Monday, July 27, 2015

"Rough ride" on city roads

"The 25 urban regions with a population of 500,000 or greater with the highest share of major roads and highways with pavements that are in poor condition and provide a rough ride are": 

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New Warriors' arena will create gridlock

In the Chronicle this morning:

By Matier & Ross
July 26, 2015 

A city report says the Warriors’ proposed arena in Mission Bay could cause backups well beyond that neighborhood.

Most of the debate over the Warriors’ proposed arena has centered around car congestion in Mission Bay, but the city’s environmental impact report also raises the specter of “significant and unavoidable” traffic impacts all the way to the Bay Bridge.

According to the report, the 60-plus “peak” events a year at the arena — basketball games, concerts and the like — could draw more than 3,000 additional cars into the area. Most would be rolling in between 6 and 8 p.m.

About 30 percent of the arena-bound cars are expected to come from within San Francisco. More than a quarter are likely to come from the East Bay, 10 percent from the North Bay and nearly a third from the Peninsula and South Bay.

That would amount to an extra 1,000 cars coming over the Bay Bridge and another 1,000 driving up Interstate 280 and Highway 101 — all converging on Mission Bay.

The result will likely be “a significant impact” on as many as 11 key intersections in the South of Market, according to the environmental impact report.

It will also mean “significant and unavoidable” backups on the already heavily used downtown freeway ramps at Fifth and Harrison and Fifth and Bryant streets, as well as on the ramps coming off I-280.

The report also concluded that “no feasible mitigations are available” to ease the problem — at least from an infrastructure standpoint — because there’s no room to widen the freeway ramps or city streets...

Rob's comment:

You can find links to the EIR on this project on the Planning Department's website.

That darn CEQA strikes again, even though just the other day Planetizen all but announced the impending success of CEQA "reform," which will mean that creating traffic congestion will no longer be an environmental impact. Maybe those 18,000 basketball fans, concert goers, and those attending the 60+ other special events will ride bikes to the new arena.

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Case against GMOs is bogus

By William Saletan on Slate:

...The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have all declared that there’s no good evidence GMOs are unsafe. Hundreds of studies back up that conclusion. But many of us don’t trust these assurances. We’re drawn to skeptics who say that there’s more to the story, that some studies have found risks associated with GMOs, and that Monsanto is covering it up.

I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. 

The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sam Harris: Religious moderates "blinded by their own moderation"

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City Hall on the Wiggle: Having it both ways

A Wiggle sign

A comment to the previous post:

Have you heard that there will be a "protest" at the Wiggle where bike riders will show their anger at being issued traffic citations for not stopping at stop signs? "We want to make the point that, in fact, requiring cyclists to come to full stops at every stop sign is a really terrible idea for everyone on the road." The whole protest idea reminds me of children who are upset for being caught breaking the rules so they just sit down and cry. (SFCitizen has a great story about this)

City Hall is trying to have it both ways: It promotes the Wiggle as a cool, only-in-San Francisco thing, while occasionally doing a crackdown on cyclists running stop signs as they use what the city itself promotes as the quickest route downtown. 

How can the Wiggle be the best, quickest bike route if cyclists have to stop at stop signs?

And how can the city promote pedestrian safety when cyclists using the Wiggle routinely pose a hazard to pedestrians in that densely-populated neighborhood?

It can't, which means that in practice the interests of cyclists continue to trump pedestrian safety on the Wiggle. If you live on the Wiggle, you have to be extra careful crossing the street, like pedestrians crossing the north path on the Panhandle have to look out for speeding cyclists.

The city tries to muddy that safety issue by putting a green patina on the Wiggle. Hey, if you're a "progressive" you can't complain about cyclists because the Wiggle is now a "Green Corridor"!

What do people living on the Wiggle think about it? See this. Nothing has changed there since C.W. Nevius wrote about it three years ago.

The demo next week is another Morgan Fitzgibbons stunt.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Risky behavior putting bicyclists in ER


Wall Street reform is working

Thanks in large part to Elizabeth Warren and Barney Frank, one of the most important achievements of the Obama administration: the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Zombie falsehood about Bicycle Plan shambles on

Bay Area Council in action in Washington

I have to again invoke Paul Krugman's zombie idea definition: "beliefs about policy that have been repeatedly refuted with evidence and analysis but refuse to die." 

Just the other day I dealt with Planetizen's falsehood about the Bicycle Plan litigation. 

Today's Chronicle has an op-ed (California can’t reach greenhouse-gas targets without CEQA reformby Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council ("The Voice of Bay Area Business"), a lobbying organization for the area's businesses and government agencies. 

Wunderman invokes the same falsehood as the progressive Planetizen:

A single individual used a CEQA lawsuit to delay San Francisco’s plan to expand its network of bicycle lanes and encourage more bicycle commuting. The lawsuit claimed the city had not sufficiently studied the negative environmental impacts of the project. Five years, several million taxpayer dollars and 2,200 pages of environmental review later, the plan finally was approved.

All three of those sentences are false. The "plan" of course is the Bicycle Plan, which was not about "bicycle commuting" but cycling in San Francisco in general. 

I've said this many times before, but let's go over it again: The city did no environmental review at all of the 500-page Bicycle Plan before it was passed unanimously by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. Once your appeal is rejected by the BOS---and they always are---you must either give up or litigate.

It was an easy decision for Judge Busch to make. 

The way the city proceeded with the Bicycle Plan obviously violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the most important environmental law in the State of California. CEQA requires environmental review of any project that even might have an impact on the environment. Instead of following the law, the city claimed a "general rule" exemption for the Bicycle Plan that can only be claimed when it's obvious a project won't have any impact on the environment:

Where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the activity in question may have a significant effect on the environment, the activity is not subject to CEQA (emphasis added).

That is, the city lied about the CEQA exemption from the start. Representatives from the Planning Department and the City Attorney's office lied during the hearing on our appeal. Of course a project that removes dozens of traffic lanes and thousands of street parking spaces from city streets "may" have an impact on the city's environment, even if that project declares the best of intentions, e.g., encouraging people to ride bikes instead of drive motor vehicles, thus benefiting the city's environment.

And the environmental impact review (EIR) that was eventually approved by the court was not of the same plan that was the subject of our original litigation.

Wunderman cites a Holland & Knight study on CEQA litigation that didn't even include our successful CEQA litigation against the City of San Francisco.

Wunderman includes this interesting point:

Another report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office also points the finger of blame for California’s high housing costs squarely at CEQA. The report found that cities in California take on average 2.5 years to complete the various CEQA analyses required to permit new infill housing, and that’s before anyone files a lawsuit that can add many more years to the process.

Wunderman is referring to page 18 of the LAO report:

Our review of CEQA documents submitted to the state by California’s ten largest cites between 2004-2013 indicates that local agencies took, on average, around two and a half years to approve housing projects that required an EIR. The CEQA process also, in some cases, results in developers reducing the size and scope of a project in response to concerns discovered during the review process.

Hence, this isn't a problem with CEQA per se but about how sluggishly city planning bureaucracies handle CEQA cases, which is not about litigation.

Naturally, many of the businesses and organizations Wunderman represents as a lobbyist don't like CEQA. Walmart---oddly, not listed as one of his clients---doesn't like to do environmental reviews before it builds a new store, and the Bicycle Coalition was outraged when the court ruled that the city had to do an environmental review of the ambitious Bicycle Plan. Like a Walmart store, however, that Plan was a project that could/would have an impact on the environment.

The National Resources Defense Council did a study in 2013 on CEQA litigation that puts the issue in a realistic context (CEQA: The Litigation Myth):

...the absolute number of cases is small, about 200 cases filed per year. The number of cases is also small as a percentage of the total civil litigation in California, which is about 1,100,00 cases per year. CEQA litigation is a tiny 00.02% of the total civil litigation. CEQA judicial enforcement is also a very small percentage of the total projects considered under CEQA. The Attorney General’s office undertook a case study of CEQA challenges in the City and County of San Francisco from July 2011 through December 2011. The Attorney General found that only 18 lawsuits were filed out of 5,203 projects considered under CEQA. Since all of these projects were located in San Francisco, they represent urban infill projects surrounded by neighbors. San Francisco has a reputation for vigorous environmental oversight whose citizens often exercise their rights through the public participation and legal system. Yet the litigation rate even for the San Francisco infill projects was only 00.3%.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beef and water

Thanks to Alternet.

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Examiner readers support crackdown on scofflaw cyclists

Readers of the SF Examiner approve of Captain Sanford's policy on scofflaw cyclists (Examiner readers react to “Park police target scofflaw cyclists” story). Letters to the editor in today's edition:

It’s good to see SFPD exercising courage to keep us safe from rogue cyclists. I was knocked down and seriously injured by a speeding cyclist who not only ran a red light but was going the wrong way! Yet there is no accountability for such actions.

Instead of attacking Capt. John Sanford Jr. of Park Station, whose goal is to keep everyone safe, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition should work with him to encourage playing by the road rules for all cyclists and publicly criticize those cyclists who endanger the rest of us.

Sherrie Matza
San Francisco

Capt. John Sanford Jr. is to be praised for courageously resisting the constraints of political correctness and taking enforcement action against the lawless, reckless, inconsiderate behavior practiced by most cyclists and endorsed by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. He is doing more to achieve Vision Zero goals than all the cyclist/pedestrian activists who argue that only automobile drivers are the problem.

Anyone who walks about The City knows that scofflaw cycling is the norm, not the exception, and that pedestrians almost universally ignore pedestrian traffic control signals, often while dangerously focused on their cellphone screens and deafened by the buds in their ears.

As long as Vision Zero relies on perfection by drivers and tolerates reckless, careless, inconsiderate, scofflaw behavior by cyclists and pedestrians, it is doomed to failure.

Barrett Giorgis
San Francisco

New Park Station Capt. John Sanford Jr. is right to clamp down on scofflaw bicyclists who endanger not only pedestrians but all of us. The City, in its urban fantasy that bicyclists would one day become 20 percent of all commuters, has allowed bicyclists and the San Francisco

Bicycle Coalition to dictate policy and practice. Presently, bicyclists are only about 3 percent of commuters, despite the millions spent on making San Francisco “comfortable” for scofflaw bicyclists and uncomfortable for the rest of us. Bicyclists — with their scofflaw mentality, refusal to follow traffic laws and provocative behavior — create an atmosphere of chaos and danger. Traffic laws work on the presumption that most people would follow these laws.

Scofflaw bicyclists are the “broken windows” in traffic enforcement. Thanks, Capt. Sanford.

Fiona McGregor
San Francisco

I shouldn’t be appalled by the arrogance of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, but I am. Who do you people think you are? Are you and the cyclists of San Francisco so entitled that you’re above following the traffic laws? There are certainly more cyclists running red lights than drivers. Last I checked, bicycles are moving vehicles too. You all want to be heard and respected, but a large majority of cyclists don’t exercise common sense or courtesies.

City Hall should also insist that cyclists have and use bike horns. The coalition lobbied for bike lanes, but cyclists ride on sidewalks on streets that have bike lanes. Cyclists zoom by on sidewalks weaving in and out of pedestrians without warning. Cyclists want drivers to be more mindful of them, but the vast majority aren’t being mindful of pedestrians. And drivers can’t stop on a dime when cyclists weave through traffic. Instead of blasting the Park Station captain, you should be supporting him by reminding cyclists that they’re susceptible to injuries/death if they’re hit because they ran a red light. They hit a pedestrian, both are injured or killed.

If Vision Zero is going to be a success, then drivers, pedestrians and cyclists need to take responsibility for their safety and stop whining that the Police Department is singling them out.

Debi Gould
San Francisco

It’s about time the police ticketed scofflaw cyclists. They ride wherever they want, whenever they want. They ride on sidewalks (which is generally illegal in The City), run red lights and stop signs, etc.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is showing its true colors. The organization claims to promote safe and law-abiding cycling, but it’s obvious from their petition that they don’t. The City spends millions of dollars to give cyclists a better environment in which to ride, but the cyclists show little, if any, appreciation. The cyclists pay nothing for roadway changes aimed at making things safer, and then complain when they are cited for a violation.

The article states that 1 percent of traffic tickets are given to bicyclists. I think if you open your eyes, you will see that they commit far more than 1 percent of the traffic violations.

As to the complaint about the cost of tickets by bike messenger Santiago Campos: The City doesn’t charge you anything to ride your bicycle if you obey the law. Try it sometime.

I salute Capt. John Sanford Jr. for doing his job and not caving in to a “politically powerful” Bicycle Coalition.

Arthur P. Samuelson
San Francisco

Thank you so much for that article. Finally! I’m a pedestrian who walks all over town. Cyclists and BMW drivers are the most arrogant in The City. They always think they have the right of way. I would never challenge a cyclist, except maybe midtown. They expect rights (bike lanes), but don’t stop at red lights or stop signs and cut off pedestrians in crosswalks. Again, I appreciate your article.

Willa Crowell
San Francisco

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Flight MH370: Still missing

It's been 500 days since Malaysian flight MH370 disappeared. The search goes on. Meanwhile, Jeff Wise is blogging about the possible scenarios and getting deep in the weeds on the issue. Interesting stuff, when it isn't too technical, which is most of the time.

Liberal multiculturalists are hoping it wasn't another act of Islamic terrorism, but I bet they're going to be disappointed.

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People driving more than ever

From Calculated Risk

Some discussion at Vox and Kevin Drum: 

...the basics seem simple: the economy has finally been growing and gasoline prices have been low. That's enough to get us all back in our cars.

So was it ever the case that American young 'uns fell out of love with the automobile, which partly explained why miles traveled dipped so dramatically during the recession? That's a favored explanation among urban pundits, where Zipcars and Uber are popular and lots of people don't bother owning cars. But I've always doubted it. It really does seem to be true that teenagers simply don't care about learning to drive as much as teenagers of my generation, but for the most part that just means they learn to drive a little later. And if they live in the burbs, they need to drive, same as always. They couldn't afford it while they were living in mom's basement during the recession, but they can now, and that's why car sales are up and miles driven are up.

We still love our cars, and now we can afford to use them. That will probably continue to be true until gas goes up to five bucks a gallon again...


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Planetizen tries to rewrite city history

From Planetizen, a PC "Smart Growth" site:

LOS[level of service] is not just an esoteric traffic engineering or legal standard that fills the pages of lengthy environmental documents. It has major implications for the level of traffic analysis required for potentially every major project a city wants to undertake. Even seemingly uncontroversial projects—at least from an environmental perspective—can be waylaid by years of high level analysis and millions of dollars in additional costs. In 2005, for example, San Francisco's extensive proposed bicycle plan was challenged on the grounds that the city's environmental impact assessments under CEQA insufficiently addressed LOS effects.

For a project so clearly aimed at reducing air pollution by increasing bike-ability and getting cars off the road, it's comical that the hold-up came in the form of an environmental challenge. San Francisco's bike plan failed its CEQA technical obligations precisely because of its benefits to the environment: increased bike and pedestrian friendliness, less car reliance, and reduced pollution. Only after a decade of litigation, resulting in a practical moratorium on all bike policy development in the city, did San Francisco produce an environmental impact statement that could satisfy the required LOS traffic analysis.

Regardless of the merits of the movement to "reform" CEQA, there's no excuse for this kind of ignorance more than ten years after our litigation against the city's Bicycle Plan. The bike people and the anti-car movement---essentially one and the same---displayed this kind of ignorance soon after we got an injunction against the city in 2006 (a few samples from 2006 here and heremore recent samples here and here).

My response below---with some links added---was the only comment to a story packed with misinformation:

This is preposterous. If traffic congestion is not an environmental impact, what is?

As a party to the litigation against San Francisco's attempt to illegally sneak the 500-page Bicycle Plan through the process, I can say that this is what really happened: The city did no environmental review of the ambitious Plan!

Judge Busch's decision was an easy one for him to make. It didn't hinge on LOS but only on the fact that the city had done no environmental review of the Plan, which was clearly against CEQA's fundamental mandate requiring that any project that even might have an impact on the environment must undergo an environmental study before it's implemented. Is that requirement even controversial?

"For a project so clearly aimed at reducing air pollution by increasing bike-ability and getting cars off the road, it's comical that the hold-up came in the form of an environmental challenge."

But good intentions are not enough under CEQA---at least they haven't been until now. Every jurisdiction and developer can claim that their projects will make the world a better place. 

The reality here: If a project---as the Bicycle Plan does---proposes taking away more than 50 traffic lanes and 2,000 parking spaces on busy city streets to make bike lanes, obviously that will have an impact on the city's physical environment, not to mention traffic congestion, air quality, etc.

"San Francisco's bike plan failed its CEQA technical obligations precisely because of its benefits to the environment: increased bike and pedestrian friendliness, less car reliance, and reduced pollution. Only after a decade of litigation, resulting in a practical moratorium on all bike policy development in the city, did San Francisco produce an environmental impact statement that could satisfy the required LOS traffic analysis."

This is completely wrong on the facts about San Francisco and our litigation. There was nothing "technical" at all in Judge Busch's decision ordering the city to do an environmental review of the Bicycle Plan. All he had to decide is whether the most important environmental law in the state---that is, CEQA---required that the city do an environmental review of some kind before it began redesigning city streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists (only 3.4% of all trips in the city are by bicycle). He didn't even specify that the city had to do an EIR on the Plan, though that was clearly what was required and what the city did.

The city could have saved a lot of time and money---it had to pay our lawyer after the judge's decision---if it had simply followed the law in the first place. The city just thought it could get away with not obeying the law, that no one would challenge their attempted coup on behalf of the bike lobby. Wrong!

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Education First


Monday, July 20, 2015

Elizabeth Warren talks to Netroots

Skip the introductory guff and start at 3:50.

Thanks to Daily Kos.

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Cap-and-trade and the high-speed rail project

From a report by the Legislative Analyst's office:

"An additional $21 billion will need to be identified
to complete the IOS[initial operating segment]
which is about two-thirds of the total cost." 

Figure 4
Estimated Annual Capital Costs of Initial Operating Segment
(In Millions)

...In reviewing the Governor’s proposals to support the high-speed rail project, we find that the proposals raise several issues that merit legislative consideration. Specifically, we find that (1) using cap-and-trade auction revenues for high-speed rail may not maximize GHG[greenhouse gas] reductions, (2) there currently is not a funding plan to complete the IOS[initial operating segment], (3) it is unclear how much cap-and-trade revenue will actually be available for high-speed rail in the future, and (4) the HSRA[High-Speed Rail Authority] is expending federal funds while matching Proposition 1A funds face legal risks...

Using Cap-and-Trade Auction Revenues for High-Speed Rail May Not Maximize GHG Reductions 

As we discussed in our recent report, The 2014-15 Budget: Cap-and-Trade Auction Revenue Expenditure Plan, in order to minimize the negative economic impact of cap-and-trade, it is important that auction revenues be invested in a way that maximizes GHG emission reductions for a given level of spending. It is unclear the extent to which using such revenues to support high-speed rail will maximize GHG emission reductions. First, the high-speed rail project would not contribute significant GHG reductions before 2020, which is the statutory target for reaching 1990 emissions levels as required by Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006 (AB 32, Núñez/Pavley). 

This is because, as mentioned above, plans for the high-speed rail system indicate that the first phase of the project will not be operational until 2022. Second, the construction of the project would actually generate GHG emissions of 30,000 metric tons over the next several years. (The HSRA plans to offset these emissions with an urban forestry program that proposes to plant thousands of trees in the Central Valley.) 

We also note that HSRA’s GHG emission estimates for construction do not include emissions associated with the production of construction materials, which suggests that the amount of emission requiring mitigation could be much higher than currently planned. 

No Complete Funding Plan for IOS 

As mentioned above, the HSRA indicates that the IOS[initial operating segment: Merced to San Fernando Valley] will cost about $31 billion to complete. In its recent 2014 draft business plan, the authority identified a total of $10 billion in funding available to support the construction of the IOS. This level of funding consists of (1) $3.3 billion in federal funds already received and (2) $6.8 billion in Proposition 1A bond funds. The plan states that an additional $21 billion will need to be identified in order to complete the IOS, which is about two-thirds of the total cost. 

An infusion of funds from the private sector to address the current IOS funding shortfall is unlikely, given that the HSRA stated in its 2012 business plan that private sector funds will only become available after the IOS is completed and demonstrated to have a net positive operating cash flow. 

Additionally, given the federal government’s current financial situation, the current focus in Washington on reducing federal spending, and the lack of a federal budget appropriation to support the state’s high-speed rail system since 2009-10, it is uncertain at this time that any additional federal funding for the state’s high-speed rail project will become available. Thus, the state will likely be the only source of additional funding to address the $21 billion shortfall identified by HSRA. 

Unclear How Much Cap-and-Trade Funding Will Support High-Speed Rail in Future

Although the administration proposes to use revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program to help address the $21 billion shortfall, it is unclear how much cap-trade auction revenue will actually be allocated to high-speed rail in 2015-16 and beyond to complete the IOS under the Governor’s plan. As indicated above, the Governor is proposing that beginning in 2015-16, 33 percent of all state auction revenues be continuously appropriated to HSRA. 

At this time, however, the administration has not provided an estimate of projected cap-and-trade auction revenues. Moreover, it is unclear for how long the administration expects there to be cap-and-trade auctions and the availability of revenue resulting from such auctions. 

The absence of a detailed plan projecting the estimated amount of cap-and-trade auction revenue that would be appropriated to HSRA by year is problematic for two reasons. 

First, it makes it difficult for the Legislature to determine if such revenues, along with available federal funds and Proposition 1A bond funds, would be sufficient to fund the expected costs per year to complete the IOS. To the extent that there would not be sufficient revenues in a given year, the Legislature would need to identify alternative funding sources, likely from other state resources. 

Second, the absence of projected cap-and-trade auction revenues also makes it difficult for the Legislature to weigh the relative trade-offs of dedicating a fixed percentage of cap-and-trade auction revenues to high-speed rail each year (without further legislative action) versus allocating the funds on an annual basis to other programs intended to reduce GHG emissions, including programs that the Legislature deems to be of higher priority and could maximize GHG reductions in a more cost-effective manner. This is because it is uncertain whether there would be a sufficient amount of funding available under the Governor’s proposal to support such programs. 

HSRA Expending Federal Funds While Matching Proposition 1A Bond Funds Face Legal Risks. 

For the remainder of 2013-14 and 2014-15, the HSRA plans to spend about $1.6 billion in federal funds on the high-speed rail project, which require a match of state funds. 

Currently, the only state funding source available to provide matching expenditures are Proposition 1A bond funds. However, as we mentioned above, the availability of Proposition 1A bond funds has been the subject of litigation. If the federal funds are expended as planned, and the state does not provide matching expenditures, the Federal Railways Administration reserves the right to require that the state repay the federal government up to the entire amount of federal funds spent on the project. 

LAO Recommendations 

In light of the concerns expressed above, we make several recommendations intended to help the Legislature ensure that the high-speed rail project can be completed as planned, while balancing other priorities such as maximizing GHG emission reductions. 

Specifically, we recommend: 

Requiring Administration to Provide Complete Funding Plan. Given the concerns described above, we recommend that the Legislature require the administration and HSRA to provide a funding plan that identifies all the funding sources (including cap-and-trade auction revenues) by amount and year that would be used to complete the IOS. As such, the plan should detail how the administration intends to address the $21 billion shortfall identified by HSRA. The requested funding plan would help the Legislature in its deliberations on the Governor’s funding proposals for high-speed rail. 

Withholding Action on Various Proposals. Pending the receipt of the above funding plan, we recommend that the Legislature withhold action on the Governor’s high-speed rail proposals (including those proposed for CPUC and DOC). 

Weighing Options for Use of Cap-And-Trade Auction Revenue. As we recommended in our recent report on the administration’s cap-and-trade auction revenue expenditure plan, we recommend that the Legislature consider a full array of options for the use of cap-and-trade auction revenue funds to help achieve the goals of AB 32 and meet legislative priorities...(emphasis added)

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability: A letter to the Air Resources Board on cap-and-trade and the high-speed rail project.

Kathy Hamilton's latest at on the cap-and-trade issue.

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Liberal Sam Harris talks to Fox News

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Secretary of State Kerry on the Iran deal

A transcript of the interview.

Good exchange between critics and supporters.

And Jonathan Chait.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

"The battle will go on for the rest of our lives"

Pat Oliphant published the above drawing after the Boston Marathon bombing, but it now applies to Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez:

The future murderers will generally not be from refugee camps or slums (though they are being indoctrinated every day in our prisons); they will frequently be from educated backgrounds, and they will often not be from overseas at all. They are already in our suburbs and even in our military. We can expect to take casualties. The battle will go on for the rest of our lives. Those who plan our destruction know what they want, and they are prepared to kill and die for it (Christopher Hitchens, 2009).

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Pearls and swine


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Natalie Angier: Hyping women and bikes

From Natalie Angier's NY Times article (The Bicycle and the Ride to Modern Americaon the history of bikes in the US:

Bicycles allowed young men and women to tool around the countryside unsupervised, and relationships between the sexes grew more casual and spontaneous. With a bicycle at her disposal, a young woman could also venture forth in search of work. Small wonder that Susan B. Anthony said of cycling, “I think it has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world.”

Today, bicycles are viewed as a solution to a host of social ills: air pollution, global warming, obesity, traffic jams. According to Statista, an online data repository, 67 million Americans said in 2014 that they had ridden a bike at least once in the past year, up from 47 million in 2008. Almost 5 percent of Americans commute to work by bike, compared with 1 percent in 2000.

Angier has the bike hype down, but it's not clear where she got the 5% figure, even after looking at the site she links---and I'm not about to pay $600 for a year's subscription to find out where they got it. 

The Census Bureau (page 3) says that, as of 2012, only 0.6% of Americans commuted by bicycle:

This increase in the number of bicycle commuters exceeded the percentage increase of all other travel modes during that period, but the overall share of workers who commute by bicycle remains low. In 1980, 0.5 percent of workers commuted by bicycle. This rate dropped to 0.4 percent in 1990, where it remained in 2000. By 2008–2012, the share of bicycle commuters reached 0.6 percent (emphasis added).

The automobile has long since superseded the bicycle in "emancipating" women---and men---"to venture forth in search of work" and everything else (Gender and the Automobile in the United States).


Again: Why do the Warriors need a new stadium?


Thursday, July 16, 2015

"How does it feel to have been right about 55 Laguna?"

Email message from Michael Baehr:

How does it feel to have been right about 55 Laguna?

My fellow gays are up in arms about this SHOCKING NEWS. We've been had, in the same way that the elderly Chinese who get bused in to public hearings to rubber-stamp someone's project have been had.

Of course, you were right from the start that the so-called LGBT Housing was just a fig-leaf to get this project rammed through. You were also right about how ugly it is for UC to have been able to hold the property tax-free for 100 years (20 years of them with it blighted and abandoned) only to flip at the top of the market. I've been trying to point that fact out to my suddenly angry friends. The rot in this project goes a lot deeper than false promises to queers.

We'll continue to disagree about traffic impacts, of course.

Rob's comment:

Like everyone I like to be right, but it doesn't make me "feel" good on this issue. I wish I had been wrong about this project, which has been nothing but a disheartening, slow-motion fiasco for the city and everyone involved.

Yes, the gay community has "been had" if it thought that the promise of 80-100 housing units for gay seniors was an enforceable commitment as part of this project. 

Surely those who plotted with UC to put this PC fig leaf on UC's land grab---Tom Ammiano, Mark Leno, Bevan Dufty---understood that fair housing laws prohibited that kind discrimination in housing. 

But don't despair, Michael; those administering this project will probably figure out a way to circumvent the law to discriminate against heteros in favor of your "fellow gays."

A lot of contemptible behavior led to this project by our elected representatives and an indifferent, ill-informed media, including the city's two "alternative" weeklies, the Bay Guardian and the SF Weekly.

Yes, UC had that property tax-free from the city because of its public education "mission," but for 50 years, not 200 years. UC's land-grab wouldn't have been possible if City Hall and "progressives" had refused to give it a zoning change, since the property had been zoned for "public use" for 150 years. Instead, City Hall validated UC's lie about why it stopped providing university courses for working people

But allowing UC to hijack the property for a housing development was also an opportunity to validate the Planning Department's half-baked "transit corridors" development theory---that the city can allow an almost unlimited amount of housing near any major Muni line. The UC plan to shoehorn 450 housing units on 5.8 acres fit the ideological bill, along with the Market/Octavia Plan that surrounds the UC project, which allows---nay, encourages---30-40-story residential highrises in the Market and Van Ness area. Not surprisingly, developers like this theory a lot. 

And of course parking for all those new housing units is deliberately limited, because those new residents will supposedly ride an already crowded Muni, or, even less plausibly, bikes.

City Hall likes the "transit-oriented development" theory, since it's a good deal for them. Development means more "revenue" to feed a growing city bureaucracy, including the MTA bureaucracy, which Modern Luxury/San Francisco Magazine explained to us the other day is just the way the world and the city has to work. 

One of the originators of the theory was so alarmed about how City Hall was applying it to city neighborhoods he wrote an op-ed in the Chronicle in opposition.

And "traffic impacts"? Of course 1,000 new residents in that part of town will have an impact on traffic, since the project is one block off the chronically gridlocked Octavia Boulevard, which every day carries more than 60,000 cars and trucks through the middle of the Hayes Valley neigborhood.

For some background on the UC issue, see a 2005 interview with Eliza Hemenway.

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Why not talk to Fox News?

SF Weekly thinks Supervisor Wiener's rejection of an attempted interview by a Fox News reporter was "heroic." What's heroic about insulting Fox News in San Francisco? And why not talk to people you disagree with? 

While he's at it, Wiener ought to explain the city's sanctuary policy to the rest of us here in Progressive Land. 

In the video Jane Kim provided more evidence that she's a birdbrain, citing defective gun control laws as the main issue in the killing of Kathryn Steinle, even though the murder weapon was stolen, not bought by the perp.

I'm a Democrat, but once again it's up to conservative Debra Saunders in the Chronicle to show that not all San Francisco residents are morons.

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Save full service on the #33 Muni line

Sign the petition to stop this cut in service.

Thanks to Meter Madness.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Matt Gonzalez: San Francisco progressive

What does the front-page story (Immigrant charged in slaying has strong defender in Matt Gonzalezon Matt Gonzalez in yesterday's Chronicle mean? The story is so laudatory Gonzalez could have written it himself, though he's supposedly too modest to toot his own horn: 

Gonzalez did not respond to requests for an interview. “He’s very modest,” Adachi said of his chief assistant. “His focus would rather be on the case than himself.”

But the case is lost going in. All Gonzalez can do for his client is get the best deal possible for something he clearly did, but surely Lopez-Sanchez is going back to prison for a long time. The way the story is written, you might think his "fearless," principled lawyer can actually get him off:

Lopez-Sanchez has the right lawyer, said Jim Hammer, a former prosecutor who worked with Gonzalez at a law firm from 2006 to 2008. “This (defendant) is probably the most unpopular person in San Francisco, if not the state or the country,” Hammer said. “Of all the lawyers I’ve met and worked with, Matt definitely stands out as one of the most fearless. He isn’t afraid to represent somebody or some cause that might otherwise be unpopular...He has a very clear set of beliefs and principles and isn’t afraid to follow them.”

That's ridiculous. What does Matt Gonzalez have to fear? He's already Adachi's main man at the Public Defender's office. His job isn't at stake, and he now makes more than $200,000 a year (the Public Defender's office is outgunned by the District Attorney's office in manpower, though not in intellectual power.) 

Gonzalez could probably make more money in private practice, but he clearly prefers doing this kind of law:

Gonzalez, 50, the son of a tobacco company manager whose family spent his childhood years in Southern states and Puerto Rico, has said his comfortable upbringing gave him a sense of obligation to the less fortunate. “It would feel wrong not to try to make things better for other people,” he said in a 2003 interview...An Eagle Scout, a star debater in college and an editor of the law review at Stanford Law School, Gonzalez surprised some friends by bypassing corporate law for a lower-paying job at the Public Defender’s Office, where he first worked from 1990 to 1999.

Sheriff Mirkarimi's comment also seems wide of the mark:

“Matt Gonzalez has got range and summons many different disciplines that make him a very interesting and smart person,” Mirkarimi said in an interview. He predicted that the Lopez-Sanchez case, as it unfolds, would illuminate “the complete dysfunction of immigration policy in the United States as it intersects with local government and law enforcement.”

But it's unlikely that the judge will allow Gonzalez to make this case about our dysfunctional immigration policy instead of what Lopez-Sanchez actually did, his degree of culpability, and how much time in prison he's going to get. The media coverage of the case might provide that kind of illumination, but I bet it won't happen in the courtroom.

The thing that people like about Gonzalez is his low-key persona. He's not a high-decibel political ranter, though he is a leftist ideologue.

From the Chronicle story:

Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, is also a former city supervisor and leader of the board’s most liberal faction who came close to winning the 2003 mayor’s election. A year later, he sponsored a local ballot measure, also narrowly defeated, that would have allowed any parent of a public school student to vote in school board elections, regardless of immigration status.

The annoying thing about Gonzalez's reaction to the failure of his immigration measure---actually, nine supervisors voted to put it on the ballot---is that he implied that District 5 voters were racists for voting against it, though there were good reasons for rejecting it:

It didn't do well in District 5, I'm sorry to say. District 5 has a really great history as a progressive district, and yet it did not turn out[for Proposition F]. The theory is that it's a Caucasian district, that it doesn't have a lot of people of color. Certainly not immigrants, but this measure did best in immigrant districts.

At the end of his term as a supervisor, Gonzalez---himself some kind of an artist---allowed a graffiti "artist" to deface his office walls with a puerile political slogan (pictured below), thus enabling a form of vandalism the city spends millions every year fighting.

Even before the city's Bicycle Plan fiasco, Gonzalez was carrying water for the Bicycle Coalition with a resolution to ban motorists from making the easy right turn onto the freeway at Market and Octavia. From Matier & Ross in 2005:

It took 14 years of debate, three ballot measures and a dozen designs before Caltrans crews set to work demolishing the earthquake-damaged Central Freeway and turning Octavia into a $62 million, tree-lined boulevard. Once work got started, bicyclists---a potent force in city politics---took aim at what they saw as a menace to the two-wheel crowd. That menace was the plan to let cars make a right turn off Market, across the most heavily used bike lane in the city, onto the new on-ramp.

City traffic officials didn't buy into their demand for a right-turn ban. So the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and others took their case to the Board of Supervisors, where then-board President Matt Gonzalez carried legislation in August 2004 to ban the right turn---at least on a trial basis. Upshot: The only way to get onto the shortened Central Freeway from Market is to shoot past the ramp, make a series of turns around the block and hit the ramp directly from Octavia Boulevard.

Or go all the way to 13th and South Van Ness to get on the freeway. (See this follow-up post on the right-turn ban.)

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