Today’s Headlines

  • Tonight: Meeting on N-Judah Upgrades, Bulb-Outs on Irving in the Inner Sunset (Curbed)
  • More on the Cesar Chavez Street Redesign (SFGate, SF Examiner)
  • Second Central Subway Boring Machine Begins Tunneling (SF Examiner)
  • Board of Appeals May Lack Authority to Downsize Car-Free 1050 Valencia Project (SocketSite)
  • City Issues RFP to Study Teardown of 280, Redevelopment of Caltrain Yard (SocketSite)
  • Shuttle Seen Angled Into Bus Stop: “Why Irritation Toward Tech Buses Grows” (Mission Local)
  • Daly City to Add Bike Lanes, Ped Safety Upgrades to Geneva Avenue (SF Examiner)
  • Menlo Park Looks to Provide Safer Routes to School, Quell Parental Road Rage (Almanac)
  • Menlo Park Police Start Bike Registry to Help Recover Stolen Bikes (SF Examiner)
  • Larkspur Ferry Terminal to Start Charging to Parking Monday (Marin IJ)
  • BART President, State Senator Still Want to Ban BART Strikes (CoCo Times)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Mario Tanev

    I am a shuttle rider. What bothers me about the shuttle debate is an underlying issue with how mass transit is valued. Roads, highways and cars are considered by a lot of people to be general infrastructure that benefits everyone, whereas buses, trains and so on are viewed as specialized infrastructure that benefits the select few. Nobody is rising up against the really rich people in cars, because they are not easily identifiable, yet they rise up against the upper middle class, packed efficiently in buses.

    Users of our infrastructure should pay according to their footprint (damage to the infrastructure, impact on congestion). Shuttles should pay to use Muni stops, but so should car drivers that occupy the parking space adjacent to the Muni stop for days on end.

    Full pricing of parking and congestion is probably the only way to deal with these contradictions. The shuttles would pay, but would pay less than if all those riders drove in separate vehicles (though, the weight of a vehicle does have a quadratic effect on the road damage, so it may not be as simple). Pricing would discourage low-income choice drivers and direct them to transit, whereas the rich choice drivers would continue to drive and pay. The payment should then be used to improve the transit infrastructure, meaning that in the end, everyone benefits, and rich choice drivers pay for it.

  • Sean Rea

    There is no excuse for the shuttles to park illegally. Existing stops provide plenty of room and this, unlike many of the recent complaints, is completely valid.

    Asking shuttle drivers to park in a respectful manner isn’t an indictment of their existence; it’s merely asking them to have a little common courtesy.

  • Mario Tanev

    It’s an indictment because the level of hate directed to them is disproportionate compared to car drivers that do the same (wait at a Muni stop). Look at the Mission Local article. When was the last time Mission Local showed an angled double-parked truck, car, or even Muni bus (though I think a Muni bus is more likely to get called out on some of these windshield perspective publications).

    In addition, applying the same standard to buses as is applied to cars is ridiculous. 10 cars may find 10 parking spaces, or double park in 10 spots, and thus board their passengers. A single parking space is not sufficient for a full bus to park and load its passengers, even though that bus stops for a minute and picks up the equivalent of 50 cars.

    There is a reason white zones exist, and they are to accommodate such use-cases for single-occupancy vehicles. Until now there was NO legal way for these shuttles to pick up their riders. Sure, it’s illegal, but the only other realistic alternative is to not provide shuttle service. And that is an anti-transit argument.

    BTW, I am perfectly understanding when transit riders fume about shuttles blocking Muni, as long as they also fume about private vehicle drivers blocking Muni. Shuttles should not be blocking Muni or bike lanes, and neither should be private vehicle drivers. However, what bothers me here is the disproportionate focus on shuttles, which are (and totally shouldn’t have to be!) a small percentage of Muni-blocking impacts.

  • Sprague

    I agree, Mario. It is odd to observe the loud outcry about “tech” shuttles. As streetsblog readers know, individual automobiles collectively impact San Francisco neighborhoods to a far greater extent. These cars are negatively effecting our environment in a myriad of ways, both locally and globally, and they are contributing to a hostile city landscape where being a pedestrian is often unpleasant and too often unsafe. Where is the outcry?

  • mikesonn

    “OMG a shuttle didn’t pull all the way in!” *ignores the 5 private autos doubled parked on the same block*

  • I would suggest the footprint of our modes of transport should also include health damages due to emissions of cancer-causing chemicals and asthma-inducing particulate matter, health damages inflicted by uninsured and under-insured drivers that are borne by the victim or society in general, environmental damage due to polluting emissions (including water pollution due to leaking oil and other fluids), climate damage due to greenhouse gas emissions, emergency personnel time to deal with accidents caused by that mode of transport, road operations and roadway services (in addition to roadway repair), vibration damage, health care costs due to noise pollution, subsidized or free use of public lands for vehicle storage, and the cost of wars to ensure US access to petroleum. (Even now, over 40% of the oil we use is imported.)

    As long as people can push a large portion of cost of their actions onto someone else or society at large, it is no wonder those actions seem inexpensive/desirable/an entitlement they will fight against giving up.

    As to tech shuttles, Caltrain is at capacity, so taking a shuttle or driving are the only options for making the journey, and it’s not as if there isn’t extraordinary demand for housing up and down the entire peninsula. At least living in San Francisco, people live in fewer square feet per person, walk more, and consume a great deal less energy. And the demand for housing is getting an incredible number of new units built here, housing that will remain even after the bubble we’re in bursts and much of the economic frothiness that we’re in the midst of fades away. (Any company whose income is solely based on ad revenue get ready–this fades away first.)

    As a taxpayer, I am grateful I don’t have to subsidize the shuttles the way I do every Muni, BART and Caltrain ride. (Though, due to externalities mentioned above, I would rather subsidize public transit than have people drive cars.) As a homeowner, I would much, much rather have a bus run down my street than 40 cars. As a driver, I would rather have one bus in front of me than 40 cars. As a pedestrian, I find the tech shuttle drivers are in general more courteous than Muni drivers and car drivers in yielding to me at crosswalks. Plus, if I had a dime for every time I saw a Muni bus that didn’t pull all the way over at a stop, I could probably pay for a monthly Muni pass.

    Resentment of tech buses is a symptom of the ever-growing income inequality in this country, but the resentment is, as it is so often, misdirected. Tech workers are hardly one percenters, tech shuttles are in no way a source of income inequality, and if tech shuttles disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn’t stop the incredible amount of money flowing out of China and the fact that absentee buyers with cash to burn are snapping up a quarter to a third of all Bay area real estate. Housing costs will dive when this quantitative easing-fed bubble pops, but jobs will dive, too. Best thing to do is get yourself to the non-discretionary part of the economy in a place where it is possible to live car-lite or car-free with fairly low energy use in general. The increase in density now underway in San Francisco (as well as our overall low per capita energy use) will stand this city in good stead in the decade ahead. Looking out, our serious problem will be water.

    I don’t argue that it wouldn’t be an excellent thing for tech companies to locate their offices where their workers want to live rather than in isolated suburban office parks. (I think Apple, in particular, has made a serious mistake with their planned new headquarters.) This would get rid of the shuttles and result in lower pollution, healthier people and lower energy use all around. However it would not reduce demand for housing. Only fewer jobs will do that.

  • jd_x

    The clown CW Nevius is back to his old games, this time blaming pedestrians again for being killed and maimed by motorists:
    http://blog.sfgate.com/cwnevius/2014/01/30/the-militant-pedestrians-of-san-francisco-try-looking-up-for-a-change/

    Man, this BS needs to stop. *Everybody* — pedestrians, motorists, cyclists — is distracted equally by our gadgets, and to put all the focus on the ones who cause the least amount of carnage as a result (pedestrians and cyclists) is utterly insane and the result of a society so addicted to automobiles that we can’t think straight. So sick of this ….

  • murphstahoe

    Somebody please go to 24th and Noe Street at 5:40 PM on a weekday, and wait for a 48 bus, and film it stuck behind the queues of cars waiting in both directions to turn into Whole Foods.

    Or perhaps there is more comedy in filming a Google Bus trapped in the same scenario…

  • murphstahoe

    As a homeowner, I would much, much rather have a bus run down my street than 40 cars.

    Especially since your proximity to the shuttle stops has sent your property value through the roof – without an increase in your property taxes. I have to laugh at any homeowner who protests the buses stopping near their houses.

  • Sean Rea

    It is a lot easier to fight a relatively new development that is a symbol of the elite tech class than it is to fight the plebes’ vehicle of choice.

  • Nevius might have finally moved to SF, but he still lives in Walnut Creek in his mind.

  • I was just perusing air horns on Amazon as part of my pedestrian survival gear…

  • gneiss

    It’s so annoying how he starts his columns with a faux opposite viewpoint first, “Granted, drivers in San Francisco are a menace. They run lights, cut off people in crosswalks, speed, change lanes without so much at a backward glance ” Like somehow this makes him sensitive. He might as well tell us that he has lots of friends who are pedestrians too. That would complete the bias.

  • Just to give some perspective on income inequality and what is “elite” in San Francisco, I’m attaching two graphs. The first is income distribution nationally by quintile. Notice mean household income for the top quintile is $182K, and for the top 5% it’s $318K. (While you’re at it, notice the steep rise for the top 5%, and the significantly less steep rise for everyone else. This is what people should be upset about.)

    The second graph shows San Francisco data. This is a few years old, so let’s add 5%. This shows median household income for the top quintile in SF is $286K ($282 * 1.05). On a relative basis, this puts the top 5% median income at $500K. Whoa. Rich people in San Francisco are really rich.

    Now the average Googler has a base salary of $124.5K. For those Googlers that have stock options who have been around longer than a couple years, it’s estimated those options produce benefits equal to about 40 – 50% of base salary. Let’s say 45%. So that brings a not-wet-behind-the-ears Googler to $181K or so per year. Not bad. I’m sure life is good for that person. But does he/she crack the top 20% of San Franciscan households? No, he/she does not. Now if there are two Googlers living together who both have stock options, they might crack into the top 20%. But not the top 5%.

    Let’s put it this way–the true elite of San Francisco don’t mess around with tech shuttles. Heck, some of these folks have never been south of Market (except to go to the airport, of course.)

  • voltairesmistress

    Thanks for alerting us to that vile piece. I usually don’t bother with the comment roll at the Chronicle, but I felt too outraged to let this canker sore of a columnist blather on without a reply. Here’s my response:
    Mr. Nevius, You and your unthinking column rants help to maintain a deadly environment of motorist denial here in San Francisco, and in most other U.S. cities. Simple math: A pedestrian endangering herself happens less frequently than a driver endangering others, for the simple reason that we humans rely on our steel cages on wheels to shield us from some of the risks we take while driving, especially when in a hurry or when a bit frustrated. We think we aren’t endangering others but rarely register when we have. Yes, we pedestrians (and all of us are such at least from our parking spots to our ultimate destination doorways) can be clueless, but out of sheer survival instinct this happens a lot less often than driver inattention or aggression. Most important, our sins as pedestrians rarely result in serious injury to others. The same cannot be said of the 1000+ annual motorist-against-all-others collisions resulting in serious injuries in San Francisco. Last year 21 pedestrians and 4 people on bikes died in San Francisco for others’ sins. Take that to your next confession.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Hallelujah! Google busses are being singled out for the same problems that delay constantly delay Muni. If I didn’t have my dog and a coffee I could have gotten video yesterday morning on Castro Street where a Google bus pulled out at 18th, while the the 24 was still two blocks away, only to have a Mission Cleaners van park in the space and the driver disappear as the bus approached.

  • voltairesmistress

    Potentially the most important news item above is from Socketsite, noting that the Board of Appeals may have overstepped its legal mandate when it overturned a Board of Supervisors’ approved project at 1050 Valencia. The project was in compliance with all existing zoning and building requirements. Its rejection was part and parcel of a disturbing San Francisco reality: on Nimby, aesthetic, or personal preference grounds, neighbors can derail legal, zoning-compliant development. This case may end up in the courts for a long time. But if the Board of Appeals loses, it could lead to rational development within legal current limits. That would be revolutionary and possibly have an impact on other built-out, wealthy places from Malibu to Santa Barbara.

  • p_chazz

    This is an elitist solution. What if mass transit dosn’t serve the locations where low income people need to go? Many live on thr urban fringe, where a beater car is needed to get around.

  • gneiss

    Read the last sentence. “Payment(s) should then be used the improve the transit infrastructure, meaning that in the end, everyone benefits and rich choice drivers pay for it.”. I believe that means the urban fringe would get better transit infrastructure. Sounds progressive to me…

  • p_chazz

    Mass transit is very good at getting workers into and out of dense urban job centers, who all work from 9 to 5, but cannot adequately serve widely dispersed areas on the fringe or people who work odd hours.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Wait, are you saying that since a regular employee at Google isn’t making in the top quintile they aren’t elite and therefore not deserving of ire or even maybe discussion? And if the average is over 100K, how many people are making over 250K since the average is already so high? If people in the 2nd highest quintile are moving into neighborhoods where current/previous residents made in the bottom 40% (or less than 40K a year) wouldn’t that cause some friction? The SFBC is hiring two new full time employees for 40-50K a year, where are they supposed to live in SF when the office is downtown but square footage rental costs within three miles are at record breaking highs? Even, and especially areas south of Market.

    The point you make about old money is a good one, as much of a passive role they may be playing in speculation and pricing people out of SF, they’re not doing it in a public way so they don’t receive the ire thats been directed elsewhere (at $4 toast?). Old money may be raising the price on the apartment, but they’re not getting into public bidding wars for it.

  • 94103er

    What she’s saying is, in short, this is nothing new or extraordinary in San Francisco. We’ve had many boom times in our past. The last boom was dot-com-boom kids but more predominantly people in consulting or financial services.

    Sure, there are plenty of households making north of 250K. That’s why ‘median’ salary is more instructive than ‘average’ salary.

    We have a long history of large populations of young, educated workers employed by nonprofits. I don’t think many of them have expected to afford a place within a mile or 2 from downtown. I will point out that the Bayview is 3 miles from 4th/King Caltrain, so you are exaggerating a bit that there’s nothing affordable within 3 miles of jobs.

    And finally, as for ‘old money’ (let’s just say you mean the financial titans who live in the old neighborhoods–they’re not old money) not pushing up prices, on food or housing–are you kidding?!? Been to the Marina lately? I think they may have invented $4 toast. Toast at the Mill is still a mere $3.50-$3.75.

  • 94103er

    On top of all that, it was an angled space. The shuttle was parallel to the portion of the curb near the front (where the driver was able to eyeball it). This whole thing is one big facepalm.

  • 94103er

    I’ll get one if you get one

  • coolbabybookworm

    I didn’t say that the marina isn’t expensive or wealth is a new thing for San Francisco. My point is that one doesn’t have to be in the top quintile of income to have a huge impact on a neighborhood.

    Also, 3 miles south of 4th and king is not the same as 3 miles south of 4th and Market.

  • zwol

    This is true for the hub-and-spoke, commuter-hours-only mass transit systems that tend to get built in North America — particularly if NIMBYism and/or racism has excluded the lines from certain areas (this is why BART doesn’t go to Marin). I don’t see why a more grid-oriented system that ran 24×7 would have this problem, and I have the impression that European cities do better in this regard.

  • I’m saying we have 45th percenters angry with 75th percenters, when 90% of the wealth created in this country the last four years has gone to the 1 percent. I’m saying that we should be glad there are jobs available in the region that pay well because these jobs are prompting housing to get built and indirectly funding many of the 45th percenter jobs. When the frothier tech jobs dry up, many of the 45th percenter jobs are going to dry up with them. I’m saying that you can’t skew everything to the people who have been here longest because the new arrivals are the future–the young. Cities need to constantly change, reinvent and reimagine themselves to adapt to the reality at hand. And young people adapt and reinvent the fastest of all.

    I’m saying if you make less than 50K a year, drop the car and figure out a car-free lifestyle because you’re not going to be able to keep it anyway. I’m saying that if you want to live in San Francisco as a 45th percenter (I worked for a while in social services and made quite a bit less than that) you’re probably going to need roommates to make it work, or live in the Sunset, or the Excelsior, or Portola. (And anyone who works for the SFBC should have no trouble biking five miles to work. Give me a break.) Will this push the 25 and 35%ers out of these areas? Only if we don’t build more housing.

    Do I think San Francisco should house everyone who wants to live here? That has been impossible ever since 1849. Would I like to see some accommodation made so that more of our public servants–police, fire and teachers that make under $70 K–can live here? Yes. Do I think the city should highly encourage building dense housing for moderate income folks in less expensive areas –say 10,000 units within a mile of the Balboa Park BART station–yes, definitely. But do I think the transformation underway in the Mission and every other area within 2 miles of downtown can be reversed? Not a chance. However, with enough units built, living in the Mission or SOMA may get affordable for the 50 – 80 percenters, not just the 80-95 percent crowd.

    When this bubble bursts, I expect rents and housing prices in SF to fall 30% (as they did after the dot com crash) if only because the all-cash offers by Chinese nationals (who are looking for safe places to put the wealth they’ve skimmed from their own country before they are purged or their economy crashes) and investment banks will go away. It’s possible our bubble-inflated economy will hit peak oil hard and crash even harder, though rising energy costs will keep people fleeing the suburbs for denser areas and employers will find it essential to be located in places accessible by public transit, so this will put some kind of floor under housing in SF. Again, the trouble then will be having a job, not landing an apartment in San Francisco.

    Best thing for San Francisco happens to be the best thing for the planet–build lots of dense housing next to light or heavy rail, encourage walking/biking, and provide everyone with access to the necessities (and even pleasures) of life via walking, bike and transit. Being upset about tech shuttles or even 3000 people that are a ratchet or two higher up on the economic pecking order is pointless and just diverts attention from productive actions that can actually address the true issues at hand–creating a vibrant, prosperous, healthy, peaceable way of life for all that does not simultaneously trash the planet.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Thanks for the in-depth response. I agree with most of your points but I didn’t think it was that useful to point out that there are wealthier people than regular employees at Google or in tech in general.

    One problem is how much development is built for and creates profits almost exclusively for the 1% and how often property owners will sit on empty or underused buildings rather than lower the price. Of course if things get as bad as you are predicting we can easily solve that problem by simply occupying empty spaces.

  • I guess it all comes down to one’s definition of “the elite.” Is it the top 1%? Top 5%? Top 20%? I was pointing out that the average tech worker is upper middle income, not part of the elite, unless one’s definition of elite is fairly watered down. They make less than the average banker, the average lawyer and the average doctor, but I guess those professions already have their neighborhoods staked out.

    Honestly, what we have here is a debate about who should get to live in 1000 square foot condos in formerly run-down sections of town that are transitioning due to major economic, demographic and societal change. This is fighting for table scraps while someone else is enjoying the meal and the house is burning down. The debate should really be 1) why has income inequality grown so dramatically in the US, 2) why aren’t we reducing our greenhouse gas emissions 10%/year, and 3) what is keeping San Francisco from building dense, affordable housing in parts of town marginally less desirable but still within a 30 minute commute of downtown?

    (In my opinion answers are: 1) the profits derived from money creation and manipulation are astonishingly enormous, don’t trickle down, and for the most part flow into speculation, creating bubbles, rather than invested in sectors/technologies that could create solid, middle-class jobs; 2) the profits derived from the auto, oil, coal and natural gas industries fund full-throttle resistance to taking climate change seriously because it means the end of those industries though it could mean the birth/rebirth of others; and 3) short-sighted zoning that inappropriately limits density next to transit or areas within walking distance of downtown (such as western SOMA) combined with glacial SF bureaucracy.)

  • coolbabybookworm

    Agree on all accounts, however, framing it as a debate about who gets to live in 1000 square foot condos in formerly run down parts of town sort of erases the thousands of people who live there and have lived there and the reasons that it was run down or disinvested in for so many years. Though misdirected, I still think it’s understandable that residents might get mad at the people buying that new condo rather than the developer that built it or the bank that lent the money.

  • murphstahoe

    Look guys – if it doesn’t start raining soon this will all be moot.

    Then again, the result of that will be farmers going bankrupt and a crash in housing prices in water districts that have gone dry. And our friends with the hedge funds will be more than happy to scoop them for pennies on the dollar in case the rain comes back.

  • Rod_North

    “We can easily solve that problem by simply occupying empty spaces”?

    So let me get this straight. Your idea for a livable city is to break into someone’s home because they are not currently sleeping in it? And then squat in it?

    And you think that would be simple and easy, as well as moral and legal?

  • coolbabybookworm

    I’m not talking about home owners, I’m talking about property owners. If there are homeless people and empty buildings then I think there is a moral imperative to either tax the blight or eminent domain the property for use by the city/community.

  • Rod_North

    OK, so you’re not advocating direct action to seize homes that just happen to be vacant?

    But rather you wish to advocate for changes in the law that would enable the city government to either punitively tax such vacant units or to use eminent domain to purchase them and then let the homeless live in them?

    I’d question the constitutionality of both those ideas, and I do not think that would be either simple or easy as you suggest. But I certainly prefer them to the idea of marauding gangs of discontents breaking into vacant homes.

  • San Francisco could desalinate its water. It wouldn’t be pretty energy-wise, but we could desalinate 100 gallons per person per day in SF, and at 15 watts per gallon the energy would take about 450 gigawatts/year. San Francisco currently consumes roughly 5000 gigawatts of electricity per year. But it will be tough to buy those 450 extra gigawatts on the open market, especially since hydro is down dramatically not only in California but also in Washington and Oregon. And natural gas prices are zooming up. So increasing our electricity consumption means some other states will burn coal to sell electricity to us which will only make the drought/climate situation eventually worse.

    San Francisco sponsored a study in 2009 which estimated a wind farm a kilometer east of the Farallons (would have to be floating platforms) would generate 1227 gigawatts/year with 66 5 MW turbines. The current price of floating offshore turbines appears to be somewhere around $20 million each. We would need 25 turbines to run just desalination, which would be about $.5 billion, although there would be other costs, and knowing San Francisco overruns, let’s call it $ .75 billion. There would also be the cost of the desalination plant and equipment (probably $450 million.) So in total, it would cost $1.2 billion to desalinate. And as long as we’re making a floating wind farm, might as well size at 66 turbines to get a decent amount of energy, especially since hydro from Hetch Hetchy will be diving. So my back of the envelope calculation comes out at $2 billion to get us 100 gallons of water/per person/per day + 777 gigawatts of wind electricity (over what we use for desalination) which is about 15% of SF’s electricity use. Probably should get the environmental impact study going.

    While desalination may work for San Francisco, there’s no way it will ever produce cheap food. This is a disaster not only for California, but for the nation.

  • murphstahoe

    Having enough potable water for San Francisco but not the other 8 million people in the Bay Area really wouldn’t work. The googlers wouldn’t be on a shuttle because Google can’t exactly have a job center there without water. And the employers in SF would not be able to keep their employees who live outside SF because they don’t have water.

    Bigger plants? As you say, the biggest issue is agriculture, and desalinization is only part of the issue there, then we’d have to pump that water to the Central Valley.

  • The water issue isn’t pretty any way you slice it. Towns ringing the bay could pull water from the bay and desalinate it. Where they’ll get their energy from I’m not sure but eventually every rooftop in California will have solar on it, and there will be wind turbines from Treasure Island to the Berkeley pier. The Sacramento and other rivers can probably supply a moderate amount of drinking water. Pumping desalinated water from the coast more than thirty miles inland with no help of gravity would be massively energy intensive and I predict won’t happen. Cities without access to water will likely depopulate instead.

    As to agriculture, water-intensive crops such as corn, cotton and rice will have to go. I hope farmers are able to hang on to their fruit and nut trees. I found this info on waterfootprint.org that gives an idea of water use:

    one apple–125 liters
    one glass wine–110 liters
    one glass beer–74 liters
    one tomato–50 liters
    one kilogram milled rice (2.2 lbs)–2500 liters
    one peach–140 liters
    one orange–80 liters
    glass of milk–255 liters
    one egg–200 liters
    one kilo corn–760 liters
    one cotton tshirt–2500 liters
    one pair cotton denim jeans–8000 liters
    1 liter soy biodiesel–11,397 liters
    1 liter corn ethanol–2854 liters
    1 kilo beef–15,400 liters

  • baklazhan

    Ah, but if you protest, you can get it running down the next street– so you have all the benefits of the proximity, and none of the downsides!

  • Maybe the Gbarge could be repurposed to desalination, saving the day, etc.

  • Fifth and Mission, here we come!

  • mikesonn

    First driver you’ll need to protect yourself from: the Amazon Fresh vehicle that delivers your air horn.