I-280 TRAFFIC BARRELING DOWN YOUR STREET? | Libertarian Party of San Francisco


Libertarians are fond of pointing to consequences of a paternalistic state.  Free healthcare, free education, free shelter, free MUNI all come at a price.  In addition to the obvious price that somebody has to pay for what is free to others, there is the price of loss of control over our own lives. 

Zelda Bronstein’s article on 48 Hills of March 29, When City Planners Treat Us Like Infants, gives an excellent account of the “public input” techniques trending with City planners.  First, the fact that public engagement occurs after projects are significantly underway, puts the newly-advised and often surprised public at a disadvantage.  Secondly what planners call public engagement amounts to a high-school-type science fair, where the public is invited to view pictures and graphs hanging on walls or propped on tables.  A pat on the public’s head, a check mark where it says “public comments” and a project goes forward.

Those who opposed Plan Bay Area as presented, and tried to inject some accountability to voters in the Plan, were consistently met with either science fair-type events or City officials who could not have looked more bored.  Plan Bay Area sailed through without ever appearing on any election ballot or carrying any future accountability to voters. (See,Plan Bay Area Adopted Under the Cloak of Midnight, Literally!)

Plan Bay Area seems to have established the precedent.  Significant changes to our way of life are planned and implemented at the will of bureaucrats. 

The “public engagement” offered by planners of one such change is discussed in the afore-mentioned article.  Zelda Bronstein notes that the Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Feasibility Study (RAB) includes “a proposal to take down I-280 and re-route the former freeway traffic on a boulevard through the neighborhoods.”  She points that although the infrastructure changes “are massive and controversial,” what is even more debatable is the manner in which public input has been sought.  The community was offered a chance to comment on this infrastructure change two years into the planning, via the science-fair technique.

“It’s as if political discourse has been reduced to the equivalent of Twitter exchanges—with one crucial difference: It’s just the public that’s being subjected to these demeaning maneuvers. The power players aren’t wasting their time playing silly games; they’re meeting with the decision-makers and shaping public policy behind the scenes.”  Excellent point, Ms. Bronstein!

More good points as Zelda Bronstein tenders this remark, “As transportation engineer, consultant, and activist Gerald Cauthen told me about the RAB project:

During at least the past two years there have been ongoing meetings with local agencies, affected transit properties, MTC, state and federal agencies, and San Francisco’s elected officials here, in Sacramento, and in Washington. The tried and true method of getting the political snowball rolling downhill before the opposition knows what’s going on is already well under way. Only the public has been left out of the discussions…”

Willie Brown, one of San Francisco’s most colorful mayors, is often quoted as saying, “Things rarely happen by chance: Our landscape is shaped by competing visions of what a shared place should be. And more often than not, the winners are those who use the most brazen tactics.”  At least Da Mayor was honest in his own way.  We all knew he was, well…colorful.