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.



Planned places like Ottawa, Bern and Brasilia are dull.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 8:48 am

I think that planned places like Ottawa, Bern, and Brasilia are beautiful and vibrant. So do the folks at UNESCO, and the organizations that make the yearly lists of livable cities.

I also think *planned* cities, like the ones you mentioned as unplanned but which are actually PLANNED, such as Paris and Amsterdam, are also beautiful and vibrant.

True unplanned cities, like Dallas and Houston, are disgusting.

Your facts are wrong and your aesthetics are awful, and apparently I'm not the only one who thinks that way.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

Illegal use of "vibrant," 10 yard penalty. Fourth down.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:46 pm
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

Batshit crazy shrill homophobic troll.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

Apologize for your racism. Admit fault - seek forgiveness. Lucretia is a forgiving person but first you must admit your crimes.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

Like a broken robot toy. Broken. Does not work. Pointless. Pointless. Pointless.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

Brasilia is not a livable city by any measure. It was designed and built in the 1960s and is totally auto oriented to the extent that it is very difficult to traverse on foot.

Posted by socram on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:50 am

Have you considered Houston?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 1:48 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

There are plenty of diverse neighborhoods in San Francisco. We don't need a little sliver of Houston here, thanks, just as Houston has no San Francisco-like neighborhoods. Go to Houston for Houston.

The Mission is already taken and these developers have rezoned and are building our neighborhood out from under us with their craptacular luxury condos.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

so opposed to one tiny example of that diversity, i.e. a tiny part of SF looking and feeling just a tiny tad suburban?

If someone felt the same way about, say, gays, would you not whine?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

When you buy property in a city, it almost always comes with restrictions. "How and when to use what you paid for" is pretty standard; I can't, for example, turn my house into a dog kennel, or a car-repair shop, or drill for oil in my backyard. In many cities, renovations or substantial changes to residential or commercial property require hearings and approvals, sometimes from neighborhood design committees. You may hate that, and if you do, you should live in a place that has few such rules (Houston, for example, or most of Alaska). But if you bought property in SF, either you knew what you were getting and accepted the restrictions for the right to live in such a great place, or you didn't read the fine print and are only now complaining.

Yes, SF -- with only 49 square miles and the densest development on the West Coast -- in fact, some of the densest development in the US -- is a little more picky than most. Yes, we have a history of caring about our neighborhoods. But it's not only in SF. 

Posted by tim on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

somewhere along the way, SF crossed the line.

Good for homeowners like you though, huh?

Posted by anon on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

If even half of the 100 towns in the Bay Area had built anywhere near the amount of housing SF has built over the past 15 years, we'd see a lot better real estate pricing in the entire Bay Area, including SF.

Maybe you're new to the area, but large companies like Google, HP, Apple, Oracle, Yahoo, and many others have been performing an economic rape job to exisitng Bay Area residents by importing tens of thousands of high paying jobs but not providing any housing for them. Of course these elite workers will turn around and prey on the housing resources of exisiting residents by offering higher rents and bigger asking prices.

At the same time these companies and their highly trained and brilliant workers are helping to eliminate millions of mid-income jobs that will never come back to the US, tossing people and families to the gutter in their quest for greater riches and glories. With its concentration of political power, economic might, and tens of thousands of well-trained investment, real estate, financial, and legal talent, San Francisco leads the way to a brave new world of a small elite core and legions of have-nots who won't even be able to afford the BART fare to visit.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

20 years ago a middle class job was a manual job paying 40K pa. Now it's knowledge work paying 120K pa. Only a luddite would oppose such progress.

If you want to see the opposite tremd, visit Detroit. They'd love to have our "problems" there.

Not everyone can afford to live in the world's favoritie city.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

Get out from behind that computer and go check out the real world.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 8:52 am

When I walk around the city, my viewpoint differs from yours. That's why I posted actual data. The fact that there is a class of well-paid workers in San Francisco doesn't negate the fact that middle class incomes are flat or decreasing throughout the region and the nation.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:05 am

Notice the glib tendency to serve as a self-referencing source? Calculated effrontery? -- or dementia?

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:24 am

But wait, every tech worker wins the stock option lottery as well.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:29 am

who got over a million in stock options, and none of them worked for Apple, Google or Facebook.

Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:41 am

A few do, not many, the world is not reflective of your anecdotes.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:49 am

I'd speculate that there are far more people who see the world as I do, than you. That's why election results rarely go your way.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:02 am

Omniscient troll.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:58 am

We've shipped out a lot of the lower-paying jobs, to focus on higher value-add business.

We have a larger, richer middle class as a result

Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:39 am

It doesn't make it true. That's why I posted data from the Census Bureau.

The largest sectors of job growth are low-paying service sector jobs, many of which are part-time, and, ironically, unemployment.

Automation, offshoring and outsourcing have replaced decent paying "middle class" jobs. Most of the workers who lost those sort of jobs have had to settle for lower paying ones to replace them, if they have indeed found a job.

I think your residency in San Francisco and the current tech bubble are skewing your perspective.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:56 am

question what city you actually live in. Maybe if i lived in Bayshore or the Tenderloin, I'd share your despair and despondency. But I see a thriving city, else why would the average SF home be 750K?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:05 am

as it exists is not despair or despondency.

You may not agree with the statistics about wages and income in the United States, but that does not deny that they more accurately reflect current conditions than your fantastic bubble. The region encompasses far more than the affluent sections of San Francisco.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:17 am

SF, and the Bay Area, is one of the most fabulously wealthy places on the planet. RE prices reflect that success.

Why does success and prosperity irk you?

Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

with unsubstantiated platitudes undermines the minimal credibility of your ideological commentary.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 3:10 pm
Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

As is typical throughout the US, some people here are wealthy, many others are not. The region's income is above the national average, but such "prosperity" falls way short of reaching everybody, even the majority of residents.

Why do you shy away from real numbers? I suppose you prefer your baiting technique and unsubstantiated claims.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

When the very concept of wealth is relative?

Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

When the very concept of wealth is relative?

Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

Baiting and unsubstantiated catch phrases.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

I was merely asking you why any reasonable person would ever expect that to be the case.

Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

about the Bay Area does not apply to all or even most of its residents. Of course, this digression started when you or another simpleton claimed that a typical middle class income in SF is $200,000/year for a two person household and I posted census data that show that the median household income in SF is about $73,000/year.

Evidence counts as does reading comprehension.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

Low interest rates that go into business and housing speculation, raising the bar for what is considered a jumbo loan explain why house prices are so high in San Francisco.

End any of those three artificial externalities and the bubble will pop.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:20 am

SF is very fortunate to be struggling with the problems associated with economic growth and opportunity.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:28 am

We learned during 1998-2000 and afterwards that speculative bubbles were not economic growth.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:34 am

is the house I bought in 1998 for 500k now worth 1.5 million?

According to you, that should not have happened.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:54 am

It is the duty of Google and HP and Apple, etc..... to build housing???

They are eliminating existing jobs????

Posted by jack barry on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 8:33 am

I know, right? It's a new world when it's considered a bad thing to create high paying jobs. Well paid tech people spend a lot of money and create a lot more jobs for others. Or would we rather have everyone stay on unemployment forever? Companies have their own work to do, it's up to the cities to encourage housing construction. If they are smart they make big companies pony up for infrastructure costs.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

San Francisco Planning Department: ruining good neighborhoods for over half a century.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

Seems like being "picky" has backfired.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

Who choose to eliminate neighborhood input through CEQA changes.

Rahaim needs to open the doors of planning to include alternatives that people provide to assist in decision making and not be the stepping stool of developers trying to get their hands in the cookie jar of planning....

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

But you cannot expect every comment you make to be accepted if there is a greater good to be satisfied.

Posted by anon on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

Few things in this article that point out just how profoundly clueless Tim is regarding development:
The most obvious one? Lets go to the most completely irrelevant two bit ex politician who made his career out of preventing change in SF for an opinion on develpment. And GO FIGURE he agrees with you!

I mean, you've been at this losing broken record for how many decades at this point? Someone potentially calling you a meanie is what knots your Macrame?

The second item is this quote from Napoleon himself "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"

Did you hear that SF? When you walk around downtown and see a flat table top of high rises almost completely devoid of architectural merit and you walk through the neighborhoods which haven't changed in any meaningful way in 50+ years its all through the ultimate wisdom of a mostly white upper middle class baby boomer populace. A populace that has all but guaranteed the continued gentrification of all of SF.

Posted by Erick Brooks on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

it means less crime, better kept buildings and sidewalks, good restaurants and fun bars, a diverse range of shopping, better schools and a happier quality of life.

A recent study declared that San Luis Obispo was the happiest town in America based on a variety of quality of life indicators. It's almost 100% gentrified. Coincidence?

But the good news is that if you really hate gentrification, then you can move to Detroit, where it barely exists.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:58 am