Streetsblog San Francisco is Coming to Town

welcome_sf.jpg

How come so many posts on San Francisco lately? Let’s make it official: The Open Planning Project will be launching Streetsblog San Francisco in January 2009.

After interviewing many highly qualified candidates during last month’s
RailVolution conference, we’ve hired Bryan Goebel as the site’s editor
and Matthew Roth as full-time reporter. Bryan
is a veteran journalist, radio reporter and active San Francisco
Bicycle Coalition member. Matthew recently moved to the Bay Area from
New York City where he worked for Transportation Alternatives as
director of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign and
spearheaded efforts to curb government employee parking abuse.
In addition to support and overhead provided by TOPP, San Francisco
Streetsblog will be funded by a generous donation from Jonathan Weiner,
a bike-commuting, Muni-riding software entrepreneur and a grant from the Wallace Global Fund.

SF-Bryan_1.jpgBryan Goebel

In
talking with Bay Area livable streets advocates over the last few
months, it’s become clear that there is a tremendous latent demand for
the kind of "Streets Renaissance" we’ve seen get underway here in New
York over the last few years. Bay Area cyclists are deeply frustrated
over the legal injunction
that has ground development of the city’s bike infrastructure to a
complete halt. Transit advocates see the city’s crowded, sluggish Muni
system locked in stasis, with progress on critical projects like the Geary Avenue bus rapid transit
line held hostage by powerful neighborhood NIMBY’s and the transit
system’s own bureaucracy. As in New York City, San Francisco seems
happy to allow big real estate developers to cram as many parking spots
into their projects as possible — even when it contradicts the city’s own guidelines. The city’s rapidly disintegrating mainstream media outlets, of course, barely cover any of this.

It’s not all bad news though. San Francisco has launched what is likely
to be the nation’s most innovative, high-tech, congestion-busting parking reform program. This summer’s Sunday Streets event (which got the green light after advocates showed Mayor Gavin Newsom our Ciclovia Streetfilm) was a popular success. And the city has hired Danish urban designer Jan Gehl
to start rethinking San Francisco’s streets and public spaces. Newsom’s
administration is saying lots of the right things lately. Wade Crowfoot,
the mayor’s director of climate protection initiatives, really seems to
get it when it comes to livable streets. Yet, many San Francisco
advocates still question whether Newsom, who has his eye on the
governor’s mansion, is more interested in results or headlines. In
private, they often refer to him as "Mayor Press Release." It’s clear
to me that San Francisco could really use the daily focus on
transportation policy, the intelligent online discussion forum, and the
ocassional kick in the pants that Streetsblog has been known to
deliver. We look forward to working there.

SF_roth.jpgMatthew Roth

But
let’s also be clear about our place in all of this: Streetsblog isn’t
just going to roll in to town sprinkling new bus rapid transit lines,
bike lanes and a car-free Market Street in its wake. Sure, we hope to
break some big stories and play an important role but as it has been in
New York City, Streetsblog is ultimately only as effective as the
advocacy community it is part of. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition,
with its 10,000 members (nearly twice as many members as Transportation
Alternatives in a city one-tenth the size of New York) is one of San
Francisco’s most powerful political organizations. Tom Radulovich at Livable City has been successful in pushing an innovative parking reform agenda among other important issues. Walk San Francisco is keeping an eye pedestrians. And groups like SPUR and TranForm
are addressing the regional transportation and planning issues.
Streetsblog will be covering the work of all of these organizations and
providing an online forum to discuss the issues.

We’re
also well aware that we’re not the only blog in town. The Bay Area is
blessed with a number of outstanding transportation blogs: Chris
Carlsson’s Nowtopian, Transbay Blog, San Francisco Bike Blog, The N-Judah Chronicals and The Overhead Wire
are some of my favorites. We look forward to joining their blogrolls
and making San Francisco a better city for pedestrians, cyclists and
transit riders.

Do you want to see a Streetsblog in your city? Let us know. And if you’ve got any stories ideas for Bryan and Matthew to cover, shoot them an e-mail.

  • Jason

    Hopefully, HOPEFULLY, this will not be a project exclusively about San Francisco, but rather the entire Bay Area. I am fairly confident that there is no shortage of internet presence for the same 125 planning and bike geeks in SF to talk to one another. What the Bay Area needs is serious coverage of these issues in areas outside of the usual SF-Berkeley-Oakland triangle. More blog posts about Critical Mass in SF are no adding value.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Jason your 125 planning dorks comment made me chuckle. It’s true but what can be done? I have nothing to say about the streetscape in Hercules. I’ve never been there. Each town or neighborhood needs their own local people to step up and speak out. Hopefully Streetsblog SF will provide them a platform to be heard.

  • Thanks for the shout-out to TransForm for our regional work (but please spell our name right – TransForm with an “s”, not TranForm).

    I’m definitely looking forward to seeing some good conversation, and echo the hope that Streetsblog will go beyond SF’s boundaries. The rest of the Bay Area has ten times the population of the city and is home to some terrific work. Many of those 125 planning dorks (count me in) *are* involved in San Leandro and Santa Rosa and Pleasanton and Pittsburg and San Jose. For local TOD-supportive efforts, check out the collaborative we coordinate, http://www.greatcommunities.org.

  • will it get a separate URL? i’d like to add it to my reader.

    we are always on the look out for quality blogging all about The City!!

  • I don’t know how much coverage they’ll be doing across the bay, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts the url is going to be sf.streetsblog.org.

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