They're tearing up Bernal Heights. I came back from vacation and all the streets around my house were blocked off with "no parking" signs and the heavy equipment was ripping the pavement open. We're getting new sewer pipes, which is a fine thing. Your neighborhood will be in the queue pretty soon; it's a citywide project, and in the end it will cost $4 billion.
A lot of that money will go for digging trenches in the streets. Trenching and backfilling is pricey, tens of thousands of dollars a block. And it's making me crazy that we're spending all that money on excavation contractors and we're not taking advantage of the opportunity.
Every ditch I see, every detour sign, every annoyed resident who can't find a place to park, makes me want to scream. We're doing all this work for the sewer lines, which are a crucial part of the civic infrastructure. Why aren't we using the same money, the same equipment, the same holes in the streets to lay electrical and fiber optic cable?
Fiber's cheap compared to the cost of bringing all the gear out, hiring the people to operate it, putting the dirt back in the holes, and pouring new blacktop. The thin wires that could carry the world's information system directly and cheaply to every house in the city is on the order of what Sup. Ross Mirkarimi likes to call "decimal dust." Electrical conduit, which will one day be the backbone of a city-owned power system, costs a little more, but not that much.
Face it: we're going to do all this at some point anyway. I'm an optimist (about San Francisco, anyway), and before long Gavin Newsom will be gone, and we'll have a mayor who believes in the public sector, and public power and public broadband will be the order of the day. And running those utilities underground makes perfect sense in a city where earthquakes make elevated electrical wires a visible hazard.
But since nobody at City Hall is putting up a modest amount of cash to do this now, in a few years we're going to have to spend a whole lot of cash to dig up all the streets all over again.
Am I the only person who thinks this is insane?
I was way off on the St. Lawrence River, in a place that had no Internet access and only spotty cell phone reception, so I missed the news that Sen. Dianne Feinstein was sorta, maybe, kinda thinking about running for governor of California. It was a chilling little welcome-home message for me. Anyone who lived through the days when Feinstein was mayor of San Francisco ought to share my revulsion at the idea of her running the entire state. She's a Democrat only in name; on economic issues, she'd be as bad as Gov. Schwarzenegger. She's also an autocrat and with term limits, there's nobody in the Legislature who could stand up to her.
The deals are already in the air; Willie Brown just floated out a key one in the Chron. Maybe Gavin Newsom would drop out of the governor's race, and Feinstein would give him her US Senate seat if she wins.
What a rotten concept. If Feinstein runs, she needs real competition. Feinstein vs. Jerry Brown would be fascinating, and Newsom ought to stay in too. I'm not terribly impressed with the way he's run the city either, but in the end, I think she was a lot better at being bad than he is.
It's good to be home.