Today’s Headlines

  • Sup. Wiener: SF’s Bike-Share System Must Be Far Larger Than Planned (CBS)
  • Bay Area Has Most Long-Distance “Mega-Commuters” in the Country (CoCo Times)
  • More on the Launch of Free Muni For Youth (KALW)
  • Transit Workers Union Pres.: BART Workers’ Record on Absence Isn’t Bad (SF Examiner)
  • Opponents of a Safer Polk Street Seem to Believe Driving to Polk Will Be Impossible (SF Examiner)
  • Haze in Transbay Tube Leads to BART Delays and Investigation (CBS)
  • Lighthouse-SF.org Provides Free Tactile Street Maps of SF For Blind Travelers
  • Haighteration Recommends Some Bike Routes With Good Food at the End
  • Caltrain Delayed After Hitting Abandoned Car in San Bruno, No One Injured (SFGate)
  • Despite Bigger “No Turn on Red” Sign, Alameda Drivers Still Flout Law (People Behaving Badly)
  • Girl, 17, Struck and Killed by Driver While Walking on Highway 152 in Gilroy (CoCo Times)
  • Hayward Police Recommend Eliminating Red-Light Cameras (CoCo Times)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Anonymous

    Loving this comment from the letter to the Examiner: “For 20 years, I have avoided Polk Street for shopping or dining whenever I’m driving. How many others will stay away now?” 

    So she still goes to Polk (maybe) but doesn’t drive there anymore, and she’s concerned for the unique businesses and character of the street that will no longer remain once a few dozen parking spaces are removed? hmmmm. 

    I bet she’s just wringing her hands over the poor businesses on Valencia street since they “improved” that street, but she’s likely never been back since it’s too hard to drive to.

    I think the only argument one could make against improving Polk is that it would become a force of gentrification, but even that’s a poor argument compared the the benefits of the improved public space that would come from a successful implementation of the more pedestrian and bicycle friendly versions of the project.

  • mikesonn

    If she hasn’t been there in 20 years, she’s a long lost customer. The ones packing the sidewalks of Polk now want to (and currently do) arrive via walking, Muni, and/or biking. Not to mention the obscene amount of off street parking (which I agree could use better signage but that’s a simple fix.)

  • The Mayor of Indy just came out saying Indy needs more bike lanes to attract the businesses and employees that drive urban economies. This on the heels of Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles saying the same things.

    Maybe you’re on to something coolbaby – the merchants on Polk are worried that they will in fact lose their business if the bike lanes come in. If Polk Street becomes too successful, they will be priced out by increased rents.

  • voltairesmistress

     murphstahoe, if Polk commercial rents do rise, a lot of practical neighborhood stores with lower-profit services (shoe repair, hardware, produce stores, take-out Chinese, used book stores, etc) will leave.  That will not improve the neighborhood for pedestrians and cyclists.  Instead, people will have to pay higher prices for necessities, or if they have cars, drive to outlying areas to shop where ground rents are cheaper.  That’s already happened in North Beach and Hayes Valley.  Once a person gets in his/her car to find a hardware store, it doesn’t make much difference if one drives to West Portal or Colma — it takes about the same amount of time.  And it defeats the whole neighborhood shopping model.

    It’s ironic that districts that become “go-to” destinations become, in some ways, less livable for their residents..  I don’t have a market-based solution for that economic phenomenon or rising commercial rents, but I do wonder if the entire city became safe and accessible to ride/walk, would these “special streets” still be destinations?  Or would we simply have all neighborhoods as functioning local hubs instead of nauseating boutique-driven playgrounds? (I say that after having paid $16 for the first and last time for two glorified German hot-dogs and some kraut at Hayes Valley’s asphalt “Biergarten”.)

  • Anonymous

    @732c4803eb2e277d0054b17154744686:disqus , this is definitely the type of discussion I think we should be having about Polk, not just a cars über alles that the “save polk street” folks have been making it. 
    I think the improved space is worth it, even in Hayes valley and Valencia street’s case because those improvements will survive what I can only hope will be a quick end or at least a slowdown of bubble 2.0. Plus as you say, once improvements are not “special” but standard then some of these destination will be less go-to but the benefits to the streets will remain.

    The other thing is that gentrification, and all the good/bad it brings, is not going to be stopped by leaving things as they are right now. Polk is already gentrified/gentrifying whether this project happens or not. Perhaps the question is rather will the new rich drive in a mercedes to valet park or will they bike to brunch? I’d rather they bike.

  • mikesonn

    North Beach doesn’t have a hardware store because the one that was there was a complete joke and now Cole Hardware says there isn’t a space big enough to justify moving into the neighborhood. There are several small empty store fronts on Upper Grant but I would wager that has just as much to do with skinny sidewalks as it does with rising rents.

    Cole Valley, Valencia, Pac Heights all have seen rents go through the roof and they still have access to hardware stores. It isn’t a case of “nauseating boutique-driven playgrounds” but local happenstance. Though we can do causation/correlation anecdotes all day if you’d like.

  • voltairesmistress

     mike, you often seize on a detail (the hardware store, in this case) and ignore the overarching argument (rising commercial rents that always accompany gentrification and maybe follow all-too infrequent and exceptional complete streets).  Overall I see certain neighborhoods with higher ground rents not being able to support a variety of practical services for local residents.  As I said, I don’t have a market-based solution to that.  But I would hazard a guess that when pedestrians and cyclists don’t have a variety of services in their immediate neighborhoods, they have to travel cross town or out of town to get basic things done.  This is particularly true for people who have cars but would prefer to leave them in the garage and shop hyper locally.

  • mikesonn

    This is a regional issue. Only having a few “complete streets” means that they are in high demand and therefor expensive. We need more, not less.

    And I’m seizing on the detail because that is what you are using for your anecdote. North Beach is a highly walkable neighborhood because of density but the streetscape is woefully inadequate (lots of traffic, small sidewalks, far too much street parking).

    The answer is better cross neighborhood Muni/bike connections which improving Polk will provide.

  • voltairesmistress

    ” This is a regional issue. Only having a few “complete streets” means
    that they are in high demand and therefor expensive. We need more, not
    less.”

    Mike, your words above — but that was a good chunk of the argument I was making.  We agree — the city needs complete streets everywhere.  The commercial corridors — Polk, Valencia, Fillmore, Union, Columbus, West Portal Ave, Irving, Clement, etc, etc, — should be at the top priorities once we get all the through bikeways built out.  Polk is a great candidate because it is both things — the best north-south throughway for bikes and peds AND a commercial corridor with the kinds of shops a lot of people already patronize.

  • Anonymous

    I’m beginning to think that the only difference between the bike lobby and the highway lobby is the size of their footprints.  They are equally indifferent to whether the local community wants them there. Whether it’s a freeway or a bike lane, just ram it on through.

  • Anonymous

    you can’t “ram” a bike lane anywhere other than possibly on undeveloped land. Maybe if they start demolishing buildings to make room for bike lanes for the “bicycle lobby” and dividing neighborhoods with huge concrete bike spans, spewing exhaust from bikes, etc. then you can make your false comparison.

  • Anonymous

    I think this is an important discussion and that what @mikesonn:disqus and @732c4803eb2e277d0054b17154744686:disqus are saying is key. Namely, the fact that when we calm/make livable neighborhoods it tends to gentrify them proves the point that people *desperately* want to live in these areas. And whenever you create a limited supply of something, the wealthy always get too it first. So what do you to create more equality? You increase the supply so everyone else can get in. If the vast majority of streets are designed to be livable and prioritize walking, cycling, and public transit over cars, then gentrification is significantly reduced because we aren’t all competing for a few key areas that the wealthy can always achieve more leverage to dominate.

    So claiming that making streets livable is akin to supporting gentrification is incorrect. Instead, we should be claiming that this is exactly why we need more of them. This is profound evidence that the MTA needs to start moving faster with this projects and in more neighborhoods … not only because it makes the neighborhoods healthier, more environmentally-friendly, and more livable, but because it reduces gentrification.

  • voltairesmistress

     p-chazz, I think bike lanes are better compared to sidewalks not roadways in terms of their size, purpose, benefit/deficit to residents and businesses, etc.  In German, a sidewalk is called a “Bürgersteig” — literally a “citizen riser/berm”.  Originally people walked in the same streets as wagons, teams of horses, etc.  The “Bürgersteig” was instituted as a safety measure and as way of keeping pedestrians from getting splattered in mud and manure from passing animals and carts.  But then people saw how it benefited shopkeepers too, because pedestrians could more comfortably shop.  I think the bike lanes, originally brought in as safety measures, will have a similar commercial effect.  Roadways, of course, carry people and goods for commerce too, but their effects are just as often to take people quickly through an area, not inviting them to stop in.  So I think your comparison a bit off in this case.

  • We can’t make streets livable because that would make them attractive, and we certainly can’t have that.

  • Anonymous

    “Overall I see certain neighborhoods with higher ground rents not being able to support a variety of practical services for local residents.  As I said, I don’t have a market-based solution to that.”
    Well, I do: build more commercial spaces. Consider: what is the ground floor of any given building used for, apart from a small amount of space for utilities & stairs? Generally, three possibilities: residential, commercial, and garage space. If commercial ground rents are high, the market-based solution would be to convert/construct more ground floor commercial. You can see the results of this all over the city: not just the standard apartments-over-retail, but even single family homes where the ground floor was adapted into a shop. It is, basically, how all the traditional, walkable SF neighborhoods developed.

    Today, there are two major obstacles to this: first, zoning and building codes. Building codes are far more strict about all sorts of details, making quick-and-dirty adaptations impossible, or at least prohibitively expensive, while zoning codes might forbid them entirely (just check out the many local shops that exist on lots zoned for residential).

    The other obstacle is, of course, parking. The classic San Francisco 25-50 foot wide mixed use building with shops and apartments leaves no room for parking, while new buildings require it. The result is that this type of building is effectively banned. Even with the city’s attempts to encourage ground floor retail, the typical result is that a 6000 square foot lot might have 800 square feet of retail (with the rest of the ground floor and half the frontage devoted to parking)–even on a street like Valencia, where a traditional building would have had 5000 square feet of retail. That’s the difference between a neighborhood-serving grocery store, and a boutique. 736 Valencia is a perfect example.

    This isn’t a market-based result, either. Retail space seems to be going for $2-5 per square foot per month, while garage space is going for $1 psf or less (garage spaces are ~350 sf). If the city made it easy (or even possible), anyone with a garage that was suitable for conversion would be converting, which would provide significant additional space, and effectively put a damper on rising commercial rents.

  • levia jack

    Love it! My Own Erotica