cancel major high-speed projects.

Where the backlash is being felt most acutely is abroad. From the earliest days of high-speed rail, China has hoped to export its technology. Those ambitions have run into major difficulties. As Caixin, China's most respected business magazine, reported last week, many of the countries to which China had hoped to sell high-speed technology are now scaling back their plans "due to huge building and operating costs."

Thailand has opted to shorten a planned, Chinese-built high-speed rail line over financing questions. Indonesia agreed to another Chinese project only after China agreed to build the line without Indonesian government money or loan guarantees. Mexico cancelled a Chinese high-speed rail project outright, ultimately citing budget constraints.

Xpress West, the private company that hoped to build a high-speed line between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, recently terminated its agreement with its Chinese partner. According to Caixin, finances were the problem, and the cancellation---along with other setbacks---is causing China's rail barons to rethink their overseas expansion plans.

What Chinese leaders need to admit is that no other country is quite like China. California doesn’t have the same cost advantages. Indonesia lacks a government that can run up massive, unaccountable debts. Thailand rightly believes that slow trains are just as good as fast ones. 

Suggestions that rail has environmental benefits over other forms of transportation have merit only if the trains are running full. As China's own example shows, many are not and cannot thanks to low population densities along their routes.

This doesn’t mean high-speed rail is doomed outside of China. But if the world's leading builder is having trouble making a business case for its systems, even with the benefit of government subsidies, that case probably isn't very strong. 

What impressed visitors see now in China may not be the future after all.

Rob's comment:
In the unlikely event that the system is even built in California, Proposition 1A prohibits any "government subsidies" to operate the system: See pages 8 and 9.

The NY Times saw problems for China coming six years agoChina Rail Chief’s Firing Hints at Trouble.

The NY Times in 2009:

“High-speed rail is good for society and it’s good for the environment, but it’s not a profitable business,” said Mr. Barrón of the International Union of Railways. He reckons that only two routes in the world — between Tokyo and Osaka, and between Paris and Lyon, France — have broken even.

The push for high-speed rail in the US by President Obama is one of his few big mistakes. Even capitalists question the idea. From the Investor's Business Daily way back in 2011. And T. Bone Pickens in 2013. 

Thanks to the Antiplanner.

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