Transit or traffic - Page 2

There's a real chance to fix Muni -- but a simplistic downtown campaign for more parking and less government is trying to derail it
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Illustration by Danny Hellman

22, framing the conflict as between the common sense of "your friends and neighbors" and "a social-engineering philosophy driven by an anti-car and anti-business Board of Supervisors." If the Examiner editorialists were being honest, they probably also should have mentioned Mayor Gavin Newsom, who joins the board majority (and every local environmental and urban-planning group) in supporting Prop. A and opposing Prop. H.

The editorial excoriates "most city politicians and planners" for believing the numerous studies that conclude that people who have their own parking spots are more likely to drive and that more parking generally creates more traffic. The Planning Department, for example, estimates Prop. H "could lead to an increase over the next 20 years of up to approximately 8,200–19,000 additional commute cars (mostly at peak hours) over the baseline existing controls."

"Many, many actual residents disagree, believing that — no matter what the social engineers at City Hall tell you — adding more parking spaces would make The City a far more livable place," the Examiner wrote.

That's why environmentalists and smart-growth advocates say Prop. H is so insidious. It was written to appeal, in a very simplistic way, to people's real and understandable frustration over finding a parking spot. But the solution it proffers would make all forms of transportation — driving, walking, transit, and bicycling — remarkably less efficient, as even the Examiner has recognized.

You see, the Examiner was opposed to Prop. H just a couple of months ago, a position the paper recently reversed without really explaining why, except to justify it with reactionary rhetoric such as "Let the politicians know you're tired of being told you're a second-class citizen if you drive a car in San Francisco."

Examiner executive editor Jim Pimentel denies the flip-flop was a favor that the Republican billionaire who owns the Examiner, Phil Anschutz, paid to the Republican billionaire who is funding Prop. H, Fisher. "We reserve the right to change on positions," Pimentel told me.

Yet it's worth considering what the Examiner originally wrote in an Aug. 2 editorial, where it acknowledged people's desire for more parking but took into account what the measure would do to downtown San Francisco.

The paper wrote, "Closer examination reveals this well-intentioned parking measure as a veritable minefield of unintended consequences. It could actually take away parking, harm business, reduce new housing and drive out neighborhood retail. By now, Californians should be wary of unexpected mischief unleashed from propositions that legislate by direct referendum. Like all propositions, Parking For Neighborhoods was entirely written by its backers. As such, it was never vetted by public feedback or legislative debate. If the initiative organizers had faced harder questioning, they might have recognized that merely adding parking to a fast-growing downtown is likely to make already-bad traffic congestion dramatically worse."

The San Francisco Transportation Authority's Oct. 17 public workshop, which launched the San Francisco Mobility, Access, and Pricing Study, had nothing to do with Props. A and H — at least not directly.