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A Look at Election Results on CA Transportation Ballot Measures

The elections are over, we can take the signs down now. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Below are the results from local voter registrars after Tuesday’s election. Vote-by-mail ballots are still being counted, and with the low voter turnout (29.9 percent statewide), this means in some places a third or more of the ballots have not yet been counted. For some measures, this means the tide could yet turn, which is why these are only “semi-official” results.

  • Alameda County: Measure BB: PASSED. The Alameda County Transportation Commission has declared this a winner, with almost 70 percent of the vote (it needed 66.67 percent to pass). The last time this measure was on the ballot, two years ago, it failed by less than half of one percent. That time, it started below the 2/3 threshold and climbed towards it as the vote count came in, but never quite reached high enough. This time, the vote count started above the threshold and is staying there. Although vote-by-mail ballots—nearly half the total ballots cast in Alameda County–are still being counted, supporters are calling it a victory. Measure BB will increase the existing sales tax by ½ cent to fund a panoply of transportation infrastructure measures, including the crazy uncontrolled intersection at Gilman and Highway 80, where the long-studied solution of a double roundabout now has funding.
  • Berkeley, Alameda County: Measure F: PASSED (74.9 percent of the vote, with 66.67 percent needed). This measure would create a parcel tax to fund parks.
  • Measure R: FAILED with a healthy 73.87 percent of the vote so far. R would have rewritten the city’s Downtown Plan, changed some requirements for taller buildings, increased parking requirements, created a downtown historic district, and required a popular vote to approve some developments.
  • Placerville, El Dorado County: Measure K: PASSED. The measure only needed a majority vote; “semi-official” results are 58.2 percent of the vote. It prohibits the city from constructing any roundabout or traffic circle without first submitting it to a popular vote. Pity Placerville, and its transportation planners, who now have an uphill battle to fix the town’s seriously constrained intersections.
  • In addition, three measures in El Dorado county that would have prevented development, rezoned much of the county from “Community Region” to “Rural,” and extend slow-growth restrictions  that would have changed all failed, as did a parcel tax for road improvements in Cameron Estates Community Services District (it needed 2/3 of the vote and so far has only 59.67 percent).

Read more…

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SF Voters Reject Cars-First Prop L — Will City Hall Finally Take the Hint?

According to Folks for Polk, merchants took at least 10 of their “Yes on L” posters down “after the facts were made clear.” Photo: Folks for Polk

Proposition L was nixed by San Francisco voters yesterday. With nearly all of the votes counted, 62 percent rejected Sean Parker’s measure to keep SF in the 20th century by prioritizing free parking and encouraging driving.

Leaders at City Hall, and the agencies that shape SF’s streets, should read the writing on the wall: San Franciscans want to put the era of automobile-centric streets behind them, and it’s time to stop letting a vocal minority of curmudgeons hamper efforts to make streets safer and Muni more reliable.

“The voters gave a pretty resounding ‘yes,’ we do want these things built,” said Peter Lauterborn, who managed the “No on L” campaign. “I hope that the city leadership takes that to heart.”

“Hopefully, for projects that we’ve set out to do — Vision Zero, the [Transit Effectiveness Project] implementation, establishing the bike network — the SFMTA will be bolder than they have been in the past,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich.

Voters also overwhelmingly approved two transportation funding measures, Propositions A and B. That’s a sign that San Franciscans have a strong appetite for better transportation options, and that they’re willing to bank on city agencies like the SFMTA to deliver them.

The success of Prop A, a $500 million general obligation bond for transportation, was not surprising given the political boost it got from City Hall and specifically Mayor Ed Lee. Lee helped to raise over $1,100,000 for the Prop A campaign, despite no organized opposition.

Meanwhile, the more controversial Prop B garnered a surprising 61 percent of the vote, even though no campaign committee was organized nor was money raised to promote it. “The campaign was gathering an impressive list of endorsements,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who authored the measure.

“The voters showed that they really do care about smart transportation policy and investment,” said Wiener. “City Hall needs to match our own budget priorities with what the voters want.”

Read more…

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Ballot Language for Cars-First Prop L is Misleadingly Vague

The ballot’s description of Prop L leaves much specificity to be desired.

Voters returning from the polls today have pointed out the painfully vague ballot language used to describe Proposition L, the advisory measure to enshrine free parking and more driving as high priority in city policy.

All voters see on the ballot is the question, “Shall it be City policy to change parking and transportation priorities?”

Change parking and transportation priorities… to what? The ballot doesn’t say.

It’s concerning that, even for a measure which had made its priorities clear, the ballot doesn’t make any effort to list those priorities. Sure, the ballot language is supposed to be concise, but in this case it seems like some might vote for Prop L without realizing what it entails.

We’ll see the results in a matter of hours.

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CA Voters Vote on a Swath of Transportation Measures Today

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Supporters of Alameda County’s Measure BB, including labor and youth leaders, gathered recently in Oakland, California. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

While you’re standing in line waiting for your turn to vote, be glad that you don’t have to weigh in on every fiscal measure on the ballot.

According to the California Taxpayer’s Association, Californians will vote today on over 200 measures that propose to raise money via bonds or taxes for a variety of services. That includes 113 school bond measures, with 14 in the city of Los Angeles alone. It also includes a number of bonds and sales tax measures that would be used for transportation–mostly repairing of potholes, but some transit funding as well.

There are also a number of propositions that ask voters to weigh in on planning issues, from building heights and parking requirements to roundabouts.

Below is a subjective list, by county, of some of the local transportation and land-use tax and planning proposals on today’s ballot. Note that all of the fiscal measures must pass by a 2/3 majority. Read more…

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Who’s Not Against Cars-First Prop L? Supes Tang, Farrell, Yee, and Mayor Lee

Supervisors Tang, Farrell, Yee, and Mayor Lee have not opposed Prop L, a Republican-crafted measure to enshrine cars-first policies. Photos: Aaron Bialick

With only a few days left until the election, four elected officials have yet to take a stance on Proposition L, the Republican-crafted measure that misleadingly urges San Francisco to “restore transportation balance” by giving priority to private automobiles and free parking.

Supervisors Katy Tang, Mark Farrell, Norman Yee, and Mayor Ed Lee apparently see no need to come out against the measure, which has been renounced by the other eight supervisors and almost all of SF’s political establishment, including their own SF Democratic County Central Committee.

We reached out to each of their offices to explain their position three days ago, and not surprisingly heard no response from Farrell or Lee.

Supervisor Farrell launched a campaign against parking meters, which led to the supervisors voting to hamstring the SFMTA’s ability to expand them. Yet even his most vocal ally in that battle, Supervisor Malia Cohen, came out against Prop L after her district’s Potrero Hill Democratic Club became the first neighborhood group to do so.

As for Mayor Lee? Well, he’s done more than anyone at City Hall to keep driving cheap, even if that means streets are more dangerous and congested. Lee reversed Sunday parking meters, even though they reduced traffic, and dropped his support for putting a vehicle license fee increase on the ballot. Then, he vowed to punish the supervisor majority who put replaced it on the ballot with Prop B, Supervisor Scott Wiener’s alternative transit funding measure.

The only public statement Lee has given about Prop L was this cryptic dismissal, in an interview with the SF Chronicle editorial board: “I’m not worried about it.”

Read more…

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Sorry, Sean Parker: Fighting Safe Streets With Prop L Won’t Help the Poor

We may never know why Sean Parker decided to pour tens of thousands of dollars into Proposition L, a measure crafted and funded by Republicans who want to enshrine 20th-century car-centric policies in San Francisco. With his contribution, Parker decided to amplify this “primal scream from motorists,” as the Bay Guardian put it.

Sean Parker. Photo: Sean Parker/Twitter

On Tuesday, the measure will go to voters, who will either approve an advisory measure that contradicts SF’s 41-year-old Transit-First Policy, or send a signal that they want to put the era of automobile-centric streets behind us.

If Parker’s recent interview with Fortune Magazine is to be believed, his donation to Prop L was motivated by the sorely misguided belief that it will help less affluent San Franciscans:

It’s hard to figure out Parker’s own politics. His own priority is inequality. His political team – yes, he has a political team – flagged the referendum, called Proposition L, because it struck them as a hidden tax on the poor…

“I have a long-standing frustration that the only people who are significantly disadvantaged by onerous DMV regulations and parking tickets are the working poor,” Parker says.

“However,” as Fortune’s Shalene Gupta explains, ”Parker’s enthusiasm is wildly out of sync with San Francisco’s politics.”

He’s also out of sync with the growing body of research that indicates the working poor in San Francisco are more likely to walk and ride Muni than own cars.

A “Yes on L” flyer.

Fifty-three percent of Muni riders identify as low-income, according to a recent SFMTA survey [PDF]. And while there’s limited data available on the income of car owners, a congestion pricing study by the SF County Transportation Authority found that 95 percent of drivers to, from, and within the downtown area during the morning rush are from households making more than $50,000 annually.

Meanwhile, free and underpriced parking causes drivers to circle around for spots, creating traffic that slows down Muni and its mainly low-income ridership.

“It’s manipulative to say this policy supports low-income workers,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider told Fortune.

Not that Prop L’s proponents care about truth or accuracy. They misleadingly tout a false statistic (erroneously reported by SFMTA, and since corrected) that 79 percent of SF households own cars, seemingly arguing for majority rule. The actual number [PDF] is 69 percent, and 41 percent own only one car, giving SF a solid car-light majority.

Most San Franciscans use multiple forms of transportation, and by making it easier to get around without a car, policies that improve transit, biking, and walking also make it easier for San Franciscans to shed the enormous costs of owning, maintaining, insuring, and fueling a motor vehicle. This can drastically lower household costs for working families, but Prop L’s proponents attack efforts to make non-driving choices more attractive.

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Watch BART Board Candidates Nick Josefowitz and James Fang Debate

The race is on for the BART Board of Directors seat representing District 8, which wraps around northern, western, and southern San Francisco. Twenty-four year incumbent James Fang faces a challenge in the November election from Nick Josefowitz, and the two debated for the first time at last week’s meeting of the Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People. The video of the debate above was provided by the Josefowitz campaign.

BART District 8 is shown in orange on the left. Image: BART

BART District 8 is shown in orange on the left. Image: BART

Josefowitz, a solar power tech entrepreneur and a London-raised newcomer to SF, could be a serious contender to defeat Fang, the BART Board’s longest-running member and the only elected Republican in SF.

Josefowitz’s attacks against Fang include the fact that he is a Republican, and his record on keeping BART escalators and elevators clean and running (or not). Josefowitz has also pointed to Fang’s role in the poorly managed labor negotiations last year that culminated with a strike. Fang defended his record: the BART extension to SFO, a doubling of BART’s ridership, and consistent budget surpluses since he joined the board in 1990.

Fang, a Sunset District native, is the president of the magazine Asian Week and former owner of the SF Examiner. He continues to push his vision for “BART to the beach,” an extension through the Richmond District under either Geary Boulevard or Fulton Street (see the 22:00 mark).

Josefowitz’s platform includes a push to develop BART station parking lots into housing (5:30 and 10:00). Fang insists that BART does have such plans at all stations except Orinda and Walnut Creek (7:20), but that many residents don’t want the development.

Check out the video to see Fang and Josefowitz discuss other topics, like crackdowns on people sitting in stations (8:30) and BART workers’ right to strike (12:00).

Read more…

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#MinimumGrid: Toronto Advocates Move Politicians Beyond Bike Platitudes

Bike advocates are putting these questions to Toronto mayoral candidates. Image: #MinimumGrid

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Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Almost all urban politicians will tell you they think bikes are great. But only some actually do anything to make biking more popular.

In Toronto’s current mayoral and city council election, a new political campaign is focusing candidates on a transportation policy issue that actually matters: a proposed 200-kilometer (124-mile) citywide network of all-ages bikeways.

The campaign, led by advocacy group Cycle Toronto, was given its name by international walking-bicycling advocate Gil Peñalosa. It’s called “#MinimumGrid.” And it seems to be working: Last week, 80 percent of responding city council candidates, including more than half of the council’s incumbents, said they supported building such a system by 2018.

Speaking this month at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh, Peñalosa (a Toronto resident) explained the concept: to move cities from symbolic investments in bike transportation to truly transformative ones.

“We focus on the nice-to-have,” Peñalosa said in his keynote address at the conference. “Signage, maps, parking, bike racks, shelters. Does anyone not bike because they don’t have maps?”

Those amenities “might make it nicer for the 1 or 2 percent” who currently bike regularly, he said. But “nice-to-haves” won’t deliver the broader public benefits that can come from actually making biking mainstream.

“What are the must-haves?” Peñalosa went on. “Two things. One is we have to lower the speed in the neighborhoods. And two, we need to create a network. A minimum grid.”

Read more…

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DCCC Joins Quickly Growing Opposition to Cars-First Prop L

Prop L was slammed by the SF Democratic County Central Committee last night, via an almost-unanimous vote against endorsing the measure to “restore transportation balance” for motorists. The DCCC’s endorsements hold a lot of sway, and its resounding “no” vote on the measure was a key litmus test to see whether the Republican-backed measure would garner any sympathy from SF’s political establishment.

The SF Transit Riders Union’s Peter Straus testifies against Prop L at the DCCC. Photo: Thea Selby/SFTRU

All but one of the DCCC’s 32 members, which include six supervisors and a full roster of veteran SF office holders, voted against or abstained from endorsing the proposition. The only “yes” vote came from Carole Migden, formerly a senator, assemblywoman, and city supervisor. Current office holders who voted against it include Supervisors Malia Cohen, David Campos, Eric Mar, Scott Wiener, John Avalos, and David Chiu, as well as Senator Mark Leno. Supervisor London Breed also opposes it.

Cohen and Campos, who have criticized parking meter expansions and developments without parking, hadn’t made their positions on Prop L known until now. The only supervisors who have yet to weigh in are Katy Tang, Norman Yee, and Mark Farrell.

Mayor Ed Lee hasn’t spoken up on Prop L either, although it’s funded by one of his major campaign backers, tech billionaire Sean Parker.

The DCCC joins a quickly growing roster (listed below) of endorsements from influential people and organizations in SF. The DCCC also endorsed Prop A, the $500 million transportation bond measure, and Prop B, Supervisor Wiener’s measure to tie funding for Muni and safer streets to population growth.

Read more…

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New “No On L” Campaign Combats Cars-First “Restore Balance” Measure

A campaign has been launched opposing the cars-first ballot measure that claims to “restore transportation balance,” which will appear on the November ballot as Proposition L. Prop L was crafted by the SF Republican Party, and is bankrolled by $49,000 from Sean Parker, a tech billionaire and Mayor Ed Lee supporter.

Image via Facebook

The slogan of the opposition campaign is “No on Gridlock, No on L,” and its website calls the measure “a radical effort to reverse our environmental and transportation policies and to send San Francisco backwards.” The campaign is being managed by Peter Lauterborn, an aide to Supervisor Eric Mar, though Mar’s office isn’t officially affiliated with it.

Lauterborn said endorsements are still being gathered, but that it’s already backed by Supervisors Mar, Jane Kim, Scott Wiener, John Avalos, and David Chiu. No currently elected officials have come out in support of Prop L.

Since it was launched Monday, the opposition campaign’s Facebook page has gained 214 “likes” as of press time. (The “Restore Balance” page has gained 84 since April.) Lauterborn and the SF Transit Riders Union made their first presentation to a neighborhood group last night, resulting in the Potrero Hill Democratic Club voting against Prop L.

“It’s growing quickly,” said Lauterborn, an SF native who studied history with a focus in urban studies at SF State University. “I think most San Franciscans understand that while parking and traffic are frustrating concerns, that this isn’t going to help any of that. This is really putting us back to a 1950s mindset of transportation planning.”

The non-binding Prop L calls for enshrining outdated policies, like free parking, and promotes the construction of new parking garages. The proponents attack the city’s Transit First Policy, and call for “balance” as if the vast majority of San Francisco’s public space isn’t already given away to drivers to move and store private automobiles.

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