GearyBRT Denies Opposition from Publicly Commenting at Public Comment Meeting

Photo Courtesy: Geary Merchants Association

Photo Courtesy: Geary Merchants Association

San Francisco - Nov. 5th, 2015 Geary Blvd. Resident, Nancy Nagano was denied the opportunity to speak by SFMTA and SFCTA Staffers regarding her concerns for pedestrian safety with GearyBRT's plan to demolish pedestrian bridges used to cross Geary Blvd. at SFMTA/SFCTA GearyBRT Public Comment Meeting.

"The plan is unsafe," emphasized Nancy Nagano, a resident along Geary Blvd. in San Francisco, where controversy surrounding the scuttling of opposition voices by SFMTA and SFCTA staff caused suspicion about the intentions behind the Public Comment Meeting. "This is a scam!" exclaimed Dr. Ron "K" Konoposki, another resident along the Geary Blvd commercial corridor, where $300,000,000 construction award is at risk should the City be unable to successfully convince residents and business owners of the programs value. "My wife told me before I came here that I'm wasting my time because this [the plan] has already been decided," declared Dr. Konopolski. "That's not true, that's not true," repeated, nearly in unison, from GearyBRT Plan representatives Chester Fung, Principal Transportation Planner for SFCTA and Eric Young, Strategic Communications and Media Relations.

At issue with many of those in attendance of the evening's Public Comment Meeting was the definition of what constituted Public Comment. "The fact that we didn't get to speak today is Baloney," expressed Corey Urban, whom along with his brother Glenn, own the Shell Car Wash on Geary Blvd. "The [GearyBRT] Environmental Impact Report [EIR] is flawed and it's biased." stated Mr. Urban. The brothers reviewed the GearyBRT public report prior to attending the meeting and discovered that the biggest contributor to the claim of 15-20% time savings had mostly to do with the number of bus stops along Geary Blvd. Mr. Urban explains, "The No-Build alternative removes no Bus Stops, just by itself, if you remove more bus stops, you're going to have a more efficient transportation system." Urban contends that the Plan's other Build alternatives remove Bus Stops between 18%-54% compared with 0% Bus Stop removal for the No Build Plan.

"I had no plans to speak, but I wanted to hear what people had to say." stated Richmond District resident, Brian Larkin, an Engineer and  member of the Planning Association of the Richmond (PAR) board of directors, a 500+ member organization of residential and commercial property owners who have opposed GearyBRT since 2007.

Dr. Konopolski, protesting the GearyBRT representative's controversial comment gathering approach, instructed Mr. Fung and Mr. Young, that "To be a public comment period should be where all of the people can speak publicly and all of the other people can hear what they have to say." GearyBRT's Fung responded, "That's not the purpose of tonight's meeting."

Mr. Fung and Mr. Young explained that there were three options to offer comments at the public meeting, the first was to sit down with one of two court reporters and have them dictate a comment (no translators were made available for Russian, Cantonese or Mandarin language speakers who make up more than 40% of the Richmond District's population, of greater concern to some attendees was the absence of materials and staff support for Disabled commenters with vision and/or hearing impairment. ) The second way was to write a letter and mail it to the SFCTA and the last available option was to write down a comment and hand it to an SFCTA Staffer. In a surprise announcement, about 30 minutes after making that statement, scandal broke as the event moderator, addresses the remaining audience of attendees and claimed that the written comment cards were, "taken." How he knew the comments were taken, rather than misplaced or lost was not explained. After the statement, he apologized for the inconvenience and asked people if they would rewrite and resubmit their comments, and not to worry, since they had until November 16th to submit them. For some, including Dr. Konopolski, it was an unfortunate validation of his concern for the insistence upon submitting hand written comment cards to the event staff. "These cards are easily disposed of," he insisted to Mr. Fung and Mr. Young.

"Let him speak!" Hollered members of the audience as David Heller, President of the Geary Blvd. Merchants Assoc., having been repeatedly refused his request for 2 minutes to address the audience from SFCTA's Fung, chose to march to the front of the audience and address them anyway, albeit, instead of talking about his concerns with the plan, he proclaimed that, "People should be able to speak at a public meeting," then he asked the audience, "How many of you had planned to speak tonight?" A dozen hands raised from members of the audience. As a staunch opponent of GearyBRT for 20 years, Mr. Heller announced that, "They [SFCTA/SFMTA] will not keep us silent." When asked afterwards about his unapproved public address, he stated, "I'm not going to let them bulldoze down Geary Blvd without us having a say in our future." Mr. Heller's has gained wide support from other small business owners and community leaders by launching a new website [www.StopMuniBRT.org] and extensive social media promotion campaign in hopes to educate the public about his group's opposition since, in his words, "...for over 20 years, they [GearyBRT Representatives] have been blowing us off."

Mrs. Nagano concluded, "I'm disappointed that I was not able to make a public comment about the lack of safety for pedestrians that will be impacted with the new transit system and the public crosswalks that they want to build, it's just not safe."

 

MuniBRT: Why it means higher taxes, fewer jobs and more dangerous streets

Photo: Courtesy Geary Blvd. Merchants Association, San Francisco

Photo: Courtesy Geary Blvd. Merchants Association, San Francisco

Protesting GearyBRT is not about being anti-transportation. It’s about not letting government agencies and their development friends (most who neither live nor shop in our community) treat our residents, our resources and our neighborhood carelessly.

It’s easy for some people to disregard the Richmond District as a bunch of NIMBYs, especially if you don’t live or work in the community. It’s also easy for them to disregard the needs of the elderly, the disabled and our extensive Chinese community, all of whom will be affected by the damage and turmoil caused by bulldozing down Geary Boulevard.

What’s in it for our community and who truly benefits?

The City has not completed a formal outreach to determine how all of our diverse communities feel about GearyBRT. We need to know how everyone feels about this project before recommendations are made and strategies are implemented.

Where is the savings in travel speed for our residents?

The SFCTA can offer no promise of travel time savings except from a report that’s over 8 years old and does not account for improvements made along the Geary Boulevard corridor, including our amazing new luxurious and speedy bus fleet. Have you ridden down Geary on these buses? They are great!

Where is the increase in customers for our shops?

Look to the work completed on Ocean Avenue and Third Street and it’s evident. The programs have had no measurable positive effect except for displacing our City’s African-American, Chinese and Hispanic populations. In the Richmond, we celebrate our diverse communities and we stand by their side when they are threatened. GearyBRT, in its current incarnation, poses a great threat to all of our residents and small business owners.

Why would anyone be so eager to spend $300,000,000 without having substantial, real-world evidence supporting the beneficial claims of this project?

Moreover, why would any reasonable person want the SFCTA to spend $300,000,000 on a project when a real solution would cost a mere fraction of that amount? Why would anyone be so willing to overspend to solve a problem?

This GEARY BRT program, the more you look into it seems a lot like those $436 hammers, $600 toilet seats and $7,622 coffee brewers that defense contractors would try to slip by our legislators back in the 80's.

The reason why there is no promise that the SFCTA can make is because it’s all theoretical. The evidence that does exist is easy to see on Ocean Avenue and Third Street, Muni spent millions on both projects, with no community benefit to this day. There are no thriving businesses off Third Street where it was supposed to be such a boon to the local economy. A few more restaurants popped up, but that has nothing to do with Muni, it has to do with Mission Bay and the techworkers out at Potrero Hill. Even more jarring is that SFCTA is preparing to bulldoze their way down Geary Blvd without having all the money they need to get the job done right.

Geary Boulevard is Pro Public Transportation but the SFCTA plan isn't about making life easier for the Richmond, its about getting federal and state monies and playing God with people's lives and life savings disregarded other than the laughable "We're listening." line as they file our grievances in the circular file.

There are pro-transit solutions that are immensely less costly then BRT in the Richmond. The City seems to be only too eager to get their hands on big dollars and conduct another big project rather than being pragmatic and focusing on what really works. The diamond lane or the red lane on O'Farrell Street is a perfect example of something that is both highly effective and inexpensive to implement, and most importantly does not disrupt a bustling neighborhood due to unnecessary and excessively costly construction.

The city has failed to make the case as to why this is such a great deal and worth the headaches and heartaches the major construction will entail. They have poorly communicated their community goals rather than their construction and development goals.

If GearyBRT can truly listen too and care for the needs of those who will be put at risk by the project, then there is hope. Many residents from around the City don't believe that this current BRT plan can save money, time or be completed on schedule/budget or with the thoughtful planning and additional infrastructure built-in to truly address the increased density that the City hopes the Richmond can absorb. We are not accepting of Geary BRT doing a half complete job and sticking us with a mess from the SFCTA’s lack of proper and thorough planning.

On Geary Boulevard we have many thriving small businesses – take a look at shop windows and you’ll see many signs to hire new employees. The Richmond wants a thoughtful approach before the City fumbles this project like they have so many before.

There are no safeguards for residents, small business and property owners and people who visit and love spending time in the Richmond. This plan needs to be sent back to the drawing board. It's too easy to disregard the people who will be stuck with this proposed MuniBRT mess, yet after decades of fighting, there is too much hunger for money for them to stop. So fight on, we must. For more information visit www.StopMuniBRT.org.

Disabled riders placed in life threatening danger with plan for MuniBRT

A wheelchair bound person falling onto the sidewalk from exiting Muni is dangerous, but because Muni BRT requires the disabled to cross several lanes of traffic to enter and exit the bus, that same person could be killed as they fall onto a street with oncoming traffic. That's exactly the risk being ignored by the SFMTA when it comes to disabled riders as they try to bulldoze their Muni BRT on Geary Blvd. If you or someone you love is disabled, then here is what you can do to help us protect disabled riders from Muni's BRT plans:

Muni BRT is not worth risking the lives of our disabled neighbors. Help us fight!

Here’s what you can do:
1. Sign up to support our fight at www.StopMuniBRT.org
2. Email your opposition to SFMTA’s Tilly Chang: gearybrt@sfcta.org
3. Be a hero! Come to St. Mary's Cathedral, 1111 Gough St., on Thursday, Nov. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  Let Muni know you’re not going to let them get away with it!

How you can help our fight against MUNI BRT

Muni doesn’t keep it’s promises. Don’t get fooled by their “sales pitch.”

Muni’s “sales pitch” ended up crushing small businesses and destroyed critical jobs for youth and seniors on Ocean Avenue as well as 3rd Street. Now they have Richmond district Mom and Pop shops in their crosshairs.

The fact is that Muni doesn’t care about small businesses or Richmond District jobs. West Portal BRT is about political favors. This is the first step in a land grab strategy for developers in the Richmond. We need your voice to fight to protect jobs in the Richmond district.

Here’s what you can do:
1. Sign up to support our fight at www.StopMuniBRT.org
2. Email your opposition to SFMTA’s Tilly Chang: gearybrt@sfcta.org
3. Be a hero! Come to St. Mary's Cathedral, 1111 Gough St., on Thursday, Nov. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  Let Muni know you’re not going to let them get away with it!