One of the systematic problems with San Francisco is that its government agencies operate as if The City were running a utopian society while the rest of us reside in the real world.
That means we can’t magically beam into our offices from home, or shuttle to the store or to our children’s school through telepathic transport. Many people actually need cars on an almost daily basis and shouldn’t be punished for that.
But that’s not how San Francisco planners and transit officials view it, which is why they’ve embarked on a series of schemes that defy reason and ultimately single out those poor souls known as car owners.
In case you’ve been on a desperate search for sunshine that has kept you far from The City, San Francisco officials recently came up with a grand plan to install more than 5,000 parking meters on heretofore uncluttered streets and to begin a “test” of so-called “smart” meters that will run on a pricing scale with the highest costs during peak hours.
And peak is a good word here since it may cost drivers up to $18 per hour, which, even by The City’s exorbitant parking fee schedule, is just absurd.
At the same time, city officials are debating the merits of “congestion pricing,” where drivers would have to pay undetermined fees to travel in certain downtown areas during commute hours. Major international cities, including London, installed the same system years ago, and for a city of that scale, it may make some sense. After all, London has more than 10 million residents.
San Francisco has less than 800,000 and hardly denotes comparisons with major U.S. cities where traffic is a nightmare. In fact, the only thing big about San Francisco is its budget, which dwarfs cities three times its size and is fed increasingly by parking fines, garage fees and the ever-expanding meter program.
These major price hikes for car owners must be viewed through the wide lens of The City’s transit-first policy, which for planners has come to be viewed as a chance to build new developments without any parking spaces. Recently, a 71-unit building planned near City College of San Francisco has generated opposition from neighbors because it would only have five parking spaces, making a packed area even worse.
Let’s see, add about 125 residents, give them five parking spaces and let the games begin.
Take cue from Long Beach
We know how much our supervisors love taxes — they got their collective knickers in a twist trying to see how many they could throw on the ballot this year until a study came out that said San Francisco voters were almost certain to reject them.
So, it’s no surprise that Supervisor John Avalos has come up with the swell idea to put a tax, uh, “fee” on alcoholic drinks sold in The City as a way to help pay the bill for chronic inebriates who fill emergency rooms. I’d be a lot more supportive if The City dealt with the fact that one of the reasons so many addicts flock here is because every service under the sun is available — at taxpayers’ expense.
Instead of another sin tax, perhaps our leaders might consider more-creative revenue measures, such as one put forward by Long Beach this week. It voted to place a tax on recreational marijuana if California residents decide to make pot legal this year.
Under that city’s plan, recreational marijuana businesses would be taxed 15 percent of their gross revenue and cultivation sites would pay $25 per square foot, and would have to pay $1,000 for a business license.
Of course, this all goes to the point of how many pot sellers actually want to go legit when they’ve been operating lucrative cash-and-carry businesses for years without any intervention from the taxman or local watchdogs.
Having trouble with names
Maybe we now know the reason City Attorney Dennis Herrera seems so hell-bent on denying Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier another term in office: She can’t spell his name right.
In an op-ed piece in the Chronicle on Saturday in which she tried to explain why Herrera is wrong in his opinion that Alioto-Pier’s appointed term counts as an elected one and why she shouldn’t be able to seek re-election, the city attorney’s name was spelled “Hererra” eight times.
It begs the question: Who needs editorial help more, Alioto-Pier or the Chronicle?
Herrera’s opinion may be misguided, but given that Alioto-Pier also introduced a resolution this week in support of the Golden “Gate” Warriors, it’s clear she needs a fact checker.
Chief’s attitude changes department
One of the reasons San Francisco police Chief George Gascón has been so successful in transforming the department and winning over many skeptics during his first year has nothing to do with any programs he’s put in place since his arrival.
It’s simply because he’s a real cop who understands the daily reality of police work, and the officers and commanders who suffered under the aimless previous administration respect that.
When he first got here, I asked Gascón how he would deal with the disgruntled veterans who were poorly treated during Heather Fong’s reign. And his answer was simple: “We’re all here to do public service, and anybody who signed on to be a police officer should understand that.”
The funny thing is, they do. That’s a big reason for the reduction in serious crime and huge jump in the clearance rate for homicides.
The morale in the department improved markedly when Gascón reassigned some popular veterans to the district stations and announced that he was going to actually go after drug dealers and violent criminals.
It turns out telling police officers to do police work without fear or favor is a good thing. Imagine.