D3 Supe Candidates Peskin, Christensen Weigh in on Polk Street Bike Lanes

District 3 supervisor candidates Aaron Peskin and Julie Christensen gave their positions on bringing protected bike lanes to all of Polk Street this week in response to the SF Bicycle Coalition’s election questionnaire. Peskin gave an affirmative “yes,” while Christensen’s response was closer to a “maybe.”

Aaron Peskin and Julie Christensen.
Aaron Peskin and Julie Christensen.

The redesign for Polk, approved by the SFMTA board in March, was watered down from the original vision for protected bike lanes after some merchants complained about the reduction in car parking. David Chiu, who was the D3 supervisor during most of the planning process, did not stand up for a bolder vision.

The candidates were asked if they will “commit to supporting continuous, protected bike lanes on the High-Injury Corridor segments of Polk Street when the Polk Streetscape Project is next reviewed.” The next review is supposed to happen after the current design has been in place for a year, at which time the SFMTA will assess further improvements.

Peskin, who is running for his old job (he served two terms as D3 supervisor preceding Chiu), answered “yes” to the question.

Christensen, the current supervisor who was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee, gave no response to that question but then explained her stance in a follow-up question, “How will you prioritize public safety during this process?”

The plan was in jeopardy when I took office. I worked to sustain a compromise that does not preclude future adjustments, but will allow the significant bike safety portions of the current project to move ahead. Many of the gravest conditions and concerns have been addressed in Phase 1 and I have promised all parties that we will — jointly — evaluate the impacts and shortcomings of this initial installation and develop next steps as needed.

Here’s how Peskin answered the follow-up:

I was disappointed by how contentious the Polk Street process became. It is my hope that when the first bicycle safety improvements — enhanced with pedestrian improvements — are in the ground that residents, merchants, commuters and visitors alike will see the benefits and be supportive of continued improvements. It’s one of the most dangerous corridors in the City, and isn’t helped by the crush of TNC’s double-parked along this corridor.

Read more on Peskin and Christensen’s stances on creating safer streets, data-driven traffic enforcement, and increasing funding for bicycling, walking, and transit.

  • NoeValleyJim

    I am deeply disappointed by Christensen’s stance here. She has effectively said that my life is less important than a few seconds of a drivers time. She has quite a few things right but this issue is important to me.

    I am not a big fan of Peskin either, for a number of reasons, but mostly because he is King NIMBY and has contributed more than any other person to our current housing shortage.

    I think I will focus on other issues this election.

  • Gezellig

    At least as far as most equitable/safest/best-practice/sustainable use of our public ways goes, ’nuff said:

  • Mesozoic Polk

    I figured for sure that Peskin would be the best candidate based on his delightfully obstructionist approach to city governance. Christensen mostly seems to want to get things done, while I generally prefer to *stop* things from getting done.

    At the same time, reading Christensen’s measured and balanced approach to this issue gives me pause. She recognizes that a driver’s convenience in finding a parking spot may be comparable to saving lives, and that gives me hope for the future of San Francisco.

  • Mesozoic Polk

    I figured for sure that Peskin would be the best candidate based on his delightfully obstructionist approach to city governance. Christensen mostly seems to want to get things done, while I generally prefer to *stop* things from getting done.

    At the same time, reading Christensen’s measured and balanced approach to this issue gives me pause. She recognizes that a driver’s convenience in finding a parking spot is as important as saving lives, and that gives me hope for the future of San Francisco.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Peskin is a strong leader who doesn’t appease to get things done. As a cyclist, I’m sick of our safety constantly being jeopardized to appease drivers. Julie Christensen and Ed Lee have made their opinions quite clear; cyclists can get all the “improvements” they want so long as it doesn’t actually inconvenience any drivers. If Copenhagen had this sort of leadership, they’d still be the car-centric city they were in the 70’s.

  • Dale Danley

    I would be interested in an analysis of what Aaron Peskin did (or didn’t) do during his previous 8 years representing D3, both for his district, and also from a citywide perspective (i.e., I believe he is an attorney with CEQA expertise and was President of the BOS when the city passed a bike plan that was then stalled for years by a CEQA lawsuit).

  • One has to keep in mind that Julie is now a city official, and as such has to be more careful with what she promises to whom. My understanding of her stance is that Polk Street is at its core a sewer and paving project (hard construction stuff), and that she doesn’t want to hold it up with hypothetical arguments about the impacts of bicycle infra. Instead, she seems to prefer getting it done as a compromise, and then, since the bike improvements here consist only of paint, pilot more improvements later. It’s not total victory, but she does clearly indicate that she is interested in more bicycle facility improvements overall.

    Peskin, on the other hand, is promising anything to anybody in his pursuit of the office, knowing full well that he, too, will face pressure from merchants, donors, supporters, and other interest groups if elected, and that will force him to compromise on issues relating to bicycles and pretty much everything else.

    Look at all the other stuff Christensen is supporting/working on, and the picture of her as a transportation-forward-thinker really is clear: Clay & Kearney traffic calming; Stockton Tunnel; Broadway Tunnel; Van Ness BRT; Central Subway; Columbus Ave pedestrian and bicycle improvements; Cable car safety, etc.

  • NoeValleyJim

    He created the Historical Preservation Commission, with the power to veto any external changes to any construction that is over 50 years old. The reviews required by this commission add $5-10,000 to any and all homeowner construction that changes the exterior at all. It is also quite easy for neighbors to simply block your changes entirely, especially if you are in a historical district.

    He blocked the development of 55 Washington and its 248 units and he led the opposition to 8 Washington and its 134 units. He blocked reconstruction of the Pagoda Theater and its 20 units of housing. He opposed having the Central Subway run through North Beach. He tried to strengthen the Shadows Ordinance to make it even harder to build high rises.

    He has a reputation for being abusive and bullying and saying some pretty racist anti-Chinese things.

    I appreciate his support of bicycling, but the rest is a pretty big negative.

  • voltairesmistress

    Well said. I have talked with Christiansen at some length. She impresses me as someone who wants, works on, and gets concrete projects done piece by piece. I am pretty sure she will get substantive changes to Polk Street by bringing them in piece by piece. Would I prefer more radical change to that dangerous street? You bet! But that street redesign has proven a political mess. As an elected public official, Christiansen is trying to get the necessary safety measures on Polk without it getting stopped by another backlash from these fuddled daddy merchants. She has supported changes to Columbus Ave that are similarly needed on Polk. I think we need someone who is honest, diplomatic, and driven to make the streets safer. And I think Christensen will chip away at opposition to Polk changes until she can get enough people on board.

  • He’s also been abusive of women in positions of authority, in the creepiest of ways: http://bit.ly/1hw5Je9 Of course this seems to be satire, but there are lots of real news reports that back it up.

  • She’s a product designer by trade (created the Candy Apple Red KitchenAid mixer), and I think she knows that sometimes you have the masterstroke opportunity and sometimes you just make it incrementally better.

  • NoeValleyJim

    To Peskin’s great credit, he sponsored Prop A, which created the SFMTA as a merger of DPT (the Department of Parking and Traffic) and Muni. It competed successfully against Prop H, which was an initiative sponsored by Billionaire Gap Founder Gary Fisher. Prop H would have overturned San Francisco’s Transit First policies and created more parking downtown.

  • There is that, yes.

  • Dale Danley

    Hold on here – MTA was created by Prop E in 1999, the same year that Peskin first won his D3 seat, in that first wave of elections by district (rather than city-wide). I do not believe that Peskin was an architect of Prop E in 1999. There was an A vs. H ballot fight, and Peskin was a lead sponsor of the transit side, vs. DONALD (not Gary) Fisher on the pro-parking side, but that happened in 2007. The pro-transit side won, with help from Mayor Newsom, and that was politically significant, but didn’t have major policy consequences.

  • NoeValleyJim

    You are right of course, I guess I should check wikipedia instead of my faulty Middle Aged memory before posting!

  • bellaluna

    So much misinformation here! Aaron is not an attorney for CEQUA, he works with a San Francisco non-profit that is purchasing water rights on behalf of Native American tribes. The voters overwhelmingly voted against the 8 Washington Luxury condos on the waterfront. Aaron is NOT responsible for the Ellis Act Evictions in San Francisco. That is crazy.

  • M.

    Christensen understands that the best way to ‘chip away’ at opposition is to inform and reach out to those already clued in to facts and data on how street design works.

  • M.

    Yep. Talk is cheap – especially pre-election talk. At a recent meeting, he told Folks for Polk (a neighborhood group formed to have reason prevail on the Polk Plan), ‘We’ve got to talk about Polk Street.” It was about 3 years too late.

  • M.

    Small correction: The raised cycleway planned for Lower Polk required survey of sub-surface conditions thence construction. The Board’s amendment mandates an impact assessment within one year post-completion. If the assessment gives a green light to expanding the built cycling infrastructure, a survey of existing sub-surface conditions on the northern project length, Pine to Union, will have to be carried out if it hasn’t already been done or changed during the first phase.
    Of course, the post-completion assessment should include safety data from the raised cycleway portion, not just carefully analyzed economic impact data.

  • M.

    The political climate around getting more better cycling infrastructure, particularly on Middle Polk was beyond insane, though not impossible. The two main courses of action were each a minefield of political consequences. No one likes politics as the art of the possible and we all want the best for the most vulnerable road users but noncontroversial interim measures a la NACTO were not even an option in that very hotly polarized debate. They are now, and should improve safety and pave the way for better to come.

  • M.

    Christensen is generally honest and her non-reply to the one question reflects that she won’t give an answer that she (anyone) may not be able to effect, even as Supe.
    The time for *real* action on Polk St. was more than 2 years ago. At that time, Julie was a very effective neighborhood advocate in North Beach and self-employed; Peskin was apparently unemployed yet AWOL re. Polk cycling. Though he may even believe it right now, his claim to support the best cycling infrastructure is easy talk (see my reply to Noe Valley Jim below) and those who believe it means anything don’t understand politics nor advertising.
    Some history that points to how he’s likely to proceed as Supe:
    The main opposition on Polk St. was lead by Middle Polk Neighbors and Save Polk Street, their spawn. Though the MPNA has claimed that they’ll be neutral in this election, they’ve already supported Peskin at City Hall. Connecting those dots: Peskin appointed Chiu, Chiu started the MPNA and the MPNA employs Peskin’s exact MO of obstruction. The MPNA acted as Chiu’s goons during his elections etc., and also succeeded in getting him to back off on the original Polk Plan, despite his nominal support for cycling.

    A questionnaire is just a questionnaire.

  • bellaluna

    M. are you working for the Christensen campaign? You are not very well informed. Peskin was not unemployed… and he did not appoint Chiu. Christensen has been very combative in our neighborhood. I have been to several north beach meetings with her before she was supervisor and it was “my way or the highway!” She takes credit for everything. I have friends in city hall who say that she is not at all liked. She was appointed by our Mayor because she would be completely loyal. Look at her record since she took office.

  • murphstahoe

    Please stop avoiding and address why Peskin was MIA during the Polk Street Bike Lane battle? He was not an elected official but showed zero interest as an advocate. To make the claims he makes now is absurd.

  • bellaluna

    Murphatahoe, why don’t you email both candidates yourself.

  • bellaluna

    this is ridiculous!

  • voltairesmistress

    Hey folks, M. worked more than anyone to craft inclusive solutions to Polk Street, worked with the merchants and neighborhood groups to inform and get consensus. If M. tells us how the Middle Polk Neighbors and spawn Save Polk Street have worked hard at obstruction, we should listen. If M. Says they are strongly behind Peskin, that should give us pause before voting for Peskin.

    From what I have seen, Peskin intends well for the City, but his vision is mostly looking backward and about preserving the old San Francisco, sometimes at the expense of innovation that we really need like denser housing or street redesign that unnerves old school car drivers, etc. Look, I was born in SF and feel equally pained and excited by the ongoing, recent transformation of my home town. But I believe we have to embrace change and I don’t think Peskin, despite his progressive credentials, is the right person for the city or the district at this juncture.

  • Can we get these bike lanes in the ground already?? Jeez.

  • bellaluna

    I think that the current Mayor and board of supervisors are the ones that are backward thinking. What is forward thinking in the Ellis Act evictions taking place in North Beach and the Mission? What is forward thinking in destroying our communities? Have you walked through North Beach and the Mission lately? Have you seen all the empty buildings purchased by speculators and being used for AirBnB? This is the most regressive board of supervisors dominated by real estate interests. You really think we need to embrace this?

  • bellaluna

    Upright Biker do you work for Fox News?

  • M.

    No, I’m not working for the Christensen campaign. Are you working for the Peskin campaign? We’re both partisan and sharing what we know/think.
    There’s no such thing as a candidate perfectly suited on every issue, so we have to make our choices by doing homework and prioritizing the best of each candidate’s track record (I do appreciate being corrected when I’m not so thank you for doing so).
    With regard to cycling, I haven’t heard of any concrete action by Peskin to further the cause in SF, though the first Bicycle Plan was adopted in 1997. We all know ‘The Devil is in the details’ but from what I’ve learned, he cares less for details than he does the dramatic gesture. Arguably, the MTA was glued together, not restructured; the Flower Mart deal is sloppy, still uncertain, and no guarantee that vendors will have a viable location; 8 Washington may have been of mediocre design but the campaign against it was a masterpiece – of propaganda. There are many ways to create a wall that have nothing to do with height and now SF has indefinitely lost the possibility of housing on that and similar sites.
    Peskin’s main MO involves lawsuits and intimidation and it’s not a stretch to think that as Supe he would further the already stifling climate of anger and fear of litigation that paralyzes SF.
    Yes, being unemployed is distinct from working. But Peskin left D3 office 9 years ago, he stepped in to ‘save’ the Flower Mart about 7 months before he declared for this race, and his efforts on behalf of indigenous Americans is very laudable but has not built his portfolio re. housing nor cycling, the two issues being discussed here.
    You note that Peskin ‘…has been sorely disappointed in Chiu.’ Supporters are often happily surprised or disappointed that their choices are not clones of them (and no one questions that other mayoral appointees, like Gillian Gillett, are doing great things). Christensen has already distinguished herself from the Mayor and, as trusted colleague, has further potential to educate him on other issues, as well.
    As voters all we can do is inform ourselves, make our best choice, and stay in the game. No guarantees.

  • M.

    He didn’t become President until 2005, but yes, the injunction happened in June 2006 while he was President.

  • M.

    Who’s funding Peskin’s campaign?

  • M.

    Unfortunately, Ellis Act is a State law and despite the best efforts of Leno and others, it hasn’t been overturned.

  • M.

    Thanks for that, Voltaire’s Mistress. I don’t claim to be 100% correct but I’ve worked on the Polk Project more than I ever intended to do and know the players and history quite well.
    Slowing down to think and plan for change is important but stopping change altogether is impossible. Peskin seems to get the stopping part, he’s good at pushing those fear of change buttons, but doesn’t manage the how-to-go-forward part very well. Having said that, the very same upheavals are happening in cities all over the world but what makes it so excruciating here is the scorched earth free-for-all, our so-called free market, that’s now hard-baked into our legal, economic, and moral (not) DNA.

  • bellaluna

    You write that my candidate’s “main MO involves lawsuits” and, also, that “it’s not a stretch to think that as Supe he would further the already stifling climate of anger and fear of litigation that paralyzes SF.” In my opinion, SF does not have ENOUGH litigation or fear of litigation. That’s why innocent people– many of whom are seniors– are being kicked out of their longterm housing with nowhere to go. We need Aaron because yes, he cares enough to be passionate about the things that matter to real people. Julie, on the other hand, seems to care about satisfying one person only– the Mayor. And I do not believe that the Mayor is facing any sort of personal housing shortage. (I’ve heard he has a quite wonderful mansion in one of the City’s most exclusive neighborhoods.) To me, this difference between helping everyone and helping one very rich man makes Aaron a hands-down favorite to win the district.

  • Fran Taylor

    I sent Aaron my puny contribution. At less than three figures, it was probably about the same percentage of my income as Conway’s gazillions to Lee and his flunkies.

  • alberto rossi

    eh, the mayor lives in a pretty ordinary house in what people say is Glen Park but is really more Sunnyside.

  • Gezellig

    While I’m still find the answer above disappointing, I think some of the others here on the thread have provided some interesting context.

    Also, this:

    http://sf.streetsblog.org/2015/09/02/aaron-peskin-consulted-with-polk-street-bike-lane-opponents-on-lawsuit/#disqus_thread

  • NoeValleyJim

    Peskin lives in a fancy condo with a view on Telegraph Hill. The Mayor lives in a modest home in Glen Park.

  • No, but do you? And I quote, but please do it in your favorite Fox News anchorperson’s voice with the perfect mix of righteous indignation and complete misunderstanding of the reality of the situation:

    “I think that the current Mayor and board of supervisors are the ones that are backward thinking. What is forward thinking about the Ellis Act evictions taking place throughout our city? What is forward thinking iabout destroying our communities? Have you walked through North Beach and the Mission lately? Have you seen all the empty buildings purchased by speculators and being used for illegal hotels? This is the most regressive board of supervisors dominated by real estate interests. You really think we need to embrace this? They have sold out our beautiful city to the highest bidder.”

    That would be you, @marybugarin:disqus

  • I’m late to this thread, but some of the campaigning for Prop A argued that it was needed to mitigate Prop H if Prop H won. As it happens, Prop H was defeated more soundly than Prop A was supported, so it actually seems that to me that opposition to Prop H helped Prop A, instead of the other way around!

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