Civil Sidewalks - The Sit/Lie Ordinancehomeless on Haight sit in sidewalks

San Franciscan’s are headed for a debate and possible election on maintaining civility on our sidewalks. It’s too bad that it’s come to this, most San Franciscans would have loved to have not seen this day, but unbelievably, the situation has brought us to this point. Groups of street urchins traveling the country, living off the fat of the land and imagining themselves to be hippies, have descended upon the Haight Ashbury neighborhood over the years. In just the last few years the situation has gotten very ugly. Either a new style of anarchy is making its way through these travelers or these kids have an even larger sense of entitlement than previous generations.

If you are not familiar with this “tribe” please go experience them. All you need do is walk down Haight Street as if you are a shopper or tourist and have a right to walk on the sidewalk without impediment. Be careful though, these young adults can be violent and will resort to violence to get what they want and to deliver retribution for slights, disrespect or any assertive behaviour.

This group’s behavior is unacceptable to the residents of the Haight. If the extent of the intimidation, violence and retribution was experienced by other San Franciscans the call for action would be absolute. Most people in this City do not see intimidation and violence as a way of life and do not want to tolerate it in their neighborhoods.

The community has been demanding that the police take action to end this scourge, the police have done all they can to enforce existing laws. The extent of the violence and retribution are forcing the citizens to ask for a new law.

The way it is now these urchins can sit on the sidewalk in circles or groups and block the entire access. Nothing can be done to them unless a citizen complains. As it is now when a complaint is made and the police take action, the person making the complaint is likely to be harassed, hurt or have their property damaged.

The new law will allow the police to ask these waifs to not sit or lie on the sidewalk. They can stand up, walk away, sit in the park, in a plaza or on a bench but not on the sidewalk in front of stores, businesses or homes. No citizen has to complain for the police to take this action.

The objections to moving someone along without a complaint from a citizen are coming from advocates of the homeless, day laborers and youth. They fear a police force that can use laws to discriminate against people that the police “don’t like.” They speak of possible police abuse, but do not speak of actual citizen abuse by these wayfaring strangers.

Here lies the conundrum. The community employs a police force to deal with things and people that disrupt the social order. The very essence of police power is just that. Police power stems from the 10th Amendment and grants the states the power to regulate the conduct of its citizens in the interest of the common good. We ask the police to solve problems so that we, the citizens don’t have to do it ourselves. Imagine the scene on Haight Street if the citizens were to take matters into their own hands! Mad Max hits the Haight.

In this situation, where there is retribution, the police can’t stop the retribution. The arguments against the sit/lie law are based on the same conundrum; how can you take action against a person before they commit the crime? It’s unfortunate that we’ve come to this but it seems that we have. It is better to take action against this group’s anti-social behavior before they can assault or threaten someone. This tribe of gypsies seems to believe that they can push their bad behavior to the limit. If they get caught or someone complains – just intimidate and come right back out. Fun times, for them, but not for you, me, our kids, the people that live or work there or the officers that patrol the area.

The police department is undergoing cultural changes as the community presses them to work under a “community-policing” model. In this instance the quality of life in the Haight Ashbury community is being destroyed by a group of non-residents. Simply put this group has gone way beyond acceptable social behavior. The community is exercising its police power by asking the police to stand between the thugs and the community. The thugs have forced the issue to the point where we have to enable the officers to be more aggressive to counter the transient hordes aggression. Unfortunate but this situation demands an escalation of action on our part.

The police department has a community advisory board in each of the ten districts. The Civil Sidewalks law is designed to meet a need of a neighborhood and has been debated by the citizens and the PD. Making this citywide will preclude the problem moving from the Haight Ashbury to Lower Haight, Hayes Valley, the Castro, 24th Street or West Portal. The residents and businesses can’t work within the existing legal structure because of the retribution that happens. The fear that this will be a tool used against others is a straw argument. It has absolutely no merit under the existing conditions.

Again if you don’t believe it’s all that bad - take a walk down Haight Street from Stanyan to Masonic. Do it soon so you can reach out to the Board of Supervisors or vote correctly if this comes to the ballot.

Jed Lane is a Realtor, West Side native, civically engaged and current resident of Miraloma Park.

If you have questions cvontact him at jed@westsideobserver.com

June 2010

Neighborhood School Admissions Policy Determined

On March 10th, 2010 the Board of Education passed the long discussed “new” admissions policy, scrapping what had become a hated and often vilified system that was cobbled together after lawsuits to end exclusions based on racial quotas. For almost a decade, San Francisco’s kids have been assigned to schools based on a diversity index that tried to place kids in schools based on the dogmatic belief that an education in an economically diverse setting is the best thing for all children.

Ever since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, schools have been trying to address society through social engineering while attempting the education of our kids. For over forty years, school boards and administrators have sought the perfect mix of kids in schools. Unfortunately, they haven’t addressed the underlying problem: every public school should be, at minimum, competent. Forty years ago, when SFUSD started to bus kids from racially segregated underperforming schools on the south east side of the City, until now, when the “new” system will give admissions preference to students in underperforming census tracts again along the south eastern side of the City, one has to ask why schools on the south east side of the City are still not performing.

A brief synopsis of how the assignments will happen soon: Every parent of an incoming kindergartner will be able to rank every school in the City by preference. Most schools will have service areas that are to be defined. If the school has enough seats for every applicant, all will be admitted. For any school that has more applicants than available seats the assignments will be done in the following order: the first admissions to the school will be siblings of students already enrolled at the school; the next group will be students that live in low performing census tract areas - these areas are referred to as CTIP1 and are comprised of the lowest 20% of census tracts when measured by scores on standardized tests; the next group will be the students that live in the service area that attended a pre-K school in the area; next are the kids that live in the service area but didn’t attend a pre-K in the area; next will be students that live in the areas where the schools don’t have the capacity to accommodate all students; and last will be all other students.

So far, many in the community have latched onto the CTIP1 applicants having access to oversubscribed schools before the area’s residents. While it is clear that this is still an attempt to deal with the failing schools, the numbers show that very few parents from these schools avail themselves of placing their kids in higher performing schools.

Forty years later we still have underperforming schools that are not educating students. Having put two daughters through school here in the City, and having worked with current members of the Board of Education both as a Realtor and as a campaign worker, I have come to believe that the mission of our schools should be simply to prepare kids at each level for the next level. I also recognize that a successful school is like a three-legged stool. The three necessary supports are a motivated principal, an engaged contingent of teachers and an active, supportive group of parents. When all three of these legs are in place and balanced there is effective education.

Without going into funding and political issues at SFUSD and the Board the new admission policy can be seen as an improvement over the old system. Is it the best or final answer? Probably not. The final answer lies with parents that have the desire for a good education for their kids, and the time, energy and resources to demand that authorities deliver on public education for all of our children.

A perfect example is Miraloma School. About ten years ago it was not a desirable school. A group, in fact a small group, of parents started working and advocating for the school and their kids. Those kids are all graduated now but the school is still very sought after, so sought after that many neighborhood kids can’t get in. With the new system there vis hope that more can, but the lesson of the improvement still stands.

Just as any neighborhood can improve when there are people working to build a cohesive community, any school can improve also. The answer wasn’t in busing and it probably won’t be in just allowing kids from poor performing areas to go to the better performing schools. The answer is in improving the underperforming schools so that those schools become attractive to parents that demand success. It doesn’t matter if the area is mono-cultured or diverse. What matters are the expectations of the parents and the kids.

Jed Lane is a civically engaged Realtor, Westside native and current resident of Miraloma Park. He can be reached at jed@westsideobserver.com

April 2010

 

Creating a 21st Century Police Force

Big Changes in the SFPDpolice badge

On September 16th 2009 a group met for the first time at Ingleside station. This group, the Ingleside Station Community Advisory Board (CAB), is made up of involved citizens and is charged with advising the management of the station on the implementation of recommendations to improve community –police interaction and modernize the department. These changes are based on recommendations by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and have since been called for by our new Chief of Police, George Gascón.

The CAB is the voice of the communities contained in each police station’s boundaries. The distribution area of this paper is covered by three stations Taraval, Ingleside and Park. As soon as the Chief made his command appointments he asked that each Captain organize its own CAB. Each is charged with bringing the voice of the community to the station Captain and taking the discussion issues of the Captain back to the communities. Ingleside got a head start because it was chosen by the previous Chief, Heather Fong, as the test station to implement PERF reforms and form a CAB. The new Captain, David Lazar, was chosen for his personal skill and his understanding of the community policing model.

Police forces across the country have been moving towards this model for decades. San Francisco started over thirty years ago with efforts to hire a force that reflects the society that we ask them to police. Also at that time the PD created SF SAFE as the outreach organization for the PD. Since then SAFE has worked with thousands of citizens, teaching how to create community and watch out for each other. In many people’s eyes the PD wasn’t moving in the same direction. Many felt that the first set of diverse officers that entered the force were enculturated into the existing atmosphere. Now the community and the command staff are asking the police to change how they work. In so doing, it is believed that the force and the community will, over time, build trust and solve the issues that exist in each community.

There have been many reforms instituted by the Chief since his arrival. He has moved the Inspectors out of the Hall of Justice to the station houses, he has instituted CompStat to track criminal activity, mapping it to see where and when crime is occurring. Most importantly he has made each station’s Captain responsible for the rise or fall of crimes in their areas. Each month they have to publically answer for increases and tell what they are going to do to reduce them. If there is reduction they have the opportunity to share what they did and give recognition to the officers and staff that made it happen.

How can the police reduce crime in any area? Haven’t we demanded and been promised this before? They can’t do it without us. Community policing is a long term strategy to bring the force in alignment with the communities they serve. Its goal is to create working relationships amongst all elements of a community to address the problems of crime and disorder that exist in each community. It is accomplished by the creation of problem solving teams that take a look at all elements of the problem. When they work it’s because rank doesn’t add weight to opinions. A beat officer, or a merchant might have a good idea that the Sergeant, Lieutenant, or Captain might not have considered. This is the function of the advisory boards. Members will sit with the PD and youth service providers, for example, to work out what the community expectation might be. Or they might form a committee to address robberies on MUNI working with the PD and SFMTA.

At this early stage many Captains are still finding their way in forming and working with neighborhood advisors. It has been reported by some members of district boards that their Captain doesn’t seem to be as open as the CAB members would like—it seems to these people that the Captains listen but there is no exchange, no real conversation. Effective communication is a key ingredient in so much of life and the creation of a public/police working relationship will be no exception. Communication in an advisory board environment must be two way, it works best if there is mutual respect and a free flow of information and ideas. The basic tenets of effective communication are active listening, clear expression of ideas and taking ownership of the listeners’ understanding of your ideas. We who are working on the district CABs and with other organizations have very high hopes for this partnership between the force and the communities they serve. It’s our goal that San Francisco will be the safest large city in the country and that a true partnership will be forged to help solve the problems of crime and quality of life issues in every community. The Chief is in accord with this vision, and with his support we have the best chance ever to make it work.

Remember that every one of us can help in the reduction of crime by reporting it. If the police don’t know that your car was broken into, or that you were robbed on MUNI or getting off MUNI, they won’t have the true picture. Police reports can be filled out on-line for some crimes or you can call 311 to report anything. Obviously, if the crime is happening or if you know who did it and where the suspect is then call 911. All the information on reporting crimes is on http://sf-police.org/index.aspx?page=778 but if you don’t have access to a computer call 311 or 911.

If you have questions or comments contact me at jed@westsideobserver.com

Jed Lane is a Civically Engaged Realtor, West Side native and resident of Miraloma Park.

March 2010

Who’s Going to Control Where Density Goes?

Beyond Discretionary Review

I was in a conversation a member of the Board of Supervisors about planning issues here on the Westside of SF. One comment kept ringing through my head over the next few days: that we on the west side don’t know the language of Planning; all we know is “Discretionary Review (DR) and No.”

As I’ve written before for the Observer, single family homes are viewed in some urban planning circles as an historic anomaly. Our neighborhoods consume more of everything that’s becoming scarce and unhealthy. We hear it from government officials and Planners and we hear it from SPUR and the SF Housing Action Coalition; we take up too much space with our low-density housing. We drive our cars too many miles as we shop at our grocery stores and shopping malls that waste space providing free parking lots. We produce too much carbon exhaust from our cars and our inefficient single family homes with so few people living in them. We demand parking be included with every living unit and fight every reduction in space for parking our cars. We hear it now and the chorus will just get louder, more frequent and damning with State and Federal legislation that has passed.

As the City processes its Housing Element of the General Plan, it’s clear to those that watch these issues for our neighborhoods that the Westside has dodged a bullet this time around. The bulk of the expected growth that San Francisco is mandated to be prepared for by the State, will be absorbed by the eastern neighborhoods. Once these plans are finished and become policy, the western neighborhoods will become the focus again.

Fortunately the days of top-down planning are presumed to be gone. The citizens of San Francisco have become adept at staying organized over the long term and keeping neighborhood delegates involved in watching the functions of the City. Too often though, we on the west side are viewed as incapable of having planning discussions or of understanding the benefits of planning to neighborhoods like Upper Market, Market/Octavia, Western SOMA and the eastern neighborhoods, because we don’t seem to understand the benefits of higher density, or we are just single-mindedly reactionary. Whether or not we can see the benefits of higher density and choose not to live in North Beach or we are just being reactionary, not being engaged in the dialogue is to our detriment. In the coming years we will be carried kicking and screaming into the planning ring, and the more we know, the better we will fare.

Knowing what is going on now in Western SOMA as the residents try to maintain the production, distribution and repair (PDR) districts, reduce the influx of housing and office space, or the middle Polk neighborhood, as it works to replace the Cala Foods on California with something other than a wall-facing California Street and a box that is out of scale with the surrounding buildings, informs us about what is coming, as the desire to build higher density in transit-rich areas becomes the dominant argument.

It will be important to be conversant in the assumptions/benefits of higher density. Some say that living in higher density environs is healthier just from the standpoint that we will walk more as we go about the day. The San Francisco Department of Public Health has a “Healthy Development Measurement Tool” which they want developers to use as a measuring system to build a healthier citizenry. It’s believed that an increase in density will allow an increase in services in the neighborhoods, and that is good for everyone. Everything from better public transportation to shoe repairs shops and restaurants will become available because there are customers within walking distance. The biggest “benefit” of higher density will be the reduction of vehicle miles traveled. These could all be true, but some benefits have unintended consequences that bureaucrats don’t or won’t foresee.

Every government entity in the world is looking at ways to decrease carbon emissions. Higher density is one of the most commonly cited means to accomplish this. These arguments may all have merit, but it’s still important to force conversation and to engage so that the end result is good, reasonable planning. Historically we’ve seen bad planning and the detrimental effects of the unintended consequences. Take the redevelopment of the Fillmore, where simply the number of minority residents was used as a defining element of blight: substitute the number of vehicles or miles traveled as a blight-defining element, and top-down planning would open our neighborhoods to the bulldozers.

Now is the time to stop using the old arguments. We need to engage with our neighborhood associations and support the work those volunteers are doing. We also need to be sure that they are aware of the larger forces and are capable of negotiating the real choices that are available in this environment.

There are definitely benefits to good planning. Westside neighborhoods need to negotiate for the benefits as we are forced to deal with the impacts of rising energy costs both in dollars and environmental damage. It isn’t just about one-for-one parking. It’s about secondary units in our single family homes, our neighborhood commercial districts and transit-rich areas, Taraval Street, Stonestown, Ocean Avenue, Park Merced, Glen Park and Balboa Park. It’s about the restrictions of destination parking, loss of parking space and extended parking charges. It’s about better streets and public transit, and it’s likely going to be about increases in density in some parts of the western neighborhoods.

Who’s going to control where the density goes? Who’s going to decide the cost/benefit of each decision, us or them?

Jed Lane is a civically engaged Realtor, Westside native and current resident of Miraloma Park. He can be reached at Jed@JedLane.com

November 2009

Big Changes Evident at SFPDinternet policing

On September 16th 2009 a group met for the first time at Ingleside station. This group is made up of involved citizens and is charged with advising the management of the station on the implementation of recommendations to modernize the department and improve community –police interaction. These changes are based on recommendations by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).

The PERF report, all 400 pages, was commissioned by the Police Commission a number of years ago. The goal was to look at all of the police departments across the country and bring back the best practices that would work in San Francisco.

The advisory board will be the voice of the communities contained in the Ingleside Station’s boundaries. We are charged with bringing our discussions to our communities and bringing the voice of the community back to the Captain. Ingleside was chosen by Chief Fong as the test station because of its size and diversity. Ingleside encompasses neighborhoods from Noe Valley to Visitacion Valley. This community’s needs and involvement with the force run the gamut from the issues in Miraloma Park to the issues of the Sunnydale housing project residents.

Many west side neighborhoods are in Park and Taraval station jurisdictions and we have been told that each will have advisory boards in the future. The new Chief is experienced in this style of citizen involvement, LA has been doing it since 1993, and he is a firm proponent of community policing.

Community policing is defined many ways, my definition is from another St Brendan’s boy and retired SFPD captain, Dan Lawson. He defines community policing as “solving the issues of the community with the community.” Dan and I are on the Board of Directors of SF SAFE. SAFE has, for over thirty years, been the community outreach for the SFPD. SAFE has helped set up neighborhood watch groups and advised victims of crimes how to work with the PD to prevent or stop continued quality of life crimes in neighborhoods throughout the City. SAFE, naturally, is acting as the moderator for these meetings because of the groups’ long association with the general citizenry, the neighborhood activists and the police department.

This evolution of the police department has taken a large step forward with the appointment of Chief Gascon. The Police Commission and the current Mayoral administration have made commitments to undertake many of the changes that have been recommended. Community policing, proper staffing and supervision ratios, problem solving units and inspectors in the stations are a few of the changes. Better use of technology is also a focus.

San Francisco is in the heart of one of the most advanced technological area in the world yet the technology in the stations and with the officers is dismal. Crime mapping and computer analysis are the goal but right now the PD is moving into the 1990s. For example, as of last month every Ingleside officer has an individual e-mail account — think about that simple change for a minute. An officer comes to your house and takes a report, now you can communicate directly with the officer for follow-up. It’s a small change but it will improve the client service of the PD enormously. As we get started we will pick the low hanging fruit first then tackle the meatier issues. Stay tuned.

If you have questions or comments contact me at Jed@SFSafe.org. Jed Lane is a civically engaged Realtor, West Side native and current resident of Miraloma Park.

October 2009

SPUR displays more than change

SPUR, (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research) has been having a series of panel discussions to coincide with the “Agents of Change; Civic Idealism & the Making of San Francisco” exhibition. The exhibition creates a time line of “agents” that have been instrumental in developing or stopping development in San Francisco and the Bay Area. The exhibit, put together by Benjamin Grant, Urban Designer, San Jose State lecturer and resident of the Mission district is on display through November 15th 2009 at the SPUR Urban Center.

The one theme that was most troubling to me, as a Westside resident and native son, was the perspective that single-family neighborhoods should not exist. Apparently we are an aberration of history and unsustainable. We are depicted consistently as having too low a density and using too much carbon to be sustainable.

Addressing the development history of the City, from the beginning of the “City Builders” in the last half of the 1800s through the “Progressive & Classicists, Regionalists, Moderns and Contextualists” movements of the 1900s, into the current “Eco-Urbanist” movement delivered perspective. It created an opportunity to delve deeply into the current motivation and direction of the forces at work in San Francisco. The agents of change were the citizens who both promoted and stopped the changes that have created the City we live in today.

The areas east of Twin Peaks was discussed, dissected and planned for. The only positive mention of us was from Dean Macris who served the City since 1969 in many capacities of planning. In response to Aaron Peskin’s statement about “density equity” Mr. Macris pointed out that we don’t see our neighborhoods as gas guzzling, low density wasted space. We have chosen to live here and not in North Beach for numerous reasons. Yet a slide at a different discussion compared the City’s population density with the carbon usage showed the less dense areas, our neighborhoods, use far more fuel than the higher density neighborhoods. We are going to have to start to justify our existence it seems.

The belief of the modern Eco-Urbanist is that we should live in higher density housing with wonderful street space and good pedestrian interaction with buildings. We will have sufficient density to support all of our daily needs within walking distance, food, cleaners, banks, bakers, shoe repair, restaurants etc. Public transportation will provide the necessary daily commute to work and also to regional hub links for access to other services. This new urbanism is really Old World urbanism. This sounds like Paris with its neighborhood shopping streets, sidewalk cafés and Metro. It also sounds like a West Portal within easy walking distance for all of us.

The City’s Department of Public Health has developed a Healthy Development Measurement Tool (HDMT) that speaks to how dense is the correct healthy density for walk-able neighborhoods. Like the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, where civic conversations were held on how the region could grow in a sustainable fashion, single family homes were on the table for possible banishment, we are being discussed. San Francisco can only plan for San Francisco so instead of figuring out what to do with Dublin/San Ramon or Antioch and Pittsburg we, the west side neighborhoods will be the test case for the idealism and visionary planners.

During the discussions of the Moderns, 1950 to 1970, the excess of the freeway builders and redevelopment area clearers was discussed. It is good to remember that it was civic action by our neighbors that stopped both of those excessive programs in their tracks. It’s going to be up to each of us to understand the issues and speak to each issue with what is acceptable and put a stop to the excess of hubris. There were going to be freeways on 19th Ave and one that went into Glen Canyon from 280 entering a tunnel through Twin Peaks to connect with the Golden Gate Bridge!

The power that government has is given to it by the citizens. Zoning and building codes are enforceable because of the “police power” we vest to the government. It’s a simple time-honored development of western society that works quite well. Yet it’s important to remind those to whom we delegate power that in the end they are accountable to us for what happens.

The western neighborhoods are not under immediate pressure because of the development going on in SOMA, the Eastern Neighborhoods and Hunters Point. The 2009 Housing Element’s projected growth is covered by development in those areas. The Better Neighborhoods Program, which includes Glen Park and Balboa Park in our area, is moving forward. The designs of these two areas show responsiveness to community input and a realization that one size does not fit all. These plans will guide development and reconfiguration of these two transit hub areas. The reality is that while planners plan and builders build, it’s us who will live in and move through the neighborhoods. That is the reason why we need to understand the vision and be part of the recreation of the area.

The days of top-down planning are over unless we let them return. The biggest errors acknowledged by all the speakers during many of the panels was the razing of the “slums” in the Western Addition and the subsequent re-building of structures designed by the “Moderns”. The development of the replacement housing in the areas of Cathedral Hill, Japan Town and the Fillmore was forward thinking then but many proved to be a disaster. So many mistakes in the desire of betterment, and now we have a new desire for betterment – what to do? Stay tuned my neighbors.

September 2009

Why Plan?

What is the Housing Element & Where is it taking us?photo of planner

In 1969 the State Legislature passed a bill mandating that local governments “adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community”. In recent times San Francisco did a Housing Element (HE) in 1990 and then didn’t update it till 2004. The 2004 HE was controversial and although it was accepted by the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) it was never enforced because of a lawsuit brought by neighborhood groups over the lack of an environmental impact report (EIR). When the City filed the document in 2004 they stated that all impacts could be “mitigated” and therefore no EIR was required. The courts said that an EIR was needed so the EIR is actually in process at this time. Also at this time the City is writing the 2009 HE.

To some it’s confusing that both the 2004 and the 2009 HEs are being worked on at the same time. A common question is “why not abandon the 2004 HE and just work on the 2009 HE”? The answer is that each new HE builds on the previous one, therefore only the changes need to be studied, discussed or have their impacts investigated. Those of us in the community that work on these issues, like the MPIC Zoning and Planning Committee are watching both because the 2004 HE was revised in 2008 before the EIR was commissioned.

So why plan? The 1969 state law mandates that local governments come up with how they will address the housing needs of every economic stratum of the residents. Interestingly, the requirement is that the City shows that the ability to create housing exists yet it relies on the private sector to build the housing. While the City must show the State that it’s possible to meet the needs there isn’t any way to force the private sector to create the housing. Zoning and land use policy are the methods used to show that local governments have addressed the needs.

Who decides how much housing is needed and where it’s needed? The State HCD department analyzes and projects the growth of the State in each region. The regional entities are then informed of what they need to do. In the Bay Area the regional entity is the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). ABAG breaks down the projected growth to each City and County and that establishes the numbers San Francisco is to plan for. Negotiations do occur at this level and ABAG will play a larger role in the future as regional transportation issues are tied to land use policy.

Since the HE is a part of the General Plan which ties into regional, state and federal planning goals there are overarching aspects that filter down to details in the HE. Clearly one of the largest issues of our time and a driving force behind the direction the planners are moving is to address green house gas (GHG) emissions and global warming. There are many parts to the HE, historical preservation, affordable housing, secondary units, etc. A relatively new aspect of the HE links transportations to housing creation. The most controversial to each person, group or neighborhood will depend on how it impacts them. Understanding the reason it’s done and the overarching direction the law mandates will help us all have more relevant conversations.

San Francisco led the way with a green house gas reduction law by passing the Climate Action Plan in 2004. Then the California Assembly passed AB32 in 2006 which mandated reductions in GHG emissions. The California State Senate followed that with SB375 in 2008 which put teeth into the Assembly law. SB375 mandates that if regions don’t act to reduce GHG then access to State and Federal transportation dollars will be cut off. We have experienced some of the changes from these laws already and now it is going to speed up. One of the main ways, but not the only one in the works, is to reduce the number of carbon fueled vehicle miles traveled (VMT). There are two main thrusts to this. One direction is alternative fuel vehicles which leave the responsibility of transportation up to the individual. The other is to improve mass transit. The State likes the former because it removes the responsibility from them to build adequate infrastructure and provide mass transit systems that work. The latter will have a bigger impact on the reduction of GHG but is known to be most effective if ridership reaches high numbers, hence density increases.

Urban centers in America all grew as economic centers. From the earliest times they originated for trade or transit of trade. San Francisco is no different. Boston and New York first grew as cities where everything could be done by a walking person. Originally San Francisco was the same. The development of the areas south of Golden Gate Park and west of Twin Peaks were designed around the auto. Our neighborhoods were planned and built with easy parking in front of our houses and easy parking at our daily destinations. Hence our neighborhoods stand to be impacted by efforts to reduce VMT. In our single family neighborhoods we will need much better service from MUNI if we are to reduce our VMT. I confess that I drive everywhere, but I know from my work as a Realtor, that many people don’t want to own cars or drive everywhere. Providing housing for them on transit corridors without parking allows for more units in a structure with less height and bulk. As proposals are put before us I feel it’s important to understand the motivation and the ramifications.

Historically planning has been done from the “Top Down,” widely recognized as a failed policy. Locally the redevelopment of Japantown and the Fillmore district were the worst examples. Now planning is much more “Bottom Up” and that’s why the Planning Department is organizing events around the City to discuss and get public input on the HE.

I believe that cities should be dynamic and evolving. As citizens of San Francisco, we need to be informed on issues and delve into the ones that are important to each of us. The planners that are listening to you are people that do what they do because they typically have a desire to know how people live, to design better living habitats and help build better communities. We all know that respectful people get listened to and disrespectful people get tuned out. Planners are the moderators between economic forces that make money on development, government dictates and the people that live in the environments that are built. They are also public servants who work for us. Be sure that they know us and understand what’s important to our lives here in the suburbs in the City.

Jed Lane - Westside native and Miraloma Park resident

June 2009