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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
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The non-binding Prop L calls for enshrining outdated policies, like free parking, and promotes the construction of new parking garages.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.

The "No on L" website elaborates on why the measure won't make life better for anyone -- not even motorists. Instead, free parking will only ensure that drivers won't find parking spots, and the resolution discourages the city from providing better alternatives to driving:

Whether you’re driving, walking, biking, or taking transit, this ill-conceived measure will makes things worse, not better.

Instead of making anything better, Prop. L will result in increased traffic congestion, greater competition for parking, and more dangerous streets. These are not San Francisco values. We deserve better.

San Francisco is a city that invests in its infrastructure, cares about the environment, and that values the health and safety of each of our citizens.

San Francisco is a great city, but it hasn't happened by accident. We've spent years investing in the things that help cities do well: open spaces, small neighborhood plazas, a beautiful waterfront. These things don't happen naturally, they've been built because San Francisco has focused on a transportation system that promotes public transit, focuses on safety, reduces our greenhouse gas emissions, and encourages community spaces built for people, not cars. San Francisco has made it a point to become the city we are.

Prop L doesn't have support from any officials at City Hall "who are making decisions and listening to their constituents every day," said Lauterborn. But the proponents' website did recently list an endorsement from the SF Chamber of Commerce, even though the chamber has supported Sunday parking metering in recent years.

Sunday parking metering is one of the main policies Prop L seeks to kill for good, even though Mayor Lee already had it repealed in April. There have been reports, however, of petition gatherers telling the public otherwise.

Former Supervisor Tony Hall penned a rant in the West of Twin Peaks Observer last month, promoting Prop L and decrying the twin bogeymen of "SF's war on motorists" and the "Transit and Bicycle Only" policy:

The origin of the initiative is centered on the fact that 79% of San Francisco households who own or lease a motor vehicle have been the target of bad transportation policy for the past 15 years, as determined by the radicals who have taken over the SFMTA Board and espouse a “car-less” San Francisco. These holier-than-thou know-it-alls have declared war on motorists by reengineering our streets, removing traffic lanes, eliminating off street and on street parking, raising meter and garage rates and ticket fines in the naïve belief that motorists will “see the light” and stop driving (or sell their cars out of the County), and take MUNI, bike, or walk to every destination within the City.

"Despite the clear lack of dedicated space and adequate funding for safe, livable streets," the SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in a recent blog post, "there is a group of San Franciscans who think that there’s actually too much space given to sustainable ways to get around."

"I think that most San Franciscans," said Lauterborn," when they realize that the Republican Party are its biggest proponents, and who's putting the money behind this, are going to [think] that maybe this isn't in line with a San Francisco, forward-thinking approach."

Whatever frustrations San Franciscans have with the SFMTA's practices, "To take that frustration out on a forward-thinking policy is not a good idea," he added. "It's not usually how we do policy in San Francisco."

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