When visiting Treasure Island, pack a flashlight

Radiation is far from the only problem bedeviling the residents of Treasure Island. Delays in development have left residents of the island neglected in other ways.

Take power outages, for instance. Whenever the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is planning an outage, it tells residents to relocate or find another way to keep medical devices working, unplug computers and other electrical equipment, not open their refrigerators and freezers, keep flashlights handy and be sure to reset security systems and alarm clocks when it’s all over.

And yet, such outages are a regular occurrence for the aggrieved residents of Treasure Island. Already this year, they have had about 30 outages on all or part of the island. These weren’t quick flashes, either. According to the commission’s reports, the outages lasted an average of four hours.

According to one report, on Dec. 3, 2011, line supervisor Charles Rowles received a call at 5:33 p.m. that power was out on the island. Five minutes later, he was urged to restore the power in time for a 7:00 p.m. special event occurring on the island. Sure enough, by 7:00 p.m., power was back for the event, but this was accomplished by “isolating housing and restoring power to half the island, leaving housing off as we troubleshoot the problem.”

Just take a minute to consider that. Forget residents’ lights, appliances, alarms and medical devices — they are the expendables. On that night, the poor residents of Treasure Island didn’t get their power back until after midnight.

And they are used to it. Events bring in money that is sorely needed on the island right now.

Ever since passage of the Treasure Island Conversion Act of 1997, development of the island from an outhouse to a dollhouse has always remained five years away. Some 15 years later, we are still waiting on the “Deities of Development” to swoop in and replace a power grid that keeps shutting down.

And bring in reliable wireless Internet.

And fix the Muni bus shelters that lack the glass panes to shelter anyone on the windy island.

And provide security for residents who have seen a spike in burglaries and vandalism this year.

So what’s behind the delay? Negotiating the transfer agreement with the Navy took years because the parties have vastly different opinions as to the value of the land. The process for planning what should go on the island took nine years. And getting an environmental impact report took four years and is tied up in litigation. Then there is the matter of the cleanup process, which is taking far longer than anticipated.

The island is run by the Treasure Island Development Authority. The City pays for police and fire services, but otherwise the island is expected to be self-sustaining. The authority’s budget is more than $8 million dollars a year, and is mostly from rent charged to the 2,800 commercial and private residents — plus earnings from those all-important special events. Reliable power, technology and even graffiti removal is apparently not in the authority’s budget.

The company that manages the island apartments, the John Stewart Company, rolled out a new lease in December of last year that was so chock-full of outrageous new landlord rights that residents on the island went ballistic at a meeting in January. The company agreed to revise the lease after that meeting and the new version is supposed to be distributed this month.

So why would anyone stay there? Because the rent is cheap and residents who were living there before July 15, 2011 are guaranteed a spot on the island at the same low rate when the development is done and champagne flows from the faucets.

If they can endure long enough to reap the benefit.

Michael Tymoff, Treasure Island Development Project Director, tells me that the Navy is on target to meet their remediation deadlines and deliver property to the city in spring of 2013. Once that happens, construction can proceed.

In the meantime, the big Oracle OpenWorld concert featuring Pearl Jam is scheduled for next Wednesday, October 3. I hope island residents have their flashlights handy.

Vote Mike Garcia (and, uh, F.X. Crowley) for District 7

Guests arriving last Friday night to a fundraiser for Mike Garcia, District 7 supervisorial candidate, were probably surprised to see a poster supporting another candidate for that office, F.X. Crowley, in the window.

The host of the Garcia event, Planning Commissioner Michael Antonini, explained that posters for both Garcia and Crowley were on display because he’s asking Garcia supporters to list Crowley on their ballots as well.

With our ranked-choice voting system, coordinated campaigns can be very effective in races where there are multiple candidates of one political stripe and a single candidate with another.

For example, in the 2010 District 2 supervisorial race, there were three moderate candidates (Kat Anderson, Mark Farrell and Abraham Simmons) and one relatively progressive candidate (Janet Reilly). Right before the election, Anderson and Simmons told supporters to list Mark Farrell as one of their choices.

In the first round of calculating votes, Reilly was winning. But once Anderson and Simmons were eliminated and their votes given to Farrell, he won the race. Coalescing support instead of splitting the vote is key to this strategy.

Candidates have to be willing to work together for the common goal of preventing the outlier from winning.

According to Antonini, “To avoid a disaster that would see ‘closet progressive’ Norman Yee elected in District 7, it is essential that leaders of  the two front-running, politically moderate candidates — Garcia and Crowley — urge their respective supporters to vote for both Garcia and Crowley.”

The campaigns didn’t object to Antonini’s dual endorsement and I suspect we’ll see more coordination between them as Election Day nears. This is how the ranked-choice voting game is played.

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