May 11 2016 meeting

Summary from May 11, 2016

Attending steering committee members: Marianne, Olga, Chris, Ed
Total attendance: 23
Agenda: Prop B, Dolores Street shuttles

Prop B
Dee Seligman, president of the SF Forrest Alliance (SFFA) spoke in opposition to Prop B.
Todd David, chair of the Prop B campaign, confirmed but at the last minute was not able to attend.

Dee Seligman, mother and grandmother of four, resides in San Francisco near Golden Gate Park. She has  been a NERT neighborhood coordinator and founded the 4 Heights NERT consortium of four neighborhoods. She assists in the newly restarted Northern Panhandle neighborhood group PRO/SF. She became interested in park issues and learned about the destructive effects of the Natural Areas Program. As a result, she joined the leadership of the San Francisco Forest Alliance, where she is now Interim President. She is a retired community college English professor.

Dee’s position:

  1. The SFFA is a 401C(4) and as such can engage in political action.
  2. Issues with Rec & Park Dept. (RPD) management and the lack of transparency in their operations.
  3. Concern over the privatization of our parks:
  • Coit Tower (proposed plan by city officials to open the top floor for private parties)
  • Palace of Fine Arts (turn it into a hotel or restaurant)
  • Aids Grove, et al (often closed to the public because of frequent rental for private events)
  1. Others opposed to Prop B: Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, SF Taxpayer’s Association, Bay Guardian, SF Chronicle, various local Democratic Clubs.
  2. Three different pots of money which will equal over 4.5 billion over 30 years:
  3. The baseline is the current expenditure of $64 million. It will increase by $3 million each year for the next 10 years, and the new amount will become the new baseline each year. So $67 million in 2016, $70 million in 2017, and so on for 10 years, by which time it would be $94 million.
  4. Starting 2026, the $3 million stops. Instead, the addition to the baseline will depend on the city’s revenue growth. It will grow the baseline by the same percentage as the increase or decrease in city revenues. So if the revenues grow 2%, so will the baseline.
  5. Open Space Fund = 2.5% of property taxes. Prop B extends it for another 15 years. Theoretically, this is used to acquire land for open space. In fact, it’s also used for other purposes. This adds a minimum of $48 million a year that is reserved to SFPRD for its own purposes. As property taxes rise, so will the Open Space Fund.
  6. There is no specificity. It is a slush fund for RPD. Like giving a blank check to a teenager. Dee attended all of the committee meetings since the beginning of Prop B. Through the entire process, efforts to specify what the money can and cannot be used for were resisted, mostly at the direction of the mayor, who promoted the measure heavily.
  7. There will be less money for other departments. Locking in RPD funding means that as sudden needs arise in other departments, such as for emergency equipment, that money cannot be made available.
  8. The Board of Supervisors (BOS) has no control to modify the RPD budget. They can only vote up or down on it. The Rec & Park Commission would be the only check on the RPD budget but they have a history of rubber-stamping whatever the RPD requests.
  9. We need tree maintenance but there is no guarantee that Prop B will fund this. The word “maintenance” was stricken several times from the measure in revisions.
  10. This measure will significantly raise the cost of government according to city officials. SF already has the fifth highest RPD budget of any major U.S. city.
  11. Set asides go against the BOS previously stated position against using them. As one who participates in the budgeting process to promote Fire Department and emergency resource funding, she is very aware of how difficult and involved the process is. Set asides reduce the need for BOS to make hard choices between conflicting needs between departments.
  12. Why did the BOS offer Prop B? They look good supporting parks. The mayor pushed it.

Marianne Hampton offered information she received from the SF Controller’s office:

  • Set asides are a work around.
  • Politicians do not want to do the hard work of deciding what gets funded and what does not.
  • Dignity Fund for seniors would be one such set aside.

Marianne called on others to offer the pros of Prop B. Chris mentions that he heard that the park funds were suppose to be a set amount but get used by the BOS for other needs. No one else had anything.

Frank Triska, former Open Space Advisory Council member, offered that Prop B gives RPD management all the power. While a bond measure has very specific items that need to be funded by the bond, a set-aside has none. The process of RPD spending will no longer go through the BOS.

Dolores Street shuttles

Paul Bernier, a Dolores Street resident, offered a summary of events and details.

  • SFMTA first posted notices on utility poles during the rainy season (February?). Few residents noticed them.
  • Stops would remove many parking spaces
  • In March, they met with SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin.
  • They gathered 600 signatures in three weeks
  • Met with Scott Wiener
  • Attended the MTA Board meeting and presented the petitions. Scott Wiener spoke against funneling shuttles onto just one street (Dolores) and urged the board to do further study.
  • MTA board agreed to study further to determine if Dolores is suitable for shuttles. Study will consider a weight restriction such as Guerrero has.
  • SFMTA lacks transparency. They originally said about 30 buses would operate on Dolores but Scott Wiener found out that it would be 55. Could hat number increase to 70, or more?

Laura Beaton, a new neighbor with insight into the issue:

  • Shouldn’t we consider that shuttle users who do not need to own cars negates the few parking spaces taken by the shuttles.
  • My husband works for Google in Mountain View. I work in downtown San Francisco. We don’t own a car. Moving to Mountain View is just as expensive and isn’t a solution since I would need to commute to SF.
  • The commute is already so long for my husband that adding transfers to his trip would probably force him to get a car and drive to work.

Ed Mason

  • A one seat ride is a luxury.
  • Plenty of bus bays sit empty at Millbrae Station. Tech commuters could take BART to Millbrae.
  • Studies need to consider weight, width, slope, traffic history, and alternate routes.
  • Buses are ecologically unsound:
  1. Are usually less than full (segregated by company to prevent poaching);
  2. are empty on return trips;
  3. use enormous amounts of fuel (it was noted that all of that diesel exhaust would have negative impact on the tree canopy of Dolores Street)

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