Canary in a Coal Mine

brisbane411 – excerpt

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For the first time in our state’s history, state legislators are threatening to pass targeted legislation to strip a single city of its authority over its own land. This is not just a threat to the City of Brisbane. It’s a threat to every city in California. Brisbane is the canary in the coal mine.

State legislators hijacked the public review process for a proposed mixed-use development on the Brisbane Baylands. Their highly questionable rationale for taking this drastic action is the contention even little cities are responsible for the crisis in affordable housing. In fact, corporate job creations, State policies, income inequality, and builders focused on the high end of housing construction are more responsible. Small communities like Brisbane have not been responsible for any of these phenomena. In fact, Brisbane has supported a high rate of housing development. Its reluctance to move rapidly on development in the Baylands has to do with the land itself – its status as an unregulated, unremediated contaminated landfill.

However, when the Taiwanese landowner/developer decided that Brisbane wasn’t moving fast enough or might not approve all the planned housing (triple the amount of the total housing units currently in Brisbane), it orchestrated a media campaign that falsely claimed that Brisbane was planning to build a huge commercial development without any housing. Legislators trying to enhance their reputations on the housing issue used the fabricated Brisbane story and crafted targeted legislation that was used to threaten the Brisbane City Council to change its General Plan, before the deliberations were complete, or be forced by this legislation to rubber stamp the developer’s project with minimal oversight.

The 660-acre “Baylands” was originally part of San Francisco Bay. Southern Pacific and San Francisco filled it in for their needs, railroad equipment maintenance and garbage dumping. Consequently, the landfill has 3 former Superfund sites that, to date, have not been remediated. Some of the many adverse environmental impacts called out in the EIR include serious health and safety risks from the highly toxic landfill, the unstable land that is a liquefaction zone between two major earthquake faults, no contracted water resources, severe traffic congestion from a lack of funding for roads or public transportation, the lack of sufficient resources to provide required public services such as fire, police and public works infrastructure and ongoing maintenance, and more.

Our neighborhoods look and feel the way they do because local leaders are empowered to make decisions that serve the best interests of the people who live there. When our right to determine our future is taken away, a core part of our democracy goes with it. Yet, there’s something more insidious at play here.

Remove all local planning controls and you open up historically low-income neighborhoods to gentrifying development at market rates. Entire communities are displaced. State legislators, beneficiaries of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from developers, are all too eager to repay their donors in kind.

The proposed legislation that eviscerates Brisbane’s right to self-governance is the logical endpoint of a state government committed to development at all costs. California law requires local jurisdictions to have General Plans that focus on sustainability, healthy communities, and quality of life. The proposed legislation disregards all three. Never have we seen a land grab this blatant or this bold.

What happens in Brisbane will be repeated in cities across the state. Strip our local government of its power and you’ve taken away our voice. Take the canary out of the coal mine and there’s no warning for what comes next… (more)

Read the proposed legislation here.

Brisbane is a small community just south of San Francisco, where the Global Climate Action Summit is taking place. Citizens of both cities have tried for decades to warn about the contaminated land at Hunter’ Point, Brisbane Baylands, and other areas around the bay where soil from the contaminated area was moved prior to proper testing.

Some studies unveiled at the Global Climate Action Summit do not support the state’s current plan to build dense housing on contaminated land at sea level. We could see some shifts in attitudes in Sacramento as voters go to the polls in November. We the story below and comment on the source.

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Google Didn’t Transform San Francisco. A Baseball Player Did.

By Conor Sen : blomberg – excerpt

Barry Bonds’s popularity laid the foundation for tech to build up once-overlooked neighborhoods.

Over the weekend, the San Francisco Giants retired the jersey number of Barry Bonds for his performance with the team over 15 years. While his baseball achievements were significant, his more lasting impact may have been on real estate development in San Francisco.

The tech industry has transformed San Francisco over the past several years, but in many respects those forces merely leveraged the foundation put in place during Barry Bonds’s heyday. Neighborhoods like South Park and South Beach would look a lot different if Bonds hadn’t signed with the Giants 25 years ago… (more)

 

 

Contractor in SF Muni tunnel death had record of safety violations

By Michael Barba : sfexaminer – excerpt

The company that hired the worker killed by a steel beam during construction on the Twin Peaks Tunnel did not tell transit officials it had a history of workplace safety violations when it applied for the project, public records revealed Tuesday.

The records show Shimmick Construction has been linked to nearly 50 workplace safety violations over the last decade, including citations for serious violations related to the death of a forklift worker in 2016.

The California Occupational Health and Safety Administration also fined a partnership between Shimmick Construction and another company more than $190,000 for willful and serious violations in 2011.

Yet Shimmick Construction and its business partner answered “no” when asked if either had “been cited for any serious and willful violations by Cal/OSHA” over the past ten years in a November 2017 questionnaire from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency…(more)

This is really sad. When does it end? You almost wish they would do something right for a change. The constant missteps get old after a while and you hope the SFMTA will get something right for a change. The workers are over stressed and probably not being as careful as they should be and the contractors are probably pushing them to work faster. We need to limit the number of projects and take greater care with implementing them. How do we pass a resolution that declares there is a limit to how many construction projects can be done at one time?

Axis Development abruptly abandons proposed 117-unit Folsom Street project

By Julian Mark : missionlocal – excerpt

A potential 117-unit residential project at 2675 Folsom Street will not be moving forward in its proposed current form, Mission Local confirmed today. Its developer, Axis Development, has put the fully entitled site up for sale, Axis Managing Partner Theo F. Oliphant said Thursday.

“I have no comment beyond that,” Oliphant told Mission Local. He declined to name the development company’s desired price and why he is not moving forward with the plans.

This is a surprise move following a fierce battle between community activists and the developer to offer more affordable housing and community benefits. It was resolved last May after District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen brokered a deal between the developer and activists.

With that deal apparently dashed, the land could potentially yet house a 100-percent affordable structure — and the Mission District’s affordable developers are already beginning to queue up… (more)

Upzoning property to raise the value of real estate appears to be a national past time for wealthy government officials of both parties. Neither party cares about protecting affordable housing for working class Americans.

The real reason for upzoning is not to build more housing. The real reason for upzoning is to raise property values and this project a prime example of how that works. For a closer look at the national trend under the current administration and how this program is being sold to to California read the New York Times article linked here.

Ben Carson, is the HUD secretary. He was recently sued for his part in raising rents of HUD-managed properties. His aides are quoted as saying, “…he is focused less on federal solutions than on prodding local governments to ease barriers to construction. He has ordered his policy staff to come up with proposals to push local governments to reduce zoning restrictions on new projects, especially low-cost manufactured housing. HUD will also begin working with landlords around the country to come up with ways to make housing vouchers more attractive and more inclusive, aides said.

Stop state overreach! Find out what you can do to stop SB 828 and similar bills attempting to remove local jurisdiction over zoning and development decisions from local communities. livablecalifornia.org

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Beyond Blocking Sidewalks

By Nuala Sawyer : sfweekly – excerpt

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The pervasive invasive nature of the rideshares is getting on everyone’s nerves. San Francisco is not a simcity gameboard that anyone should be allowed to test their latest idea on. This is the lineup of companies listed in the article, minus Razor. Scoot is on the streets now. Ridecell is an autonomous vehicle company and should not be included in the list of scooter rideshares.

Scooter companies claim their devices reduce S.F.’s dependency on cars — but that doesn’t mean they’re clean and green.

It’s been more than six weeks since San Francisco demanded that three scooter companies — Lime, Bird, and Spin — pull their hundreds of unpermitted vehicles off city sidewalks and apply for operating permission from the SFMTA. Since then, more than a dozen companies sent in their requests for the 1,250 scooter spots, making their case in PDFs spanning anywhere from 24 to 117 pages.

Investors, CEOs, and scooter enthusiasts wait with bated breath to see if the SFMTA will select Bird, Hopr, Jump, Lime, Lyft, ofo, Razor, Ridecell, Scoot, Spin, UScooter, or Skip — or a combination of several —  for its pilot program, but the city is in no rush to make a decision…

Leading the charge against the rampage of the rogue motorized scooters is Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who drafted a vital piece of legislation limiting scooter companies’ presence on city sidewalks, and who has not minced words regarding his distaste for the “act first, ask for permission later” attitude…

Making massive profit always trumps protecting the public, and innovation is only possible by cutting corners,” Peskin said during a Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting in April. “Our laws, the very foundation of our democracy, are here to be scoffed at, and San Francisco is only here to quite literally — pun intended — be given the bird by tech CEOs who jump from one company to the next after they overstay their welcome.”... (more)

If you think the scooters are green or healthy for the planet because they are taking cars off the street, ready the entire article. The author did his own research without any help from the tech CEOs and what he found does not agree with the claims the CEOs of these companies and their supporters are making.

This is a good time to send your letters to the Board of Supervisors to let them know how you feel about these corporate entities taking over our streets and sidewalks. Link to the Supervisors.

Don’t forget the State representatives and the CPUC. Remind them that you vote and they need to listen to you. If you would like to do learn more about what goes on at the state level, follow Livable California.

Regulating merging tech companies has not proven easy or successful. Now that they are merging and emerging under different business models the companies may be more difficult to control if “their properties and privileges” can be easily manipulated under the present contracts.

Judging by the poor job of contract writing and management we have seen so far coming out of the SFMTA where the street projects are concerned, we hope the Board of Supervisors will insist on some truly independent oversight and strong legal language that will allow City Hall to pull out of future agreements if unforeseen circumstance, or better options, arise.

We need to avoid future public/private partnerships in favor of actual payments for the privileges of doing business on our public streets and sidewalks. How many enterprising projects can one city agency run at one time? SFMTA needs to stick to running the Muni and get that right before they expand.

We also need to insist on better reasons for doing business with these enterprising startups than claims that they are lean and green and taking cars of the street. Most of the traffic these days appears to be theirs not our.

Thanks to Peskin and Fewer for their leadership, and we look forward to more support from the rest of the supervisors and our new mayor.

 

Housing crisis prompts San Diego to further loosen rules for live-work spaces

By David Garrick : sandiegouniontribune – excerpt

San Diego is expanding its plan to use “live-work” spaces to ease the city’s housing crisis and get commuters off the road.

The goal is encouraging more people like dentists, accountants and comic store owners to start living in the same place where they work.

City officials say it’s one of the quickest and cheapest ways to boost the local supply of affordable housing.

In March, the City Council loosened zoning and other regulations governing live-work spaces. But city officials say they didn’t go far enough…

Councilman Scott Sherman said the proposal won’t make a huge dent in the city’s housing shortage all by itself, but that it will make a small difference like several other city efforts launched during the last two years.

The other efforts include developer incentives called density bonuses, softer parking requirements for projects in transit areas, looser rules for granny flats and streamlined environmental reviews…

The city’s plan calls for more commuting by bicycle and transit, but live-work spaces eliminate the need to commute entirely.

The proposal to further loosen live-work space restrictions is expected to be presented to the full council for approval next month… (more)

Is San Francisco ready to have another go at LIve-Work, this time without tax breaks and less stringent requirements? Double up on use and cut down on the commutes? Bring back the PDR live-work for artists and musicians who pioneered the lifestyle?

 

2018 mayoral candidate questionnaire: Mark Leno

hoodline – excerpt

Mark Leno interview re: how he anticipates supporting small businesses:

Many small business owners we interview complain about the city’s permitting and approval processes. What are your plans for making it easier for San Franciscans to become entrepreneurs?.

Today, one of the greatest roadblocks to the expansion and success of our small business community is the difficulty many face when working their way through our permitting and approvals processes. No small business owner or prospective entrepreneur should have to hire an expediter to do what city government itself should be doing. Far too often I’ve heard from small business owners who find themselves forced to pay for services that city government should provide. As mayor, I will be looking closely at the many hurdles our small business community faces, including the permit and appeals processes.

Rising commercial rents have driven many small businesses out of business, leaving vibrant corridors with an abundance of vacant storefronts throughout the city. Furthermore, delays and construction costs on transit improvement projects have been a major source of frustration – for residents, merchants and visitors. As a small business owner, I absolutely understand the negative effects merchants in the impact zone are facing.

One of my first priorities will also be to ensure there is a small business voice on the SFMTA, where the lack of small business representation is so clearly hurting our small businesses citywide. One example of this impact can be seen in the ongoing delays of the Geary BRT. Small business owners and prospective business owners along Geary struggle with the uncertainty of the completion of a project which would greatly affect their ability to attract and retain customers amid construction. SFMTA should be working with business owners to ensure important decision-making takes into consideration the impact on merchants and merchant corridors… (more)

Mark Leno promises to shake things up if he is elected Mayor and we anticipate some new faces at City Hall if that happens, as the status quo is obviously not working for the average citizen. The status quo is turning San Francisco into a corporate sports and entertainment arena. Our biggest effort to compete with Time Square for gaudiness is a giant pulsing tower raised to the skies.

Regardless of who is elected Mayor we will have new Commissioners and Board members. Hopefully new SFMTA Board members would consider unwinding the corporatization of our streets that has flourished under our current Board and, if it is Mark Leno, he can use some influence in Sacramento to suggest for changes to the PUC and state legislature. For some time we have been pointing to the PUC and we will continue to point that way until someone gets the message and takes action at the state level to reign in the corporate takeover of our state.