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

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The non-binding Prop L calls for enshrining outdated policies, like free parking, and promotes the construction of new parking garages.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

  • Guest

    Wow, you deserve a medal.
    I am a 30 year native of SF and we are over taxed and over billed on city fees.

    NOT ANOTHER DIME to subsidize inefficeint systems.

    Did you have fun getting around town during the MUNI ‘sickout’? So much for a transit rich city. You have not spent enough time in NYC, Chicago, Boston (which I find is the best) Philadelphia, or even Seattle. Their public transit is 10X better than ours.

    MUNI is a joke. To say otherwise is to be in denial.

  • gneiss

    Then Greg – you should be in favor of strengthening MUNI, adding more meters, and installing more bike lanes. The fewer people who are in cars, because it the only safe or convenient option available, the easier it will be for you to drive to your destination. For the last 80 years we have tried to build our way out of traffic congestion and to put it simply – it doesn’t work.

    If more people like me use the other options available then people like you wouldn’t be so frustrated by your experience driving around the city. If there weren’t bike lanes, calmed streets, and MUNI between my house and various destination do you think I would be biking? No – I would drive just like you. And I would be taking up space on the road just like you. And probably taking up a parking space – the exact one that you wanted to use.

  • gneiss

    Right – that’s just the approach the Republicans since Ronald Reagan have used to bankrupt the country. It’s called “starve the beast” and it’s worked so great, that we now owe over $17 Trillion. Great job.

    As for the MUNI sickout – each of the other cities you mention periodically has issues with their unions as well. Frankly it didn’t effect me one bit. I bicycle to work, and was picking up my daughter from camp on a trailer bike. I am very glad that there are other options available than trying to compete with all the crazy car drivers out there.

    And Let’s not forget that for the cities you mentioned, NYC, Chicago, and Boston contend with snow in the winter that shut down streets- but in my experience, the trains keep running.

  • Greg

    I’m for everything except installing more bike lanes. Make driving and parking more expensive. Congestion pricing, Sunday meters, increase parking permit costs. And invest massively in public transportation – dedicated bus lanes, subway under Van Ness to Marina/Wharf, under Geary to Ocean Beach, etc. Expand BART to San Jose and up to Novato, etc. The focus on biking is distracting from/counterproductive to these goals. Biking isn’t reducing cars on the road and it not a practical solution for many folks. It is also making it more dangerous for walkers (Polk street is scary for me now to cross in foot). The solution is to focus on walking and usable public transit.

  • Greg

    This is exactly what I’m talking about – you don’t care about the MUNI sickout since it doesn’t affect you – you bike. But not everyone can bike – someday you won’t be able to. Is it helping SF create a sustainable transportation infrastructure by focusing on biking like this while MUNI remains awful?

  • gneiss

    SFMTA doesn’t focus on bicycle based infrastructure by any stretch. The last few years they have spent less than 1% of their budget annually on bicycle improvements, and yet the number of people bicycling has increased by more than 60% over the last decade.

    Not spending on bicycle improvements means (1) more people riding on sidewalks (2) more crowding on multi use paths. Making everyone who rides a bike a law breaker because the streets aren’t safe is a totally counterproductive use of city resources. Instead making the streets safer with clearer definitions for what people who ride bike should do, and you’ll make everyone safer.

    As for saying that ‘I don’t care’ about the MUNI sickout isn’t true. I was asked if it affected me and I said no. But as I pointed out, this isn’t an isolated incident. Every city has labor issues with their public unions. But that’s not a reason to throw up your hands and say that you shouldn’t invest in transit, or that we should discount the needs of transit users by making driving easier.

  • murphstahoe

    Sounds like you have created a problem for yourself.

  • gneiss

    Greg – why spend billions of dollars on public transit along already well traveled routes relatively short haul routes when we could much more cheaply install good, safe bicycle infrastructure for 10th of pennies on the dollar compared to the subways you envision? I encourage you to look at the examples in cities in northern Europe that have spent money of bicycle lanes and created high quality networks that get people where they are going. It’s far more cost effective then the giant public works projects we are spending money on in San Francisco. After all, the central subway is going to cost $1.58 billion for a 1.7 mile line that is expect to only carry some 20,000 people a day. If they had simply diverted private automobile traffic, made the bus lines better, and installed good bicycles along that route, they could have easily achieved that level of ridership with the need for a costly subway.

    As for Polk street being scary, that’s exactly what the Polk street redesign was expected to address.

  • murphstahoe

    This is such horse hockey. Even if gneiss *never* uses MUNI (I used it – not as much as I biked, but I used it), gneiss benefits a *lot* from excellent MUNI service, and he knows it. 10 people on a bus means 9 fewer vehicles that might hit him, and the one vehicle remaining, while large, is driven by a driver who is at least given a modicum of training, and whose livelihood depends on him or her driving properly. That’s a win.

  • murphstahoe

    Additionally, as a cyclist, gneiss is particularly acutely aware of the issue of having one’s mode of transit be substandard, and develops empathy. The people who cannot empathize with the transit rider are people who solely drive.

  • walley george

    “SFMTA already has an exhaustive outreach program.”

    Which they ignored when they tried to force meters into the inner Mission. The citizens of the neighbourhood opposed the SFMTA and they tried to force it on them, more than once.

    Right wingers are the ones with the talking points right?

  • Rkeezy

    You’re right, the measure also calls for equal representation in SFTMA’s decisions for the 50%+ of SF residents that use a private auto to get to work. Versus the 0% representation they have now in city government.

  • Rkeezy

    Taking away traffic lanes at only particular points means the overall flow of the street is reduced. If you take a pipe, and constrict it to 1/2 or 2/3 of its original diameter at one point – guess what? You have reduced the flow along 100% of that length, even though you only constricted it at a single point. So calculating the impact based on square footage is skewing facts at its best. Here’s another fact for you to skew: Less than 4% of commutes are done on bicycle, greater than 50% of commutes are done by private auto. How many motorists are mandated to be on the SFMTA board?

  • Rkeezy

    Anyone who has a car automatically is Mr. Money Bags? That’s an interesting generalization. Many of them are struggling to make ends meet. Here’s another one. Anyone who rides a bicyclist is from the Midwest and just came to SF a year and a half ago and loves to tell everyone who based their mostly modest lives here in SF on being able to operate a motor vehicle what they can and can’t do. But those people don’t count very much to you, do they? Clearly they are all Republican dirt bags! No one is suggesting that we don’t try to get off the gasoline using car. What we are suggesting is that you can’t marginalize 50% of the city’s voters because you don’t like the cut of their jibs.

  • gneiss

    Streets are not pipes. And people are not molecules of water. You can’t possible think that the same number of people will continue to drive someplace the same way where the streetscape gets changed.

    When the Embarcadero Freeway was removed, we didn’t suddenly have a ‘deluge’ of cars on the surface streets, because people adjusted to the new reality of the space and transport options and used other means to get to their destinations. And if you prioritize one mode (say transit) over another, suddenly, it becomes more attractive to use that mode then another.

    Finally – tell me – who is the person mandated on the SFMTA board that must be for the specific interests of anyone? The board is made of up of 7 people who are appointed by the mayor. No one is ‘mandated’ to be anything. And, I’ve venture to guess that all of the board members have drivers licenses and probably own cars and maybe a bicycle or two. That means they can walk, take MUNI, bicycle, jog, drive, and heck, maybe do all of those in things in one day.

  • baklazhan

    The problem is that private auto supporters don’t want 50% of the space, or 80% of the space, they want 100%.

    And I’m not sure what city you live in that 50% of commutes are done by private auto.

  • gneiss

    Not true. They have backed down on many of their initiatives based on the feedback they received from community meetings. And they have patently *not* ignored the outreach program, they continued to have many meetings throughout the process. The fact that you didn’t like their proposals doesn’t mean that they didn’t engage in community outreach.

  • gneiss

    What “zero” percent? What a ridiculous thing to say. The mayor gets around in a car. Most city officials travel by car. The Fire Department, Public Works Departments, DPW, Social Services, Park Serivces, heck, just about every department except for MUNI bus drivers and LRT operators gets around by car.

    It is patently false to say that there is “no representation” given the truly pervasive nature of car use in city government. If you asked the SFMTA board members if they had drivers licenses, I’d bet all of them do. And I would imagine that the ‘4 members who use MUNI regularly’ also drive, just like almost every adult in California.

  • murphstahoe

    You forgot your narrative. “All cyclists run stop signs”.

  • 94103er

    Not-quite-stale comment thread so I gotta let off steam on this 9-day-old one.

    I can’t take both of my kids on my bike at the same time.

    Awww. You can either cry us a river, or Google ‘cargo bikes’ or even ‘biking with kids’ to get a shred of a notion of what one can do on a bike.

    I can’t carry the 150 pounds of little league coaching gear on my bike.

    a) False. b) How nice for you. No one said you can’t do things like this. Go ahead and sit in traffic! Hopefully you’ll get passed up by a few of these en route:

    The city refused to allow my kids to go to any school near my house (I picked the nearest 7 and got none)

    Whoa, wait wait. LOL, so ‘the city’ is to be blamed even though you know so little about our public-school system that you don’t even realize ‘the city’ doesn’t run it and don’t understand how the student-assignment system works? (A bit simplistically, you have to list a lot of choices or the type of algorithm it uses cannot rank your choices against others’ choices and swap until everyone gets a satisfactory choice.)

    The bus between my house and my kids’ school (thru the ‘loin) is filled with meth heads and crazies

    OK, this is just too easy. I’m just gonna leave that there.

    You, sir, are a world-class piece of work. A piece of work who needs to consider living in some mythological bucolic suburb and leave the city for the rest of us who know we’re not entitled to any mode of transit we please. If you want to overschedule your kids and drive them around everywhere, great, but there’s no earthly reason why the city should roll out the red carpet and make it easy for you.

  • doug hosenphefer

    Sunday parking meters suck. They are a poor tax on working people. Techies park their BMWs and Range Rovers in their garages. It doesn’t matter if Hitler himself came out of the grave to support getting rid of Sunday meters, it’s a stupid, regressive flat tax, aimed at working people trying to stay in SF. It didn’t “ruin” this City five years ago, or 80 years ago, to have ONE DAY A WEEK when people could relax and not drive around endlessly looking for parking in their own neighborhoods, or live in fear of being seconds away from rapacious City parking tickets, and a loss of a day’s pay. People who want more money spent to support their fun on $5,000 bikes should feel free to donate some stock options to the City, and let the majority of citizens of San Francisco have one day of peace.

  • @Guest – Cars on roads is the most inefficient ground transportation system ever devised, in terms of both energy and economics. So I guess you’re voting NO on L.

  • Three sentences of nonsense and then an auto-Godwin. Good work.

  • 94103er

    Nope, it’s the built environment that makes so many poor people think they need a car that sucks. Cars cost thousands of $$ a year–THAT is a poor tax on working people.

    No one can ‘relax and not drive around endlessly looking for parking in their own neighborhoods’ if the local residents occupied every last goddamn metered parking spot at 5:30pm Saturday evening and don’t move their cars until Monday morning. Don’t be so willfully obtuse.

    As for the $5,000 comment, why do I bother acknowledging stupid trolls but here, have a look at this hipster bike brand with $300 bikes

  • Boo

    you do realize that muni now costs $2.25 in order to pay for free parking on Sunday?

  • Boo

    funny you bring up the meters in the Mission (NE part) – I ride through there on my way to work every day. The fact that there are no parking restrictions actually encourages people to park in this neighborhood while they head elsewhere. These are people that do not live or work in the neighborhood – they literally park and leave. While I wouldn’t tend to support meters on residential blocks, if I lived over there and relied on street parking, I’d definitely support permit parking.

  • Boo

    I don’t begrudge when people choose to drive, especially in the situation you described. What I do begrudge (not that you’re guilty of it) is the sense of entitlement that drivers have over roads. The truth is, those roads are for everyone to get from point A to point B and there is nothing wrong with accommodating transit, bikes, and cars. If you look at any road in SF, most of the road space is already allocated to private cars and that probably is not going to change.

  • Boo

    I have to disagree. Although there are a few bad eggs out there, I think bike lanes enhance the pedestrian experience as they tend to slow cars down and make drivers more aware.

  • SFnative74

    Wow 94103er, way to even try to attempt to empathize with what a typical person thinks about in the city. This sort of response seems to confirm many people’s perceptions that cyclists are a-holes. It’s not helping the effort…

  • NoeValleyJim

    I take both of my kids on a bike all the time. Get a cargo bike with an electric assist and you could too.

  • Alex

    Haha, this guy’s funny. He thinks “poor people” are the ones that benefit most from free parking. He also thinks that making parking free means people won’t have to “drive around endlessly”. Clearly, basic supply and demand economics elude him. That becomes further evident when he states he thinks every bike riding in SF is worth $5000 and merely for “fun”.

  • Alex

    Number 2 is absolutely true. Since the dawn of civilization, parents have been able to drive their kids around. How else would they possibly get them from place to place?

  • missiondweller

    SFMTA is out of control.

    They’ve used transit money to eliminate parking and auto lanes which has increased congestion and pollution in San Francisco. Still worse, narrower streets and less lanes slow emergency response times putting SF residents in danger as well as further slowing Muni…the same mass transit they say they want us to take!!

    All of this is primarily to benefit a narrow slice (2-3%) of the population of young, able bodied, wealthy bicyclists who are mostly white, all at the expense of every other minority group.

  • gneiss

    Please – provide us with all the wonderful studies that shows reducing parking and eliminating auto lanes have increased congestion. I’m dying to find it! Thanks!

  • murphstahoe

    Which is it? We should benefit minority groups, or we should not? I don’t get it.

  • missiondweller

    Maybe we should just have good policy for the entire community rather than 2.5% of it.

  • missiondweller

    Well beyond common sense which should tell you the elimination of over 400 parking spots is going to cause people to circle blocks for extended time looking for parking and less lanes means slower traffic, you only need to look at the EIS for the SF Bike Plan which not surprisingly pointed this out. Of course it was completely ignored by the city who’s agenda was already set.

    You may recall that the only reason the EIS was done was because the city was sued by Rob Anderson who pointed out they were violating the law by not doing one.

  • murphstahoe

    What percent of households in SF have children in the SFUSD? 2.5%? Why not get rid of the schools!

  • geiss

    That’s anecdotal, not studies. Let’s take the Embarcadero freeway for example. When it was removed, did it cause total gridlock in the city? Hardly.

    Common sense tells us that people adjust their habits when the streetscape changes. If there are less parking spaces available, then fewer people will drive. If you properly price the parking spaces with variable or demand based meter rates, then you’ll get even better utilitzation.

  • missiondweller

    If you can’t accept an environmental study is a study and not anecdotal you’ve moved beyond reality, sound arguments and basic facts.

    And with that there’s no sense having a conversation.

  • coolbabybookworm

    If you think that we needed to stop building bike infrastructure because it would have a negative impact on the environment [for people to use a bike for more trips] then you’ve moved beyond reality. Just because it’s called CEQA doesn’t mean it actually protects the environment, which is part of why the bike plan was made exempt from environmental review.

  • SF Guest

    Speaking on the Embarcadero Freeway, have you not seen the traffic along 2d St., Harrison St., 1st Street along with Bush Street and Battery Street which leads into 1st St, which was the end result of removing the Broadway, Clay and Beale Street on-ramps?

    There’s a PCO lackey at 1st and Harrison controlling the traffic light who’s useless, but it makes the SFMTA feel like they’re doing their job.

    And what about the economic impact Chinatown suffered and could never regain?

  • murphstahoe

    the elimination of over 400 parking spots is going to cause people to
    circle blocks for extended time looking for parking and less lanes means
    slower traffic, you only need to look at the EIS for the SF Bike Plan
    which not surprisingly pointed this out.

    Please cite any line in that EIR which states people will circle blocks for extended time looking for parking. Hopefully this will allow this conversation to have even trivial value given that you have pulled “extended time” out of thin air rather than giving a quantified impact – which you indicate exists.

  • @Rkeezy – Most of the people on the SFMTA board drive. One has to wonder where this bogus 0% number comes from. Since Prop L is an advisory measure, it’s clear that it is an attempt to push rhetoric, and its demand that the SFMTA have motorist representation is rhetoric to make people think it currently lacks that representation.

    So throwing out the bogus number means that you’re either 1) deliberately attempting to mislead people as the Prop L campaign is, 2) duped by the Prop L campaign, or 3) duped by some other source, or by simple ignorance. Which is it?

  • Duane

    So what we are saying here is the people who pay the greatest amount of taxes to fund streets should have no say in how those streets are used. At the same time the people who pay no taxes to fund streets should have all the say in how those streets are used. Personally I am all for bike lanes and safe streets. That is why I fully support EXPRESS WAYS that are specifically made to carry large amounts of auto traffic quickly through the city. Then you have the rest of the streets for bikes and pedestrians.

  • Duane

    Muni raised their prices to cover the bloated salaries and pensions of their horrid drivers and supervisors. Parking meters have nothing to do with it. PS….fact…..when Mable Tang first promoted “traffic calming and pedestrian safety” she stated that this was needed due to pedestrian fatalities on SF streets of which 50% were from MUNI BUSES!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • @donsf2003 – I just got a glossy leaflet from the Yes on L people. It was full of flaming lies. It doesn’t even get jurisdictions straight, blaming the SFMTA for what the MTC does. You must be really upset about this sleazy ad campaign, right? I mean, it’s a bunch of lies being sent to people’s houses and everything, not just some guy playing with Photoshop on a blog.

    I eagerly await your principled, angry denouncement of the sleazy tactics of the Yes on L campaign.

  • @Duane – I don’t know who the “we” is in your first sentence, but the bit about who pays more is completely wrong. Motorists impose far greater costs than any other road users, which fall far short of the additional costs they pay in gas taxes, fees, and tolls. Their chosen transportation mode is subsidized by everyone choosing any other mode, and are subsidized disproportionately by localities with higher incomes and higher property values.

    This, of course, describes San Francisco, Prop L’s very jurisdiction.

  • Boo

    yes, muni employees are the only government workers with bloated salaries and pensions. Let’s stop funding public transportation to teach them a lesson.

    …and you’re wrong – Muni fares were raised to make up for the budget shortfall caused by removing Sunday metering. The missing 9.8MM revenue from the meters was already included in the budget before it was subsequently removed (

  • Boo

    regarding your point about 50% of pedestrian collisions being with Muni:

    “In the last seven years, 120 people have died and more than 5,600 have been involved in collisions mostly with cars.”

    The article states that 1/3 of crashes were attributed to the pedestrian so that means that in 2/3 of cases, drivers were determined at fault.


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