Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Portland gets ready for the Big One---with bikes!

The Antiplanner comments:

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the people with automobiles got out, and the people dependent on transit didn’t. This wasn’t because the city lacked a plan in case of a disaster. It had a great plan, but nobody bothered to implement it. After New York, New Orleans had the second-lowest rate of auto ownership of any major city in the country. When the disaster took place, there were Portlandia-like planners who bemoaned the fact that New Orleans was too auto dependent: if only more people there relied on transit, they would have gotten out. This, of course, was exactly backwards. Portland cyclists can have their fun fantasizing that they will come to the rescue in case of natural disaster. The city, however, is living dangerously when it thinks it can plan away the need for motor vehicles.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How safe are city streets?

Along with under-reporting cycling accidents, apparently the city has also been under-reporting pedestrian injury accidents for the same reason: not counting all those accidents treated at San Francisco General. From a 2005 study (San Francisco pedestrian injury surveillance: mapping, under-reporting, and injury severity in police and hospital records):

We found that police collision reports underestimated the number of injured pedestrians by 21% (531/2442). Pedestrians treated at SFGH who were African-American were less likely then[sic] whites, and females were more likely than males to have a police collision report...

City Hall was in such a big hurry to rush the 500-page Bicycle Plan illegally through the process it failed to take seriously an important recommendation in the Framework Document, which the Board of Supervisors voted to make part of the General Plan (It tried to hide the second volume of the Plan, the Network Document, at the SFCTA):

For the last several years, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has been working on an injury data linkage project using hospital admission data. Currently, San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) is not obligated to report bicycle injuries to the SFPD. This is left up to the injured parties. EMS (ambulance services)is supposed to report bicycle injuries, but many are not reported. Comparing police collision reports with SFGH emergency room visits or hospital admissions shows that approximately 20 percent of pedestrian injuries (caused by a collision with a motor vehicle) did not show up in police collision reports in 2000 and 2001. The rate for bicycle injuries is probably similarly under-reported (page 6-12, SF Bike Plan: Policy Framework, September 2004).

The city knew in 2004 that it had a problem counting both cycling and pedestrian accidents. Evidently the "injury data linkage project" was not completed or implemented.

That answers more completely the question I asked last year: What did City Hall know, and when did it know it?

But we still don't know why or how this failure happened. Maybe when the MTA releases its long-overdue Collisions Report there will be an explanation.

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Honor Diaries: The Movie

More at Honor Diaries.

Thanks to Harry's Place.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Picture of the day

James Garner with Dihann Carroll at March on Washington

Thanks to The Dish.


Noam Chomsky: Obama is like a "Nazi general"

Noam Chomsky

To the radical left, the United States is the bad guy. On Alternet Noam Chomsky, after making some good points about Orwell and a free press, compares President Obama to a Nazi general:

There's actually an interesting essay by---Orwell, which is not very well known because it wasn't published. It's the introduction to Animal Farm. In the introduction, he addresses himself to the people of England and he says, you shouldn't feel too self-righteous reading this satire of the totalitarian enemy, because in free England ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. And he doesn't say much about it. He actually has two sentences. He says one reason is the press "is owned by wealthy men" who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed.

But the second reason, and the more important one in my view, is a good education, so that if you've gone to all the good schools, you know, Oxford, Cambridge, and so on, you have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things it wouldn't do to say---and I don't think he went far enough: wouldn't do to think. And that's very broad among the educated classes. That's why overwhelmingly they tend to support state power and state violence, and maybe with some qualifications, like, say, Obama is regarded as a critic of the invasion of Iraq. Why? Because he thought it was a strategic blunder. That puts him on the same moral level as some Nazi general who thought that the second front was a strategic blunder---you should knock off England first. That's called criticism [emphasis added].

Obama made his opposition to invading Iraq clear over the years. This speech from way back in 2002 is typical. Once he became president, he presided over our withdrawal from Iraq. How that makes him anything like a Nazi general is hard to figure.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Usual suspects oppose transportation balance

Steven T. Jones on Facebook

Good to see Steve Jones, editor of the Bay Guardian, using the city's annual Transportation Fact Sheet as the basis for his latest anti-initiative screed (Motorists fight back). 

But his use of the numbers is selective, like 385,442 as the number of "cars registered in SF." That's technically correct, but deceptive, since that doesn't include the number of trucks (56,694) and motorcycles/motorbikes (21,697), for a total of 463,923 motor vehicles registered in the city (page 2). (I always subtract the number of registered trailers from the total.) Since that's a California Department of Motor Vehicles number, it doesn't include vehicles registered in other counties or states.

(Actually, the numbers in the Transportation Fact Sheet are already out of date, since the Department of Motor Vehicles always releases the numbers several months after the city releases its Fact Sheet, which means the above numbers are actually 2012 numbers. The latest numbers: 397,238 cars, 57,466 trucks, and 22,610 motorcycles, for a total of 477,314 motor vehicles registered in San Francisco as of December, 2013).  

Using the car/autos number by itself without trucks and motorcycles of course downplays both the number of motor vehicles overall in the city and their dominant role in our transportation system as compared to Jones's preferred transportation "mode," which is bicycles.

Jones doesn't include in the sidebar some numbers on bicycles: On page 3 of the Fact Sheet, we learn that 2.1% of city commuters in 2000 commuted by bicycle, and in 2012 that percentage was only 3.6%, not an impressive increase after more than ten years of anti-car, pro-bike propaganda from City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition.

Jones's sidebar includes $88,889,809 "annual parking ticket revenue," as if that represents what the city makes from preying on everyone who drives in the city. But that's only part of the total, since the city also made $53,856,001 from its parking meters; $85 million from its 20 parking lots; and $10,248,044 from its residential parking permits, for a total of $237,993,854.

But even that's not all: The Controller's office says that the city also got $2,799,155 from tickets from what the MTA calls "Red Light Cameras" at 25 city intersections; $2,695,930 from other moving violations; $3,055,028 in gas taxes; and $805,223 from vehicle license fees, which brings the total amount the city gets from motorists $247,349,190.

Jones goes to the usual unreliable, anti-car sources for some soundbites: Tom Radulovich, Leah Shahum, and Gabriel Metcalf. Radulovich: "There are certain people who believe in the welfare state, but only for cars and not for humans," as if people don't drive those cars---and rely on them in their daily lives to get to work, to shop, to get their children to school and to after-school activities.

Jones refers to Vision Zero and safety on city streets, but the Guardian still hasn't even mentioned that UC study that found that the city has a radically flawed method of counting cycling accidents, relying on police reports and not counting a lot of accidents treated at SF General Hospital. You would think folks who claim to be concerned about the safety of city streets would take an interest in that report. The question is, If the city is under-counting cycling accidents, is it also under-counting motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents?

Why are the anti-car folks, the Guardian, the Bicycle Coalition, Walk SF---even the SF Chronicle and the SF Examiner---all ignoring the UC study? The answer: by showing that riding a bike in the city is a lot more dangerous than anyone thought, the study undermines the big push to get people---even children---to ride bikes in San Francisco, making it harder to justify redesigning city streets---taking away traffic lanes and parking spaces on busy city streets---on behalf of a small minority of cyclists.(The New York Times saw fit to do a story on the study, but not a single paper in the city has even mentioned it!)

Jones talked to David Looman, one of the proponents of the Restoring Transportation Balance initiative, who succinctly sums up the reality: "The bike lobby is running transportation policy in San Francisco." The initiative wants to put a stop to that.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Limo buses and culture clashes

Photo: Defend the Bay Area

A letter in the July 21 edition of the New Yorker in response to a story about San Francisco, California Screaming, in a previous issue:

The squabbling about limo buses and culture clash misses the point about the civic irresponsibility of Silicon Valley business interests. Advocating intensive building to increase density in San Francisco will do nothing for Bay Area housing affordability. All this does is make developers rich. As soon as a unit in San Francisco becomes available, its price becomes exorbitant. The Bay Area has plenty of land for residential development: it’s in the South Bay. If the tech giants really cared, they would sponsor—or strong-arm—residential development near their sprawling, ever-growing campuses instead of busing their employees in from San Francisco. The assumption that San Francisco must adapt to being a bedroom community for Silicon Valley is erroneous. Better regional planning is necessary. New housing should not be the burden of San Francisco alone.

Adele Framer
San Francisco

Earlier posts on the Google bus issue here and here.

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Elizabeth Warren: "We can’t win what we won’t fight for"

AP photo

Elizabeth Warren's speech to Netroots Nation, transcribed by Alternet:

A lot of us in this room have a lot of history. Five years ago, I was fighting hard for a new consumer agency to keep the big banks from [over]charging families on mortgages and credit cards. I went to see a lot of experts in Washington. I went to try to talk to people about the idea for this agency. The economy had crashed. Here was one way that we could fix things so it wouldn’t happen again. This is one way to level the playing field a little bit for families.

So I went and talked to these experts—and a lot of people on our side—and they almost all told me the same two things. The first thing they said was, “Great idea. This could actually make a real difference in people’s lives. The second thing they said was, “Don’t do it. Don’t even get out there and fight for it. Don’t do it because the biggest banks in this country will hate it and you will lose.” Well, the experts got that half-right. No surprise, the big banks really did hate it. They spent—are you ready for this—in addition to all their campaign contributions and everything else—they spent more than a million dollars a day for more than a year, lobbying against financial reforms. They really put their money where their mouth is on this one.

But the experts were also very wrong. We fought back and we won. We won—and that’s what I want to talk about today. We won because you and a zillion other people across this country got in the fight. We won because you got out there. Your broke news. You wrote opinion pieces. You organized petitions. You built coalitions. You kept that idea alive. You called out sleazy lobbyists and cowardly politicians. You said we—we the people—will have this agency and you are the ones who won. You won this fight.

And you know, it matters. These fights really do matter. That agency is almost three years old now and it has already forced the biggest financial institutions in this country to return more than $4 billion to consumers they cheated. But never miss the central point of this story. The CFPP is proof of how democracy can work in the 21stcentury. It is proof that if we push back against the biggest, strongest, most ruthless lobbying effort in the country; that if we push back hard that we can win. We fight, we win...


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hoodline gets Masonic Avenue all wrong

Garish "art" planned for Masonic Avenue

Hayeswire, Uppercasing, and the Haighteration blogs weren't known for useful or interesting posts on local issues. When Haighteration posted about The Wiggle, the comments were always a lot more interesting than the post itself. (Hayeswire gets retroactive points for not dumping D5 Diary off its blogroll, which Haighteration and Uppercasing did.)

Now the three sites have merged into one, Hoodline.

With its recent post on Masonic Avenue (Checking in on Masonic's Big Makeover), Hoodline continues the tradition of being clueless:

Remember last year, when Masonic Avenue was all over the news? Online surveys were promoted, bike lobbyists were rallying, and it seemed as if—finally—something was going to happen. Thanks to the hard work of the SF Bike Coalition, the SFMTA and the city, plans and funding were approved. And then? Silence. The plans are still happening, just not until 2015. While we're waiting for the jackhammers and bike lane-stripers to fire up, let's review some of what's coming our way to improve Masonic Avenue in the near future.

This could have been written by the Bicycle Coalition or the MTA. Yes, a lot of "hard work"---a years-long campaign of lies, actually---by the Bicycle Coalition and their PC enablers in City Hall to "improve" Masonic. I've done more than a dozen posts on Masonic since the last Hoodline post on the subject, including messages from and about Ed Reiskin (see this and this). There was also a website, Save Masonic, created by opponents of the Masonic bike project---mentioned later in the post---with a petition signed by 1,300 people opposing the project. Not exactly "silence" on the issue in the last year.

Bike Lanes. This was arguably the most controversial proposal for Masonic. In the past five years, 26 cyclists were reported to have been injured riding on Masonic, and one was killed. A little over a year ago, the SFMTA approved plans for San Francisco's first elevated bike lane, offering a slightly buffered level of protection separating bikes and cars and giving cyclists a space safe from car doors and buses.

Bike lanes were "the most controversial" part of the proposal? Protected bike lanes is what the project is all about. The rest is window dressing to tart up what's essentially just a bike project. The link provided for the fatality from San Francisco Appeal doesn't mention that the death was caused by a drunk driver, surely a deliberate bit of deception by Hoodline, since that accident had nothing to do with the alleged flaws in Masonic.

And no citation is provided for the 26 cycling accidents. The city's study of Masonic, the Masonic Avenue Redesign Study, says there were 19 cycling accidents in a six-year period, though there was no analysis of the accidents or who was responsible for them. Like they did to justify the Polk Street bike project, the MTA probably provided supporters of the project some numbers that don't appear in their published reports.

According to the SF Bike Coalition 12 pedestrians were hit on Masonic in the past five years, and one was killed. Designing safer intersections will be crucial in making Masonic a more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly street, and plans include timed lights, left turn lights, and "crosswalks that are pedestrian friendly and safe."

More numbers that don't appear in the city's study of Masonic and a link to an account of a woman who was killed jaywalking in front of Trader Joes on a part of Masonic that isn't part of the project area. Does Hoodlines know that? Not always easy to say whether these folks are lying or just dumb.

Along with tactical infrastructure changes to Masonic, there are also artistic efforts at play. The San Francisco Arts Commission and the Department of Public Works are banding together to review proposals for a new plaza at Masonic and Geary. Three proposed projects were on display at the San Francisco Day School this summer, and included suggestions such as a 64' long sculpture, pattered[patterned?] mosaic stairs, and a creative take on signposts.

Right. Everyone has to get into the act. Ever wonder what happens to all the people who major in art in college? Stuff like this---like the "art" the city put on the median when the new and awful Octavia Blvd. opened up to traffic ten years ago.

From the link above: 

The project is a dense gestural weave of multicolored sheet metal ribbons commencing along the Geary edge of the triangular public parklet and veering up the Masonic side of the triangle in a sweep that builds in momentum and height as it unfurls at its peak, pointing the way down Masonic towards the rest of the Masonic Avenue Streetscape...

Here's a gesture for you, pal! Even the description makes it sound awful, and sure enough it looks annoyingly gaudy in the pictures. 

Insult to injury: the city is not only going to screw up traffic on Masonic Avenue---the busiest north/south street this side of Park Presidio---but we're also going to be subjected to this pretentious twaddle. The city charter should allow the public to vote on this sort of thing before it's put in place, since we're going to have to look at it for years.

Proposed changes to Masonic didn't come about without a large vocal response from residents. For months, Masonic was plastered with signs listing the attributes and downsides of Masonic improvements. A website called Save Masonic was even set up to formalize opposition to the street's upgrade. Some of the biggest arguments raised were the loss of 167 street parking spaces, congestion during the 18-month construction period, and having to park further away from locals' residences.

The loss of all that parking---all the street parking between Fell Street and Geary Blvd.---is mentioned as almost an afterthought, though everyone who lives in this part of town knows that street parking around here is already very tight.

Not many cyclists use Masonic now. How many will use it after this project is implemented? The city has no idea. Nevertheless, the city is going to deliberately screw up traffic on this busy city street---more than 32,000 vehicles use it every day---and take away scarce street parking for a small, often obnoxious minority of cyclists. What could go wrong with that?

However, it's hard to argue with safety, and residents' opposition did not in the end stop the project's progress. As London Breed stated, "To make the corridor safe is really paramount to any other issue. Masonic is clearly a dangerous, almost freeway-like corridor in the middle of our community.”

Supervisor Breed is full of shit on Masonic like she is on almost everything else. She's the worst supervisor District 5 has had since, well, Ross Mirkarimi.

My more detailed deconstruction of the Big Lie about Masonic Avenue.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another hate crime by D5 Diary

The Treasure Island project

Steve Jones's bland, pseudo-objective piece on Treasure Island on the Bay Guardian's blog was so annoying I had to comment:

This is insanity. Up to 19,000 new residents on Treasure Island, even though the Bay Bridge is now gridlocked for much of the day? This is what San Francisco progressives call "smart growth." Funny that Tilly Chang is quoted. She's spent most of her career pushing the Congestion Pricing idea. This kind of development and the resulting traffic will provide her with the opportunity to finally implement it, though it's unpopular with city residents. It will be a two-fer for City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition by punishing motorists and raise a lot of money to pay for a growing city bureaucracy.

That got a rise out of Jones:

Progressives didn't hatch this plan or any of the other rapid growth scenarios, and the Bike Coalition has nothing to do with Treasure Island. Honestly, Rob, your hatred of progressives has clouded your perspective. These restrictions on cars were forced by Caltrans as the price for allowing intensive development on Treasure Island.

This is so muddled/"clouded" hard to know where to start. I don't hate progressives---or anyone, for that matter, let alone a political tendency. I do think that San Francisco progressives---as exemplified by the Bay Guardian---have been consistently wrong on important city issues over the last ten years, failures I've documented on this blog since 2004 (Click on "The SF Bay Guardian" label below for samples).

Caltrans? They never owned Treasure Island. The Navy did, and they sold it to San Francisco. But Caltrans did give a grant to the city and the Bicycle Coalition to do the project's Transportation Plan.

The reality is that city progs and the Bay Guardian screwed up the housing issue after botching the homeless issue ten years ago. The latter fiasco led to Gavin Newsom becoming mayor.

The present housing crisis has been developing for years, long before the advent of the tech industry. From one of my first posts back in December, 2004:

"We Need Housing" is now the SF mantra that trumps all neighborhood concerns, even in so-called progressive circles. For some time, the city's Planning Dept. has been laying the groundwork for a system that encourages developers to build large housing projects in every neighborhood within hailing distance of a city transit corridor, because---all together now---"We Need Housing."

The We Need Housing movement quickly morphed into the trendy "smart growth" idea embraced by the Planning Department (See also this, this, and this). Not surprisingly developers loved this approach to land use. It provided a "progressive" rationale for a lot of housing development, while allowing developers to not provide parking spaces for new housing units, which makes projects more profitable. That's why the Bicycle Coalition supported the Market/Octavia Plan that will, along with all the buildings now under construction in that part of town, put 40-story residential highrises at Market and Van Ness.

The Bay Guardian offered only a lame dissent on Chris Daly's Rincon Hill deal for highrise condos on Rincon Hill and didn't even mention the Market/Octavia Plan until 2007 (see also this).

Even Tim Redmond, Jones's predecessor as editor, got Treasure Island right with a forthright piece several years ago that's much better than Jones's wishy-washy column.

Just when the city needed some serious reporting on housing in San Francisco, the Bay Guardian became all about the great bicycle revolution that was not transforming transportation in the city---or anywhere else.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Soccer is still boring

From today's review of Sean Wilsey's new book in the NY Times (Skateboarder's Guide to His Galaxy):

“What is soccer,” he asks, “if not everything that religion should be? Universal yet particular, the source of an infinitely renewable supply of hope, occasionally miraculous, and governed by simple, uncontradictory rules (‘Laws,’ officially) that everyone can follow.”

More like an infinite source of boredom to me, but then I find religion boring, too. 90 minutes of boredom in the final World Cup match the other day. I tried to watch it and do my multicultural duty as per all them sophisticated foreigners. I admit that I was moving around, doing household chores and other things. When the game went into overtime, I missed the only, deciding score.

And I can't "follow" the supposedly simple rules. It's not at all clear how the time clock works or why someone is off-sides---and I don't care enough to learn why.

And the ludicrous "flopping" by players whenever an opponent even touches them in a crude attempt to deceive the referees. Even the NBA is finally trying to put a stop to this practice. The illustration below is only slightly exaggerated:

This is one thing Ann Coulter gets right.

Mockery of soccer by Benjamin Wachs in the SF Weekly made some readers mad.


Hamas propaganda

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Smart Growth doesn't work

San Rafael suburb

...Contrary to University of Minnesota planning professor Richard Bolan, the best way to reduce externalities such as pollution and greenhouse gases is to treat the source, not try to change people’s lifestyles. For example, since 1970, pollution controls reduced total air pollution from cars by more than 80 percent, while efforts to entice people out of their cars and onto transit reduced pollution by 0 percent.

Contrary to Matt Lewis, suburbs are not sterile, boring places. Suburbanites have a strong sense of community and are actually more likely to engage in community affairs than city dwellers.

Smart growth doesn’t even work. It doesn’t reduce driving: After taking self-selection into account, its effects on driving are “too small to be useful.” It doesn’t save money or energy: multifamily housing not only costs more, it uses more energy per square foot than single-family housing, while transit costs more and uses as much or more energy per passenger mile as driving. When planners say smart growth saves energy, what they mean is you’ll live in a smaller house and have less mobility...

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"It's not gonna happen again"

Thanks to Harry's Place.


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Valencia Street lie goes national

Note the parking lanes on both sides of the street

Randy Shaw and Beyond Chron came late to the great bike revolution, joining the lemmings pedaling to the sea only two years ago. He doesn't know anything about the issue---or traffic in the city in general---but, as a good party line prog, he's been trying to catch up with his hipper comrades in the anti-car movement.

His latest pro-bike effort is an article reprinted from On the Commons (How to Inspire Millions More People to Bike). If Shaw knew more about the issue, he would know that the reference to the Valencia Street bike lanes is false, what I call The Valencia Street lie: "Another study in San Francisco found 65 percent of merchants on Valencia Street reporting that protected bike lanes were good for business."

Of course the Valencia Street bike lanes are not "protected bike lanes."

Clicking on the link provided takes you to a people for bikes site that embellishes the falsehood with a scholarly citation: 

A survey of San Francisco's Valencia Street found that 65% of participating merchants believed protected bike lanes had a positive impact on business. Clifton, K., et al., 2012.

Next stop on the falsehood trail is the Clifton study (Consumer Behavior and Travel Mode Choices), which is a study of Portland, Oregon. On page 5 we find this:

On Valencia Street in San Francisco, a study of 27 businesses was conducted four years after a bike lane was installed (car parking was not impacted but the number of vehicle travel lanes reduced from four to three). The majority of respondents reported an increase in sales or no effect, and no business reported a decline in sales (Drennen, 2003).

Clifton at least understands that the Valencia Street bike lanes weren't made by eliminating street parking.

We finally arrive at the Drennen study (Economic Effects of Traffic Calming on Urban Small Businesses). The first thing we learn from Drennen is how small her sample was: of 122 eligible businesses, the study only polled 27 (page 34). On page 35 we find the actual questions asked, none of which has anything to do with "protected lanes" or parking, since neither had any relevance to her study. Like the Clifton study, Drennen was apparently determined to show that bike lanes are good for business.

But the question is, Why would businesses on Valencia Street be at all concerned about the creation of bike lanes that didn't take away any of their customer parking?

And the study itself is essentially irrelevant to the debate that's now going on about Polk Street here in San Francisco, since the Polk Street project is in fact about taking away 200 street parking spaces to make protected bike lanes on a street that has a lot of small businesses and restaurants.

See this and this on the Valencia Street lie and the Polk Street bike project.

By the way, I see that Shaw has finally removed the Bay Guardian's "Best Local Website" banner from his remodeled site. I suppose if you think the Bay Guardian is racist, it kind of debases the value of their endorsement.

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Hamas targets nuclear reactor in Israel

From the New York Post:

Hamas terrorists launched three powerful rockets at an Israeli nuclear power plant on Wednesday---a terrifying escalation of hostilities in the increasingly violent conflict. But a nuclear disaster was averted when Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome defense system shot one of the rockets out of the sky and the other two missed their targets and detonated on the ground without causing any injuries. Extremists from Hamas’ fanatical Qassam Brigades boasted that they had launched the long-range, M-75 rockets from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli city of Dimona hoping to damage or destroy the reactor, about 47 miles away...

In other news: in Great Britain, like here in the US (last year City Hall and the SF Weekly took the bogus Islamophobia bait) the rise of Islamophobia is simply not happening, because, unlike many of their political representatives, people are not stupid. They understand that violence by Islamist fanatics does not represent most Moslems and condemning that violence doesn't implicate Moslems in general:

...It is apt, perhaps, that on the ninth anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, the spectre of Islamophobia has once again been looming large in the UK media. After all, the assumption that in Britain, and in the West in general, anti-Muslim sentiment is on the Mosque-burning, veil-ripping march has been one of the most persistent political and cultural narratives over the past decade or so...Again and again, the idea of a seething, popular mass of anti-Muslim sentiment is invoked by politicos and pundits (some Muslim, some not). And again and again, this seething, popular mass of anti-Muslim sentiment never actually shows its face. The not-very-racist reality has consistently failed to live up to the burning-and-bigoted hype. Just look back: after every terrorist attack carried out by assorted jihad-espousing, al-Qaeda fanboys, there has been no shortage of politicians, commentators and so-called community leaders warning of an imminent surge in anti-Muslim attacks. And yet each time, the surge never came. A few months after 9/11, for instance, a spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police told spiked: ‘There isn’t really evidence of an increase [in assaults against Muslims]’...

Unlike Europe and the US, Hamas-controlled Gaza teaches its children to hate:


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Picture of the day

Governor Perry and President Obama

Thanks to The Dish for the link.

Later: I have to add this from Daily Kos:


Joel Engardio and the "moderates"

A political tendency called "SF Moderates" introduces itself with these bromides:

We want San Francisco to be a city that champions innovation, encourages smart economic growth and offers opportunity for newcomers. We celebrate art and culture, value compassion, seek sustainability and practice social justice. We also want the buses and trains to run on time, our parks to serve an urban population and our public schools to work for families. We support a city government that is efficiently managed, responsive to quality of life issues and above all follows common sense.

Wanting city "trains to run on time" has unfortunate historical associations, but the rest of that paragraph is sheer banality. Only members of the new caliphate in the Middle East would object to any of it.

That's followed up with this:

As SF Moderates, we are truly progressive by dictionary definition. We are forward-thinkers who advocate for progress. We embrace change that can improve lives. Too often, San Francisco’s so-called progressive establishment fights to keep things as they were, promoting failed policies that only make living here more difficult. In San Francisco, moderate means common sense. We’re socially liberal and fiscally responsible. We are sympathetic to both sides of an issue as we seek pragmatic solutions that work for everyone.

More cliches along with a claim about the definition of "moderate": "we are truly progressive by dictionary definition." Not according to my dictionary, which defines moderate as "avoiding extremes."

What they're really trying to do is distinguish themselves from something called the "progressive establishment," but without any specifics it's hard to know who or what they're talking about. You have to explore their website and read Examiner columnist Joel Engardio's entries to find out what's intended here.

Engardio is gay, so that's where the "socially liberal" comes in. And presumably these folks aren't racists, are pro-choice, prefer peace over war, etc. etc.

Engardio wrote a column for the Examiner last month (Rallying cry for SF's moderates) that he seemed to think is a manifesto for so-called moderates:

In any other city, I’m considered liberal. I support health care as a right, Hillary Clinton for president and same-sex marriage in every state. I believe that we must address climate change and spend more on education than the military. But it doesn’t matter in San Francisco: I’m still not blue enough for the “progressive” label here.

Okay, this is familiar turf, and I could say something similar. But this is still bland, unobjectionable stuff. The real, defining crunch comes on specific local and state issues, which is really how people differentiate themselves politically in San Francisco.

Engardio tells us he supports Laura's Law, which was just passed by the Board of Supervisors and is also supported by many progressives:

I want a City Hall that is willing to shut down boondoggles and fund only what’s necessary and effective. I’m for schools that families can walk to and local enforcement of Laura’s Law. To me, it is humane to compel mentally ill people to seek treatment instead of letting them continue to suffer psychotic episodes in public. This is what makes me a “moderate” in San Francisco regardless of how much I value compassion, seek sustainability and practice social justice. Anyone feel the same?

Yes, just about everyone agrees, Joel. No one advocates wasting money, everyone wants good neighborhood schools, and Jennifer Friedenbach is one of the few people in the city who opposes giving Laura's Law even a trial run.

Going deeper, if that's the word we want, into Engardio's moderate manifesto we begin to get an idea of where he's coming from:

Consider the housing crisis. Progressives refuse to build enough housing for a growing population. They seem to want to preserve an idealized version of The City, as if economic principles don’t apply and San Francisco will never evolve or reinvent itself again. I wish we could acknowledge our supply-and-demand problem and make it easy to build housing of all types. An adequate supply would actually help the middle class afford to live here.

This is a familiar trope used by folks like the Chronicle's C.W. Nevius and SPUR's Gabriel Metcalf, that there are organizations and individuals that have been fighting the construction of new housing units in San Francisco, thus aggravating our chronic shortage of affordable housing.

Like Nevius and Metcalf, Engardio doesn't name anyone or any organization guilty of this because there are none. It's all bullshit. The only thing that's slowed down the boom in housing construction has been the Great Recession, which made it hard for developers to get construction loans.

Now that the construction boom is on again, San Francisco is "evolving" with a more thorough gentrification process, even though it's doubtful that we can build our way out of the affordability crisis.

Engardio tips his hand: "Instead, we opt to build nothing on windswept parking lots because we fear a boogeyman wall on the waterfront." Turns out that Engardio and his "moderate" allies supported the 8 Washington project that went down to a resounding defeat at the ballot box. Evidently city voters don't want to "reinvent" the city by raffling off the city's waterfront to developers and rich people.

Engardio on city schools:

Innovative policies could benefit our public schools. There’s a reason nearly one-third of San Francisco’s children go to private schools. We need more public immersion schools in language, arts and technology---the programs parents are seeking elsewhere.

Another reason that many city parents send their children to private schools: they have the money to do it, another consequence of gentrification.

We can support small businesses while allowing the chain stores people actually want. Urban parks can have multiple uses, including turf fields for soccer-playing kids. Neighborhoods can survive some added height and density near public transit to provide much-needed housing...That’s why I’m a moderate. A socially liberal and fiscally responsible moderate who is opened-minded and imaginative enough to understand that no revolution is San Francisco’s best or last.

Specifically which "chain stores do people actually want"? Evidently Starbucks and chain pharmacies and supermarkets are okay. Does Engardio want to add to the list? He apparently supports installing artificial turf at the soccer fields near Ocean Beach. 

And, like other so-called moderates---and city progressives, by the way---he supports the dense development, "transit corridors" planning theory favored by City Hall that assumes we can build a lot of housing along any major Muni line.

Engardio opposes "boondoggles," but he wants to build a tunnel under Geary Blvd. to the avenues so the city can implement the transit corridors theory on a massive scale:

Given San Francisco’s housing crisis and traffic congestion, if you had $1.6 billion to build a tunnel, where would you put it? I’d start digging down Geary Boulevard, from downtown to the Outer Richmond. Then I’d encourage construction of multistory, middle-class housing along the way with vibrant ground-floor retail. A subway would save commuters from the cursed 38-Geary bus, which crawls along miles of failed car-first planning from the middle of the last century. But a Geary subway won’t happen anytime soon. Too many San Franciscans deplore change and defend “neighborhood character” as never better than the day they arrived. Geary isn’t purposely retro or shabby chic. It’s just worn and dated.

$1.6 billion wouldn't get you very far, since that's the official price tag for the two-mile long Central Subway, which will surely end up costing $1 billion a mile. A tunnel under Geary would cost billions and be a major boondoggle.

Instead, the city is planning a BRT system for Geary, since the #38 now carries more than 50,000 passengers a day and Geary itself handles more than 65,000 vehicles every day. People in the avenues are already wary of City Hall's development plans for their neighborhoods, suspecting that the BRT system will be another opening for the city's---and Engardio's---dumb "smart growth" development theory.

Engardio's slur on the #38 Geary Muni line is typical of someone who doesn't ride it much. It actually moves pretty well, except in the avenues, where there are stop lights/stop signs at every intersection, which is one reason designing a sensible BRT system for Geary is so difficult.

Engardio's spine goes all wobbly when he interviews Quentin Kopp. What does the bold moderate who opposes boondoggles think about the high-speed rail project? Apparently the subject never came up, since it's not mentioned in the piece! Instead Engardio devotes most of the column to Kopp's original opposition to gay marriage.

But the radically flawed high-speed rail project has been a major concern for Kopp in recent years (Kopp, by the way, also opposes the Central Subway). Since he was an early supporter and a former chair of the High-Speed Rail Authority and wrote the project's original legislation, Kopp has a lot of credibility on the issue: see this and this.

In spite of his sneer at what he calls the city's "progressive establishment," Engardio doesn't really disagree with any major City Hall policies. He would just pursue them more aggressively.

Engardio's columns and op-eds here.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

What "Transportation Balance" is about

San Francisco Transportation Policies
Bill Bowen
SF Gate

In 1999, San Francisco voters approved Proposition E, which enabled the consolidation of the bus/light rail agency that we all call Muni with the Department of Parking and Traffic. This created the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, with a charge for city to implement policies to put "Transit First."

Since then, transportation policy has been set by the agency's governing board, whose members are appointed by the mayor. By law, a majority must be regular riders of Muni.

The loudest voices? The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and those who envision a "car-free" city, despite the fact that 79 percent of households have a motor vehicle and nearly half of those commuting to work do so by car.

The failed effort to dissuade people from using cars falls into two categories:

Don't build it and they won't come: With San Francisco growing by 10,000 residents per year, the strategy is to force people out of cars by making parking impossible. Where construction codes once required a developer to provide at least one parking space per apartment, new apartment building often offer far fewer. Thousands of parking spaces have been eliminated as new buildings rise on empty lots. Bicycle lanes now take an increased portion of the streets. No new public parking lots have been built in nearly 20 years. New proposals would dedicate 1,000 existing parking spaces to ride-share vehicles and "parklets."

Make car ownership so expensive that most residents will give up the convenience: Rates for city-owned parking garages, parking meters, residential parking permits and parking tickets have all had double-digit increases. There was a move---which will be temporarily suspended---to begin Sunday parking meter enforcement. "Peak-demand period" meter rates were introduced. The transit agency has called for tripling the vehicle license fee charged by the state by adding a city surcharge in order to raise another $100 million per year from motorists. Fees on cars exceed user fares as a source of funding for the public transit system. Some of this cost for motorists is just the normal behavior of an inefficient agency; some of it is social engineering.

We may have reached a tipping point. A $500 million bond measure to purchase new transit vehicles and re-engineer the streets to be more bus- and bicycle-friendly---with less parking and fewer lanes for cars---is proposed for the November ballot.

At the moment, Mayor Ed Lee does not support the VLF surcharge. Both it and Sunday parking meters will be back.

There is, however, a coalition of neighborhood activists, small businesses, first responders, disabled advocates, parents, churchgoers and just plain folks emerging under the banner of Restore Transportation Balance with a set of policy prescriptions:

--Limit hours for parking meters.

--Freeze parking rates.

--Require neighborhood agreement for meter expansion.

--Use a portion of any new revenues to build parking garages where neighborhoods want them.

--Direct that any re-engineering of traffic flows should aim to achieve safer, smoother flowing streets.

--Enforce traffic laws for all modes of transportation, including bicycles.

--Provide representation for all modes of transportation on the Municipal Transportation Agency Board.

Past efforts to reform the agency or establish performance standards for public transit have fizzled. Yet there is hope. The majority of San Francisco households have cars, despite the 15-year campaign against them, and value their convenience, safety and freedom. These residents constitute a solid political base. Join us.

Bill Bowen is a member of the Restore Balance 14 Steering Team. For more information, go to

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