Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Haight-AshburyTurns Down Whole Foods+Apt. Building: More Evidence This City is a Hippie Moron-Filled Shithole

Curbed has the skinny on a proposed multi-use development for the long-empty parking lot (and former terrible grocery store) at Haight & Stanyan, which was to contain a fancy whole foods on the ground floor and fancy condos above. Apparently, the neighborhood association is fighting it tooth and nail, and the project appears to be dead:

The Whole Foods-pimped, Haight Ashbury Improvement Association-approved project, which would replace the now-defunct Cala Foods with 62 condos and a Whole Foods on ground level, has been met with staunch opposition by the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council. (Do we have a neighborhood brawl on our hands here? Oh yes, yes we do. How very North Beach of you, Haight!) Though he hasn't gone on record, Supe Ross Mirkarimi hasn't exactly supported the development. Neither has the city, which is reportedly dragging its feet on the environmental review process— the developer has languished in limbo for 2 and-a-half years at this point, and sees no end in sight as the Planning Commission hasn't even granted an initial approval hearing. The dev has spent over $1 million on the EIR, and has "little to show for it except a stack of heavy draft documents."

Okay. Let me just point out again: this is a parking lot. It's in a neighborhood notorious for a shortage of housing, close to a variety of transit lines, and without a nearby grocery store. The site is across the street from the jankiest McDonalds in the city (okay, maybe 2nd after the one on Fillmore) as well as a homeless- and hippie-filled section of Golden Gate Park. It's a craphole, just down the street from the plasma bank and a bong store. But God forbid we put something useful there! No, the supposedly most liberal area in the supposedly most liberal city in the country would prefer a big slab of concrete for gas-guzzling cars in their neighborhood, instead of condos that might be, you know, market rate.

It's something you see repeated over and over in this myopic, naive little burg. Years ago at the Castro Street Fair, I happened across a booth with the banner "SAVE OUR BAY BRIDGE VIEWS." The staffers were there to protest the then-planned construction of skyscrapers in SOMA that might block a tiny sliver of the Bay Bridge that they could see from their Twin Peaks homes. These spoiled, pathetic turds were lucky enough to have houses on the hill with phenomenal views of downtown, the bay, and the East Bay hills, and yet they had the astounding narcissism to demand that the city in their windows remain completely static, for ever and ever and ever.

Even if you get approval for a new building, you better make it a chintzy Victorian or a staid and columned retro-boring classical piece of crap. Interested in having a flagship Prada store with a not-exactly-world-shattering metallic facade? Sorry, nope, that's just crazy, make it look like a bank!

It's the great secret of San Francisco: since we have to fight off the Bill O'Reillys of this world calling us sinners since we dare to think the gays should be able to get married, we all can be self-righteously proud of how extremely liberal we are. We're all so progressive! But it turns out that San Francisco is, really, profoundly conservative: afraid of change, unable to evolve, willing to look the other way as the streets fill with homeless and trash, electing Clinton-esque political machine mayors every single time. It almost makes you think about repealing rent control: it would knock most of these moldy pseudo-hippie NIMBY dipshits out to the suburbs where they belong.

Look, I'm all about responsible development, and I'm not entirely sure that cookie-cutter skyscrapers with block-wide bases are the best solution for SOMA. But the neighborhood is 14 steps from downtown, and yet it's had acres of empty parking lots for years and years. The East Village may be the ideal (as Jane Jacobs says) but we're not going to get it, and really, in the most dense urban area west of the Mississippi, any development in the urban core is good development. A parking lot is bad for multiple reasons: it's a blight on the neighborhood and a subsidy for suburban commuters. Even Jane would tell you: just build something!!!

California is young, and the growth of its cities is awkward and sloppy. While Los Angeles has ridden the roller coaster of development to a sudden, fascinating adolescense, having finally filled its usable geographic area and turning to creative reuse and infill and innovative transit projects, San Francisco filled up early. It makes it attractive to tourists, but since we never had a massive exodus from the downtown core, for instance, we don't have a resurgence like in LA, with its Standard hotel and downtown lofts. None of our downtown buildings were ever empty, so there have been only rare opportunities to bring residences into the area, meaning our downtown still languishes as a 9-to-5-only area, not unlike financial districts in Houston or Omaha.

What's the Matter with Kansas wonders why midwesterners vote against their own interests, focusing on pointless, destined-to-lose anti-abortion initiatives while their pockets are being picked. But it turns out this emotional myopia is universal: San Franciscans will fight the future as hard as they can, just because it might alter their fantasy vision of their city, reinforced by "Tales of the City" and TV and movies about as unrealistic as the "Friends" apartment in New York. But that fantasy is long gone, and holding on to it is a fallacy, and grasping a long-dead vision from the past is actively damaging the present: slowing development, stopping infill, legislating architectural conservatism, putting the brakes on innovative transit development. Well, we can be a dirty, concrete-filled Amsterdam if we want: a charming, impractical vestige of another time, with one subway line and a moldy vision of social liberalism. Cute, but if you want a real city, look elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

"California is young, and the growth of its cities is awkward and sloppy."

Nice writing, Ben.
Short contrasted with long.

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viagra online said...

I dont't really care about It, but people like that call this "progress", for me that means "your an idiot" because they said that to you If they're building something and something fall from above and kill somebody they will said to the family "the progress have consecuences"...

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