The backers of the ballot initiative to “restore balance” on San Francisco’s streets are beginning to emerge. The “balance” they speak of would enshrine free parking and give over large parts of streets to cars.
According to the list of endorsements posted on its website, the “coalition” (which apparently dropped its “Free the Streets” title) is thus far populated by hefty amount of Republicans — yes, a few do exist in San Francisco. There are also three former supervisors, but no current elected-office holders. And, of course, the list is speckled with some of the usual opponents of parking meters and bike lanes, whose names should ring bells.
It’s hard to say yet whether any of these folks have any real political punch. The measure itself does not seem to — it wouldn’t be any more binding than the existing Transit-First Policy, adopted by supervisors in 1973 and re-affirmed by voters in 1999, when they expanded the policy to include pedestrians and bicyclists.
So unless the “coalition” gets some serious money and political players behind it — which is possible — this may be nothing more an out-of-touch, last-gasp attempt to hold on to a bygone era. (Not that a resolution is really needed for City Hall to keep parking free). The Republican crafters of this initiative at least seem aware of their agenda’s growing irrelevance. They couch it in vague language about “ensuring our streets are safe, well maintained, and efficient to use for everybody.”
Since the vast majority of San Francisco’s street space was devoted primarily to moving and storing private automobiles, all for free, over most of the 20th century, most San Franciscans can probably see that more “efficient to use” streets won’t involve more of the same approach. (Notably, the cover photo on the initiative’s website even features a streetcar on Market Street — pretty much the opposite of the actual car-clogged vision these folks are pushing).
Here’s the list of proponents taken from the website, with some footnotes I added in brackets: