Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bob Roddick's Talking Point Series on the Noe Valley Plaza.

Bob Roddick is the Chair of the NVA Board and is looking forward to the trial of the plaza at 24th and Noe. He has collected several of the "Talking points" of those opposed to the plaza and is running a series of emails rebutting them. We'll run the countdown here. I'm enabling comments so we can openly discuss. No personal attacks please.

TALKING POINT 1: They claim that it will increase congestion, especially at a corner that is crowded and difficult to cross.

The Plaza will result in the elimination of all cross traffic, thereby cutting in half any reason for congestion. One of the four crosswalks will no longer be subject to cross vehicles, eliminating one-fourth of the auto to pedestrian hazard. Their Talking Point is utterly false. Noe and 24th will become safer for all. Further improvements can be made, such as restricting any left turns, but this is something that needs to be discussed and well thought out. That is why we need a trial. Our Noe Valley neighbors are the bedrock of our community.

TALKING POINT 2: It removes parking when we need parking.

The general consensus of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association is that the forfeiture of four metered parking spaces on Noe Street was and is worth the benefits of the Plaza. Like the benches, the trees and the flower baskets placed throughout the Community Benefit District by the Merchants or the Noe Valley Association, the Plaza will only serve to make Noe Valley a more pleasant and congenial place to live, shop and visit.

Parking is the life blood of the commercial corridor; however, with the placement of the Plaza the east bound bus zone on 24th at Noe can be moved forward to the Plaza, thus providing at least five to six more parking spaces. Or the bus zones could be changed to in-line coach stops, such as the ones on 24th at Sanchez Streets, adding seven to nine parking spaces.

The Noe Plaza gives us the opportunity to increase parking, not diminish it. This becomes part of the planning effort. That is why we need a trial. Don't deny our neighbors the experience and this vital opportunity.

TALKING POINT 3: It's confused and seems to grab upon everything and anything; therefore, I will quote it exactly, "Urban planning does not change needs. Encouraging public transit is fine, but people, especially the disabled, senior citizens, those with children or shoppers who wish to buy several thing(s), will not take their kids, bags and stuff on a dysfunctional public transportation system or ride bikes. They will simply shop or eat elsewhere - someplace with parking."

Quite frankly, I don't understand their point. Nevertheless, I will address its parts.

As to the reference to parking, I refer you to my response of yesterday to "Talking Point 2". In all probability we will gain parking, not lose it.

Additionally, it amazes me because this sudden concern for parking is being raised by the very people that vehemently opposed the installation of parking meters in front of the commercially zoned businesses at the intersection of Castro and Jersey. There are four commercially zoned properties with twelve curb parking spots that legally ought to be made available to the general public, especially the disabled, senior citizens, those with children or shoppers who wish to buy several things. The Plaza is specifically designed to include these very individuals. It's a place to stop, rest, enjoy life, partake in an urban picnic and get to know your neighbors.

We have a fine transportation system. Noe Valley is the center of the entire transportation system. Castro at 24th Street is the hub. From that intersection one can catch a bus to anywhere in the city. The 24 Divisadero crosses the City north to south. It goes to Marina Greens, crosses Market, connects northbound with the Underground Muni Metro and the Market Transit System, and southbound with the 10 Monterey and J Church, crosses Mission and continues to Bayview/Hunter's Point. The 48 Quintara crosses the City east to west from Downtown along Mission, connects with BART and the Mission Street Bus System, crosses the J Church line, the 24 Divisadero and the 35 Eureka, going all the way to the beach, not to mention the 35 Eureka that covers the Noe Valley Highlands.

Urban planning addresses problems, serves the needs of the community and improves our quality of life. Clearly, that is what we are trying to accomplish with the Noe Valley Plaza. With a coach stop at the Plaza it will encourage a more comfortable, warm and easier approach to our daily routine.

TALKING POINT 4: "Its not a park; it's the middle of the street," is simply an attempt at Sloganeering. Take a good look at the graphics attached. It's a real plaza for the people.

Of course its in the street, that's the whole idea of the Mayor's Pavement to Parks program. More city acreage is dedicated to city streets and the automobile than to actual parks and playgrounds. The only available area to improve the park and playground ratio for better living and community involvement is by the use of our neighborhood streets. The Noe Valley Plaza is truly a first of a kind. It's the gem of the whole program and puts us in the forefront of Urban Design for the future.

Let it be noted that the street area in question is not situated outside the Noe Valley Association, Community Benefit District. It is in front of two properties owned by two of our contributing property owners, that voted selflessly to pay a special annual tax assessment to clean, green, maintain, secure and beautify our Noe Valley 24th Street Corridor, The Community Benefit District.

TALKING POINT 5: States that the plaza is in the middle of the only through way to Davies Hospital. That emergency vehicles will have to detour or go through the plaza, placing people in harm's way. Additionally, that the plaza will delay one from going across town.

Church Street goes all the way to Duboce and the thoroughfare is mostly level, or as level as San Francisco gets. Dolores goes through to Market and one can easily go up 14th Street to the hospital. A simple turn onto Castro and you're taken directly to Davies Hospital at 450 Castro Street and the entry to their parking facility. All of these routes are traffic corridors with arterials and without any 'cross' parking. Noe Street, as it boarders Market, is congested with the F Street Car turn about and five to six blocks of perpendicular 'cross' parking.

More importantly Noe Street is a residential street, ought to remain a residential street, and as any driver knows, its the steepest route to Market Street from Noe Valley.

The Plaza is designed to admit emergency vehicles, not to provide a thoroughfare. Emergency vehicles may need to go onto the plaza for the placement of the aerial truck for the ladder extension or the engine for pump placement to service and protect the adjacent property, but they would never race through it. I am a retired San Francisco Firefighter and an ex-pump operator, engine driver, and hoseman and an ex-truckman, driver and tillerman. As a driver I would know the quickest and safest route to any address in my given neighborhood. That was my job. There are many split streets and end streets in Noe Valley. Hill Street starts, stops and then starts and stops again. Kronquist is a cul-de-sac. Just to name two. A skilled engine, aerial truck or ambulance driver worth his or her salt will know the street characteristics necessary to accomplish the job. No one would be put in harm's way.

This talking point is simply a scare tactic and I don't believe that going around the plaza will create any major delays for anyone.

TALKING POINT 6: "No traffic or environmental studies have been done, so how do we measure success or failure?"

The studies are being conducted by the Department of Planning, according to Andrews Powers. They have begun to gather the traffic data concerning the intersection of Noe and 24th Streets and along Jersey Street. Once the trial is put in place, then they will gather and tabulate the new information. This is the only way to test and measure the true impact of the Noe Valley Plaza. Without a trial there can be no informed and adequate study.

To block the Noe Valley Plaza Trial is to deprive our friends and neighbors of this wonderful opportunity. The trial is critical to the planning effort. We need a trial. Don't deny our neighbors the experience and this vital opportunity.

The bottom line is public opinion. A true and fair measure of public opinion requires the trial. The public, including our neighbors surrounding the Plaza, needs to be able to measure the benefits and the detriments. We have this opportunity. Try it.

TALKING POINT 7: Refers to the graphics as "sheer fantasy" and asks us to "Compare the reality of Castro & 17th or Guerrero and San Jose."

As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Our pictures are worth three thousand words. Look what the Noe Valley Association has done with the 24th Street Corridor. It's been five years and the trees have rooted and bloomed and the flower baskets blossom regularly, and more benches and planter boxes have been installed. The beautification of the 24th Street Corrdior is a continuous work in progress.

Sheer fantasy is right. We can make the Noe Valley Plaza into anything we want. Yes, the trees will be lush and 15 feet tall, the bushes will be large, sprouting their foliage and the arbor could be twined with blue and white jasmine. The fragrance would be as pleasant as the Plaza itself.

My hobby is gardening and I could go on and on. John McClaren paved the way with Golden Gate Park and his wonderful gift of McClaren Park. Let's green Noe Valley. We have been given this opportunity. Try it.

TALKING POINT 8: "The other "parklets" are in odd shaped areas, none blocked major thoroughfares."

The Talking point is correct in that a 'major thoroughfare" will be blocked, but that's as far as it goes.

The point is misleading in that we are not preparing a trial for a 'parklet' but a Noe Valley Plaza, large enough to allow our neighbors the space off the sidewalk to safely gather, to relax and to enjoy all that Noe Valley has to offer. As previously pointed out, "the further the distance between the pedestrian and the moving vehicle, the safer and greater the use by the pedestrian community."

The point is also misleading in that both of the other Pavement to Park projects do block thoroughfares. Whether they are major or not, depends upon one's point of view. I used 17th Street regularly, especially when it originally crossed Market. I adjusted and so did others. One simply finds a better route. Crossing Market is now easier and safer. Eureka Valley is better for it.

The Eureka Valley Neighborhood has made the 17th and Market Parklet permanent. Their trial proved their worries and concerns wrong. Trees were planted last weekend and now the project is beginning to evolve and will mature.

In order to provide more public open space and to green our neighborhoods, we have no alternative but to look at our streets. Just as we now separate our waste to protect our environment, one needs to re-think the grid and our familiar habits. The entire purpose of the Pavement to Parks program, whether it be in New York, Chicago or San Francisco, is to find a better use of our city for the improvement of the quality of living for our residents. That means all of our residents.

TALKING POINT 9: "The 17th and Castro "parklet" is unpopular with local residents and merchants," and "The space gets very little use, except late at night by vagrants and inebriated."

These two talking points are utterly false and apparently have been put forward to scare our neighbors into opposition.

As stated in my previous response, the 17th and Castro Parklet has become permanent after an extended trail. The neighborhood and the merchant community were in support. The major opposition came from residents on Hartford street who had the same concerns about diverted traffic; however, during the trial they soon discovered that their fears did not materialize. In fact, Hartford is now more quiet than ever.

In response #8 it was pointed out that the Eureka Valley Neighborhood has made the 17th and Market Parklet permanent. Their trial proved their worries and concerns wrong. Trees were planted last weekend and now the project is beginning to evolve and will mature.

As far as their reference to the eleven people survey, that was only survey published, even that one was positive. The Mayor, the Planning Department, and Supervisor Dufty would not force anything on their own constituency, especially in an election year.

The accusation that the parklet is only used by vagrants and inebriated is truly unfair and cruel. This is not the case. Just drive or walk past the parklet and you will find people sitting, talking or just watching life. It is used by all of the people. Many pedestrians waiting for the bus get a cup of coffee or not, and go to the parklet to wait because it is more spacious and gives one a better sense of safety than standing on the crowded sidewalk.

In the evening the furniture is collected and brought inside. The Noe Valley Association will be making arrangements to do the very same thing. The furniture will be brought inside at night, the grounds and garbage cans will be swept and emptied, and the planters will be watered, just as we do for all of 24th Street.

Lastly, the San Francisco Police Department when consulted by City Planning found no difficulty concerning the policing the area. After all, the police are present. On any given night one can find numerous police vehicles at 24th and Noe. During the day, Noe Valley has been assigned a 'Beat Cop'. Our own officer Lorraine Lombardo. The police are doing an excellent job for Noe Valley and are truly welcome.

TALKING POINT 10: "No one knows how much will it cost to have and how often will the area be guarded by SFPD"

We don't know if there will be additional cost to protect the Noe Plaza and we don't know how often the SFPD will patrol the area.

However, as pointed out in the previous response to the opposition Talking Point, "the San Francisco Police Department when consulted by City Planning found no difficulty concerning the policing of the area. After all the Police are present. On any given night one can find numerous police vehicles at 24th and Noe. During the day Noe Valley has been assigned a 'Beat Cop', our own Officer Lorraine Lombardo. The Police are doing an excellent job for Noe Valley and are truly welcome."

This is one of the many issues the Noe Valley Association deals with on a regular basis. When the lure to predators increases, as with the holiday shopping season, the safety of our residents, neighbors and visitors becomes a primary concern. That is why the NVA contracted with the San Francisco Special Police to provide added patrols of the 24th Street Corridor during the holiday season. If necessary, the NVA is prepared to seriously look at this, if it is a problem for the Noe Valley Plaza.

Security is a constant concern. Let's face it, the SFPD can not be everywhere. The San Francisco Special Police are engaged on an merchant by merchant contract basis to currently patrol the Commercial Corridor. The holiday patrols were additional. Furthermore, the Merchant Association is upgrading their merchant to merchant Alert System to be activated instantly by email alert. We have one of the safest neighborhoods in San Francisco and we are right next door to a very high crime area.

Maybe this difference is due to all of our vigilance, not just the vigilance of the Noe Valley Association and the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, which is constant. The safety of the community is always foremost in our thoughts.

TALKING POINT 11: "We don't know who or what entity is responsible for any accidents or incidents that happen in the plaza."

The leader of the opposition knows full well who or what entity is responsible for accidents or incidents that happen on public property. This is just another scare tactic used to frighten their neighbors into opposition.

As on any public land, be it a park, roadway, intersection or within a crosswalk, the responsible party is liable, whether it be the City and County or a particular person or persons that by a personal or negligent act injures another party or property.

This is a very non-issue.

TALKING POINT 12: "A plaza will increase noise level and the amount of garbage in the area, especially for those who live on Noe."

These are legitimate issues, that must be addressed. We are convinced that with the trial, even the staunchest opposition will be convinced that the Noe Valley Plaza is a good idea.

It is assumed with the expected use and popularity of the Noe Valley Plaza that the noise level will be increased, but how would it effect our neighbors?

This is an issue that will need measuring, but that is exactly why we need a trial.

As to the garbage, it to is expected to increase; however, the Noe Valley Association is forever diligent in the collection and removal of waste, litter and debris. During the course of any given year, the Noe Valley Association has quickly and efficiently removed hundreds of items dumped on the 24th Street Corridor and has routinely collected and emptied the conveniently paced trash containers. Keeping the Noe Valley Plaza clean and free of garbage and litter is not seen as a problem.

Nevertheless, garbage and litter and its collection are just another reason for a trial. Since the Noe Valley Association has assumed the stewardship of the plaza, we are most interested in these important issues.

TALKING POINT 13: a) States that those most effected have had and will have no say in what happens on their doorsteps. They were never consulted about the location, the design or the consequences; and b) "(Y)et because the plaza is an extension of their sidewalks, they may be held legally responsible for accidents."

Because this talking point 13a is compound in nature, unfortunately, the response is going to be involved.

This Talking Point 13a is false. The Mayor's premature announcement caught all of us off guard. I hadn't even have an opportunity to see the possible plans and proposals developed by the San Francisco Planning Department. They were to be presented as possibilities at the first community meeting which was unscheduled. That's where I saw the plans for the first time. See attached graphics, visualize the possibilities.

When the Noe Valley Association was voted into existence, numerous public meetings were conducted to find out the needs and wants of the Noe Valley Community. Public announcements were made and all of Noe Valley, including the opposition, was invited. The Master Plan was established after extensive community input. The salient point from the community was that our neighbors wanted an open space, a neighborhood center or plaza.

The Mayor's Pavement to Parks program required an established community organization to sponsor the program and take on the responsibility of stewardship.

The Noe Valley Association has stepped to the plate, the people of Noe Valley have been given this opportunity. The procedure calls for a trial period and for community discussion for the purpose of implementation of the trial, in order to assess its true value. We have had one community meeting; however, it was manipulated into an organized filibuster. The opposition has had their opportunity for input. Now let's discuss, together, the implementation of the trial. So that we can truly assess the benefits and the detriments.

The NVA is the organization that planted the trees now in bloom, has established a pruning schedule, brought you the hanging flower baskets, the Easter Egg Hunt, Harvest Festival, Lights 24th Street during the holidays in partnership with the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association and much, much more.

Managing the Streetscape is not as easy as one thinks. It takes constant attention.

CLEANING: The streets must be swept daily and the sidewalks steam cleaned quarterly. When we say clean, we mean clean. Contracts must be let and the NVA must be forever vigilant to see that the job gets done in a congenial and expeditious manner.

GREENING: The NVA has planted over 137 trees, placed numerous flower baskets, installed benches and large planters, and engaged a Horticulturist for their nurturing and upkeep, and to care for all of those mature trees along 24th Street, as well.

We have the means, the experience and the organization to maintain, nurture and green the Noe Valley Plaza. The Noe Plaza will be greened, maintained, and cleaned by the Noe Valley Association.

TALKING POINT 13b: Is also completely false. The person spreading this rumor of liability ought to know better. It is simply a scare tactic. The leader of the opposition is in business dealing with real property and knows full well that the plaza is not part of the sidewalk. No liability will attach.

TALKING POINT 14: States that the trial is merely an excuse not to do proper surveys, and that once in place the plaza would be difficult to remove.

The Mayor's Pavement to Parks program is not a trick. It's a program to improve our quality of living and can only be made permanent after a suitable trial period and approval by the community. The Department of Planning is presently collecting data concerning traffic on the present use of the intersection at Noe and 24th Streets and Jersey Street in anticipation of the trial. One can spot the vehicle counters that have been laid across the roadway.

Additionally, the City will only implement the trial on a temporary basis, nothing permanent will be installed.

The information that the trial will gather and the impact upon the community, as a whole, is of the utmost concern. The opportunity that the trial brings ought not to be taken from us by those living on near by streets. Parks, no matter where they are placed, are adjacent to or opposite dwellings. Give it a chance. Participate-don't obstruct.

No matter where a park is located and no matter the design, a trail needs to be conducted. We need the community meeting. We need to discuss the implementation. The Noe Valley Association does not want to maintain anything that the community, as a whole, does not want and which would not be beneficial to the community as a whole. We need a Trail to weigh the benefits and the detriments.

TALKING POINT 15: States that the further people get from the plaza, the more they like it and that visiting the plaza for an hour or two is very different from having the plaza at your door step.

As to the first part, some of our neighbors on Noe and Jersey like the plaza idea and are very supportive while others are not. As to the second point concerning visiting the plaza, that is entirely true.

Parks have to be located somewhere. We are not insensitive, but just maybe, most of those adjacent or near the plaza might like it. No matter where a park is located and no matter the design, a trial needs to be conducted. We need the community meeting. We need to discuss the implementation. We need to address and mitigate our neighbor's concerns.

The Noe Valley Association does not want to maintain anything that the community does not want and which would not be beneficial to the community as a whole. We need a Trail to weigh the benefits and the detriments.

The NVA was formed when the property owners on the 24th Street Commercial Corridor agreed to selflessly tax themselves on an annual basis for the improvement of the Community Benefit District. This runs roughly along 24th Street from Church to Diamond, plus asides, and includes Castro from 24th for one and one-half block, the 24th and Douglass intersection and the Douglass play ground. The City collects the tax and forwards the funds to the NVA. The NVA is a nonprofit and is managed by a board of directors. Our funds are limited, however, our success in obtaining grants is phenomenal. The Noe Valley Association is not interested in supporting a plaza that does not have the support of the community.

We are whole heartedly in support of the proposal and believe that once a trial is underway the community will be in favor, including those adjacent as well. And that a neighborhood center, where neighborhood activities can be conducted and presented, will benefit the entire community; and that the Noe Valley Plaza will be a model for future urban design.

TALKING POINT 16: "There are alternatives - alternative locations in Noe Valley, alternatives designs with less disruptive elements."

In one man's opinion the best location for a plaza is actually on Noe at 24th Street. The reasons are many. The streets are the only areas large enough to accommodate a plaza. The parking lot is out of the question because it is the only lot we have and it is committed. The pitch of Noe at this location is minimal and the lowest of all the cross streets, making it easier to establish a level plaza. Noe is extra wide. The location is right smack in the middle of the Commercial Corridor which is from Church to Diamond and therefore would be most serviceable to the entire community. Lastly, the naming is correct. What better place for a Noe Valley Plaza that at 24th and Noe Streets

Yes, alternate designs may be possible, but we were never given the chance to discuss them. The parklet is out of the question because it gives up too much and receives too little. Additionally, because parklets are level with the sidewalks and the sidewalk is pitched, any parklet at this location would be irregular, in that it will have to be terraced which would lose the extension of the sidewalk and defeat its overall purpose.

Today, the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association's Board of Directors voted unanimously in support of the trial for the Noe Valley Plaza. Find below a copy of the resolution for your review and transmittal letter to the Noe Valley Voice. This Sunday's Chronicle Parade reported that surveys have proven that outdoor seating areas, such as the proposed plaza, boosts foot traffic by 20%, retail sales by 10% and property values by 7%. No one loses. The community has a place to sit, relax and meet their neighbors safely, the merchants' business is improved and the closer one lives to the plaza the higher their property values go. Everyone's quality of life is improved. It's a win win situation. No one loses.
TALKING POINT 17: Asks, "Why Noe Valley?"
Because we are the Noe Valley Association, A Community Benefit District, and we serve the Noe Valley neighborhood.

TALKING POINT 18: States that Noe Valley streets were greener 20 years ago.

I am a native Noe Valleyan, have lived here all of my sixty-five plus years. I don't know what city they are talking about. The streets were barren of trees and there were no strips of green and gardens in front of homes. The only street with green was Dolores Street and the gardens in front of homes were removed before WWII to make way for garages. This is more of a fantasy than their reference in Talking Point 7. This version of "green" is false.

Dear Neighbors:

As promised, I have completed responding to all 18 of the opposition's Talking Points.

Of all eighteen, I believe four are real concerns that need to be addressed. They are:
1) The actual effect it will have on our neighbors on Noe and Jersey Streets which includes the other three;
2) The amount of noise, if any, and garbage and litter abatement;
3) The security issues, if any; and
4) The traffic issues for our neighbors on Jersey Street and throughout.

The issues of noise, garbage and litter abatement and security are issues that the Noe Valley Association and the City of San Francisco is constantly dealing with and will continue to manage.
As to the other issues we have suggestions.
a) All delivery trucks ought to be prohibited from using the cul de sac of Noe.
b) Signage ought to be posted at Castro on Jersey and at Sanchez on Jersey alerting all that Noe is closed at 24th Street;
c) Speed bumps could be placed along Jersey Street between Sanchez and Castro Streets with appropriate signage. Just like the one on 21st between Sanchez and Noe Streets. They will stop excess traffic and speeders and may be a solution to their current problems;
d) The best solution is for the City to install a Left Turn Arrow arterial at Northbound Dolores at 24th Street, much like the one at 20th and at Cesar Chavez, also on Dolores. We used to be able to turn left onto 24th Street from Dolores. This is the natural gateway to the 24th Street Commercial Corridor and it ought to be reinstated. This simple change would essentially stop most of the current traffic from using Jersey as a transit corridor. Vehicles go along Jersey and don't turn until they get to their parallel destination on the Commercial Corridor. A three way arterial at 24th and Dolores Streets would make for a more peaceful Jersey Street between Dolores as far as Castro and 25th Street as well; and
e) Restrict all deliveries by triple axle and six wheeled vehicles in Noe Valley. Other neighborhoods in San Francisco have such restrictions! I understand that no triple axle or six wheeled vehicles or any excessively large delivery trucks are allowed inside the cities of New York or Chicago. Not only would this solve a myriad of other problems and concerns, but would reduce the circling trucks throughout Noe Valley, especially on our side streets such as Jersey.

Although this will increase the number of vehicles because we're using twice the number to deliver the same product, the deliveries are made in half the time with half of the disruption.
We were prepared to raise these very thoughts, suggestions and more at the community meeting but discussion was prohibited.

These concerns, although legitimate, are not sufficient to preclude a trial. Nor do I believe that when the trial goes forward, they will be sufficient to block the installation of a Noe Valley Plaza for the benefit of the entire Noe Valley neighborhood. A few ought not to block the plaza for the entire neighborhood. It's called democracy.

We need a real community meeting to address these issues, to solve them or to mitigate them. --We need real leadership.-- We need a trial to properly survey the community response. Let's face it. This will be the last time you are ever given such an opportunity. You have been given this one. Don't let it slip away. Try it.

Thank you for your patience and consideration.

The purpose of the trail is to measure the benefits and the detriments. The purpose of the planning sessions is to discuss and implement ways to minimize the negative impact, if any. Let's green Noe Valley. We have been given this opportunity. Try it.

If you agree, have comment, want to elaborate, or are simply for the trial, please, forward your support and comments to the Big-3: Gavin.Newsom@sfgov.org; Bevan.Dufty@sfgov.org; Andres.Power@sfgov.org, plus: noevalleyplaza@gmail.com.