Our December meeting

Tue Dec 15, 2015 10:20:00 am

On 12/7, San Francisco for Democracy members assembled at the Fillmore police station for our first regular meeting since the September endorsements.  Going forward, we plan to meet on a bimonthly basis, to improve predictability and attendance.

First on the program was newly-elected (formerly appointed) CCSF trustee Alex Randolph, who was due to be sworn in Thursday. The trustees are currently working on the first budget they have had any say on in awhile, Randolph told us, and there are many matters to consider, including new contracts with staff and faculty. The biggest problem is how to increase enrollment, which continues to reel in part due to the ongoing public impression that the school is having accreditation problems. Alex has joined the Enrollment and Marketing Committee together with Trustees Selby and D'Avila; together they are making the rounds of community meetings to raise awareness. Members of our audience also suggested radio appearances, and appealing to former S.F. Residents to take online classes. Our disappearing middle class is part of the problem, as is CCSF's “archaic enrollment system.” Randolph ended with a plea to take a class this spring, and to ask others to do likewise.

Next up was SaveMuni's Jerry Cauthen, to give us an overview of the state of transportation. The Mayor's office projects a population of one million by 2040, and employment in the city is growing even faster. Meanwhile, Muni ridership is in decline, on-time performance has taken a dive, and the system is slowing down, from 9.3 mph a decade ago, to less than eight mph today.

So what is the city doing about it? Well they've acquired a bunch of new vehicles, which is a good thing. The multi-billion-dollar Central Subway will at least help tourist traffic between North Beach and SoMa. The benefits of planned Van Ness and Geary BRT systems are highly debatable, since they're not designed holistically, and while some of the TEP street changes will be beneficial to traffic, others will likely have a negative impact. Meanwhile, the city is inexplicably embracing a plan to tear up 19th Avenue for the sake of undergrounding the M line, apparently without first fixing the crazy St Francis Circle intersection that is truly the major impediment to both cars and Muni trains. Muni still has no plan to run longer trains under Market, which is the only way to improve traffic there, and the NextBus GPS system is still utterly unreliable, discouraging many from even attempting to use the system. Finally, the all-important Downtown Caltrain Extension, which would massively reduce surface traffic and improve connections to BART, Muni, and AC Transit, is still being delayed for no observable reason. Keep those cards and emails rolling in to City Hall, folks.

Amy Sinclair of SFPUC came by to give us a heads-up on our Community Choice [power] Aggregation program, which is starting up in 2016. She pointed out that this isn't really a new game for PUC, since the city has been managing its own hydro power for many years. PG&E is currently 20% renewable, so CCA offers consumers an opportunity to do considerably better at competitive prices. Customers will have a choice between a 33-50% renewable “Green” plan, for the same cost as PG&E, or a 100% renewable “Super Green,” which will cost an additional $5/month. Households not making an explicit choice will eventually be auto-enrolled in the Green plan, though they also have an option to remain with PG&E's dirty power. The system should come online sometime in April; enrollment is already open at www.cleanpowersf.org.

Supervisor Kim dropped in for a few minutes despite being pressed for time "wrapping up the year"; she promised us more time at a future meeting.  Her main activities lately have centered around affordable housing, as her district is currently ground zero for development, including 40% of the city's new housing and 54% of affordable housing.  She touted her success at getting both the Giants and '5M' developers to agree to 40% onsite affordable, as well as previously unheard-of commitments to medium affordability.  On Tuesday she would be introducing her 2.5% "ultraluxury housing tax" ballot measure to the Board.

Fernando Martí of the Council of Community Housing Organizations gave us an overview of the complex Affordable Housing Bonus Program. This proposed legislation is an attempt by the city and developers to adapt the State Density Bonus law, which grants special density and height perks in exchange for building affordable housing, to our local needs. While it supports efforts to increase housing stocks, especially with regard to moderate and middle income units, CCHO views the state law as largely a giveaway to developers, and wants to ensure that taxpayers get the appropriate return ("value recapture") on any program enacted here. Martí pointed out that when mid-Octavia was developed, the city was able to bargain for money for transportation improvements and a child care center.

The AHBP goes before the Planning Commission on January 28. CCHO hasn't taken a position on it yet, but has seven questions it wants answered (and thinks others should be considering) before taking a decision to support it; click here to read them.

You can read what Tim Redmond has to say about AHBP here.

Tags: CCSF, Muni, Alex Randolph, Jerry Cauthen, SaveMuni, Amy Sinclair, cleanpowersf, Community Choice Aggregation, SFPUC, Jane Kim, Affordable Housing, AHBP, Affordable Housing Bonus Program, CCHO


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