We’re a few weeks early, but it’s the Year of the Pig. Or Boar, if you prefer. Some of you might see it as tasty, others off-limits, but The Frisc is here to bring people together. So with the new year upon us, let’s set aside culinary differences and talk about civic issues. With fingers crossed, here are a few suggestions and recommendations that we, the collective city citizenry, can all — or mostly — agree upon and, forgive us if you find this too optimistic, make San Francisco a better place.
1. Don’t settle for gridlock. Soon after her election last June, Mayor Breed backed several wrong horses in November. Most glaringly, she opposed the business tax Prop. C, which voters approved 61 to 39 percent to boost funds for homelessness services and housing. (It’s now tied up in legal disputes.)
Breed also backed moderates for supervisor seats who lost. The new Board of Supervisors, tilting further leftward (away from Breed), will be feeling its progressive oats, even more so if a challenger to Breed emerges for this November’s mayoral election. No one has stepped up so far, but a full four-year term is at stake. Breed has to prove to us she can get sh*t done. Make sure she does. But keep an eye on the supervisors. If they smell blood in the water, the progressives might have little incentive to work with her.
Sorry, we can’t afford Washington-like gridlock. It’s a critical year to gain momentum on cleaner streets, improvements for the homeless and marginally housed, and saner traffic policies. (See №2, below.) Let’s not waste precious time. Let your supervisor know that you’re watching for solutions and results, not political grandstanding.
2. Two wheels, two feet, better flow. The good news: Traffic fatalities in the city in 2018 remained low: 23, according to city data. But reducing deaths is only part of the equation. We desperately need more traffic calming and congestion mitigation, and we need them yesterday. Signal priority for buses and other transit vehicles is a widespread technology elsewhere; make it happen for Muni.
Review the high-injury network map and start redesigning the most dangerous streets and intersections for everything, and everyone, other than cars. People are begging to ride bikes, scooters, and to walk. Yes, we have to get the two-wheelers off the sidewalks. Let’s make it safer for them on the asphalt.
Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft aren’t going anywhere, but let’s stop coddling them. They are a huge part of the congestion problem. They must divulge precious data so city planners can do their jobs. Meanwhile, do everything necessary, like carved-out curbside zones, to keep the Uber-Lyfts from double-parking and choking traffic.
Look at how grassroots effort forced the city’s hand to make better bike infrastructure on Townsend Street near Caltrain. We can do this, SF.
3. Don’t ghost your friends in Sacramento. Former SF supervisors Scott Wiener and David Chiu are now in higher office in state government, but they haven’t forgotten their roots. While some ex-supervisors are happy just trolling and posturing, Wiener and Chiu are neck-deep dealing with the interconnected crises of housing, homelessness, affordability, and transportation. Wiener’s bill to increase density around public transportation failed the first time around. But after getting an earful from people pissed off about equity and gentrification, he’s back with a modified bill called SB50. What’s more, he’s now the head of the state Senate’s committee on housing. What’s happening in Sactown isn’t just about SF, obviously, but Wiener, Chiu, and new governor (also SF native and former supe-turned-mayor) Gavin Newsom want to work with the city, and the city that propelled them to the state capital needs to work with them.
4. It’s not just on the city to clean up. The Department of Public Works gets headlines for cleaning nationally notorious messes on our streets. DPW will keep on keeping on, but our responsibility doesn’t end with the taxes we pay. The Trump shutdown has canceled the official MLK Day beach cleanup, but we can still spend an hour there, or anywhere, picking up trash. And keep doing it. When litterbugs and other jerks see their moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, and classmates doing the work, they’ll think twice about trashing the place. Stop complaining, start cleaning.
5. Let’s talk about public power. With PG&E limping into bankruptcy, the long-simmering idea of San Francisco controlling its own power has picked up steam. (Or is back on the grid, if you prefer.) It’s certainly worth more discussion. An SF Public Utilities Commission report is due in three months. Let’s not flip the switch on this hastily. Just because PG&E has been (literally) a disaster doesn’t mean the city of San Francisco would be a better power broker. It’s important to acknowledge when the city does things right, but it does plenty enough wrong that this prospect, potentially greased by an I-told-you-so anti-PG&E agenda, makes us very nervous. Those billions of dollars on the line might also be spent on, say, ever-more-expensive construction of affordable homes. This is a debate worth having, and cooler heads must prevail.
Anything we missed? What’s on your piggy agenda for 2019? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear.