Friday, October 09, 2015

Nevius flacks for the Warriors' arena

In his column this morning, C.W. Nevius is in a triumphant, gloating mode, since one of City Hall's favorite projects---the Warriors' arena on the waterfront---is looking increasingly likely to be built. 

And if there's one thing Nevius likes above all is that whatever City Hall proposes should be done, regardless of opposition by nimbys, leftists, and obstructionists---all of which are usually imaginary when Nevius is flacking for City Hall projects. 

In this instance, it's the Mission Bay Alliance. They are real and apparently they have money, so Nevius sees them as "rich, obstinate obstructionists." 

He prefers the rich, "imposing" guys who own the Warriors, who will get even richer after they build that new arena. They should comp Nevius with some free tickets after this morning's ass-kissing:

Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are a long way from the shoestring operation of former [Warriors]owner Chris Cohan. But they’ve got the money. Guber’s Mandalay Entertainment Group is a major player in television, movies (e.g. “Rain Man,” “Batman,” “The Color Purple” and “Flashdance”) and sports. Lacob is a wealthy venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. They’re imposing.

Yes, you can make a lot of money making crappy movies and as a venture capitalist.

In an almost comical attempt to muddy the issue, the group said in a news release that: “Although it had no obligation to do so, the Alliance took the practical step of searching for a better site for the arena when no one else did.” To the surprise of no one, it was so far down the waterfront it might as well have been in Brisbane.

Actually, it's also on the waterfront, only eleven blocks south of the present site, but Nevius isn't interested in objectivity here. He's making a case against the Mission Bay Alliance:

If the environmental impact report is approved, the alliance’s options will be limited. It could try putting the project on the ballot, but there are problems. For starters, the project is within height limitations already, so there’s no issue there. The group probably has the money to collect the roughly 9,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, but it wouldn’t be cheap. Besides, what would the issue be? That people in San Francisco don’t want a retail, housing and entertainment project on open land along the waterfront? If Prop. D wins in November, it will have the answer — they do.

Proposition D is for the Giants' development project that has little city opposition, which Nevius assumes will pass easily in November. 

The Alliance could frame the Warriors' arena issue thusly: Why let the Warriors build across the street from a growing UC medical-industrial complex when you have a good site further south where traffic will be less of a problem?

Like City Hall---and his colleague, John King---Nevius was disappointed when city voters passed waterfront height limits with Proposition B last year ("If it passes, we're done"). He led the media/City Hall lynch mob against Ross Mirkarimi. Like City Hall he was dumb on the anti-jihad ads on Muni buses. Not surprisingly he supported Ed Lee early on, though he fretted about the mayor and his appointments once he was in office. He supported the Americas Cup and was furious at those who opposed that fiasco that ended up costing the city money. Of course he likes Supervisor Wiener.

Nevius is a bargain for whoever occupies City Hall, since he acts like a full-time flack for whatever the people who run the city want---and the Chronicle pays his salary!

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A music lesson in France

From Vlad Tepes


Thursday, October 08, 2015

California's war on drivers

By Charles Crumpley
October 5, 2015
Los Angeles Business Journal

Just in case you had any doubt, it’s now clear that California’s war on drivers has escalated.

Three weeks ago, for example, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed all motorists to use the carpool lane on two L.A. freeways during off-peak times. That may have seemed to you like an easy, no-cost way to relieve traffic congestion, but not to the governor. Brown shot it down, he said, because he believes carpool lanes are necessary “to reduce pollution and maximize the use of freeways.” Yeah, right; those miles-long lines of idling cars next to an open carpool lane at 8 p.m. sure help to reduce pollution.

But there are other examples of how our elected leaders lately have declared a surge in the longstanding war against motorists.

As you can see in the article on page 1 of this issue, Santa Monica is considering moves aimed at curtailing cars there. And here’s the biggest example: The city of Los Angeles a couple of months ago decided to push ahead with a 20-year plan that---in this city known for traffic jams---calls for taking away what was described as “hundreds of miles” of lanes now dedicated to cars so that there’d be more room for buses, bicycles and pedestrians. City leaders are calling it Mobility Plan 2035 apparently without any awareness of the irony.

One bureaucrat actually pooh-poohed the suggestion that reducing car lanes increases congestion. She was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying: “Slower traffic can actually in some ways accommodate more cars moving through an area.”

If that’s the case, cars should be moving unfettered all over Los Angeles this very minute.

We’ve known there’s been a long-term war on drivers. Just look at how state and local governments have ignored street and bridge repairs. For years.

The group called TRIP reported in July that California had the worst road conditions in the country. San Francisco was the worst city in the country with Los Angeles a close second. Syria probably has fewer potholes. A different group said bridges statewide are similarly decrepit; the 10 freeway bridge near the Arizona border collapsed this summer.

Add it all up, and well more than $100 billion worth of repairs and rebuilding are needed, yet the state budget included no new money for it. Having diverted tax money that should have gone to road and bridge repairs all along, the state is now talking about imposing new taxes, if you demanding taxpayers actually expect bridges not to collapse and roads not to break your axle every other week...

Thanks to LA Streetsblog

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Hillary pushes back

Good to see Hillary pushing back hard on the phony Benghazi and email issues. She also straightens out Woodruff on the timeline of Putin's rule in Russia. Good that she refuses to attack either Sanders or Biden. Strong interview.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Republican Jesus

Maher speaks about Jesus by ewillies


Deconstructing that anti-CEQA study

Another phony CEQA reformer

Good analysis below of an anti-CEQA report I wrote about several months ago:

by Sean Hecht

Every August, as the California legislative session comes to a head, lobbyists attempt to gain support for dramatically scaling back California’s landmark environmental law, CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act). This year was no exception. Last month, the law firm Holland and Knight, which has been a leading force on this issue, issued a new report designed to gain support for dramatic changes to the law. The report assembles a nearly-complete census of virtually all CEQA cases filed in California trial courts during the three-year period 2010 through 2012, and concludes—in heavy-handed rhetoric—that CEQA is typically not used to protect the environment, but actually harms the environment (and the economy). But despite the impressive quantity of data amassed for the report, my major takeaway is that the report’s own dataset (in Appendix A of the document) does not support its conclusions. This report should not be used to inform future policy.

CEQA requires local governments and state agencies to study, understand, and consider the environmental impacts of projects before they approve them. It also requires government agencies to mitigate significant environmental impacts to the extent feasible. CEQA has done a lot of good over the years, increasing dramatically our knowledge of environmental challenges and requiring mitigation for most of the significant impacts caused by new development and industry over the past 40 years. On the other hand, application of the law sometimes has negative unintended consequences, such as providing a way for businesses to attack competitors to gain advantage. But those cases shouldn’t be used to take the heart out of the law, which is exactly what many of the legislative proposals floated in the last several years would do. While no major changes to the law were approved this year, we can expect the same issue to come back again and again.

Holland and Knight partner Jennifer Hernandez, the primary author of the report, has devoted much of her recent career to advocating major changes in CEQA to make it easier to build new projects. She has argued forcefully that CEQA does far more harm than good, and her advocacy has been influential over the past several years. I largely disagree with Jennifer about CEQA’s merits, but I enjoy engaging with her about it. Unfortunately, this report, which has been widely covered uncritically in the media, makes claims that are not supported by the data. (I’ll note also that my colleague Ethan Elkind has criticized the validity some of Holland and Knight’s prior CEQA-related claims.)

Below, I review a central claim of the new report: that the evidence demonstrates that CEQA is disproportionately used to attack projects that have environmental benefits. This claim relies on three specific assertions: (1) CEQA lawsuits disproportionately are aimed at infill development projects that contribute to higher-density communities that achieve environmental benefits and relieve housing demand, reducing our ability to provide infill housing. (2) CEQA lawsuits often target transit systems that likewise contribute to environmental quality and reduce carbon emissions, reducing our ability to develop mass transit. And (3) CEQA lawsuits often target renewable energy projects, especially solar energy, that is needed to replace fossil fuels to meet our state’s energy needs, reducing our ability to develop renewable energy capacity.

The report’s claim that it provides empirical evidence to support these three assertions underpins its ultimate conclusion that CEQA is bad for the state. These assertions have also provided a central theme to media coverage of the report. The report’s credibility thus stands or falls in large measure on the report’s ability to support these claims with specific empirical evidence. 

Upon close review, the report does not succeed...

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"Goodnight Moon": Still the best

My parents read Goodnight Moon to me and my siblings, and I read it to my son many years later. Apparently it's still the champ: 25 Most Popular Bedtime Stories of All Time.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Admitting the obvious


Tweet of the day

Daily Kos


Monday, October 05, 2015

Affordable Diviz meeting tomorrow

Join us for our second Affordable Divis meeting!

We were inspired to see so many people interested in getting involved at our first meeting, and now we’re looking to move forward to draft and define our community demands.

On Tuesday, October 6th at 7pm, we’ll be meeting again at Club Waziema (543 Divisadero St.) in order to:

* Update our community on the proposed development projects

* Review the goals identified from our first meeting

* Define and build consensus around our group demands

Follow our Affordable Divis Facebook page to keep up with all the latest news.

Dean Preston

Later: Hoodline on the meeting.

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Warriors' stadium: Why not move it south?

Move it south 11 blocks

From the SF Examiner:

The 21-acre site near Pier 80 in the Bayview has been proposed by the Mission Bay Alliance, a group led by former UC San Francisco officials who argue the arena in Mission Bay will create detrimental traffic congestion and permanently scar the neighborhood. The suggested site, more than half of which is owned by The City, is 11 blocks south of where the arena is currently planned on about 11 acres of waterfront land at Third and 16th streets, across from UCSF’s new hospitals and research centers.

Seems like a good idea. The southern site is almost twice as big as the present proposed site, and it's away from UCSF's operation. 

The Mission Bay Alliance makes the case:

With easy access to Highways 280 and 101, ample surface parking, and Muni bus and light rail lines, the site could better meet the needs of a Warriors’ arena and entertainment center---without the life-threatening or environmental impacts of the proposed arena in Mission Bay...The new proposed site is already owned in part by the City of San Francisco and the SFMTA. The City’s property interests could facilitate the Warriors’ development of the site.

“This is a great solution for the Warriors’ relocation to San Francisco,” said Mission Bay Alliance spokesperson Bruce Spaulding. “This site would not threaten access to life-saving medical care or imperil biosciences,” he added. “A new arena at this alternate location would border open space and industrial warehouses---not three brand-new UCSF hospitals, a children’s emergency room and a world-renowned bioscience research campus, all of which would be irreparably harmed by the massive arena and entertainment center.”

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Chart of the Day

Fast Company

Thanks to Daily Kos.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins on "regressive leftists"

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Saturday, October 03, 2015

"They only go out to Walmart at night"

Jorge Ramos

Important profile in the October 5 New Yorker (The Man Who Wouldn't Sit Down) by William Finnegan, who wrote that fine surfing memoir/story in June:

When Jorge Ramos travels in Middle America, nobody recognizes him—until somebody does. Ramos is the evening-news co-anchor on Univision, the country’s largest Spanish-language TV network, a job he has held since 1986. A few weeks ago, I was on a flight with him from Chicago to Dubuque. Ramos, who is fifty-seven, is slim, not tall, with white hair and an unassuming demeanor. Wearing jeans, a gray sports coat, and a blue open-collared shirt, he went unremarked. 

But then, as he disembarked, a fellow-passenger, a stranger in her thirties, drew him aside at the terminal gate, speaking rapidly in Spanish. Ramos bowed his head to listen. The woman was a teacher at a local technical college. Things in this part of Iowa were bad, she said. People were afraid to leave their houses. When they went to Walmart, they only felt comfortable going at night. Ramos nodded. Her voice was urgent. She wiped her eyes. He held her arm while she composed herself. The woman thanked him and rushed away.

“Did you hear that?” he asked, at the car-rental counter. “They only go out to Walmart at night”...

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Friday, October 02, 2015

49ers: crappy team, crappy stadium, crappy management

The San Francisco 49ers‘ new stadium in Santa Clara has had some problems since it opened last year — the grass won’t stay put, it was brutally hot, getting in and out by car was often painful, and the stadium lights blinded nearby airline pilots. And now, according to KGO-TV, some seat license holders are fed up and want out of their season-ticket deals:

If you were hoping to get your hands on a San Francisco 49ers Season Builders License, or SBL, you’re in luck. Thousands are now available, but re-sellers say it has nothing to do with the team’s current record. Still, a growing number of fans are very dissatisfied…“Half the stadium, we get beat up by the sun. So if you’re going to watch a game, you want to enjoy, drink a few beers. Here, you drink a few beers, and you get beat up, come home with sunburn, it’s just a bad experience,” [San Jose resident Tuan] Le said.

Other fans complained that the 49ers changed their ticket policy this year, sending only electronic tickets that can’t be printed until 72 hours before the game, making it harder to sell unwanted tickets.

Now, it’s only 3,000 licenses that are up for resale, up only slightly from last spring, and not all that much in a 68,000-seat stadium. And besides, the magic of PSLs (or SBLs as the 49ers call them) is that the team doesn’t have to give a crap about any of this: They’ve sold the licenses already, and it’s the fans’ problem if they made a bad investment.

The more interesting question is what this means for plans to finance stadiums in Los Angeles by similar means: Will L.A. fans, seeing the mess in Santa Clara, be more hesitant to plunk down for Rams/Raiders/Chargers PSLs? Nobody knows, but then nobody knows how viable those PSL sales projections were in the first place. 

This is a cautionary tale for somebody, that’s for sure, but whether it’s for football fans, for city officials in Inglewood and Carson, or for cities that think they have to outbid L.A. for the right to keep their teams is yet to be determined.

Rob's comment:
A "cautionary tale" for the Warriors and City Hall in SF, especially about traffic. Why not move the new stadium further south on the waterfront? 

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More people commuting by car in the US

Pool It

In 1960, 12.1 percent of American workers went to work by transit, which was then largely privately owned. Despite (or because of) public takeover of almost every transit system in the country, transit’s share steadily declined to 4.7 percent in 2000. Then, in 2010, it crept up to 4.9 percent. The 2014 American Community Survey found that it has increased still further to 5.2 percent.

Since 2000, the increase in transit’s share has come at the expense of carpooling, which fell from 12.6 percent to 9.2 percent in 2014. Biking and walking also fell slightly from 3.4 to 3.3 percent. Driving alone, however, grew from 73.2 to 76.5 percent. So the increase in transit’s share did not translate to a reduction in the number of cars on the road. Indeed, using census carpool data and assuming that “5- or 6-person carpools” have an average of 5.5 people and “7-or-more-person carpools” have 7 people, there were 104.2 million cars commuting to work in 2000, 110.8 million in 2010, and 117.6 million in 2014...

Rob's comment:

What about commuting in San Francisco? I posted those numbers the other day. 

Streetsblog's usual biased interpretation of those numbers: 

As San Francisco’s economy booms, a lot more people are commuting, and very few are doing it in a car...The numbers show a clear trend: Transit, walking, and bicycle commuting are each growing markedly faster than solo car commuting.

Not surprising that Streetsblog celebrates the fact that "solo car commuting" declined as a percentage of all commutes in the city. On the other hand, it increased from 159,000 in 2006 to 164,000 in 2014, which you won't learn from Streetsblog's account. As did commuting by "car, truck, or van," from 190,000 in 2006 to 198,000 in 2014. That doesn't seem like "very few" to me.

"Public transportation" commuting---the only realistic alternative to driving for most people---is way up since 2006 in SF, a welcome trend. Another welcome trend: walking to work increased dramatically, perhaps because more people are living near downtown, which makes it practical for more people.

"Bicycle commuting" did increase in the city, but not enough for Streetsblog to celebrate, since it only increased from 2% of all commutes in 2006 to 4% in 2014, a nine-year period during which city residents were subjected to intense anti-car, pro-bike propaganda from City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition.

Actually, according to the city's numbers in the last Transportation Fact Sheet (page 3), it's a lot worse than that: commuting by bike in SF was 2.1% in 2000, which means it has only increased 1.9% in 15 years.

Streetsblog caps off its account with a block quote from Tom Radulovich's anti-car front group, the SF Transit Riders Union:

“In the midst of a population boom and a changing climate, San Francisco more than ever needs to dramatically decrease the amount of single-occupant vehicles on the road,” said Ilyse Magy of the SF Transit Riders Union. “For this mode shift to happen, we need a Muni that can not only handle the extra capacity but also get people to where they are going more efficiently. Otherwise commuters will choose the faster and more convenient option, which unfortunately is often driving.”

That's the biggest problem the anti-car movement has: those wicked motor vehicles are so often "the faster and more convenient option."


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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Tenth anniversary of the Danish Mohammed cartoons

Even though I'm a day late, I have to note the tenth anniversary of the publication in Denmark of the Mohammed cartoons that led to riots by Moslem fanatics that caused 250 deaths. The local print media was cowardly, but the Chronicle at least ran a wishy-washy editorial, though it didn't publish any of the cartoons.

Creeping Sharia

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Cycling and safety in Europe and SF

Jim Swanson

The Bicycle Coalition and its enablers in City Hall often invoke Europe to convince us of the wisdom of cycling and anti-carism, often referring to Amsterdam and Copenhagen as models to emulate. I wrote recently about the reality of cycling in Amsterdam, where riding a bike is just as dangerous as it is in San Francisco. 

What about Copenhagen? Same story: 33 cyclists died there in 2013, and 70% of cycling accidents in Copenhagen are "single-cyclist" accidents---"solo falls" that don't involve another vehicle and can't be blamed on cars. (That widely ignored UC study calls solo falls "cyclist-only" accidents, which are not only under-counted in San Francisco but can cause injuries just as severe as "auto-versus-cyclist" accidents.)

What about cyclists and pedestrian safety in Europe? In the London Review of Books, Andrew O'Hagan describes trying to cross the street in London:

...The fourth problem is to do with bikes. We’re supposed to believe that cyclists are saving the world. But they often kill themselves in saving the world or injure other road users, caught in their tender spokes. For pedestrians, London bikes are much worse than white vans---at least you can see a white van---and as I stood at the crossing I kept seeing helmetless maniacs raining down like bombs, or bombing through like rain. In the kamikaze theatrics of urban transport, cyclists see everyone as the enemy, especially buses, which stop by the road to pick up the people who really are saving the world...

Sounds like The Wiggle here in Progressive Land.

Speaking of The Wiggle, C.W. Nevius gets it wrong in the Chronicle this morning when he calls it "an up-slope." Not so. When cyclists are heading downtown on The Wiggle, it's downhill through that densely populated neighborhood. He also calls the boorish cyclists a "small, obnoxious group," but the reality is that punk cyclists are a much larger percentage of cyclists who use both The Wiggle and overall in the city where Critical Mass was born.

Of course Supervisor Breed supports the Idaho Stop

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Republicans called on Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood to testify and then interrupted her whenever she tried to talk. Of course they only called her so they could posture about abortion and those phony videos.

Thanks to Slate.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

And except for spelling...

A comment by Bob Planthold on the proposed Idaho Stop ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors:

Relevant to the possible resolution or ordinance for an "Idaho stop" is the following Oregon DOT research paper "Intersection Sight Distance." Though published nearly 18 years ago, the link is still accessible.

Apparently, nobody in SF---including policymakers & their staffs---bothered to look for safety-related research such as this.

While many individuals and even politically influential groups may clamor for an Idaho stop, making public policy by a popularity vote is not prudent. That one constituency wants this change does not mean it is safe for all.

Since many buildings in SF are built to the lot line, the distance between a building and the sidewalk can be as little as 6 feet. Meaning any approaching vehicle, whether human-powered or machine-powered, has very little distance in which to notice anyone approaching from an intersecting street.

Before readers dismiss this as not relevant to the safety implications from (relatively) slower speeds of bicycles, the newer versions of e-bikes are advertised as reaching speeds of 45 km/hr (approx. 28 mph), which is greater than SF's standard speed for roadway use.

Even at a human-powered bike speed of 12-15 mph, the impact of an adult male riding a bicycle on a young child or senior or pregnant woman can---and does---cause serious injury, and even death.

As limited as are the hazards arising from injuries from bicyclists, Vision Zero means ZERO, without exception for any mode of travel.

Beyond the safety problems associated with trying to adopt a version of the Idaho stop, there remains the obvious fact that such a tactic violates California law.

Regrettably, there have been previous attempts by supervisors to ignore aspects of California law regarding vehicles. Early in this century, one supervisor wanted to use SF's "charter city" status to bypass California law by authorizing motorcycles to park on the sidewalk. That ended when the former Senior Action Network mobilized to point out the obvious safety problems, despite threats of "kicking their ass" from one of the leaders of the motorcyclists' ad hoc advocacy group.

A few years later, a current supervisor is reported to have suggested that cars be allowed to park on the sidewalk---at least in his district.

Such statistically-biased and evasive attempts to appease one constituency---whether motorcyclists, car-drivers or bicyclists---makes one wonder how little supervisors, their staffs, and city transportation planners value the most vulnerable road-users---pedestrians.

California's federally-mandated Strategic Highway Safety Plan has recognized pedestrians as also road-users; even MTC reluctantly some years ago finally acknowledged that walking is a separate mode of transportation.

Yet the safety of pedestrians is not part of the reports & statements from SF's officialdom.

The impetus for the Idaho stop was magnified by a publicity stunt that seems to have escaped a sense of logic and proportion. The numbers of bicyclists participating in that "Wiggle" stunt was far greater than the number of bicyclists normally using the Wiggle during those hours. Because the numbers were "upped," that skewed the actual results of any perceived delay.

"Delay," or perception thereof, seems the major motivation for considering this evasion of California law, yet there has been no mention of SAFETY.

Is that any way to respond to and implement Vision ZERO?

Bob Planthold

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Chart of the day

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How water is priced in California

From the Public Policy Institute of California

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Mayor Lee, the Bicycle Coalition, and the Idaho Stop

Good for Mayor Lee for threatening to veto the Idaho Stop ordinance. Maybe he understands that, like his predecessor, Mayor Newsom, nothing he does for the bike lobby will ever be enough. Newsom gave them everything they asked for, and they still treated him with contempt (see this and this).

The Bicycle Coalition's non-endorsement of Mayor Lee:

Despite this clear mandate from the electorate — Prop A passed with over 70 percent of the vote — Mayor Lee has not kept pace with the massive public demand for safer streets. We appreciate several initiatives the Mayor has spearheaded, including his support for the City’s Vision Zero goals and expansion of bike share, but it was clear from our member vote on this year’s mayoral endorsement that our members remain concerned that supporting biking is an afterthought in the current administration. We believe this can change over the next four years and will work with the current Mayor, if he is re-elected, to build a legacy of safe streets for people to enjoy across San Francisco.

Of course Mayor Lee supported Proposition A---for him it was the most important thing on last November's ballot---as did the Board of Supervisors, which voted unanimously to put it on the ballot. 

How exactly has the mayor, who has given the bike lobby everything it asked for, treated "biking as an afterthought"? You won't get a sensible answer to that from the lobbyists at that special interest group.

No, the lack of endorsement was because the mayor didn't automatically support whatever the Bicycle Coalition wanted, like his ending Sunday parking meters.

Later: Streetsblog confirms my interpretation by attacking the mayor as an "obstructionist" on traffic safety in the city!

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What migrants say when they think no one is listening

Thanks to Pamela Geller.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Richard Dawkins: Palestine, Jews, science and the burqa

The tweet referred to in the interview:

"All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though."

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Old farts on bikes: The numbers

This graphic is a companion piece to Old farts on bikes and illustrates that study.

From USA Today


Not out of context

Jeremy Corbyn at Al-Quds rally

Photo not taken "out of context":

...Al-Quds Day was started by the late Ayatollah Khomenie of Iran, in order to stoke up global Muslim outrage against Israel. As such, it serves as a useful recruiting vehicle for Islamists to promote themselves as legitimate human rights campaigners.

Jeremy Corbyn, who was invited to speak there, should know all this. He should know that it is deeply hypocritical and, yes, problematic to attend an event that is essentially a PR move by a country that has no right to criticise Israel (The punishment for being homosexual in Iran, i.e. the death penalty, is more severe than that meted out in Israel for being a convicted murderer, i.e. a jail sentence.)

It should be no surprise that the flag of a Iranian-backed Islamist group appeared at an Iranian-backed Islamist event. One might as well express shock after agreeing to speak at a rally about worker’s rights organised by the KKK, only to find that photos of you expressing support for minimum wage laws have “accidental” burning crosses in the background...

More on Hezbollah


Friday, September 25, 2015

Thanks to SF Streetsblog


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Paul Hofer: Great football player

Good to see Peter Hartlaub in last Sunday's Chronicle give a shout-out to Paul Hofer, a great Niner running back from days of yore. From a sidebar ("S.F. stars we wish we could see play") that doesn't appear on the online version of the story:

Paul Hofer (49ers, 1979) My favorite San Francisco 49ers player of all time was the first pro running back to thrive in Bill Walsh's innovative offense (58 receptions in 1979!) but sadly his career was disrupted by knee injuries. I saw him play briefly, but my only concrete memory is watching him on crutches on the sideline. I'd give my next five years of football watching to see Hofer play one more game.

I saw every game Hofer played for the Niners, either at Candlestick or on TV. He was a great football player! If the Niners had a decent respect for their own history, they would put together videos featuring highlights by early Niners like Hofer. (See Hartlaub's full-length tribute to Hofer from 2013: A tribute to Paul Hofer: Candlestick Park’s working class hero).

Hartlaub also singles out Hugh McElhenny:

(49ers, 1957) I've heard McElhenny was incredible to watch live, weaving back and forth on the Kezar Stadium field for 40-yard touchdowns that covered 140 yards of ground. He averaged 8 yards per carry in an injury shortened 1954 season, but we're choosing 1957---arguably the 49ers greatest season of their first 35 years.

McElhenny was a great open-field runner. The Niners haven't had one anything like him since.

McElhenny was part of a great backfield, with Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry, and John Henry Johnson.

Kezar Stadium, December, 1957
15-year-old Rob Anderson was there.

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"You called it Rob---he's going to the SFMTA"

Yes, I called it, but it wasn't a tough call, given Muni's history of hiring anti-car bike people to run the city's transit agency. After all, the city's Transit First law was rewritten long ago to include bicycles. Advancing "better transportation options"? Gee, I wonder which "option" he means? Not surprising to learn that Bialick is "excited" to be boarding the MTA's gravy train, which is turning into a jobs program for unemployed bike people:

by Aaron Bialick

Since I announced my departure from Streetsblog, folks have asked about my next move. Well, I’m not going far: I’ve accepted a position on the SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s public relations team.

In this new chapter, I’m excited about working directly on projects that advance better transportation options in the city. To start out, I’ll be working in a media relations position on Muni-related project and service announcements.

I’ll be in good company with a lot of folks I’ve gotten to know through my years of reporting on the agency’s policies and projects, some of whom have also transitioned from advocacy roles. Former Streetsblog reporter Michael Rhodes is now a Muni Forward planner, and Andy Thornley, whom I first met when I interned at the SF Bicycle Coalition in 2009, manages on-street parking programs. To my mind, when the city hires good advocates, that’s a sign of success for the movement.

I’ll be here at Streetsblog through the end of the month, and after that, you’ll still see me around. I’m changing jobs, but I’ll still be working to make San Francisco and the Bay Area more livable and sustainable.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Regulatory capture" in Berkeley

Proposed project: 2211 Harold Way, Berkeley

Becky O'Malley has a message in her editorial on regulatory capture in the Berkeley Daily Planet from U.C. physicist James McFadden, an opponent of the Harold Way project. Sounds like the way meetings are conducted here in San Francisco:

Having spent many an evening over the last 9 months at City Council, ZAB, LPC, and School Board meetings, I'm finally starting to recognize ‘industry capture’ of both staff and the council/board/committee members. Although many people are quick to assume that capture means corruption, they really are different things. 

Capture is more of an aligning of economic world views, not necessarily to any monetary advantage, often just to make one's job easier or more pleasant in dealing with people on a day to day basis (perhaps like the Stockholm syndrome). It entails adapting views that parallel industry's views which are clearly shaped by profit motive. 

Captured individuals don't necessarily have an economic conflict of interest. They don't see their behavior as incorrect. They have forgotten that their role is to provide oversight and protection to the public on these public-private deals, and instead see their role as making sure the deal gets done. Their public meetings evolve into patronizing facades of democracy. 

Captured staff and government officials suffer from wishful blindness rather than corruption per se. For the most part, capture is about creating a pleasant working environment with those in industry who they deal with on a daily basis. It is a slow and insidious process that strikes at the heart of human psychology that allows us to work in groups. The more time you spend with someone, the more likely you are to mirror their behavior—especially when the industry hires shills who continually flatter staff and boards/committees. When we-the-public show up and complain, we become the opponent to be ignored. 

A telling sign of capture is an inability of staff to answer direct questions in a public forum, questions they should have answers for. This happened several times during the ZAB [Thursday] night. Staff instead must go outside and get the answers from industry—or just stonewall—or just present the industry talking points outside of public view. 

Capture also manifests in the actions of the members of boards/councils/committees who are supposed to provide oversight, but instead seem more concerned with time and process. They often spend their time praising staff or justifying their poor performance, or worse yet praising the industry over which they are supposed to provide oversight. I was particularly struck by [ZAB Chair Prakash] Pinto's behavior at [Thursday] night’s ZAB. 

The meeting becomes a dance of false empowerment where getting through the meeting on time is more important than focusing on important issues or input from the public.

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