Planning director insults neighborhood activists


John Rahaim, the director of city planning, is the featured speaker at a SPUR forum Jan. 29, and he's got a very special title for his talk. It's called "The Meanies and the War Mongers: Recent planning lessons from SF." Here's the description:

Land use planning in San Francisco is sometimes called a blood sport. John Rahaim, planning director, will discuss the last five years of planning in San Francisco during his tenure, and why that phrase is too weak. Rahaim will look at the accomplishments of planning in the city, the impacts from the last decade of neighborhood plans and the lessons from the war that will guide the Planning Department into the next decade.

Holy shit: Sounds to me like this guy, who gets very well compensated off the taxpayers' dime, has just directly insulted generations of activists who have fought some really dumb development ideas and made this a more livable city. "War mongers?" "Meanies?"Is that the term he uses for people who try to get involved in the planning process? Here's what he told me:

The purpose of the title was to be provocative.  I find it curious that you would make that assumption.  For now I will say that in my experience in SF, there are people on all sides of the development debates who would fit these descriptions.  Other than that, I invite you to the talk.

Okay, provocative is good, but seriously: He's sounding as if these aren't real issues that affect people's lives, that land-use planning isn't central to what we are as a city, and that people who don't just shut up and go along with what he wants are troublemakers. Or as former Sup. Aaron Peskin, who has spent years as a neighborhood activists, notes: "He doesn't want to admit that the best planning in this city is done by those neighborhood organizations and those activists who
challenge and shape literally every piece of planning that comes out of his office."

Rahaim is supposed to be the guy who balances the various interest groups and tries to create acceptable solutions. "Whoever he's referring to, it's demeaning and unprofessional," Peskin notes.

You can show up and ask Mr. Rahaim what he was talking about Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 6pm at the SPUR Center, 654 Mission. It's free for SPUR members and costs $10 for everyone else. Worth every penny of it.



The lack of architectural distinction is really unfortunate. Design by committee tends to stifle the Fine Art aspect of architecture.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:55 am

John King manages to keep a hardon for "fine art architecture" in San Francisco even if it is "designed by committee."

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:03 am

The Apple Items are very Usefull for evey body and helpful

Posted by Apple Reseller in Pakistan on Jun. 19, 2013 @ 2:25 am

Architecture by consensus leads to the kind of municipal eyesore that is all too common in American cities.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:04 am

Only a Great Man should be allowed to force his glass, steel and concrete erection upon an entire city.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:13 am

or onto Marcos as I often hear

Posted by Greg_the_diKC on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:42 am

Sexist troll.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 10:18 am

For some strange reason, it is okay for hired guns to get paid to promote a corporate welfare development agenda, but when citizens who pay the property taxes and breathe vitality and life into our communities and neighborhoods participate in the public process surrounding land grabs, lo and behold, that is beyond the pale in civilized discourse, that is NIMBY.

Posted by socram on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:51 am

No. When the goal of those citizens engaging in civilized discourse is to prevent change, then they are NIMBY.
Can you tell me when any significant group of San Franciscans lobbied in favor of development?

Posted by Erick Brooks on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 7:09 am

The only people who support development projects are those who get paid to, whether attorneys, architects, lobbyists, consultants, union members or elected officials.

There is no private development on earth that warrants citizens devoting their free time to supporting someone else's project.

Posted by socram on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 7:11 am

I believe it will be an asset to the city. I can think of numerous examples.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 8:06 am

Thank you, Tim Colen.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:20 am

you do realize that if people hadn't supported the development of the home you currently occupy, then you wouldnt even be here.

The lack of understanding of development among you people is astounding.

Posted by Greg_the_diKC on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:44 am

And suddenly a developer is the antichrist? Just for building a house that Marcos cannot afford?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:55 am

You mean Marcos who owns a unit in the mission?

Posted by Greg_the_diKC on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

he is terrified that any new construction will drive down his valuation and make foreclosure an inevitability.

It must be sad to feel that vulnerable, but if no new homes is what it takes, he is all over that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

So you ARE Tim Colen.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

It's not clear.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

You're the developer lobbyist Tim Colen!

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

Obama, am a registered Democrat and a moderate liberal.

However, I see no reason to support a policy of never building anything ever.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

Right, Tim Colen, you're the executive director of a coalition.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:42 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

How much is this guy paid and is he on salary while speaking in front of a right-wing neoliberal "thinktank"? :(

Posted by Richard on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:22 am

Rahaim is getting paid several orders of magnitude less than the development value his department is unlocking to speak before the developer lobbyist group SPUR.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:29 am

$10 to SPUR, a nonprofit that lobbies for developer profits, whose taxpayer subsidized HQ overlooks YBC that used to house 3000 working poor people in SROs is $10 too much.

They should be paying us to listen to their treacle.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:59 am

What's said here matters very little, as do the positions of neighborhood activists, because it's full speed ahead for the developers and anything goes! Willie Brown via Ed Lee and Rose Pak have cleared the way for biggest entitlement frenzy in San Francisco's ever seen. Those behind these power brokers now own the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, the Board of Appeals and the CEQA judge. It is no longer possible for meaningful neighborhood activism to occur. That's why Rahaim offers only lip service to the "meanies and the war mongers."

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:48 am

They do this to taunt us because they hold us in contempt as they hold the City in contempt, and covet the tax receipts that we generate which they view as their private property.

Where are the social justice nonprofits amidst this panoply of corporate corruption? On the take, that's where.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

You overlook the fact that most SF'ers actually want new malls, sports facilities, housing, workplaces etc.

Yours is a minority view.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

Your complaints are meaningless.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

arrives on a distant planet and start telling the local what they should want and like and need and support, instead of actually listening to them.

He talks, but never listens. And complains constantly, of course.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

...and be labeled a "NIMBY" by those who don't care? I'll take the NIMBY position any day. This "planning director" in name only is a politicized clown.

Posted by NIMBY on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

look and feel exactly like every other neighborhood?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

Most all neigborhoods look and feel differently. But we can divide San Francisco neighborhoods into two general categories: established neighborhoods and craptacular planning failures.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

the older and more "established" neighborhoods of SF, there are others who prefer the easy, comfortable feel of more suburban environments like Mission Bay and the south-west parts of the city.

You appear to want to impose a one-dimensional value system on the city, while the rest of us genuinely seek a diverse and multi-faceted city.

Why don't you simply hang in the neighborhoods that you like and avoid those that you dislike? Why instead seek to deprive those who feel differently from you their right to have a different neighborhood.

As a gay, your intolerance to others staggers me.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

The ambiguity of this sentence confuses me. Are you gay (not that it matters--apologies to "Seinfeld"), a concern troll or both?

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

I am intolerant of craptaculance. Problem?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:13 pm
Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

I know craptacular crapulence when I see it. Problem?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

Just thought I'd combine two of the stupidest, most inane and annoying hipster phrases into one idiotic amalgam.

I so hate that shit. It makes whoever is saying it look like some arrogant white boy jerk swinging his dick around -I picture it said by one of those Marina boys with the purposefully jelled hair to make it look like they just got out of bed... maybe after a couple drinks.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 26, 2013 @ 11:42 pm

At least crapulance is a perfect cromulent word according to The Simpsons.


Posted by marcos on Jan. 27, 2013 @ 7:52 am

I agree, the NIMBYS are, in fact, meanies and war mongers! I live in the kingdom of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers. I have no say in anything, they dictate everything that goes on here. And guess, what, we have some of the highest commercial vacancy rates in the City and hobos everywhere. No one wants to build or open a business here because they know it will be take 10 years and cost them millions in lawsuits and environmental impact reports. They are so anti-everything we have cut off our noses to spite our faces. Make no mistake, they are mostly just huge hypocrites worried about losing their views from their multi-million dollar homes at the top of the hill. And don't give me that garbage about rent control, I know plenty of people who make a whole lot more money than I do, have a much larger place than I do, but have rent control. They spend their extra money on luxury cars and cabins in Tahoe. What a bunch of BS.

Posted by Nikki on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 5:29 pm

How far off-topic comments have strayed.
Back to the topic: this is unacceptable behavior in a hired city employee. They serve at our pleasure, so to speak.

Posted by Andrew Ferguson on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

How far off-topic comments have strayed.
Back to the topic: this is unacceptable behavior in a hired city employee.

As a retired City employee, I know too well that we all WORK FOR YOU! This department head should be held accountable. And, his appointing officer should also be held accountable (the mayor), along with the Commission that governs his dept.

He is first & foremost A PUBLIC EMPLOYEE! That means he works for us. At his level, he enjoys a nice salary with substantial benefits (much greater than us rank & file workers with under market wages) for the privilege of holding a City job. His arrogance is unacceptable.

The message must be clear! We will not tolerate City Dept heads & their management & administrative staff that do not respect city residents (tax payers --from whence their wages come)! They are our employees. We will not tolerate disrespect. We will not allow them to abuse us. We will not tolerate their departmental practices that insult or abuse us & our neighborhoods. Enough already!

But we must tell them this is unacceptable behavior. Don't be afraid. They all serve at our pleasure, so to speak. We all vote.

Posted by Andrew Ferguson on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

As if Eastern Neighborhoods was not insulting enough. In that, Rahaim was joined by the late Eric Quezada in a contest to see who could distance themselves the furthest from the most residents of the Mission.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 25, 2013 @ 10:32 am

Time for Mr.Rahaim to retire as City Planning Director. Clearly--he is burned out. He also does not know a SPUR set up when he sees one.

Posted by Guest Charley_sf on Jan. 25, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

because he's been here such a short time that this is the way San Franciscans prefer to run their City. Carpetbagger hires seldom work out.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2013 @ 11:13 pm

Let's see if there is substance. No need to get agitated before the fact.

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