A moratorium on progress


My friend Johnny, who lives in Seattle, tells the story of the day years ago when he saw an older woman standing on a hillside near his house, watching while bulldozers knocked down trees and tore up part of the hill to put in a freeway extension. He was pretty new to town, so he asked the woman what was going on.

She shook her head, and with a bitter smile, said: "Progress."

If you want to look at the environmental history of the United States, you can pretty much define most of our problems as an obsession with that sort of "progress." In the postwar Bay Area, "progess" meant turning farmland and open space into suburban housing developments, building more freeways to connect the commuters to downtown San Francisco, and erecting tall buildings in the city to fill with workers from the burbs.

At the time, those crazy people who opposed that vision were told they were opponents of progress. Now, we celebrate what they've saved.

In other words, not all change is good, not all development is progress, and the march of capitalism doesn't always take us in the right direction

So please, Chuck Nevius: You can oppose a one-year moratorium on Valencia Street restaurants if you want, but don't give me crap like this:

The same transition seems to be happening along Valencia Street. My guess is they will learn the same lesson as Noe - you can't put a moratorium on progress.

Is it progress to turn a diverse shopping district into a monocrop of one type of business? Or is it prudent to do what we pay city planners to do, and ... plan? The restaurant limit in Noe Valley worked when it was instituted, a long time ago, when people who lived there wanted to keep shoe repair places and other community-serving merchants on 24th Street. When it was no longer needed or effective, it was repealed. All we're talking about on Valencia is ONE YEAR, to give people a chance to think about the future of their neighborhood.

Progress. Bah humbug.





And instead wants the down-at-heel corner stores and junk emporia to remain in place.

But interestingly, if you visit the third world, you'll find that old cities like Delhi are often organized in exactly this way i.e. business of the same type all clustered together. If you know what you want to buy, then you know where to go.

So it turns out that it's not a modren notion at all - but rather getting back to our roots.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

Contrary to Mr. Redmond's stern admonishments, it would be a terrible outcome for us to simply put SF under glass and fight to prevent any change. That defines stagnation and decline. For instance trying to constrain supply, whether of restaurants or housing, has certain predictable economic results. Our housing is already becoming the most expensive in the US, and because we insist on constricting new supply, it is guaranteed to remain so. A huge irony in this is that the SFBG is supporting the self-gentrification of SF.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

What type of retail business does NOT "serve the community?"

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

minutiae of the local economy all in the name of the glory of centralized planning.

Because that worked so well in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, right?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

They really need a course in basic psychology because aversive conditioning usually doesn't work - it's much better to reward people for doing the right thing than attempting to penalize those who don't. "Banning" restaurants is a stupid idea. When there are too many restaurants then some will close and other types of retail will open up.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

planning is that it is predictive and anticipatory. Tim sees too many this and wants that. Then he sees too many thats and wants this. He's always behind the curve, always resisting progress and hopelessly mired in a backward-looking funk.

I don't even think Tim believes any of this any more. He's just going thru the motions for his paycheck. I don't sense any real care or concern any more - he's just going thru the motions because, realistically, what else could he do?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

Their entire mindset now is reactionary - they've completely lost whatever ability they ever had to help set the agenda. Simply "banning" everything after it occurs is no way to govern.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

Except when it is time to ban nudity, huh?

Agreed, progressives are a spent force. That leaves San Franciscans completely unrepresented in a local government that is run as a corrupt profit center for Willie and Rose.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

If you don't like Lee, vote him out.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

The nudity ban being an exception. Progressives have banned grocery bags, fois gras, Happy Meals etc... Their lust for bans never ends.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

Believe it or not, the government code that requires municipalities to plan for orderly development was passed in the 1940s by white male Republicans. Today's Democrats are far, far to the right of those Republicans.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

I don't think anyone ever intended planning to be micromanagement at the level of what individual existing storefronts do and sell, outside of requiring licquor licenses.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:55 pm

Point being that if Democrats crafted similar laws today they'd be Republican free market circa 1987.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

All neighborhoods should have moritoriums against change.

Maiden Lane by Union Square should still be lined with brothels.

The "International Quarter" on Pacific St. should still be lined with brothels. It should never have become a street lined only with antique stores. But now that this has happened, it should stay that way.

The Mission should be full of working-class Irish-Americans/drunks.

It should never have been ceeded to Latinos.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

progress. NIMBY's like Tim are really conservatives, seeking to freeze the city in time.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

As the outer parts of the city (Sunset, Richmond) and suburbs outside of San Francisco were developed in the early/middle part of the 20th century, many Irish and other white working class people voluntarily relocated from the Mission to those neighborhoods. Latinos then moved into the neighborhood while it was in a period of disinvestment.

This is a simple summary of the process, one that happened in many cities throughout the US. For instance, African-Americans replacing Jews and others in the Roxbury section of Boston. Or Puerto Ricans and African-Americans moving into Harlem.

I think (hope) that you didn't intend it, but your second to last sentence seems to imply that working class Irish-Americans are drunks.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 12:10 am

a neighborhood like the Mission would have moved to "the avenues" or the burbs, as newer, more attractive housing was constructed there.

But not all. Then, as hispanics moved in, the nature of the area changed and the remaining whites didn't like it, so they moved to. Crime increased and that drove out the rest.

And now, the Mish is hip and so younger white people mover in, displacing the hispanics.

What is odd, I think, is that someone like Tim has no problem with poor people displacing wealthier people, but does have a problem when it's the other way about. He gives no credible reason for that skew, and I cannot come up with one either.

PS: I see a lot of drunks in the Mission and only some of them are Irish.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:46 am

The poor do not push the wealthy out, the wealthy flee leaving a vacuum for the poor. The wealthy do push the poor out, out-competing them in the housing market with their economic advantage.

There is no parallelism here, not in the algebra of gentrification nor in the ability of the wealthy to move their agenda with great success and the failure of the "housing progressives" to stop them much less articulate a successful agenda of their own.

When they are reduced to impotent whining at the Castro over evictions, it is time to give it a rest and figure out something that works.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 8:11 am

escape the high crime, blight and squalor typically associated with area's that are transitioning to being a magnet for the poor, unemployed and homeless.

The process may start with some whites leaving but, after a while, those who remain become increasingly concerned about their safety and the quality of their life. Moreover, as the tax base erodes and businesses close, that can become a self-fulfilling tendency - just look at Oakland's problems to see where that leads.

While I agree that folks like Mecca and Gullicksen have failed their constituency, that is at least partly because of State laws over which they have no influence. Without Costa-Hawkins and Ellis, they might be mroe successful, but only at an ultimately much higher cost to all of us.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 8:32 am

Nah, the post-WWII suburban flight was instigated intentionally via development and infrastructure priorities, it was pull more so than push. There was a racist appeal that pushed out those who would not respond to the pull of the good life. Of course, the leisure society that the flight to the suburbs promised has been yanked out from under us all.

This "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" notion that everyone just happened to spontaneously have the same idea at the same time is quite childish and naive.

But we agree that progressives have led us into a blind alley and the constituencies they pretend to care about are in the process of being massacred. It is viewed as a greater social faux pas in this culture to name what is happening as it is happening than to sit by and have your constituency eviscerated under your watch. Without any sort of feedback mechanisms that reward success and punish failure, the progressives are going to ride this one down until the game of musical chairs ends and they lose.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 8:52 am

Aren't you a software developer who owns a TIC in the Mission? Who did you displace?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 10:00 am

Dont be silly, Marcos is the right kind of lily white person to displace a brown family

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

long as he utters a throwaway line about caring about non-whites. After all, that costs him nothing.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

Irony, Eddie.

Ever heard of it?

Posted by Troll the XIV on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:59 am

is so against progress. Tim and company have yet to find a development project etc. that they like.

Posted by D. native on Dec. 20, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

He wants SF to go back to the 1960's. Same with Welch, Hestor and all the NIMBY's.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:53 am

San Francisco Progressives work in a funny way in their world. After World War 2 I did know about the government (local) ideas of planning and building the bay area in order. Progress, by the plans were shot down by people you could now call progressives. High housing costs, traffic, lack of good paying jobs, high taxes the how we spend those taxes.

Panhandlers, homeless, Happy Meals, plastic bags, rights for nudists, rights for drunks, the list goes on. People coming here with higher incomes getting more and more of the bay area pie.

I am a 5th generation California, thought progressive was something for change, improvement to the states. I am slowly getting squeezed out.

Posted by Garrett on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 11:29 am

They want to freeze SF in time as if it were a theme park rather than a business center.

Progress is the one thing "Progressives" are scared of. How can a NIMBY be called a "progressive".

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 11:33 am

Yes, San Francisco progressives are those who prefer scientific analysis of public policy prior to enactment, the nonprofits and unions are too corrupt and unethical for that, while the corporate/downtown/moderate=conservatives are the true extremists who believe that their ideology is so perfect that anything that remotely pursues it must be awesome irrespective of evidence to the contrary.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

Thank you for sharing your point of view on this matter Tim.

Posted by Antoun Sehnaoui on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 5:46 am

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