Two good questions for Mayor Lee

C'mon, Mr. Mayor, just answer the questions.
Steven T. Jones

UPDATED When Mayor Ed Lee appears before the Board of Supervisors this afternoon (Tues/12) for the voter-mandated monthly “Formal Policy Discussions” (aka Question Time), he will be asked a couple of good, relevant questions with no easy answers. This is exactly what voters and progressive supervisors intended, a serious policy discussion, rather than sterile, hollow ritual that our current crop of politicians have turned it into.

The first question is by Sup. Eric Mar, who asks, “The Municipal Transportation Agency recently released its Draft Bicycle Strategy, which lays out an aggressive plan to upgrade San Francisco's bicycle facilities. It supports biking for everyone, including seniors, families, and persons with disabilities. However, I am hearing growing concerns both in my district and city-wide about the mismatch between verbal commitments to better bicycling and budget realities. Currently, bicycle projects account for just 0.46 percent of all MTA capital. This is not enough to get us to the goals laid out in the Bicycle Strategy. How will you fund the Bicycle Strategy to make San Francisco a national leader in bicycling safety and use?”

Great question! This report, which came out in December, has the modest, realistic goal of increasing the share of vehicle trips taken by bike from 3.5 percent last year up to 8-10 percent by 2018. That already seems to abandon the official city goal – heavily touted by Lee and Board President David Chiu – of 20 percent by 2020. But even this new plan isn't fully funded, so the question is simply asking the mayor whether he will put his money where his mouth is.

The second question comes from Chiu, who is trying to find a way to mediate the very real and challenging dispute between the city's renters and those trying to convert more apartments into condos. Understanding where Lee stands on the issue is important to solving this problem, and Chiu's question seems to genuinely seek guidance from the chief executive.

He asks, “Mr. Mayor, the Board of Supervisors is considering legislation to allow existing owners of Tenancies in Common (TICs) to bypass the condominium conversion lottery and be converted after the payment of a fee. I recently asked supporters of the legislation and tenant advocates to engage in negotiations, which Supervisor Farrell and I are hosting.

“What is your position on this pending legislation? What protections would you support to prevent the loss of rent-controlled housing in our increasingly unaffordable city? How would you address the concern that if we allow the current generation of TIC owners to convert, we will replace then with a new generation of TIC owners and additional real estate investments that will lead us right back to an identical debate within a short time?”

Again, excellent questions that go right to heart of one of the central struggles facing this city: Who gets to live here? And given Lee's role in relentlessly promoting taxpayer-subsidized economic development strategies that are gentrifying the city and fueling this clash, one could argue that he has a moral obligation to help find a solution to this problem, or at the very least to say where he stands so voters can judge him accordingly.

Mayor Lee received these questions last week, so he and his staff have had plenty of time to think about them and prepare real, substantive answers. Will we get real answers or just the normal political platitudes that kick the can down the road in dealing with these pressing problems? We'll see. Tune in at 2 pm to SFGOVTV to watch yourself, or check back here later and I'll tell you what Mayor Lee said.

4PM UPDATE: And the winner is...meaningless political platitudes, misleading data, and shameless fence-sitting.

“I can't say that I have a magic solution to this issue that will make everyone happy,” was how Mayor Lee answered Chiu's question about the condo lottery bypass legislation, after saying he understood the positions of TIC owners who want to convert to condos and tenant groups concerned about the loss of what he called “the precious few rent-controlled units.”

Lee said he hopes that the two sides can find a “consensus solution” to the problem, which seems to indicate that he does indeed believe in magic considering the diametrically opposed viewpoints of the two sides and the zero sum game this issue represents. Afterward, I told the mayor that he didn't seem to take a position on the issue and asked him to elaborate on what should be done, and he maintained that, “I actually did take a position, even though it didn't sound like it, because I actually believe they have good points on both sides.”

Yet when KCBS reporter Barbara Taylor tried to help discern what that position may be, asking whether we could at least say that Lee didn't support the legislation in its current form, he wouldn't even agree to that weak stance. No, his position was that both sides have good points, even though they're opposing points, and he's hoping for the best. Next question.

Lee didn't provide a clear or responsive answer on the bike question either. He reiterated his support for cycling improvements and said, “SFMTA's prime responsibility is to ensure the streets are safe for all San Franciscans, and that includes bicyclists.” And he tried to dispute Mar's point about how less than a half of 1 percent of the agency's capital budget goes to bicycling improvements.

“To look at the percentage might not tell the whole story,” Lee said, citing how the SFMTA and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority are now seeking about $40 million in state and federal grants for transportation projects that would include cycling infrastructure improvements.

And that might have seemed like a somewhat responsive answer to the casual listener who isn't aware that the price tag for improvements identified in the SFMTA Bicycle Strategy total about $200 million, of which the agency has only identified about $30 million in available funding. So the question of “How will you fund the Bicycle Strategy?” remains unanswered.

Perhaps it was too much to expect straight answers from a politician.


them many times. He supports attempts to create more BMR housing, like the change in payroll tax and the building of 8Wash that generates 11 million in BMR funds.

But he also has a very clear and easy elevction win standing on a platform of growth, jobs, development and business. Why would you expect that to change? Lee didn't walk the election just to implement the policies of Avalos that the voters rejected.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

As to Chiu's excellent question, it's important for Mayor Lee to anwser what he thinks will happen with these condo converted units when they are re-rented by future genernations of SF residents. Does Lee really believe future residents should be paying 40%, 50%, or 65% of their income to continue to stay in the city when the condo units are eventually re-rented without the protection of rent-control? Does Lee really believe that the continual onslaught of converting rent-controlled units to TICs and condos is a good thing for the current residents who will be displaced from the city?

And since Mar is one of the more quiet, thoughtful supervisors, it's not surprising he poses a great question of just when the funding will start to build out the bike network. Does Mayor Lee support more bonds that will make residents pay higher taxes so that the city's taxpayers can give even more interest income to the 1%ers? Will Lee's 2013-2014 budget make some tough choices in other budget areas to fund the bike network, including making up for the paltry funding in past years?

Every politician supports jobs and ecnomic growth. Only a simpleton like yourself would think otherwise. The more nuanced issues politicians have to answer are, "What kind of jobs, and growth for who?" Is it fake growth that takes millions of dollars from SF tenants and gives it to SF landlords and real estate speculators? Is it a jobs policy that only favors the finance, high-tech, legal, and real estate communities, or is it a policy that also benefits the other 90% of resident workers? And where are these people who get the new jobs supposed to live since there is virtually zero vacancy in the Bay Area and especially in San Francisco.

If you're going to post the same tripe everyday, you could consider toning it down to only once every couple of days so that your side doesn't look like complete idiot shills.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

increasing housing at all levels and of all types. And he has been doing that, having gotten that mandate from the voters.

But there is nothing he can do about SF being expensive, and if people choose to stay here despite paying half or two thirds of their income on rent, then that is their choice and their freedom.

Non-issue and I guarantee you that you will learn nothing from his response.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

The vast majority will not be re-rented. The converted condos represent a far more secure form of home ownership in a city which ranks among the lowest in home ownership rates.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

How do you know most of these won't be re-rented? Maybe part of the deal should be the owners have to occupy them for a period of five years.

Posted by Hortencia on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

MTA staff plopped the Bicycle Strategy down without any measurable public outreach.

How do we know that the strategy squares with what San Francisco bicyclists want and is not just the path of least resistance between the SFBC and MTA?

Haven't we learned that the SFBC and MTA cannot be trusted to get this stuff right the first time given their track records?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

There is always an impact for creating bike facilities for all other road users. It is really too bad that a formal EIR isn't done, but it is very clear that traffic thruput and speeds can be compromized by taking too many steps to prioritize bikes.

The solution has to be some balance, and not the provision of ever more roadspace to the private use of bikes in a transit-first city. Bikes are not transit - they are the ultimate in private transport.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

The car plan should say what motorists want. The ped plan should say what pedestrians want. The bike plan should say what bicyclists want.

Policymakers are charged with balancing all of those interests together into what best represents the public interest.

But for cyclists to be at the table instead of the SFBC we need for a public process to make sure that the SFBC does not make matters worse again.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

Actually, Guest, you're wrong about the city's voter-approved Transit-first policy, which explicitly calls for the city to prioritize bicycle improvements over private automobile use. It says, "Within San Francisco, travel by public transit, by bicycle and on foot must be an attractive alternative to travel by private automobile...Decisions regarding the use of limited public street and sidewalk space shall encourage the use of public rights of way by pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit, and shall strive to reduce traffic and improve public health and safety," and it says, "Bicycling shall be promoted by encouraging safe streets for riding, convenient access to transit, bicycle lanes, and secure bicycle parking."

We've prioritized automobiles in our planning and expenditure of public money for too long, leading us to become one of the country's most traffic congested cities. The only way to accomodate the growing population is by expanding bike facilitities and other alternatives to the automobile.

Posted by steven on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

bikes are the ultimate in private transport, more so than even cars since cars can at least carry multiple people and cargo.

The problems start when the "transit first" cliche is hijacked to simply hate on cars.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

The issue is use of space and resources. Bikes use very little, cars use very much, so it's not a sustainable transportation policy to continue our overreliance on the automobile, from either a logistic, environmental, or public health standpoint. Even Muni uses lots of space and resources, and given that it is at capacity during peak hours, bikes are an increasingly important part of the transportation system. You can play little semantic games in calling this non-polluting, free energy transportation choice "the ultimate in private transport," or saying that people "hate on cars," but that contributes nothing to the public discussion except your own petulant, myopic ignorance.

Posted by steven on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

each with 1 person. A car can be a taxi or a car-share car or a rental car or a carpool car and so on. A bike almost always carries just one person.

And bikes slow down cars and muni, as well as being dangerous. Biking is fun and I ride myself, but it's not a solution to the Bay Area's commutation.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

Oh please. I put 4 bikes in my bedroom. Can I put a car in my bedroom? Not a chance.

A bike almost always carries one person? Guess what - a car almost always carries .... drumroll please... one person. The average occupancy is on the order of 1.5, but with multiple persons in some cars, the median occupancy is one person per car. And if a taxi has 2 people in it, that doesn't count - the driver isn't going anywhere.

What percentage of cars in SF are taxis or car shares? 1-2 percent?

Posted by John Murphy on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 10:55 am

was clearly talking about 4 bikes being used on the road, and of course those 4 bikes have to give each other distance inbetween meaning that, taken together, the road space they take exceeds the 20 feet by six feet or so that a car uses.

Yes, most cars carry 1-2 people. But, at least in theory, they can carry 4-5. Tandems aside, and I rarely see them, a bike only ever moves one person. I'd argue that carpooling can move more people from A to B than an army of bikes. And of course the very young, old, frail, disabled etc. cannot use a bike anyway.

Posted by anon on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 11:11 am

20 bikes can fit into one parking space. 2-3 bikes can ride together and still within the size of a typical car.

Do you really think people are going to carpool within the city?

Don't use theory please because if it's not being put to use, it is not valid.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

Storage is neither here nor there.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

Hey, I like that: The ultimate in private transportation. What a catchy phrase!

Posted by pete moss on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 5:36 am

That seems like a reasonable solution. Except Steven opposes that entirely because he wants everyone else to pay for his hobby. Drivers pay - cyclists ride free.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

insurance for bikes. Wisconsin does it, I read somewhere.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

regulation of everything under the sun and then opposing the same regulatory attempts because they may cost you more money is dumbfounding. The SFBG screeches for greater regulation of property ownership, landlords, healthcare, gender stereotyping etc... but then screeches equally as loud when anyone proposes commonsense regulation of cyclists.

It makes me so sad so see this.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

Some politician should be honest and just say it, we could build everything the children at the bike coalition wants while spending millions, and trips by bikes will go up 1%.

The whole bike thing in the city is a joke. The SFMTA claims 3.5 % of trips by bikes. In a few years they will redo the way they do the metrics and there will be a magic leap in trip percentages.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

You got it right, Matlock. In fact the MTA has already changed the way they do the annual bicycle count as explained in the latest count report. It will now be done in September instead of August, which is when all the college students are back in town and the groovies are back from Burning Man, which will surely pump up the numbers.

The city keeps claiming---and it's parroted by all the media in the city---that cycling has increased 71%, but that's just cherry-picking the number showing an uptick in commuting cyclists between 2006 and 2001. The 3.5% is a more serious yardstick, since that means that 96.5% of all trips are by other "modes."

Hard to justify redesigning city streets on behalf of this small minority to non-PC constituents. The whole bike trip is a paper tiger politically, since if city voters ever get a chance to vote on this stuff it would be a major reality-check for City Hall.

Also: the Bicycle Plan has never been about money, since the amount of money spent on these projects is pretty small potatoes compared to big projects, like the Central Subway boondoggle. The SFCTA, which spends transportation money from the sales tax, will always be able to find the money to pay for these projects.

And the space argument is silly: to make bike lanes---separated or not---on almost every street in SF requires either taking away traffic lanes or street parking on busy streets, which of course is going to make traffic worse for everyone but cyclists.

Posted by Rob Anderson on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 9:53 am

Rob, I disagree with you on just about every point, but I want to commend your signing off your comments every time with your name. I find it hard to discuss things seriously with multiple "guest" posters. Please, people, use your name or a consistent moniker/pseudonym across comment pages, so we can get a sense of your priorities, politics, and concerns.

As to content: bicycling or walking to do errands, go to work, attend events, or see friends brings great pleasure. Most people do so because it makes them happy, not because they are engaging in some act of civic responsibility or sacrifice for the environment. But demonizing people for not driving or not taking a bus is just silly. And arguing against safety measures provided to those who choose to walk or bike is equally short sighted.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 11:09 am
Posted by anon on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

True enough, but it helps the discussion to pick one screen name and stick with it. Yes, imps gonna imp, but they usually get called out pretty quickly.

Posted by Hortencia on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

Also known as "Anonymous" and sometimes -- usurpingly -- as "anonymous," and perhaps many other names, this cat is an irrepressable asshole and, thankfully, cannot be duplicated.

(Can be spotted while using *any* sobriquet by such clues as theinfantile/brain damaged/falsely erudite habit of combining the the words "obfuscate" and "opaque" or the like -- not to mention more direct effrontery.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

That isn't "opaque" or "obfuscatory" at all.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 1:48 pm
Posted by Hortencia on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

...imps gonna imp, but not that often and they usually get called out.

Posted by Hortencia on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 8:52 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 9:03 am

I use a screen name to avoid potential harassment, but I stick to just that single identity online wherever possible. I've found that doing so keeps me more responsible and civil towards others in my comments.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

Hadn't thought of that, but in fact I am circumspect about how I will communicate towards those who aren't proven troglodytes here because I don't want to foreclose on the possibility that I might find accord with those whom I disagree.

Hortencia, for instance, espoused opinions that I consider overly critical of Ross Mirkarimi, but she is obviously a real person and not some sort of reactionary golem. I respect her and am glad (to the degree that its true!) I refrained from some of the sort of nasty repartee which went on regarding that matter. (I think that when one commenter made a nasty pun on her name, that might have actually been one of the reactionary trolls who was pretending to be a Mirkarimi supporter.)

Of cours the trolls who object to unique names do so because their posting habits trend towards ad hominems and calculated effrontery. There's no advantage in having a constant name if the reputation associated with it is negative.

That's why they imposter others; they are as vandals destroying whatever they find which is of value.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

My secret weapon against imping

Posted by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

"Guest" works fine, prevents imp'ing and deters stalking and harassment which, sadly, a few regulars here engage in.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

I can't follow your comments down the page or distinguish them from the other guests. Generally, if I pick a name (say Elizabeth Gurley Flynn), I'll stick with that moniker for the duration of a topic under discussion. Then I'll switch to a different identity for a different topic. That way people can follow my remarks down the page. Also, if some troll attempts to imp me, I don't care because I'm not so attached to that identity. I'll simply morph into someone else.

Posted by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

I've gotten imp'ed from time to time, but my answer has been to simply to advertise the fact that it was happening by adding a footer to every post.

Due to the absence of visual and audible clues in online communication, having a recognizable identity becomes increasingly valueable for promoting understanding. Of course, that serves as motivation for the trolls who deprecate this forum, but in any case I've found that they are too intellectually weak to imp without it tending to be at least somewhat obvious.

I do hope you -- and Eddie who elsewhere expressed growing dissatisfaction with this forum due to the trollery -- continue to post your thoughtful comments. That the trolls are here proves that it bothers them.

lillipublicans©, often impostered, less frequently equaled.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 9:35 am

because people relate your recent posts with omnes made earlier which perhaps the reader disliked.

I used to use a regular handle, but then I got harassed and imp'ed, and so now use "Guest". That ensures that people focus only on my current post and not on what they think I said 6 months ago.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

A number of posters on this chatboard seem to think it's always about winning arguments instead of fostering dialogue about often complicated and nuanced issues. Posters who consistently have something to prove are the biggest abusers of speech-chilling snarkiness, catiness, and hateful personal attacks to glorify themselves and demean their opponents. Many of the posters who do identify themselves, either by real name or consistent monikers, seem to have social skills that would be far below their 14-year old classmates, which may be related to the reason they post here so often.

I agree with you. Using "guest" is more conducive to thoughtful discussion and helps minimize the very repressing personal animus and one-liner "gotcha" posts often found on this chatboard.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

"asshole" etc. because they often do not have a substantive argument.

It reflects very badly on the supposedly tolerant progressive movement.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

when your comments are untraceable because you post under the default "Guest." I would bet you have thrown out plenty of names on this site.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

has no bearing on whether "or not" you remain an asshole.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 9:41 am

The Guest moniker makes it hard to distinguish your comments from other Guests or Trolls. I usually post as Bukunin (the anarchist), Marx, Moses Hess, Gurley Flynn, Flora Tristan (etc.), all socialists, anarchists or rebels of one stripe or another. That way, if the troll(s) attempt to imp me in identifying themselves as a Marxist, socialist or Wobblie, the laugh is on them.

Posted by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

I want each post to be assessed purely on it's own intrinsic merit, and not based on who readers think wrote it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

"Guest" is my pseudonym. I use it on other sites too.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

Of course, most folks who remain truly anonymous by not sticking to one handle do so precisely because they want to be uncivil and irresponsible.

Posted by Hortencia on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 8:53 am

1) Cannot be imp'ed
2) Cannot be stalked
3) The focus is on what you wrote rather than the perception of who wrote it

It's a sad commentary on some of the regulars here that these reasons are valid and necessary, however.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 9:05 am

Pot meet kettle.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 9:15 am

Robert - I agree with you on every point. The Bike Coalition is not painting rainbows in the sky. Their long game has always been about hitching their wagon to the SFMTA's budget to acquire Federal Funding.

City Halls new bicycle lanes have drawn overwhelming criticism from residents who say they are dangerous, poorly designed, and hazardous to use. The new bicycle lanes are preventing faster moving vehicles, including MUNI busses and trains from moving at their maximum speed and adhering to their schedule. The end result is slower traffic, and increased street congestion that has been legislated, endorsed, engineered, and carried out by the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) and their political cronies at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

So, what is the endgame? Is City Hall trying to make public transit faster for its residents, or slower for the Bicycle Coalition who has their own agenda.

Posted by sfparkripoff on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

Also, 'political cronies at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition?' The anti-bike comment bots aren't even trying anymore.

The new bike lanes are 'hazardous to use?' OMG, what will my kids think next time I take them on a ride???

Posted by Mom on a bike on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

The remove road width from buses. How could that not slow down buses.

Of course, your handle rather gives away your prejudice

Posted by anon on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 12:41 pm