Our Failing Street Tree Policy

north-beach-tree.jpgOur misguided City policy to transfer ownership of streets trees to private property owners isn't working. Two years ago I held a hearing where we reviewed potential solutions to this problem, but nothing has been done since then other than to transfer more trees to property owners who didn't plant the trees, don't necessarily know how to take care of the trees, and didn't ask for maintenance responsibilities of these trees. Our urban forest is too important to be treated like this, so Board President David Chiu and I have called for a hearing to review the policy and to push for a better solution.

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Transbay Transit District Approved

pelli_transbay_design.jpgYesterday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt the assessment district for the Transbay Transit District. As part of the creation of the Transbay Transit District - with massive up-zoning of heights - the developers in the district agreed to, and are required to, participate in an assessment district through which the developers pay impact fees to help fund both the transit center and the train extension. Recently with property values skyrocketing -- and therefore property tax payments also increasing -- the developers attempted to reduce this tax amount saying that though they agreed to a specific tax rate, it shouldn't be applied to current property values. They have also threatened lawsuits if the City moves forward. I'm happy that the Board and Mayor Lee have held strong on the deal that has already been agreed to by all sides previously. It is essential that we maintain these tax obligations -- which are in exchange for the massive benefits that come up with up-zoning -- to fund our downtown Caltrain extension.

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Making Pink Saturday a Success

01_12_pink_sat_16_lrg1.gifPink Saturday is an important event that should be a celebration of the Castro neighborhood and the LGBT community. However, over the last few years we have encountered significant challenges, including bouts of violence that have marred the festival.  The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have done a tremendous job managing the event in the past, but they are understandably frustrated with the current state of Pink Saturday. We convened a community meeting to discuss the issues around Pink Saturday, and I will continue to work with the city and the Sisters to come up with solutions to make this important celebration successful.

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Creating a City Streetlight Policy

streetlightbayview.jpgOur city's streetlights have suffered from neglect and underfunding for years. Part of this stems from our system that divides ownership and maintenance responsibilities between the City and PG&E. This leads to overlap and insufficient coordination. I've introduced a City Streetlight Policy that will establish clear city policies like switching to LED lighting, creating pedestrian scale lighting, and establishing a requirement that burned out streetlights be fixed within 48 hours. Additionally, the policy calls for the City to develop a single, city-managed streetlight program, which requires acquiring PG&E's streetlights. Well-lit streets and sidewalks create a safe and vibrant nighttime environment, and we need a clear policy vision to set us on that path.

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Adopting NACTO Street Design Guidelines

urban_street_design_guide.jpgStreet design is an important part of ensuring we have livable streets in San Francisco. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (which our own MTA head Ed Reiskin is the current President of) is an organization that brings together the transportation departments of cities all across the country to share ideas on transportation ideas and best practices. Their official guidelines put forward are the embodiment of progressive transportation policies. I've introduced legislation to adopt these guidelines here in San Francisco, which will serve to complement our Better Streets Plan.

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Seismic Safety Evaluations for Private Schools

seismic1.jpgPreserving our building stock and keeping people safe when - not if but when - the next earthquake hits must be a top priority here at City Hall. This includes our private schools, which educate 1/3 of our city's children. The Mayor has moved forward with legislation -- which I have co-sponsored -- that will require private schools to undergo a seismic evaluation within the next three years, so that the city and the schools will have a better understanding of what, if any work, needs to be done to improve the safety of these schools. There were some initial concerns from the private school community, but we worked with everyone involved and now the legislation has moved forward. It was approved by the Land Use and Economic Development Committee on Monday, and will head to the full Board of Supervisors for approval next Tuesday.

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Constructing New In-Law Units During Seismic Retrofits

safe_image.php_.jpgProducing new housing and seismically strengthening our existing housing stock are two pressing priorities for our city. To address both these issues, I am introducing legislation to allow in the construction of new in-law units in buildings undergoing seismic retrofits. This will provide a financial benefit to building owners going through our mandatory soft-story retrofit program, as well as encourage them to do more robust retrofits. It will also provide an incentive for more building owners to enter the voluntary soft-story retrofit program, which covers soft story buildings that aren't a part of the mandatory program. This legislation will provide new, low-impact housing in our neighborhoods while making our buildings safer.

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Reforming Towing Fees and Policies for Stolen Cars

towcar.jpgHaving your car stolen is a painful process, and the city is not making it any easier on victims by making them pay large fees when these stolen cars are towed. These fees are set in a contract between MTA and Auto Return -- the private entity that runs the tow yards. This contract is up for renegotiation in 2015, so I have called for an oversight hearing now to explore how MTA, SFPD and Auto Return handle stolen vehicles and what we can do to make this process less onerous on victims of car thefts. One idea is to explore longer periods of time for victims of auto theft to be able to reclaim their cars free of charge.

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Castro Street Rainbow Honor Walk Dedication

tom_waddell.jpgToday I attended the unveiling ceremony of the new Rainbow Honor Walk on Castro Street, which recognizes 20 amazing LGBT leaders with sidewalk plaques. Famous LGBT icons like Oscar Wilde and Frida Kahlo and local heroes like Tom Waddell and Randy Shilts will now grace our iconic boulevard. This new walk of fame -- which will eventually be extended down Market Street to Octavia -- is a wonderful celebration of our LGBT community.

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Growing Our Muni Light Rail Fleet

muni001.jpgYou've probably noticed over the past week that Muni's light rail system has been functioning even worse than normal. The fundamental problem with the light rail system is that we don't have enough vehicles. Muni didn't order enough in the 1990s, and because the light rail vehicles (LRVs) have serious defects and are now old, they break down too much, with few if any replacement vehicles available. This week saw a higher than normal failure rate, including mechanical failures and accidents, in addition to the Giants playing at home all week. The situation is unacceptable and, frankly, embarrassing for our world-class city.

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