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Is San Francisco more conservative than Moscow? Top San Francisco official says yes

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Is San Francisco extra conservative than Moscow? High San Francisco official says sure

Jeffrey Tumlin has labored in cities world wide — from Los Angeles to New York, from Vancouver to Wichita, Kan. He’s labored in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Moscow, too.

And the manager director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Company says San Francisco stands out amongst all of them — for being probably the most conservative.

Wait, what? San Francisco is extra conservative than Moscow?

“Oh, sure,” he stated. “Undoubtedly.”

Tumlin and I sat on a inexperienced bench overlooking JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park for an interview the opposite day, and there was no signal he’d bought a bootleg substance on his approach into the park on his electrical bike. He really believes that supposedly progressive San Francisco makes so little progress that it’s truly among the many world’s most conservative cities.

Jeffrey Tumlin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, walks on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. He says the city's conservatism is part of the reason it makes so little progress on transit issues.

Jeffrey Tumlin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Company, walks on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. He says the town’s conservatism is a part of the rationale it makes so little progress on transit points.

Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

And he’s proper. Although he largely caught to discussing transit, the concept holds true on a bunch of main points together with housing, local weather change, small enterprise reform and addressing our drug disaster. The normal hallmark of conservatism is embracing the established order, and San Francisco appears practically incapable of main change.

“San Franciscans, on a nationwide political metric, we’re far to the left,” he stated. “However with regards to our personal metropolis, we’re so resistant to alter that the result’s quite a lot of conservatism.”

Simply take JFK Drive, maybe probably the most controversial 1.5 mile stretch of pavement in all of San Francisco, which is saying one thing contemplating the town has 1,200 miles of roadway — sufficient to drive from Seattle to San Diego.

Earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, Tumlin stated, 85% of site visitors on JFK Drive was commuter site visitors, which means that it wasn’t all households taking grandma to the de Younger or the youngsters to a picnic at Hellman Hole. It was drivers opting to get from one place exterior the park to a different place exterior the park — by zipping via the park. That, in flip, made it one of many metropolis’s most harmful roads for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Jeffrey Tumlin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, walks on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. He says the city's politics may be progressive, but when it comes to changes in transit, housing and other issues it is highly resistant.

Jeffrey Tumlin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Company, walks on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. He says the town’s politics could also be progressive, however with regards to modifications in transit, housing and different points it’s extremely resistant.

Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

Because the metropolis made that a part of JFK Drive car-free during the pandemic to present individuals area to social distance whereas exercising, there hasn’t been a single fatality there. (It will be bizarre if that wasn’t the case. Unicyclist dies in tragic collision with curler skater!)

However regardless of San Franciscans pledging to aggressively struggle the grave risk of local weather change and professing to care about pedestrian and bicyclist security, if it requires much less driving and even giving up entry to 1 a part of one highway, they balk. Metropolis residents have fought over JFK Drive for many years, and there’s nonetheless no decision.

“It’s typically very laborious for us to make a connection between our nationwide progressivism and native motion,” Tumlin stated.

To be clear, Tumlin says — and I agree — modifications must be made to JFK Drive earlier than declaring it car-free completely, together with including as many disabled parking areas close by as had been misplaced by the road closure. That must be simple to do.

However then once more, quite a lot of what sounds simple to perform seems to be something however in sloth-like San Francisco. Bear in mind the proposed laws to ban one cranky person from blocking emergency transit projects like Gradual Streets and transit lanes for buses?

Jeffrey Tumlin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, shows off his SFMTA pin at Golden Gate Park.

Jeffrey Tumlin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Company, exhibits off his SFMTA pin at Golden Gate Park.

Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

After two gadflies tried blocking practically all of the pandemic response measures from the SFMTA — costing tens of hundreds of {dollars} and lots of of hours in employees time — Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Matt Haney proposed allowing such appeals solely with 50 residents’ signatures or 5 members of the Board of Supervisors.

They proposed that in November, so it’s the regulation of the land now proper? Nope. The Planning Fee authorised it unanimously, nevertheless it nonetheless hasn’t even been scheduled for a listening to on the board’s land use committee. That’s proper — six months later, the supervisors haven’t even begun speaking about it.

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, chair of the land use committee, referred to as the laws “a superb authorities factor” and stated she’ll schedule it for late Could or early June. She stated she has many vital issues to get on the calendar and should unfold them out. She agreed it takes approach too lengthy to make change within the metropolis — even when it’s the low-hanging fruit like this laws.

“We get entrenched in our polar reverse viewpoints, and there’s little or no room for compromise and consensus constructing,” she stated.

And that’s not true simply with regards to transit initiatives. In one other head-slapping delay, guess what occurred with Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s proposal to make it tougher to construct monster properties for one wealthy household and easier to turn one home into four apartments for 4 lower-income households? I wrote about it January, so guess. That’s proper — nothing!

Mandelman has gotten no further assist apart from Haney.

“No one is enthused,” Mandelman acknowledged. “Individuals are both opposed or irritated.”

Feels like San Francisco, all proper. Mandelman had talked about permitting fourplexes on all nook heaps or close to transit stations, however stated he’s leaning towards introducing simply the nook lot piece on Could 18. He may suggest permitting fourplexes on all single-family house heaps within the metropolis subsequent yr after housing advocates met his thought with a yawn. In the meantime, house costs within the metropolis simply maintain climbing, and a modest house will price you $1.5 million.

“It has felt to me for a while like San Francisco is caught on some fairly large, vital points,” Mandelman stated.

That’s the reality. End this sentence: “It’s not progressive to…” There are such a lot of choices in San Francisco.

It’s not progressive to make opening a small business or make slight improvements to your family’s house practically unattainable with out hiring a allow expediter. It’s not progressive to allow an open-air fentanyl market to exist within the Tenderloin that’s killing two people every day. It’s not progressive to maintain the town’s public center and excessive faculties closed for college kids who’ve already been caught at house on Zoom for 14 months.

However it’s the identical metropolis leaders who lament the dearth of progress who aren’t doing sufficient to repair it. Janice Li, advocacy director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and a BART board commissioner, stated, “There’s a scarcity of management up and down.”

She stated Tumlin can complain about conservatism in San Francisco, however his personal company has bowed to the whims of supervisors who don’t like Gradual Streets of their districts slightly than advocating for his or her significance. She additionally referred to as out Mayor London Breed’s lukewarm rhetoric about preserving car-free JFK Drive.

“That is the time if you get loud about issues. Advocates are identical to, ‘Schedule the rattling laws to be heard! Approve the rattling initiatives!’” she stated. “Nobody is elevating their hand to step in and produce management.”

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