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."