Letters to the Editor: Of foie gras and SB50

CASA ignores cause and effect; I used to love your city; Efforts to save trees too little, too late

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Of foie gras and SB50

State Sen.r Scott Weiner’s approach to city planning (SB50) may be favorably compared to foie gras (recently ruled illegal by the California Supreme Court): stuff as many people and motor vehicles into a city until it’s well beyond the breaking point.

The consequences for existing neighborhoods be damned.

Weiner remains in near total denial of the very sensible connection of increasing infrastructure — such as building out a complete system of safe bike lanes — before embarking on any new plans to increase density in neighborhoods such as the already overstuffed Mission District.

Why does Weiner continue to deny the crucial connection between increased density and adequate funding for infrastructure to serve that added density?

Is it because he is doing the bidding of well-heeled developers who demand maximum profits and minimum concerns with community needs?

(This would explain SB50’s gutting of local control).

The fatal flaw in SB50 remains the absence of funding to increase transit and a commitment to build unquestionably safe bike lanes, among other sensible measures and controls. It’s not surprising that Mayor London Breed shares with Weiner a dangerous contempt for bikers calls for a guaranteed safe system of bike lanes, even while riding the density hobby horse.

Though Weiner runs as a Democrat one might reasonably ask Why his transit last policy seems to bear a disturbing resemblance to the long-standing Republican Congressional policy of gutting mass transit funding. The paradox – or hypocritical policy-making – is that Weiner’s version of city and housing planning says it depends on transit while doing nothing to help these critically under funded services.

Do Weiner and Breed really wish to make San Francisco, to name one city, more unlivable than it already is?

N. Pasquariello

CASA ignores cause and effect

Sacramento’s CASA approach to solving the housing crisis is all wrong. What follows shows how the state’s hastily put together program would damage the Bay Area. Prodded by eager residential builders who want free rein, the state legislators have ignored the rapacious high-tech moguls who build their empires and make their billions with nary a thought given to external adverse effects. As things stand large and powerful entities are continuing to entice high paid, hi-tech talent to flood into the Bay Area, overwhelming its housing stock and its roadways in the process. These huge corporations and their billionaire insiders should be called upon to pay for the housing and transportation agonies they are causing.

And then there are the false premises upon which CASA is being sold. Here are four:

n “Housing can catch up.” False: In the Bay Area the influx of new job seekers continues to far outstrip the ability to meet housing needs. To make matters worse the current plan would waste much of the available funding trying to jam large amounts of subsidized housing into areas where development costs are stratospheric. It’s a losing game.

n “MTC Can Effectively Control the Program.” Patently False. MTC is an agency that in the last four decades has never stood up for good regional planning or effectively dealt with the region’s ever worsening transportation condition. The framers of the CASA Compact nevertheless deemed MTC qualified to further expand its domain by taking over the region’s housing development program.

n “A second transbay rail tube will make all this possible.” False. Given the Bay Area’s glacial rate of infrastructure development it would take at least half a century to get a second subaqueous passenger rail system (estimated cost $25 billion) up and running. BART says its peak-period transbay carrying capacity will be reached by 2025. What happens between 2025 and 2070?!

n “Housing near transit would materially increase transit use and ease traffic congestion.” False. The inconvenient truth is that those moving into new so-called “transit-oriented” housing would virtually all have cars, thereby making it harder to drive to and park near transit stations and stops. Most trips are non-commute trips. Based upon experience elsewhere it can be expected that unless the Legislators change their current plans and build communities (in outlying, reasonably priced areas) with easily accessible stores, services and jobs, the non-commute travel of the new residents will continue to be mostly by automobile. So much for congestion relief. So much for regional planning.

Gerald Cauthen PE

President, Bay Area Transportation Working Group

The Giants are done

It’s official. After one week of the baseball season, the Giants have been officially eliminated from the playoffs.

Thomas Cook, Buchanan, New York

“I used to love your city”

I am part of a trade group that has held its convention in San Francisco numerous times. We rotate among Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans as well as your city. Many members have noticed the decline through the years. Cleanliness, homelessness, people with mental health or drug issues wandering, panhandling and accosting the tourists. This year was the worst. A semi-naked man sleeping on the sidewalk near Fisherman’s Wharf, people stepping over him. My friend saw a woman defecate on the sidewalk near the convention center. This behavior is just not allowed in other cities. Every morning from my hotel window we saw people sleeping, or urinating in doorways of some very nice stores near Union Square. Store employees are required to sweep and spray down their own entrances daily.

Our trade group sent a letter today saying that ‘due to this decline, it has kept members and vendors away from your city.” Because of lower attendance in our group, we are now adding Dallas into the rotation.

I used to love your city, but your politicians have allowed it to become seedy and not desirable as a convention or vacation destination.

I hope you can figure it out so I may come back again some day.

Steven Johnson, Zumbrota, Minnesota

Limit how much people can say

Thank you so much for your help in the publishing the SFExaminer. I read every issue to find out what my government in SF is doing and to read commentaries and op eds.

I read the comments section of an article to become aware of the different views of people on the articles subject. I have stopped reading the comments section because I do not wish to waste my time with uninformative tirads. I do not view comment sections as a place of debate, since this discourages people from just giving a reaction to the article, for fear of getting entangled with the debaters. Also, I realize you have a newspaper to put out, and are not in business to become “the forum” for long, drawn, comments.

With these points in mind, my suggestion is to change the format of the comments section following articles:

Please require the commenter to declare – first of all – if they support, oppose, or have no firm opinion on the matter presented in the article.

Then, the comments should be limited to 100 words (or whatever you decide).

Also, only one comment should be printed from each commenter on the article.

This should lighten your load and mine down to the comments of substance to reveal how the public feels.

– Nancy Wuerfel, San Francisco

To have a civil conversation, model one

First, I applaud you for the courage and perspicacity to illuminate the inner workings of journalism. It is most needed and quite revelatory already.

One suggestion as to how to improve the general discourse is to model what civil discourse looks like. Many times a lack of civility and intolerance in speech or writing is often the result of ignorance as to correct and acceptable standards.

A sample response following “community guidelines” could be posted to the article commenting section to exemplify those rubrics which define “constructive, civil and solution-based discussions.”

This example could serve to demonstrate in a concrete and visual manner exactly what a cogent, reflective reaction looks like, with items such as thoughtful word choice, tone and organisation of argument prioritised. It would also provide consistency with more venerable forums such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, whose norms establish a precedent which is accepted as standard.

The second suggestion is to frame responses within a certain restrictive template. For example, a response to an article would be framed thusly: Dear Sir/Madam: In response to article X, the problem of Y can be summarised as——. In my opinion, the following solution(s) are:….. Best regards, Reader Z.

Incidentally all comments ought to require an identifier i.e. “John Q., Daly City, CA” Anonymity breeds contempt too often.

In addition to the style template a character or word count could be imposed to ensure focus of response. This is similar to the 140 or 280 character restrictions of Twitter and it offers both reader and editor the opportunity to address facts not “personal attacks, rants and sometimes worse.”

These are not perfect, fool-proof solutions but they may help to bring order to the system.

One last item: it was mentioned that reviewing the comments section would require a full-time moderator.

Is it possible to enlist the help of journalism majors to assist in this endeavour as interns? The experience would be invaluable for them as well as (perhaps)remind them to be mindful of how they formulate their journalistic creed.

If there is an opportunity to lend a hand to restoring decorum to the discussions, please include me in your considerations.

Thank you for your time and best of luck going forward.

Raeven G Singh Mehta, San Francisco

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