Here is the second and final installment of Streetsblog SF’s first-ever Streetsie Awards. In case you missed them, check out Part 1 and the voting results from the recent reader poll. We’ll return to our regular programming on Wednesday.
Why are so few drivers charged for killing pedestrians in San Francisco? District Attorney George Gascón’s answer demolished the competition in this category. In an interview with Streetsblog, he claimed that most pedestrians were at fault for their own deaths. Of course, this was promptly debunked using traffic collision data (which is collected by the SFPD, where Gascón briefly presided as chief and touted the importance of data-driven enforcement). However, statistics still didn’t seem to matter much in the traffic safety campaign Gascón launched last month, which doled out some “equal-opportunity finger-wagging” to pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers (as Streetsblog commenter “Mom on a Bike” put it), even though violations by motorists pose the greatest danger on the streets by far.
Worst Police Traffic Scandal
When it comes to issuing citations to or pursuing charges against drivers who run over pedestrians, the SFPD isn’t exactly ready at the gates. In the case of the man walking with a cane who was run over in a crosswalk by a shuttle bus driver in the Tenderloin, police took a week to issue a citation to the driver, and only after an outcry from pedestrian safety advocates. This despite clear video footage of the incident shown on the evening news, as well as eyewitness accounts of the driver’s impatient honking at other drivers just before the incident. Even then, however, the DA’s office said no crime was committed since the victim wasn’t killed. Apparently, the driver’s behavior isn’t considered legally “reckless” because he was driving a motor vehicle and he didn’t kill anybody (rather, he only caused debilitating injuries with possibly life-altering consequences). Clearly, the legal system has to be fixed if drivers who put people in danger are to be held accountable for traffic violence.
Most Absurd Argument Against SFPark Meters
This year saw a backlash against the SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s plans to expand SFPark meters in the Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, and Northeast Mission neighborhoods. That lead the SFMTA to begin the planning process anew and even remove SFPark from the equation to address skepticism about the efficacy and motives of the data-driven, demand-based parking pricing program (now, only conventional parking meters are on the table). While it’s unclear at this point how receptive residents generally are to the SFMTA’s revamped efforts to end needless circling for parking, Eastern Neighborhoods United Front (ENUF) spokesperson Mari Eliza has remained consistently dead-set against the notion of altering the status quo of free parking, instead attacking the SFMTA as a government agency simply looking to gouge drivers. Last month, she told Streetsblog that drivers in the Mission are complaining that finding parking there is difficult (no doubt there), yet said that “I don’t get” the concept that someone might be willing to pay a small price for a parking spot if it’s more readily available.
Eliza had an even more baffling response in her latest appearance in the SF Examiner, which reported that parking citations and meter rates are dropping with SFPark meters (which, unlike regular meters, accept both credit cards and coins). This statement, which only seemed to confirm her unequivocally contrarian stance against SFPark and everything it stands for, has earned the honor of a Streetsie Award this year: “Personally, I’m perfectly happy with the old meters. That’s how I use up all my spare change.”
Award for Pro-Parking Meter Activism
To want more parking meters, and yet to not work for the SFMTA, is surely a paradox — right? Transit advocate Mario Tanev might be the first person to have ever formally started a pro-parking meter group to try to dispel that notion. In September, he founded the group sfMORE to help spread the word about sane parking policy reform and counter ENUF’s pitchforks-and-torches opposition to the expansion of parking meters as a means to cut down on unnecessary cruising for parking.
As it turns out, there’s a significant number of San Franciscans who understand that free parking comes with high costs, and who think that paying for car storage based on demand, as we do with almost anything else, makes a lot of sense. Tanev started a counter-petition against the one launched by ENUF that currently has almost 300 signatures. Not that parking policy should be determined by petition, but for the noble and novel effort to rally a “Yes in My Backyard” movement around the politically-volatile lightning rod that is the parking meter, Tanev earns a 2012 Streetsie Award.
Most Squabbled-Over Issue in Transit Policy
The drawn-out fight over the free Muni for low-income youth pilot program was a sign of the current era of transit funding scarcity. Following years of advocacy from the group POWER calling for free Muni for all youth, the SFMTA carved out $4 million from its $800 million+ budget (that’s 0.5 percent) for a low-income-only program, with another $1.6 million matched by regional funds. But the issue remained divisive until the end, even among pro-transit voices like Supervisor Scott Wiener, who argued that the money would be better spent on vehicle maintenance and rehabilitation. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission — which Wiener sits on — first rejected granting $4 million for the program, but in the end sealed the deal by approving a $6.7 million grant ($5.1 million of which will go toward rehabilitating light rail vehicles).
Most Blatant Double Standard
Last year, 19 pedestrians were killed on an Francisco streets, but the big media fracas centered around the one caused by Chris Bucchere — a bicyclist. The death of 71-year-old Sutchi Hui was tragic and avoidable, but it was impossible to take all the coverage of this exceedingly rare case seriously as public-interest journalism, because the same reporters showed so little interest in covering the violent deaths caused by motor vehicle operators. Before Hui died, CBS 5 sent two reporters to the scene of the crash at Market and Castro Streets, but provided no coverage of the car crash that hospitalized a pedestrian at the same intersection a week before. Law enforcement officials applied their own double standards. Within a few weeks of Hui’s death, DA Gascón told reporters that he’d file charges against Bucchere. Meanwhile, few drivers who weren’t drunk or fleeing the scene faced criminal repercussions. Every San Franciscan would be safer on the streets if the 18 other pedestrians killed and hundreds of others injured by drivers got justice too.
Worst Place to Put a Giant Parking Garage
Parking maximums don’t seem to matter much when it comes to building condos for the super-rich at 8 Washington Street along the Embarcadero. The Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors approved the project with an underground car parking garage that includes three times the number of residential parking spaces allowed under the planning code, plus 255 public parking spaces. Nevermind that it’ll encourage car ownership in one of the most walkable, transit-accessible neighborhoods in the country, where a nationally-renowned restoration of the waterfront was spurred by removing a freeway and reducing car traffic — not adding it.
Runner-up: CPMC Cathedral Hill (still pending approval by the Board of Supervisors).
Biggest Slap in the Face
California Governor Jerry Brown really doesn’t seem to think his bicycling constituents deserve three feet of passing room from drivers. For the second year in a row, he vetoed a three-foot passing bill, even though the second iteration was tailored to address his unfounded concerns about traffic congestion in the first one, and even though 21 other states already have similar laws in place. People on bikes in California won’t get sensible bike safety laws, it seems, as long as Brown kneels to lobbying from AAA and the CA Highway Patrol.
But not to worry, Governor Brown — your legacy will still linger. Californian bicycle riders finally have a term to describe the experience of being passed by a motorist too closely: It’s called getting “Jerry Browned.” (See our own Bryan Goebel discuss it in the Sacramento News & Review.)
Most Efficient Re-Purposing of Street Space
The SFMTA has created hundreds of new on-street parking spots over the past couple of years. How? By taking spaces reserved for cars and converting them for bicycles. As of July, the agency had turned 30 car spaces into 336 bike spaces since it started installing bike corrals in May of 2010, and the current count is surely higher. Merchants who understand that ten times as many bicycling customers can park in the same space as a car are clamoring for these. And when corrals replace parked cars that block visibility at street corners, they provide a huge safety benefit.