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Posts from the "Gavin Newsom" Category

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Streetfilms: SF Carves a Park from the Midst of Its Pavement

The entire family of San Francisco city agencies responsible for maintaining its streets made an unconventional decision to close a portion of a street to cars and convert the new space into a simple, yet elegant, public plaza.  The project combines all the important elements of plaza creation that have been successful in New York City and elsewhere: take space from cars, use simple treatments to convert the space into a pedestrian sanctuary, including movable furniture and leftover granite blocks from city salvage yards, and engage commercial interests around the plaza to help maintain and care for the new public realm.

Though some neighborhood constituents voiced skepticism that the plaza would be empty at best, or filled with miscreants and vagabonds at worst, the plaza's success is hard to dispute. In fact, so many people are using the new space and enjoying the tables and chairs, the businesses around the plaza have contemplated leaving the furniture out later than sunset, which was the initial closing time agreed upon between them and the Castro/Upper Market Community Betterment District. 

This film, shot and edited by Paul Jaffe and produced by Streetsblog SF editor Bryan Goebel, takes an in-depth look at the construction of the plaza with some of the agencies responsible for it, and includes some entertaining man-on-the-street interviews.

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Mayor Newsom a “Yes and No” On More Bicycle Riding

22051834_8e879acf07.jpgFlickr photo from 2005: snikolhaus
Considering all the new bicycle infrastructure that'll hopefully start going in at the end of the summer, or early fall, I asked Mayor Newsom outside City Hall today after a press conference celebrating the passage of the Bike Plan if he's planning to do any more bicycling. His response?

"Yes and no. I'm about to have a baby so you'll see me getting training wheels out, and I've got a couple of years. But I grew up like so many, on a bike. But it was a very different town when I was growing up in San Francisco. We didn't have any bike lanes when I was growing up."

He touted his meager pilot bike share program, something he'll be able to implement once the injunction is lifted, saying that he hopes it will get infrequent bicyclists like himself to ride more. "That's actually something I would legitimately use, especially on weekends, when I'm not running to 13 events and I'm late everywhere I'm going."

On another note, Newsom said he hopes to push for federal stimulus dollars to help fund the Bicycle Plan, which would speed up its implementation. The MTA has so far identified about $6 million of the $15 million it would take to put the plan into action, but lots of questions remain about where the remaining funds will come from.

“We’ll continue to advocate for more federal funding, stimulus dollars, and we’ve got a lot of competitive grants out there," he said. "We are very blessed to have Speaker Pelosi and other friends in Congress, and I’m confident that these are in line with the administration’s environmental goals and alternative transit goals and I think there’ll be plenty of categories of funding."

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Newsom Opposed to Sunday Parking Enforcement, Study or No

418129740_0f8f7155c5.jpgA free parking meter in San Francisco. Flickr phto: .dru
It's no surprise, but it's troubling. Mayor Gavin Newsom has confirmed to Streetsblog that he remains opposed to extending parking meter enforcement to Sundays, despite a promise by MTA Chief Nat Ford that it's being studied and remains on the table for consideration, along with evening metering to 10 p.m. -- revenue measures that would raise $9 million --  potentially offsetting fare hikes and service cuts, changes Ford still has the power to make (within five percent).

"I don't support Sunday parking. I don't think that was part of the budget and...I support the budget as passed.  I don't believe in it," Newsom, a former parking and traffic commissioner, said yesterday following a press conference to unveil a new Muni bus shelter. 

Newsom's fervent opposition comes despite a change of heart by several politicians and organizations, including some that have traditionally opposed increasing parking enforcement. As Supervisor John Avalos explained at a recent BOS meeting "times have changed" and "there’s a different feeling about moving forward on revenue from parking that didn’t exist before." Except, of course, from the politician with the most power over the MTA.

Even the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce likes the idea of Sunday metering: "We favored Sunday enforcement because that will turn over parking for merchants just like it does on Saturday," said Jim Lazarus, the chamber's senior vice president.

As we've written, other cities that have managed street space with market-rate pricing and curbside vacancy targets, and have invested additional revenues in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements, have seen a rise in business, not a drop. There was further proof of that this week, with the release of a TA study noting that most shoppers in downtown San Francisco don't drive.

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A San Francisco Parking Enforcement Debate That Shouldn’t Be Happening

16501863_a629f20b56.jpgFlickr photo: andreil

Why is San Francisco -- considered by many around the world to be a “progressive” and “green" city with a Transit First policy -- still debating whether to extend meter hours and parking enforcement, even in the face of a crippling Muni budget deficit? Didn't we merge Muni with the Department of Parking and Traffic precisely so policy decisions about management of the streets would benefit the operations of transit, bicycling, and walking?

Some politicians, including the Mayor, apparently can't stop viewing these issues from behind the wheels of their SUVs. They can't see past the myth that raising parking fees will drive away business, thus perpetuating an erroneous stereotype that most urban shoppers drive. My colleague Matthew Roth wrote a great piece debunking that popular fallacy, noting that the majority of shoppers don't drive to shop in areas like North Beach and that in aggregate, transit riders, cyclists and walkers spend more than drivers. Other cities that have managed street space in accord with Shoupian market-rate pricing and curbside vacancy targets, and have invested additional revenues in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements, have seen a rise in business, not a drop.

San Francisco could and should do the same, but the MTA -- namely its chief, Nat Ford, and its Board, all appointees who rarely act independently -- has bowed to pressure from the Mayor, and Supervisors Carmen Chu and Bevan Dufty and taken Sunday and evening parking enforcement until 10 p.m. off the table as a much-needed revenue measure to fund Muni. Instead, the MTA is going to study extending it to 8 p.m. Supervisor John Avalos and four of his colleagues on the Board want it penciled back in the budget. Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who was on the fence, is coming around and might join other members of the Board of Supervisors next week in rejecting the MTA budget if Ford doesn't follow the recommendations of a "Transit Justice Package," and make some changes. As Supervisor David Campos has noted, asking for a $15 million readjustment is not a radical proposal.

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A Livable Street in the Making: 17th Street Ped Plaza Nearly Complete

work_crew_2.jpgDPW worker painting around an unused track in the plaza. Bollards in the background on the right and left will be filled with gravel and soil and will have plants growing out of them. Photo: Matthew Roth
In less than 24 hours, city officials, including Mayor Gavin Newsom, will be standing in a new pedestrian plaza on the former roadway at 17th Street at Market Street to announce the long-anticipated opening of the street as public space, the first of several such projects that will appear throughout the city over the next year. 

DPW crews have been working at a feverish pace to complete the city's first "Pavement-to-Parks" plaza, pouring yellow, slip-resistant road paint over the surface and installing 70 demarcation bollards that will be filled with soil and gravel and adorned with fan palms, yucca jewels and birds of paradise. Crews are installing movable barriers at both ends of the plaza to allow for emergency fire access. Tables and chairs will also be situated around the plaza, and locked at night on a nearby catenary poll. 

"The goal of this opening on Wednesday is to show how you can do something really quick, really simply," said Andres Power, an urban designer at the SF Planning Department.

Liz Ogbu, an architect with Public Architect Inc., which has designed the project pro bono, said, "This is a little nuts. It’s sort of forced everyone to have to think out of the box and sort of roll with the punches and just be quick on their feet."

For example, Ogbu said they ran out of paint Sunday and a new shipment was still a day away but "somebody came up with the idea of, well, we can tap the traffic paint, and we were a little skeptical because we couldn’t match the color, but it works well and we’re in good shape.”

Crews have also set up the bollards to accommodate the streetcars and buses that will continue passing through the plaza. Ogbu said plazas with transit ways have worked well in some European cities, including Amsterdam.

"All the Muni drivers have been giving us thumbs up as they’ve been coming through," said Ogbu. "And the business owners who we’ve been back and forth with, they’re in good shape.”

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Should Nat Ford Stay or Go?

493881338_713f942877.jpgSFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford and Mayor Gavin Newsom. Flickr photo: SFist

At yesterday's Rules Committee meeting at City Hall, as first noted by the Examiner, there was some banter between Supervisor Chris Daly and MTA Board Chair Tom Nolan about MTA Executive Director Nat Ford. They seemed to indicate he was looking to leave the agency.

Daly:  “In your next term, you may have to hire a new general manager or two or three. Can you tell me about what you are going to be looking for as an MTA commissioner for the next Muni general manager? I like Nat Ford. But I think Nat Ford is looking elsewhere."

Nolan: "Well, I have thought about that, in terms of succession planning. I've asked him not to do it on my watch. I think he's done a terrific job. He brings a lot of skills into it in a whole series of areas. And I think what I would like to do  in terms of preparation for it is talk to a lot of people that I respect in the industry about what it really takes."

He added, "I'd like to get somebody like him. I'm not sure how we would proceed with that. We have thought about it. We have talked about it. I've spoken to the Mayor about it as well."

It's no secret that Ford, who was appointed to the post more than three years ago by the Mayor, has been considering other opportunities. The Chronicle reported on rumors he was being looked at for a post in the Obama administration and was approached about the recently-filled executive director position at the Los Angeles MTA.

What do you think Streetsbloggers? Should Nat Ford stay or go? If he does depart, who would be the best person to fill his shoes at the MTA?