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Posts from the John Avalos Category


Supes Avalos, Wiener Clash on Equitable Spending Strategies for Muni

Supervisors John Avalos and Scott Wiener are sparring over how new revenue for transit should be spent to benefit the Muni riders who need it most.

With tax measures proposed for the 2014 ballot that could significantly increase transportation funds, Avalos introduced a charter amendment yesterday that would “require the city to prioritize investments to address existing disparities in service to low-income and transit dependent areas,” according to a statement from his office.

The Transit Equity Charter Amendment “provides a framework for how the city rebuilds transportation transit infrastructure and rebuilds transit service,” Avalos said at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, explaining that it would also set stricter equity performance metrics and increase oversight by the SF County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of the supervisors. “It will help ensure that our investments are also targeted to address service deficiencies in our low-income and transit-dependent neighborhoods,” he said.

If approved, the amendment — also sponsored by Supervisors David Campos, Jane Kim, Norman Yee, and Eric Mar — would be placed on the November 2014 ballot alongside tax measures to increase funding for transportation upgrades, as recommended by Mayor Ed Lee’s Transportation 2030 Task Force, a 48-member group that has met throughout the year to develop the recommendations.

Avalos, who represents the SFCTA Board on the task force — also known as T2030 — has criticized its lack of representatives of low-income communities. It has reps from a broad range of city agencies, regional transportation agencies, and transportation advocates like SPUR, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and Walk SF, as well as labor groups. It also includes two for-profit tech companies — Google and Genentech.

Representing the Board of Supervisors on the task force along with Supervisor David Chiu is Wiener, who said the Avalos amendment will “undermine Muni service, make the system less reliable, and do nothing to achieve what we need most: to shore up the system and expand its capacity to meet the needs of our growing population.”

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Breed Defends Record on Safer Streets for Biking; Plus: Other Supes Respond

Supervisor London Breed has issued a statement explaining her Twitter comments yesterday on safer streets for bicycling which led her to delete her account. Breed had responded to an inquiry sent out by Twitter user Patrick Traughber to every city supervisor and a few other city officials, asking, “In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling in San Francisco?”

Supervisor London Breed on Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

In her initial answer, Breed cited “the bad behavior of some bicyclist,” which led several people to respond in protest. Breed tried to clarify that she’s “not blaming anyone,” and that she’s “been fighting to help make streets safer for all,” but then shut down her account minutes into the discussion. Breed has a record of making abrasive comments on Twitter, arguing with constituents and getting press attention for it.

In her written statement, Breed defended her record of standing up for street redesign projects like Masonic Avenue and Fell and Oak Streets in the face of anti-bike vitriol. Here’s what she had to say:

I suspended my account because I realized twitter can be extremely time consuming and it’s too hard to have nuanced policy discussions in 140 characters. I want to take some time to think about how I use this medium in the future.

With respect to the bike exchange, my record is clear! I have been a consistent and effective advocate for bike projects in our city. I got the Oak and Fell bike lanes implemented well ahead of schedule. I led the effort to fund the Masonic Blvd project which includes dedicated bike lanes, and I’ve voted for every bike project that’s come before the Transportation Authority, including the popular bike share program just implemented in our city.

My point was not that I think bicyclists’ behavior should be an impediment to new projects. My point was bicyclists’ behavior is the complaint I hear most often from those who oppose the projects. So as a practical matter, those behavioral concerns — whether you think they’re accurate or inaccurate, right or wrong — make it harder to get new projects moving, harder to win public and political support. But that absolutely has not, and will not, stop me from fighting to win that support.

I’ve faced a lot of fire, a LOT of fire, over the Masonic blvd project and I’ve stood strong in my support. That’s my record. So it does bother me to see Masonic supporters criticizing me over a twitter post. But it is my fault for being unclear about a complicated topic on an inappropriate medium. That is why I am taking a break from that medium.

Breed deserves a lot of credit for supporting those safety improvements. And judging by her statement, she doesn’t think that policymakers should decide whether San Franciscans get to have safer streets based on the perceived behavior of people who use a particular mode of transportation.

Traughber’s question on Twitter yielded responses from a few other supervisors and District Attorney George Gascón, offering a glimpse into those officials’ understanding of how to make streets safer (or just how willing they are to respond to tweets).

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Supes Seek Answers on Bike/Ped Strategy, “Better Market Street” Delay

Supervisors Avalos, Kim, Mar, and Wiener.

Members of the SF Board of Supervisors are calling attention to the need to fund the SFMTA’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Strategies, as well as the delayed Better Market Street project, which suddenly looks like it might not include space for bicycling.

The Market Street situation concerned Supervisors Scott Wiener and John Avalos enough to call separate hearings and release statements on the issue. Both are troubled by the new completion date of 2019 — a four-year delay — and the idea of building protected bike lanes on downtown Mission instead of Market, which was recently added as a potential option to the surprise of advocates and supervisors.

Avalos called for a hearing at the next meeting of the SF County Transportation Authority Board on February 26. In a statement, he said, “Market Street is the most bicycled street West of the Mississippi, and I believe it deserves dedicated cycle tracks along its full length. The current state of Market Street with the ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ zig-zagging bike lane is unbecoming for the premiere thoroughfare of one of America’s premier bicycling cities… We, as city officials, can’t squander this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Wiener’s hearing would take place at an upcoming meeting at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee. “The Better Market Street project should be the best example of improving our streets through creating safer pedestrian and bike access and making thoughtful transit decisions,” he said in a statement. “The plan should encourage people to make better use of public space and to advance our city’s Transit-First policy. We need to carefully scrutinize any changes to the plan that could impact that goal.”

On funding the Pedestrian Strategy, D6 Supervisor Jane Kim called a hearing with city staffers about how to fund the safety improvements needed to reach the plan’s goals, which include cutting pedestrian injuries in half by 2020. She didn’t say if Mayor Ed Lee was expected to attend.

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Downtown Bike Access Ordinance Clears Key Hurdle at Board of Supes

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today gave preliminary approval to what advocates call the strongest bicycle access legislation in the country. The ordinance [PDF], which would require downtown building managers to provide secure indoor bicycle parking for employees either on-site or nearby, is expected to receive final approval from the board next week and be signed into law 30 days after that.

Employee bike parking at San Francisco City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

“Today’s vote is another way that San Francisco is proving itself to be a great place to do business and to bicycle,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “The city took a significant step forward today in recognizing that more people bicycling benefits our city’s economy.”

“An impressive number of businesses ranging from law firms to tech companies to real estate firms are already making it easier for more of their employees to bike to work, and this legislation will help even more companies become more bike-friendly,” she added.

Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the legislation, noted the broad support it enjoys, particularly from the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA), which was involved early on in its development. All supervisors except for Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd voted in favor of the proposal.

“With many companies expressing the desire for bicycle parking and storage, BOMA recognizes the need to provide safe, secure parking for bicycling employees,” said BOMA President Meade Boutwell in a statement. “Members of [BOMA] are concerned about the environment and promote the use of sustainable transportation options, including bicycles.”

BOMA’s support, noted Avalos, “says a lot about where we’ve come from in terms of how much cycling is accepted as a means of commuting in San Francisco.”

At a recent hearing on the proposal, SFBC Program Manager Marc Caswell pointed out that it will benefit far more than the “hundreds of thousands” of San Franciscans who already bike to work. It will also provide incentive for “the thousands of other people who are interested in biking to work, but are discouraged because they do not have a secure place to park their bike right now,” he said.

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Bike Coalition Endorses John Avalos for Mayor Followed by Chiu, Lee

John Avalos Rides SF from John Avalos on Vimeo.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition announced today that it is endorsing John Avalos as its number one pick for mayor, followed by David Chiu and Ed Lee. Avalos, the District 11 supervisor, has been especially aggressive about courting the bicycle vote, showing up at bike events, and spreading the word about his campaign in bike shops.

Chiu, the car-free District 3 supervisor who is board president, has also been reaching out to bicyclists, and the SFBC said the ranked-choice endorsements reflect the three candidates “who are mostly actively supporting a better city through bicycling.”

In an email sent out to its members, the SFBC outlines why it’s supporting each candidate:

Our #1 mayoral endorsement is John Avalos. In his role as the District 11 representative of the SF Board of Supervisors, Avalos has been a strong voice for better bicycling and livable streets. He has worked with the SF Bicycle Coalition to advance bike improvements, including essential funding for those projects. Avalos, who is a regular bike rider, has also been a steady supporter of Sunday Streets, Bike to School Day, our Connecting the City vision, and transit and public realm improvements. Avalos is currently drafting legislation to increase bicycle access to commercial buildings. Find out more about John Avalos, including his bike video, here.

Our #2 mayoral endorsement is David Chiu. Chiu serves as the President of the SF Board of Supervisors and represents District 3. He doesn’t own a car and has helped to raise the visibility of biking by executing his Board duties by bike, by transit, and on foot. He has worked with the SF Bicycle Coalition to advance bike improvements, including Market Street trials for better biking, walking, and transit, as well as supporting Sunday Streets and Connecting the City. Chiu sponsored an important policy statement to reach 20% of trips in SF by bicycle by 2020. Find out more about David Chiu here.

Our #3 mayoral endorsement is Ed Lee. Lee has been a vocal supporter of the SF Bicycle Coalition’s goals since his appointment to Mayor in January. His support for better bicycling, especially our Connecting the City initiative, has moved our vision substantially toward action by prioritizing these projects among City staff and helping to find funding. Lee has been a strong supporter of Sunday Streets and has leveraged his many years of experience in city government to prioritize and expedite bike-positive work on the streets. Find out more about Ed Lee here.


San Francisco Could Require Bicycle Access in Downtown Buildings

"Bike parking for Alta office. We replaced a parking spot with this wall-mounted rack." Flickr photo: Lauren Buckland

Commercial buildings in downtown San Francisco could be required to provide indoor bicycle parking accommodations under a proposal introduced at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

“One of the ways that we can really assure our bikes are safe from theft is to be able to bring them into our buildings,” said Supervisor John Avalos, who has asked the City Attorney’s Office to draft the legislation.

Providing secure parking would encourage would-be bicycle commuters deterred by the prospect of leaving their bicycle locked to on-street poles and bike racks for hours, where they could be vulnerable to theft. In 2007, police estimated 2,000 to 3,000 bikes are stolen in the city every year, according to the Bay Guardian.

“For many existing commercial buildings, there isn’t bike access,” said Avalos, “and we want to be able to provide that access in the future for cyclists in San Francisco.”

“It’s the last major gap in solving the commuter bike parking problem,” said Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition. Many office buildings, he noted, have room for bike parking but don’t allow access.

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J-Church, 14-Mission Reliability Improving But Riders Aren’t Seeing It

Flickr photo: Brandon Doran

Riders of the J-Church know all too well what it’s like to wait for a packed peak-hour train without any guarantee they’ll be able to squeeze on board. If you look at the data, though, the SFMTA says the picture isn’t as bad as it’s been made out to be. Still, two city supervisors aren’t buying it.

The J-line has recorded a 76.8 on-time performance rate since January, according to SFMTA Transit Director John Haley, but Supervisor Scott Wiener wonders whether that statistic reflects the reality of the daily riding experience.

“I think a lot of people who use it regularly would look at that number and laugh,” he said.

Supervisors Wiener and John Avalos held a hearing yesterday to address frequent rider complaints about poor reliability on the J-Church and switchbacks on the 14-Mission line at a City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting. Haley came to the table with statistical data highlighting Muni’s recent progress, but the numbers were cold comfort to supervisors and riders.

“In a system where [switchbacks are] a common occurrence, I have no real leverage in my district to encourage people to get out of their cars and use Muni. I want to do that desperately,” said Avalos, who admonished the disproportionate impacts of switchbacks felt by those living in the outer neighborhoods. “But…it’s impossible for me to speak about Muni being a reliable service that people should use rather than their cars. The reality does not meet their needs.”

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Advocates, Supervisors Push for Alternatives to Proposed Muni Service Cuts

97744120_e2290ca682.jpgWith the MTA proposing deep service cuts to Muni and $5 fares on historic streetcars, transit advocates are concerned about where the city's transit system is headed. Flickr photo: Thomas Hawk.
A proposal to drastically cut Muni service while raising some fares has angered and energized transit riders in advance of Tuesday's MTA Board meeting, and has left advocates and elected officials in search of alternative measures to fill the agency's $16.9 million budget gap. Proposals are starting to pour in from advocates as well as members of the Board of Supervisors, who currently have limited control over such service cuts.

One proposal would address that very issue. Supervisor David Campos told the Chronicle he hopes to put a measure on the November ballot that would give the Board of Supervisors control over three of the seats on the seven-member MTA Board, which is currently appointed entirely by the Mayor. The proposal is similar to one suggested by Supervisor John Avalos last year, which would have given the Board of Supervisors say over three MTA Board members, with the Mayor retaining control over three members. Voters would elect the seventh member.

Campos has not offered details of his plan yet, including whether the public might elect one member, but he said the proposed service cuts reflect deeper problems with the agency. "There appears to be a systematic problem with Muni and change has to begin at the top with the MTA Board," Campos told the Chronicle.

Susan King, a transit advocate who works at Livable City, said changing the way the MTA Board is chosen is part of the solution. While the current system was intended to "depoliticize" the MTA, said King, transportation shouldn't be removed from the political process. "Transportation should be a political issue. It affects the very core of people's ability to survive," she said. "The voters and the people who use the roads in San Francisco, who also vote, need to have a bigger voice."


SF Concrete Commissioner: Stop Parking on the Sidewalk!

sidewalk_parking.jpgPhotos: San Francisco Department of Sidewalk Parking
Parking a car on the sidewalk is illegal and unsightly, as many San Franciscans know too well, but it also causes a hazard for those with visual impairments, as Lighthouse for the Blind illustrated when they began their campaign to eliminate the practice in the Sunset. And while a simple white line and the threat of consistent enforcement of the law by the MTA prompted drivers to park legally on 19th Avenue, the problem has not disappeared there or in any other district.  We've seen examples of the street-cleaning, sidewalk parking ballet throughout the city on sweeping days, though the burden of moving your neighbors' five cars while they're at work has diminished since DPW cut back on their runs (leaving our streets far dirtier in the process).

Now, an enterprising resident of the Excelsior, who wishes to remain anonymous, has created a website to publicize the abuse and advocate for comprehensive enforcement. The San Francisco Department of Sidewalk Parking website went live last week with numerous photos from the neighborhood, and while Commissioner Concrete admits that he doesn't occupy an office in City Hall and doesn't have the power to issue tickets, he advises you and all your friends to help populate the website and memorize the Department of Parking and Traffic's parking hotline: 415-553-1200.

Read our interview with the commish below the break.


Streetfilms: Walk to School Day in San Francisco

A generation ago, nearly half of all U.S. kids walked or bicycled to school. Today, less than fifteen percent do, with the majority arriving at school in private automobiles. It’s no coincidence, then, that studies show more than a quarter of San Francisco’s children are overweight. But a new program hopes to change that trend, while reducing greenhouse gas pollution and increasing fun.

With the help of a $500,000 grant from the federal government, San Francisco has launched its own “Safe Routes to Schools” program, aimed at encouraging students and parents to walk or bike to school.

At Longfellow Elementary last Wednesday, October 7th, students joined parents on a “walking school bus.” Although the date was part of International Walk to School Day, organizers plan group walks to school every Wednesday—with the ultimate goal of walking to school every day.