Get Ready for Streetsblog San Francisco

welcome_sf.jpg

How come so many posts on San Francisco lately? Let’s make it official: The Open Planning Project will be launching Streetsblog San Francisco in January 2009.

After interviewing many highly qualified candidates during last month’s RailVolution conference, we’ve hired Bryan Goebel as the site’s editor and Matthew Roth as full-time reporter. Bryan is a veteran journalist, radio reporter and active San Francisco Bicycle Coalition member. Matthew recently moved to the Bay Area from New York City where he worked for Transportation Alternatives as director of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign and spearheaded efforts to curb government employee parking abuse. In addition to support and overhead provided by TOPP, San Francisco Streetsblog will be funded by a generous donation from Jonathan Weiner, a bike-commuting, Muni-riding software entrepreneur and a grant from the Wallace Global Fund.

SF-Bryan_1.jpgBryan Goebel

In talking with Bay Area livable streets advocates over the last few months, it’s become clear that there is a tremendous latent demand for the kind of "Streets Renaissance" we’ve seen get underway here in New York over the last few years. Bay Area cyclists are deeply frustrated over the legal injunction that has ground development of the city’s bike infrastructure to a complete halt. Transit advocates see the city’s crowded, sluggish Muni system locked in stasis, with progress on critical projects like the Geary Street bus rapid transit line held hostage by powerful neighborhood NIMBY’s and the transit system’s own bureaucracy. As in New York City, San Francisco seems happy to allow big real estate developers to cram as many parking spots into their projects as possible — even when it contradicts the city’s own guidelines. The city’s rapidly disintegrating mainstream media outlets, of course, barely cover any of this.

It’s not all bad news though. San Francisco has launched what is likely to be the nation’s most innovative, high-tech, congestion-busting parking reform program. This summer’s Sunday Streets event (which got the green light after advocates showed Mayor Gavin Newsom our Ciclovia Streetfilm) was a popular success. And the city has hired Danish urban designer Jan Gehl to start rethinking San Francisco’s streets and public spaces. Newsom’s administration is saying lots of the right things lately. Wade Crowfoot, the mayor’s director of climate protection initiatives, really seems to get it when it comes to livable streets. Yet, many San Francisco advocates still question whether Newsom, who has his eye on the governor’s office, is more interested in results or headlines. In private, they often refer to him as "Mayor Press Release." It’s clear to me that San Francisco could really use the daily focus on transportation policy, the intelligent online discussion forum, and the occasional kick in the pants that Streetsblog has been known to deliver. We look forward to working there.

SF_roth.jpgMatthew Roth

But let’s also be clear about our place in all of this: Streetsblog isn’t just going to roll in to town sprinkling new bus rapid transit lines, bike lanes and a car-free Market Street in its wake. Sure, we hope to break some big stories and play an important role, but as it has been in New York City, Streetsblog is ultimately only as effective as the advocacy community it is part of. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, with its 10,000 members (nearly twice as many members as Transportation Alternatives in a city one-tenth the size of New York) is one of San Francisco’s most powerful political organizations. Tom Radulovich at Livable City has been successful in pushing an innovative parking reform agenda among other important issues. Walk San Francisco is keeping an eye on pedestrians. And groups like SPUR and TranForm are addressing the regional transportation and planning issues. Streetsblog will be covering the work of all of these organizations and providing an online forum for their members to discuss the issues.

We’re also well aware that we’re not the only blog in town. The Bay Area is blessed with a number of outstanding transportation blogs: Chris Carlsson’s Nowtopian, Transbay Blog, San Francisco Bike Blog, The N-Judah Chronicles and The Overhead Wire are some of my favorites. We look forward to joining their blogrolls and making San Francisco a better city for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders.

Do you want to see a Streetsblog in your city? Let us know. And if you’ve got any story ideas for Bryan and Matthew to cover, shoot them an e-mail.

  • Hey Streetsblog – Welcome to SF! I’m a fan and can’t wait to see and participate in the coverage of SF.

  • Welcome to San Francisco!

    Minor typo, though: Geary is a Street, an Expressway, and a Boulevard, not an Avenue.

  • This is the best news to come over the wire all day — welcome to SF, Streetsblog!

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Welcome to San Francisco! As a San Franciscan I’m obviously psyched. I wonder if someone can help me sort out the Streetsblog syndication feeds, though. If I subscribe to Streetsblog, Streetsblog LA, and Streetsblog SF, I’m going to read a lot of the same articles three times. Is there a central, de-duplicated feed?

  • This is very exciting! Now we can really encourage more competition and shared learning between the cities.

    Having spent each of the last couple weeks in SF, I was struck by how little traffic there is on such high speed roads. There are many major streets that seem like they should be downgraded from the suburban design standards. The turn lanes at intersections need to be challenged and the alleyways are a big opportunity.

    As with in NYC the opportunity with Streetsblog is to take a step back and connect and tap into all the passion, expertise and activism that is out there — to build a fresh, bolder and and more powerful movement. This is likewise an opportunity to look at transportation and public space systems – as well as the efforts to support them — more holistically, with broader community goals in mind, and to start planning for more than just mobility. Streets and transportation planning needs to build communities and create place to first and foremost. Only when we look at them this way will our transportation systems become effectively compatible with bicycling and transit.

    Now let’s watch SF leap frog NYC!

  • Trembling with excitement over here! I can’t wait for the launch!

  • YES! Welcome! We have the activism, the energy, the vision, etc. What we’ve missed is real journalism focused full time on City Hall and the streets. Thanks for stepping in Mathew and Bryan.

    –Jon

    PS San Francisco’s Bikescape Podcast is proud to be the newest member of the Livable Streets Network

    http://www.bikescape.blogspot.com
    http://www.livablestreets.com/

  • I think its great that The Open Planning Project is starting another Streetsblog in another major metropolitan are that desperately needs a fresh approach to the all too prevalent “cars, cars, cars and more cars” transportation policies in this country.

    However, while I’m not trying to rain on your parade, but it seems like a trend is forming where Streetsblogs (plural) are only going to cover the more progressive cities in the country leaving other cities and never mind the suburbs, off your charts. It wouldn’t be so bad if Streetsblog NY made a regular effort to cover stories outside of the 5 Boroughs (I’m no so sure about SB-LA coverage outside LA metro) but with the outrageous death of New York cyclist Camille Savoy just across the GWB on Rt 9 in Alpine NJ, it seems clear that StreetsBlog-NY vision may be a little too myopic.

    Is Streetsblog starting to smell of urban elitism (A charge often made by SB’s critics) and is turning a blind eye to these issues outside urban areas? I’m not saying that but …

    Start a “Streetsblog Kansas City,” Detroit or St. Louis or even suburban Massachusetts then all doubt will be gone. While San Fran could definitely use another voice in the Livable Streets debate, it just seems like low hanging fruit to me (but maybe that’s your strategy).

  • But yeah! I’ll read that one too.

  • Happy NYC Expat

    Welcome to the neighborhood(s)! Ditto the rss feed inquiry, and will Streetsblog SF just cover the City of San Francisco, or the greater Bay Area? I truly hope the latter is the case, as the transit challenges we have are directly connected to the multi-jurisdictional mess we have here. The whole 45 different transit agencies thing seems worth covering, but is quite regional in scope.

  • Dave H.

    Streetsblog Connecticut: covering one of the least walkable and bikable states out there.

    We’ve got it all: corrupt, incompetent DOT, 157 towns or something like that, which refuse to cooperate in any significant way, outrageous low density zoning over all the place, huge budget deficits, broken property tax system that penalizes urban areas — but, believe it or not, there is quite a strong concern about ‘sprawl’ and preserving open spaces that’s even shared by the Republican governor. There’s just no vision or understanding about what it would take to implement it. We’re waiting for you!

  • This is the first time I have ever commented on a blog. I guess its all over now. Welcome to San Francisco!

  • Streetsman

    Jeffrey Baker – good point. Would also be neat if the stories that appear on multiple Streetsblog sites would have combined comments from the various cities.

  • Jeffrey, We’re aware of the syndication feed issue and are looking to come up with some solutions. With SF coming online, the Sblog.net web site launched, and a new project called Livable Streets Education about to go live we need to do a redesign of the whole site now. We’ve also got a much better sense of what works and what doesn’t work about LSN and we want to make some changes there too. Hopefully we can work out the syndication issue as part of that or even sooner.

    Andy, We’d be open to doing Streetsblog in a sprawlier or more suburban city. Activists in Denver, Boston and Chicago have all expressed interest in getting a Streetsblog off the ground. If you can help us rustle up $75,000 for Streetsblog New Jersey (or a group of volunteers who can run it at a relatively consistent level of high quality), then let’s talk business.

  • Aaron
    As an avid cyclist living in Sausalito I hope that others can encourage Blazing Saddles to require helmets for adults – not just kids – as so many of the visitors biking down Alexander Avenue without a clue of what they would be facing …. accidents

  • Bryan Goebel is one of the best, most thorough, most engaging local journalists I know. Great choice!

  • Sweet Streets! Excited to have a Streetsblog devoted to SF! Welcome to our lovely liveable city!

  • TC streets for People would be a good opportunity to merge efforts???

  • I hope it covers the entire SF Bay Area, not just San Francisco. Remember that New York City is about one-half the population of the New York metropolitan area, but San Francisco is only about one-ninth the population of the San Francisco Bay Area.

    We can definitely use some blog coverage of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit system in the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro), which NIMBYs are trying very hard to stop. That happens to be my local issue, but there are lots more.

  • Shemp

    Jon Winston, what about leadership? One of the raps on SF is that no one can get past the problem of a few residents complaining when you want to move a bus stop or a few businesses made uncomfortable by Sunday Streets. But waiting for consensus on traffic and transportation is a “how about never?” strategy. Can SF overcome itself and get anything done?

  • I’m a regular reader of SB-LA, excited to see a new branch so close to home and sniffing around these parts to see whats being said of this by the East Coasters. Interesting that SB is following the same exact development pattern of the Curbed franchise, and nice to see that we’ve been bumped to the status of “the more progressive cities” – albeit the black sheep of the progressive city family. In response to Andy from Jersey, the bulk of Damien Newton’s coverage here focuses on central LA and the westside, although areas as far away as Santa Barbara, San Diego, and the Inland Empire recieve occasional coverage. I would imagine the area between Santa Cruz, Stockton, Sacramento, and Santa Rosa would be within the purview of Streetsblog SF. However, the coverage would naturally gravitate toward developments in central SF, Oakland and Berkeley, for the simple reason that most of the liveable street-related developments happen there.

    Congrats on a great addition to streetsblog, and here’s hoping that a streetsblog on either side of the planned HSR will help it get built faster!

  • Adam

    Careful about touting the N-Judah Chronicles. Greg Dewar is hostile to the bike community, especially Critical Mass. And his gig in the last election cycle was surreptitiously shilling for PG&E against a local initiative that would have ushered in new standards for renewable energy in our power generation.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Aaron,

    Glad to hear it. I fear however my initial perception is shared by others, particularly those that oppose our shared cause. Otherwise,keep up the good work!

    $75,000 to start a blog?!?! Sounds like an awful lot even if you are paying people. I hope that’s a trust to keep it going in perpetuity.

  • Ian Turner

    Andy,

    How much do you think a journalist’s salary is, anyway? I’d say 75 grand is a bargain for two full-time professionals.

    –Ian

  • I don’t know who “Adam” is but I sure don’t like seeing my name smeared by someone with lies.

    I’ve never been hostile to the “bike community” – only to those select few who seem to find it OK to run stop signs and ride their bikes on the sidewalk when its safe. So, strike one. And, for the record, my brother is an avid cyclist and I want to be sure he, like all responsible bicyclists who obey the rules of the road are safe. So, there’s a lie by “Adam” right there.

    In my day job I am a PR consultant for many causes and I’ve always fully disclosed them when they had any impact on events in San Francisco (They rarely do since I usually do not take clients in town anymore). So there’s no controversy here either. Sure there’s been some lies told by certain people in town, but we’ll always have people like that who have to defame someone else just because they’re not in lock step with their own political views.

    In fact the only controversy is this “adam” who obviously doesn’t read the N Judah Chronicles, has cherry picked a few things to provide a wholly inaccurate view of what I am about and what I’ve done. People who have been reading for the last 3 years know this – it’s too bad that some people are just upset that I won “Best Local Blog” by the readers of the Bay Guardian, and will do what they can to engage in character assassination on the Internet.

    It is telling that “Adam” can’t even sign his own name or publish an email to go with his comments. I guess if he’s not willing to stand behind his words, they’re really not that reliable after all.

  • I don’t know who “Adam” is but I sure don’t like seeing my name smeared by someone with lies.

    I’ve never been hostile to the “bike community” – only to those select few who seem to find it OK to run stop signs and ride their bikes on the sidewalk when its safe. So, strike one. And, for the record, my brother is an avid cyclist and I want to be sure he, like all responsible bicyclists who obey the rules of the road are safe. So, there’s a lie by “Adam” right there.

    In my day job I am a PR consultant for many causes and I’ve always fully disclosed them when they had any impact on events in San Francisco (They rarely do since I usually do not take clients in town). So there’s no controversy here either. Sure there’s been some lies told by certain people in town, but that’s common in SF – if someone doesn’t agree with you 100%, demonize them personally, usually with more lies.

    In fact the only controversy is this “adam” who obviously doesn’t read the N Judah Chronicles, has cherry picked a few things to provide a wholly inaccurate view of what I am about and what I’ve done. People who have been reading for the last 3 years know this – it’s too bad that some people are just upset that I won “Best Local Blog” by the readers of the Bay Guardian, and will do what they can to engage in character assassination on the Internet.

    It is telling that “Adam” can’t even sign his own name or publish an email to go with his comments. I guess if he’s not willing to stand behind his words, well, that says it all.

  • and obviously that line should have read “…on the sidewalk when it’s NOT safe…”

  • thomasremo

    Nearly half a decade of Streetsblog — wow. Time for a retrospective / party.

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