Re: [carfree_cities] Octavia Blvd in San Francisco
| "I think about that quite a bit," confesses city planner
| Billovits. "It's disturbing that we put energy into improving
| places, and the result may well be the disruption of the
| community in those places."
=v= Given the histories of San Francisco city planning and that
newspaper's clueless reporting of same, I wasn't quite sure what
to make of this pull quote. After reading the article, I see
that it's about gentrification, and while I in general I agree
with him, in this case I have to say he's misplacing blame.
=v= Property values have skyrocketed in much of San Francisco
in a speculation-driven market in the wake of the dot-com boom,
and for at least a decade before that in the tech boom. It is
in no way a dynamic confined to Hayes Valley (where the posh
stores were showing up even before the dot-commies did), and is
most definitely not caused by the carfree housing development
planned there. Indeed, the folks who designed it pretty much
had to pull teeth to get the city's to accept development
without car parking and to keep enough of it affordable!
=v= In fact, most of the disruption of communities has involved
accommodating cars. Cars have taken space that was once (or
could have potentially been) affordable living space:
o The city has a requirement that new off-street parking be
created with new housing units, which presupposes the wealth
needed to own a car and of course takes up much room that
would otherwise be used for people to live in. (Getting an
exception to this requirement was part of the teeth-pulling
for the Octavia Boulevard project.)
o The Planning Department and its charter was created by
perhaps the city's most corrupt developer, who then used all
sorts of loopholes to build so-called live/work lofts. These
abominations wasted space so as to be "lofts" (nominally for
artists, but few artists could afford them), and of course
have cavernous garages that exceed the city's requirements.
Again, less room for people to live in.
o If a house's basement was ever used as a garage, it's illegal
to convert it back to living space, as it is wrongly believed
that this will create parking problems. For decades, many
people have lived in illegal ground floor units (and even
garages), but their circumstances became quite tenuous as
housing prices went up: it became financially attractive
to evict people, and these folks were the first to go.
o Prices got so high that it would take three or four high
salaries to own a place, so partnerships were formed. These
well-paid people all seemed to want suburban living, so this
in turn led to many projects to convert once-liveable (or
partially-liveable) ground floors into three- to five-car
garages. Which not only means less living space, but fewer
front lawns, many street trees being cut down, more sidewalks
with driveways abutting them, and overall, a community that's
less walkable and liveable.
=v= Octavia Boulevard is by far the best thing (perhaps even
the only worthwhile project) the Planning Department is doing.
Billovits ought to be thanking his lucky stars that that's the
project he's working on!
Ads below? Just ignore 'em.