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» Oakland looks to unsnarl car traffic around new plaza

On Tuesday, the City Council’s Public Works Committee will try to settle the issue by considering a compromise plan: reopen Telegraph to traffic in both directions and change the lanes so the plaza can more than triple in size.

The broader issue, pedestrian advocates and business owners agree, is the direction of Oakland’s downtown: Will it be a car-friendly metropolis that draws shoppers with wide streets and ample parking or a downtown that cuts traffic flow in favor of benches, fountains and casual window-shoppers who stroll in and out of shops?

Jonathan Bair, a leader with Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, said the Oakland compromise is shortsighted.

"This is the same old car-first planning that the city of Oakland has been doing for decades that hasn’t been serving the city well," Bair said. "Cars are not an inherent good thing. If cars passing through were a barometer of economic vitality, then West Oakland would be the jobs center of the Bay Area."

The compromise makes sense, said Daniel Parolek, a principal at Opticos, a Berkeley urban design and architecture firm.

"As an urban designer and an urbanist in general I am in complete agreement in replacing roads with pedestrian spaces," Parolek said. But "the key is the balanced combination between pedestrians and cars that seems to activate these spaces."

Telegraph and Broadway are two major thoroughfares in Oakland, and there’s something strange about disconnecting them when they finally meet downtown, Parolek said.

"You have Telegraph and Broadway converging as these radials downtown, that becomes a really strong symbol of the core or heart of the city," Parolek said. "So closing it off has a much different impact than closing off a tertiary street."

sfgate, 16.12.13.
my photos of Latham Square Plaza.

» How the Cost of Other People's Parking Drives Up Your Rent

from the executive summary from the report by Jesse London and Clark Williams-Derry:

An analysis of 23 recently completed Seattle-area multifamily housing developments reveals that the practice of providing abundant “cheap” parking actually makes rental housing more expensive—particularly for tenants with modest incomes and who don’t own cars. This analysis shows that:

  • ‹‹Seattle-area apartment developers build far more parking than their tenants need. Across all developments in our sample, 37 percent of parking spots remained empty during the night, the time of peak demand for residential parking. Every development had nighttime parking vacancies, and four developments had more than twice as many parking spots as parked cars.
  • ‹‹Many tenants don’t own cars. On average, the developments in our sample had 20 percent more occupied apartments than occupied parking spaces—a rock- bottom estimate for the share of apartments whose tenants don’t park on-site. In all, 21 of the 23 developments had more occupied apartments than parked cars.
  • ‹‹Multifamily developments lose money on parking. No development in our sample was able to recover enough parking fees to recover the full estimated costs of building, operating, and maintaining on-site parking facilities.
  • ‹‹Car-free tenants still pay for parking. Landlords’ losses on parking—calculated as the difference between total parking costs and total parking fees collected from tenants—add up to roughly 15 percent of monthly rents in our sample, or $246 per month for each occupied apartment. Because landlords typically recoup these losses through apartment rents, all tenants—even those who don’t own cars—pay a substantial hidden fee for parking as part of their monthly rents. 

via atlanticcities, 13.12.13.

» Conservatives’ new enemy: Bikes

As political ideas fracture along cultural lines, pundits and politicians are finding cyclists to be a convenient new “them” in the eternal us-them struggle. Even if conservatives don’t all agree that riders are metrosexuals, they “see bikers as obnoxious, rude hipsters,” says Sam Schwartz, former New York City traffic commissioner.

Conservative politicians know that simply opposing causes like environmentalism appeals to the base. At the extreme end, this leads to some positions that almost defy belief—“I love that smell of the emissions,” said the former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, while riding a motorcycle—but bikes represent more of an everyday rebuke, a quiet reminder that your car isn’t the only way to get around.

In this respect, Rob Ford isn’t just a mess. He is a visionary—perhaps the first candidate to win an election in part by fanning public annoyance at those reckless, entitled, tax-and-spend bicycle riders. As new bike lanes make their slow incursions into downtown traffic patterns, it’s reasonable we can expect more such victories. It might seem frustrating for bike supporters, but there is one consolation: In politics, you get attacked because you matter.

bostonglobe, 15.12.13.

» S.F. rolls out 3 miles of free Wi-Fi along Market Street


Commuters wait for transit on Market Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, where free Wi-Fi connectivity is now available. Photo: Leah Millis

After announcing a deal in July to bring free Wi-Fi to San Francisco’s public parks, the city will officially roll out free wireless connectivity Monday along a main transit spine — Market Street.

It’s not the sweeping citywide access that then-Mayor Gavin Newsom proposed in 2007, but it is 3 miles of coverage along the city’s main thoroughfare from Castro Street to the Embarcadero.

"A quarter of a million people traverse Market Street every day, from all walks of life," Mayor Ed Lee said of the new Wi-Fi service. "Now they can access information, find out when their next bus is coming, or peruse local job listings, all for free. This is a significant first step in my vision of connectivity for our city."

Unlike the original citywide proposal, which collapsed amid political bickering between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors and concerns over a city contract with EarthLink and Google, this network is constructed and owned by the city.

It cost the city about $500,000 after donations from two companies. Ruckus Wireless of Sunnyvale donated hardware, and Layer42 Networks of Mountain View contributed 1 gigabit of Internet access service to allow the network to reach the public Internet, city officials said.

sfgate, 16.12.13.
sfgov.org/sanfranciscowifi


Junmo Kim, visiting from South Korea, visits the Marina Green one of the parks to receive new wifi. Google will pay to install wireless access in 31 San Francisco parks, a donation brokered by Supervisor Mark Farrell, which will bring hot spots to every district of the city. Photo: Brant Ward.

**it may not seem like not a big deal for all of us who have 3g/4g data connection on our smartphones, but for tourists and travellers, it’s a big deal.

I’m in Reykjavik right now, and the first couple of days I had no way of contacting my couchsurfing hosts except through wifi/internet/email. (problem with getting cash at ATMs; didn’t get cash and a local sim card until yesterday). although i survived and met up with my hosts in time, it sucked because i couldn’t receive or send info on last-minute changes unless i was standing outside of a cafe that offered free wi-fi, or hadn’t left the house yet.***

installed the rear rack on my fixie. (but decided not to get $40 fenders—I just ride my road bike on rainy days)
went to the local UPS store to drop off a pair of hiking boots that were a little too winter-specific for me. yeah.. totally advertising for zappos but whatever, i’m a bike messenger!
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