Another State Attempt to Grab Control over Local Zoning

It’s deja vu all over again…

SB4 initiates yet another inept attack by State Senator Scott Wiener on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in order to promote “Affordable Housing”, this time using “churches, synagogues, and mosques” (not Buddhist temples?) and non-profit colleges as his current “feel good” set of honey traps.

Opinions and warnings about the disastrous shortage of housing in California abound. Here’s what the U.S. Census Bureau has to say on the subject:  As of July 1, 2021 California had a population of 39,237,836 and contained 14,512,281 housing units, occupied by 13,217,586 households with 2.92 persons per household. On the face of it, that does not read as a State housing shortage.

But here’s the rub. There aren’t enough houses located where people want to live. A few decades ago, if you couldn’t afford to live somewhere, you found digs elsewhere. But that’s all changed. Now the clamor seems to be: “if I want to live there, I should be able to live there!”

Senator Wiener is at the forefront of all this. In previous years, Wiener has tried to legitimize his obsession with cramming in new residential units wherever possible by latching onto such nice-sounding catch phrases as “protecting the environment” and “transit-oriented housing”. It is necessary to remind the Senator that cramming excessive density into a well established and well-functioning community does NOT help the environment of the neighborhood.

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San Francisco’s Central Subway Opens

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) says its 1.3 mile long Central Subway (originally called the Chinatown Subway) is scheduled to begin commercial operations on January 7, 3023.

The project is now officially four years late and $400 million over budget. (In 2003 San Franciscans voted for a Chinatown Subway project that was to cost $647 million and be completed by 2009. In 2012 the price was raised to an FTA-approved total of $1.578 billion, with a new completion date of December, 2018 established. Since 2012 the projected cost of the project, now four years behind the 2018 completion date, has risen to over $2 billion. In the process the MTA’s effect on Muni operating costs has gone from the promised $23.9 million a year saved to “$25 million a year added”.*

The fact that the project has massively overrun its budget is no longer a secret. What still seems unknown is exactly how the $400 million debt is to get paid off. No matter what the answer turns out to be, it’s the San Francisco taxpayer who going to get burned.

*Source:  Western Observer, December 6, 2022

Eulogy for Ezra Rapport

Ezra Rapport served with distinction as ABAG’s Executive Director from 2010 to 2016.

Mr. Rapport passed away on October 6, 2022 after a long illness. In its tribute ABAG noted that during his years at ABAG, Mr. Rapport “spearheaded development of the regional planning framework that culminated in the 2013 adoption of the original Plan Bay Area and oversaw the ABAG units working on energy efficiency, clean water supply, climate adaptation and disaster resilience, risk management, local finance, trail management, open space and economic development.”.

ABAG’s tribute to him put it well when they noted “…Mr. Rapport is remembered by friends as a determined iconoclast who was unafraid to ruffle bureaucratic feathers with his bold ideas and strongly held beliefs. His integrity, good heart and commitment to public service were unquestioned, even by those he sometimes rankled. Mr. Rapport is survived by his wife Andrea and their three children.”

Before joining the ABAG staff, Mr. Rapport had many productive years, in part as an assistant to former state Senate Pro Tempore Don Perata. During that time he helped create and organize the Bay Area’s regional ferry system.

After his retirement from ABAG in 2016 Ezra became a member and regular participant in BATWG meetings until his health no longer permitted it. During those meetings he was consistently a strong and steady presence. As one member put it, “I got to appreciate and respect his focus, vast knowledge and commitment to the betterment of the Bay Area”

Getting Smart About Energy

If a major oil and natural gas producing country decides to cut down on its fossil fuel consumption in the name of climate change, there are at least two ways of doing it. One way is by choking off the supply. Done that way makes fossil fuel and the products made from oil and natural gas less available and more costly. A better way to achieve the same objective would be to increase the taxes on gasoline and other fossil fuels. Not convinced?

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Yes on San Francisco Proposition L

This extension of the ½ cent SF transportation sales tax for 30 more years promises to continue making things better for Muni riders, improving safety and providing new ways of encouraging commuters and other travelers to enter and move about in San Francisco without having to haul two to three tons of steel, glass and plastic around with them everywhere they go. For this reason and with determination to help hold the MTA to its promises, BATWG urges a yes vote on Proposition L.

BART, an Agency in Dire Need of Oversight

On June 21, 2019, pursuant to State Senator Steve Glazer’s SB1488, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Harriet Richardson from among three candidates selected by the BART Board to be BART’s first Inspector General (IG). The job calls for the IG to oversee and report upon BART activities and expenditures. What BART apparently didn’t anticipate was that Ms. Richardson would actually attempt to do her job. But the cat was soon out of the bag.

On July 7, 2022 the Alameda County Grand Jury released scathing 8-page report on how BART was treating its State-appointed IG, detailing how BART’s management and Board of Directors have aggressively interfered with, resisted and undermined the work of the IG. Anyone whose watches how BART goes through money will well understands the need for an independent BART IG. So what’s next? Will things get better?

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