Tag Archives: parking in san francisco

Oh The Games People Play

By now many of you have read or heard about the tremendous deficit that our City is facing this year and projected for the next few years to come. How does all of this happen so rapidly, especially in a City like ours that has such a solid and far reaching tax base, that is a tourist destination for people from all over the World, is headquarters to some of the wealthiest corporations in the country, and is encompassed in a land-locked 47 square miles with only approximately 800,000 residents?

No doubt, these cash strapped days are due to the economic realities that have befallen our country and indeed the world is forcing us all to realign our priorities. But my question is, does it have to be this bad, and are we truly addressing the underlying causes of over-spending that have contributed to our current predicament.

Could it be that what we pay for our municipal services is higher on a per capita basis by some 2 to 4 times when compared to any city in America because San Franciscans just like paying more for local government in order to live up to our humanitarian image?

Could it be that people who live here are just too busy to really look into the issues that affect costs and therefore just can’t be bothered because after all, this is really a pretty good place to live?

Could it be that the issues presented to the public are deliberately obscured and complicated by politicians who curry political favor and expediency as opposed to providing basic services in the most efficient manner?

I certainly don’t know all of the answers to the above questions other than to say that it could a bit of each. Before I present some facts to you so that you can make up your own mind, let me forewarn those of you, including most of the members on the Board of Supervisors, who believe that the only way to balance our budget and reduce the deficit is by additional taxes on the wealthy, this column may present some disturbing facts that undermine your theories on just whose “ox should be gored” or whose income should be redistributed.

A couple disclosure facts might be in order for those who like to cast dispersions…
1. I have never been considered wealthy in monetary terms by any standard and the pursuit money has always been secondary to me in favor of other achievements. 2. As a career civil servant for thirty years, I never made more than $80,000 in one year and that was only in my last position, although I served as an executive in seven different City departments in all three branches of government. 3. My reasons for seeking employment in the public sector in the sixties were much different than what I suspect motivates people to do so today. 4. I am not really concerned about how much money anyone makes…. good for them, as long as they have not made it by exploiting others or “gaming the system” in such a way that the end result suffers. That being said, considers the following facts:

Our city work force consists of 27,852 fulltime and an additional 9,425 part time employees for a total of 37,277 serving a population of approximately 810,000 residents. That’s a ratio of approx. 1: 22, easily the highest in the country.

More than 1 in 3 workers makes in excess of $100,000 in base salary and when overtime is factored in almost 10,000 workers make well over $100,000 per year. These figures do not reflect the additional costs to the City for health care and pensions.

There is currently over 9,587 employees earning over $100,000 annually amounting to an increased cost of $1.5 Billion dollars to the City budget. This is an increase of 800 % in the number of City employees earning over $100,000 in the last decade

In fiscal year 2009 salaries accounted for 2.5 billion of the 6.6 billion dollar budget. The amount we are now spending for salaries is well over 3 times what Frank Jordan allowed for salaries when Mayor and twice that allowed by Willie Brown.

The population of the City has not changed and it would be very hard to find anyone who would attest that essential City services delivered are better now than in prior years.

In 2007, as Newsom was running for a second term, he gave a 23% pay increase to police and firefighters. In the following two years, the amount paid for salaries of City workers increased by 207.4 million dollars.

Of the 100 highest paid city employees, 71 of them are police and fire and the majority of them earn between $250,000 and $350,000 per year with overtime.

In fiscal year 2008-2009, 1,637 city positions, many of them vacant, at a salary range of less than $80,000 annually were slashed from the budget in a much ballyhooed report claiming to save $55 million. 90% the 1637 positions eliminated earned less than $60,000 per year. (So much for our low income wage earners and the dwindling blue collar sector!)

In later 2009, pay raises were given across the board to all City employees making over $80,000 per year, and ironically, just as the Mayor’s designs for higher political office started to surface, 616 new employees were hired by appointment and without civil service examination to earn over $80,000 per year. These raises and appointments are now costing the City $91.3 million more annually. (As a result, we now have a new type of mid to high level civil servant whose only qualifications appear to be his talent as a political operative. Hopefully, pension and benefit reform will discourage these new appointments from taking root in the City and they will move on to their next assignment.)

California Employment Development Department data shows that San Francisco City workers make an average of at least 20% more than their counterparts in the private sector.

Today, our budget comes in at 6.7 billion and is projected to go to 7.2 billion next year. Compare that to the 5.1 billion budget that reflected Willie Browns last budget or that of the 2.9 billion for the Frank Jordan budget.

Anyway you slice it, dice it or cut it, the question remains for you to ponder. Are we getting our monies worth from our local “municipal service providers?” If not, why not and what can we do about it. As a person who is against discrimination of any kind, I just don’t think we can continually go back and ask those who got it, to pay for those that don’t have it, because those who are supposed to deliver it don’t know how!

OBSERVATIONS:
Patrick Monett -Shaw is a one man marvel when it comes to fact-finding, number crunching, corruption watchdog and telling it like it is. He has paid dearly for his talent and his avocation by those who want to silence him on what is really going on at Laguna Honda Hospital. He has written at length about very important and complicated issues that affect us all, so to you Patrick, I say congratulations!

His latest observation about the muni driver’s reform petition that you are being asked to sign is interesting. He notes that not just bus drivers salaries are set by cross-jurisdictional salary surveys, but also the salaries of police and nurses are pegged to the highest paid in other jurisdictions. Of course bus drivers are the easiest to pick on because of non-salary related issues that this administration and the sponsoring supervisor are too weak to address. Nevertheless both the mayor and the supervisor keep popping off about the 8 to 9 million in salary increases due the drivers in July while both politicians are on record as supporting the 207.4 million in raises for those other City employees already making over $100,000 per year!

Policemen, Firemen, Nurses and yes bus drivers and all of our civil servants should be paid well if they are performing well. There is no question about that, and like most other San Franciscans, I am proud of them and want the best for them when they are doing their best in an environment that they do not always control. I fail to see how paying the drivers less will result in anything other than less qualified drivers when the real corrections need to be addressed at the Muni’s 393 managers who are responsible for all aspects of the Muni’s performance. And oh yes, who by the way are all members of the $100,000 a year club as referred to in my above article.

What is really happening here is that lower income City workers are being thrown “Under the Bus” in order to insure that the high-end salary people continue to receive their raises as they have for the past 6 years.

Laguna Honda Hospital:
The Dan Noyes chi. 7 I-Team investigation of the shenanigans going on at Laguna Honda Hospital at 6:30 pm Thursday evening may 20th was amazing. If you get a chance try to see it on the net. Dan Noyes is a real asset to San Francisco.
http://iteamblog.abc7news.com/ or
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/channel?section=news/iteam&id=7104859

Voter tip:

For all of you Democrats out there who are tired of the Democratic County Central Committee being dominated by the far left activists, take a look at the candidacy of Andy Clark. He has served the interest of democrats on the west side of town with his moderate politics and years of service as an Assistant District Attorney.

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Sometimes you just scratch your head……

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/02/22/BAEV1C5IBI.DTL

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Happy Birthday

I want to wish my good friend Burt a very, very Happy Birthday

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Is this Guy Serious?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-V_0UiaTds

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The Good Ship Lollipop Marooned on Treasure Island!

I truly wish for the sake of all San Franciscans that there were a good, honest, realistic and forthright development project forthcoming for Treasure Island, but unfortunately this is not the case.

On December 16th, the mayor’s office held a much-ballyhooed press conference to announce that finally, San Francisco had reached an agreement with the Navy to purchase Treasure Island for the sum of $105 million. The City will pay this amount over an unspecified period of time according to the Chronicle, for what Mayor Newsom termed a “Grand Vision” for the Island, replete with 3 residential high-rises for 6000 new homes, a 60 story hotel, commercial complex, marina, and believe it or not, a 40 acre organic farm! Never one to miss an opportunity to spin a new idea, Newsom was most excited about the 8000 new jobs that would be created, in fact so much so that he mistakenly stated that the jobs had already been created in his latest “State of The City” address along with some 70,000 more jobs for the Bay View Hunters Point project!

Following the Dec. 16th “fantasy press release” issued by the mayor’s office, several newspapers and television stations solicited my response. As the former Executive Director for Treasure Island, I was exposed to the intricacies and complexities of any development relating to that Island. I will share a few of my concerns with you here:

1. With a current City budget deficit approaching $600 million dollars, thanks to the mismanagement of this administration and this Board of Supervisors, where is the supposed $105 million dollars going to come from to pay for the project?

2. Even if the true cost were only $105 million dollars, why are we now paying that amount for only 450 acres of the total 550 available acres? Those 550 acres we could have had for nothing five years ago when the Navy wanted to give it to us if the City did the environmental clean up, at a time when there was a much stronger and more expensive real estate market? (And surprise — who benefits from the control and development of the remaining 100 acres that the City does not buy?)

3. The Mayor’s office claims the Navy has agreed to do the toxic cleanup. Any novice base re-use developer knows that the Navy will only comply with federal standards, not more stringent and expensive State or local requirements. This alone will add hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to SF taxpayers.

4. Treasure Island is man-made of seismically unsafe toxic landfill 8 to 15 feet deep and sits on top of one of the strongest quake fault lines in the State. The cost to taxpayers to stabilize the perimeter of the Island and to eliminate the present rate of “sinking” will also be in the hundreds of millions of dollars which has been documented in multiple in-depth studies commissioned by the Treasure Island Development Authority. Without the proper seismic stabilization that encompasses anchoring the entire Island at least 150 feet down to bed rock, and the proper soil remediation and toxic clean up, how is the Island going to support the three 60 story high rises, 6000 new homes and commercial center, or the 40 acre organic garden that this mayor is dreaming of?

5. The financial partners in the development scheme are Wilson Meany Sullivan, a firm that, I assume, will want to get paid for their work, and Lennar Corp. and Kenwood Investments, two corporations that are experiencing solvency problems of late.

6. Most importantly, there is no public or private lender that will loan money or insure a development of this nature in today’s real estate market, without the positive results of all phases of a properly completed Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?

My reponses were published in the Fog City Journal on Dec. 19th, (Somalia By The Bay), the Examiner on Dec. 22nd, (Nothing But Smoke and Mirrors on T.I.) and the Chronicle on Dec.28th, in a featured article titled Treasure Island Gets a reality check, in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 9th, (Treasure Hunt in S.F. Bay), and in several other publications as well as broadcasts on local TV stations.

Responding to questions in another article (Chronicle, Jan. 15th) Shortfall Could Scale Back Treasure Island Plans, Michael Cohen, the author of this latest fantasy plan, and the mayor’s so-called economic guru, revised the story. Now the developers will pay the $105 million for the Island. This is wonderful news, except at the time of printing, the developers, namely Lennar and Kenwood would not confirm that any such financial arrangement exists. Cohen, in a last ditch effort to portray himself as a grown-up player in the real developers world, adds that “the revenue to build out the infrastructure for the project would come from taxes and fees that the project will generate.” My question to Mr. Cohen: How can we collect taxes and fees before the project is built? I’m sure his answer will involve some convoluted form of “bonding” that will inevitably be in conflict with my response #6 listed above. The Chronicle postulates that an admitted shortfall of funds could unravel the entire Treasure Island scheme and the Navy is reluctant to sign the Island over without a real deal being consummated!

Why is all of this happening? What interest would the mayor’s office have in promoting this Treasure Island scheme? The answer is simple: smoke and mirrors. A quick-fix poster board attempt to polish his image. It looks good. That is, before actual analysis.

What we have here is Newsom “exploiting” another issue that people are concerned about to boost his rapidly declining poll numbers. Lets call this one “care not jobs.”

Here is the play to come: The Treasure Island scheme will have to go before the Supervisors. Some of the board members, in their bumbling self-serving way, will question the validity of such a strategy, and rightfully, vote against it. At this point, the Mayor, knowing full-well that the project was a loser all along, designed to appear as if he were “trying” to create jobs, has the perfect platform to blame the Board for stopping him from creating jobs. This isn’t the first time he has pulled such a maneuver.

The only one that makes out under this scheme is the Navy which has nothing to lose. Mr. Mayor stop trying to fool the people you represent. If perhaps you are not willing to do that at this point in your political career, then look around and see if you have any political donors left that you can coerce into a “sweetheart deal” so that you can continue to keep the “Treasure Island Fantasy” alive until you are finally out of office.

OBSERVATIONS and PREDICTIONS:

1. Treasure Island will never be developed in any form under this administration.

2. Jobs will be central to a multitude of schemes put forth in attention grabbing press releases in upcoming months, but will they really be created?

3. San Francisco will be ready for a welcome makeover in about 6 months to a year, as the real natives are getting restless.

4. David Canepa, Daly City Councilman is the officeholder to watch in local politics. His commitment to his constituents as opposed to special interests is a rarity on this side of the City and into the peninsula, where he is being touted for higher office.

If you are interested my blog is tonyhallsf.wordpress.com and twitter.com/TonyHallSF

February 2010

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ENOUGH ALREADY WITH THE PARKING!

My Good friend George Lum, a longtime City employee and Fiscal Officer for the Courts, recently paid me a visit and expressed his views about how difficult and expensive it is to try and drive and park in San Francisco. I suspect his views reflect the thoughts of many residents who live in our City. He brought up some very interesting facts that I thought were worth repeating. Like myself and many other civil servants who believe in public accountability, George is astounded at the ignorance, arrogance and audacity of today’s generation of policy makers who seem to have their heads screwed on backwards and thus subject a trusting public to the expenses of their circular reasoning.

Consider for example the following facts: In 1970, the average fine for a parking meter violation was $3. Today the fine averages $50 to $70 depending upon what part of the City you received the ticket. In 1970, the City wide meter fee was 10 cents per-hour, today it ranges from $2.50 to $3.50 per-hour. You do the math. Has our City’s population increased? Have our curbs, streets and signage been maintained, as was the original purpose for the fees? Are the most recently proposed increases remotely related to the welfare of our struggling storeowners or residents who must use their autos? Do we even really know where the proceeds of these gigantic revenues are spent? I think it is high time for the public to weigh in and stop accepting all the lame reasons that the robber barons put forth in order to increase the amount of your money that they spend while building their political empires.

The Municipal Transportation Agency, in its latest round of incompetent lunacy, has proposed a 50 cent per-hour increase in Parking meters, and the extension of the hours of operation and enforcement of those meters every day and night until 10 PM and—get this—Sundays included! I mean really, who are these people working for? They also want to limit each meter user to one hour during the day and up to four hours during the evening and increase garage rates at least $2 more per-hour. All of this money grabbing is at the expense of those who out of necessity must drive a car as opposed to those who actually use municipal transportation. (Look out residents of District 7!) One genius who works at the chamber of commerce said “these proposals are great from a business perspective because it will encourage turnover!” (I believe this was the same character who proposed building-up our movie industry revenues by empowering 3rd rate local extras as opposed to enticing top-flight movie producers from Hollywood.) Well, to be honest with you and yes, realistic, these proposals will do absolutely nothing but further erode the attractiveness of downtown and neighborhood shops and penalize the auto driver. Any amateur student of public policy can tell you that someone suffers when fines and fees are increased. I don’t know of anyone who can get anything accomplished in one hour downtown and the four-hour limit in neighborhoods will only pit residents against merchants without any new parking being made available.

Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I had the pleasure of serving with Mr. Lum. As Court administrators, we had the opportunity to analyze the impact that an increase in parking fines and fees would have on the public, as it was then under the auspices of the Municipal Court. The surprising results invariably demonstrated that any such increases resulted in more scofflaws (people who don’t pay their fines), more expensive enforcement in relation to revenue netted and certainly less “customer satisfaction”. At least, back then, we tried to justify any increase with input from all concerned parties, and then provide the public with something in return for their inconvenience.

It was during that period of time that I originated the location for the new Civic Center Courthouse on McAllister and Van Ness, paid for by an extra $1.00 being added on to each fine collected. Today such analysis and constructive projects are totally ignored as the whole issue of public parking is seen only as it relates to the bottom line.

Another observation: back then a parking meter enforcement officer was hired at approximately $68,000 including benefits and was expected to generate about 150% of his or her cost to the City per-year. Today they are hired at a much, much more expensive rate when benefits are included, and expected to produce 300% percent revenue in relation to their cost. Parking and the fees and fines associated with it have become a massive money source and local politicians have discovered they can engage in “taxation without representation” without even having to explain where the money is going.

We are told that the newly proposed increases will generate an additional $9.5 million for a municipal transportation agency that is running a deficit of $129 million per year. What we are not being told is the additional personnel costs associated with the enforcement and collection for the extended hours and the effect upon our quality of life here in San Francisco.

I know there are many people who believe in the “transit first” policy that has been in effect for the past 30 years and there is merit to that. I would be much happier if the policy had produced a mass transit system that—after so much invested time, material and money—actually works, is efficient, and pays for itself without discriminating against people who use autos. The solution is to concentrate on improving the transit system by making it self-sufficient, streamlining the routes, reviewing the hiring and work practices of personnel, and imposing modern stringent guidelines.

Now back to the automobile and how to handle its parking. The answer is certainly not to penalize or discourage its user as this only hurts the local economy. Other cities—and yes, even our sister city down south, Los Angeles—has embarked upon a policy of accommodating the auto-user with reasonable parking and rates that encourage the revitalization of the downtown sector. The conversion of property to provide safe, reasonable and convenient parking for Americans’ unique and undeniable fascination with the auto is something that we should no longer deny but embrace. As much as we like to think that we here in San Francisco always know better, there are still some things that we must face up to. Our desire to demonstrate that almost all human activity can be regulated or legislated is beginning to make us look foolish and stifle our image as a world class City. We can do better than this!

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