Planning director insults neighborhood activists


John Rahaim, the director of city planning, is the featured speaker at a SPUR forum Jan. 29, and he's got a very special title for his talk. It's called "The Meanies and the War Mongers: Recent planning lessons from SF." Here's the description:

Land use planning in San Francisco is sometimes called a blood sport. John Rahaim, planning director, will discuss the last five years of planning in San Francisco during his tenure, and why that phrase is too weak. Rahaim will look at the accomplishments of planning in the city, the impacts from the last decade of neighborhood plans and the lessons from the war that will guide the Planning Department into the next decade.

Holy shit: Sounds to me like this guy, who gets very well compensated off the taxpayers' dime, has just directly insulted generations of activists who have fought some really dumb development ideas and made this a more livable city. "War mongers?" "Meanies?"Is that the term he uses for people who try to get involved in the planning process? Here's what he told me:

The purpose of the title was to be provocative.  I find it curious that you would make that assumption.  For now I will say that in my experience in SF, there are people on all sides of the development debates who would fit these descriptions.  Other than that, I invite you to the talk.

Okay, provocative is good, but seriously: He's sounding as if these aren't real issues that affect people's lives, that land-use planning isn't central to what we are as a city, and that people who don't just shut up and go along with what he wants are troublemakers. Or as former Sup. Aaron Peskin, who has spent years as a neighborhood activists, notes: "He doesn't want to admit that the best planning in this city is done by those neighborhood organizations and those activists who
challenge and shape literally every piece of planning that comes out of his office."

Rahaim is supposed to be the guy who balances the various interest groups and tries to create acceptable solutions. "Whoever he's referring to, it's demeaning and unprofessional," Peskin notes.

You can show up and ask Mr. Rahaim what he was talking about Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 6pm at the SPUR Center, 654 Mission. It's free for SPUR members and costs $10 for everyone else. Worth every penny of it.


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