Friday, September 3, 2010

Noe Valley Parklet Feedback

Update - fixed reference and link - grant came from the "Noe Valley Association" which is different than the "Noe Valley Merchants Association.

I have found that there is an amusing side effect of sticking your nose where perhaps it doesn't belong. Suddenly a mild mannered Silicon Valley engineer with no real authority becomes the listening board for random issues and the "owner" of issues - e.g. "How are things going with 'your plaza'". This becomes more prevalent when you have a big email distribution list, which of course I would never abuse ;)

So now I occasionally get random emails that are directly or tangentially related to the two most recent issues I have been pontificating about - Caltrain weekend Bullets and the addition of public space in Noe Valley (I will use a generic term there rather than "Plaza" or "Parklet" or "Town Square"). For example the bullet train thing has gotten me a lot of email from people about High Speed Rail, Gilroy Service (apparently an extension to Salinas is what would solve the whole problem), and running 10 minute headways all day long. Surprisingly, no "What we need to do is kill Caltrain and run BART down the Peninsula".

Last night, I got another email regardling "Public Space in Noe Valley". For those not following the saga, the Noe Valley Association wrote a grant which was looked upon favorably by San Francisco's San Francisco's Pavement to Parks program to put a Plaza on Noe Street in Noe Valley. I became a F-List Celebrity in Noe Valley - at least electronically - for advocating for this plaza but alas, we lost this battle in spectacular fashion . Instead Pavement to Parks decreed that Noe Valley would get two "parklets" along 24th Street.

If one thing was generally agreed upon during this whole saga, was that no matter the outcome, the process was flawed. While the NVA was very well meaning, many citizens felt that they figured out something they liked, and flung it upon an unsuspecting populace. They developed the idea, went to P2P, P2P approved the idea, and got set to roll it out. The idea was then leaked, a few people with enough influence to get their phone answered by our Supervisor put a bunch of DON'T BLOCK NOE signs in their windows, and the project was deemed to be too divisive before people who might like the project got to voice their opinions. So then me and mine got equally as pissy, and a lot of people who probably would have nice conversations over the Giants prospects in the playoff race ended up screaming and shouting at each other, online and in public.

That's water under the bridge. Supervisorial Candidate Rebecca Prozan saw me on the street and told me she thought she had figured out my plaza problem (again with the ownership meme!). "Vicksburg" - she said confidently. I had a bag of bagels and my wife was waiting for me, so I just nodded and said "Vicksburg" and pointed at the Farmer's Market and said "Well, maybe we'll get a 'plaza' here" - referencing an effort to get money to buy the Noe Valley Ministry's parking lot and turn it into a non-street-blocking public space. What I really wanted to say was "It's over, we had fun, we lost, sometimes that happens, now I just want to go to Healdsburg and work on my tomatoes.

However, there is one open issue. We get two parklets! And this brings this longish thread (I like to write - deal with it) to the new news. Remember several paragraphs ago where I said I often get random emails? Last night I got an email address "To all those involved in the decision-making of the parklets on 24th Street:". Remember - I am an engineer in the South Bay, not a politico in San Francisco. I am not any more involved in the decision making than the author of the email.

I struggled with what to do with the missive. Then thinking back about the whole thing - I recalled that the problem with the Noe Street Plaza was that everyone was upset that decisions were ostensibly being made by a secret cabal - and not by the public at large. Noe Valley is a community - and as such, we are ALL the decision makers - are we not? So in that spirit - I am publishing the email. I have redacted the names because while I think the content is relevant, the persons involved did not expect to have their names and emails published.

To all those involved in the decision-making of the parklets on 24th Street:

Please keep parklets far away from any bars because people coming out of the bars late at night tend to congregate on the sidewalk and stay for a long time (sometimes hours). This creates a noise disturbance for the residents. Late at night their voices and laughter travel far distances, unlike during the day, because their voices aren't masked by other noises. And having just left a loud bar, they continue talking loudly as they had been used to doing inside the bar.

I know you are considering placing a parklet at Martha Bros. or by the parking lot owned by the Noe Valley Ministry (used for the farmer's market), but these locations are very close to the Dubliner bar. PLEASE do not place any parklets on the eastern half of that block. If you "must" place a parklet between Sanchez and Vicksburg, please place it closer to Sanchez to remove its temptation from the departing bar patrons of the Dubliner.

Thank you for considering these facts.

Name Redacted
Vicksburg Street resident

cc to other Vicksburg residents

As to my personal opinion on this issue - I do not drink coffee and Sanchez is a long way from my house so a Martha's parklet would be underused by me. But you see, I'm ambivalent about the outcome - I'm concerned about the process ;)

But I'm pretty sure this means that Rebecca Prozan has not solved "my plaza problem".


Anonymous said...

Heaven forbid that any of the Real Housewives of Noe Vally have their beauty rest disturbed by the sound of other human beings laughing.

There are bars at Church, Vicksburg, Castro, and between Sanchez/Noe. Where do they want the parklet - Mars?

To all those who can't bear the sound of other people having more fun than you: you shouldn't live in a dense urban area. Plenty of cheap real estate available in Tracy, Stockton, Modesto, etc..

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

That's silly. Never have I left the Dubliner and said "Oh let's go loiter on the next block!" If it was in front of the Dubliner I would understand, but if people wanted to loiter in a park space across from Dubliner, wouldn't they already be walking to the park in front of the ministry parking lot???

mnorelli said...

Again, it's fear. All this raging fear about what has not yet occurred. So they build a parklet and it creates a problem. Will intrepid Noe residents let it stand? I guess no. But, just like the plaza idea, why not just try it? Who are these people who can see into the future and imagine only dystopia? Let actual reality happen, and then we can deal with it.

erin said...

Although I don't drink Martha's coffee, I do walk past it often and that is definitely the most cramped sidewalk space in Noe Valley. Not only would this local small business benefit greatly from a parklet there, the whole neighborhood would get to enjoy a clear walkway.

I agree that it's not at all close enough to the Dubliner to attract lingerers, and that even if it was people need to get over the fact that a handful of people actually like to have fun in this neighborhood after dark. Imagine!

I just think it's too bad that the Bernie's spot wouldn't work due to Whole Foods deliveries, that would seem to be the obvious place for the second parklet...

murphstahoe said...

If you want this parklet, you probably should email Andres. I think the lesson learned is that if something is assumed to be "going to happen" - people in support go to sleep, and people opposed go into overdrive.

rocky's dad said...

Let's be clear on a couple of things, murph:

You were not as innocent and mild mannered on the plaza issue as you lead people to believe. You were as vocal and loud and prolific (in being for the plaza) as I was (in being against it).

You keep hanging onto the "flawed process".Perhaps it was handled weakly by the Planning Dept. and P2P..But let's be clear again:

The process was not nearly as flawed as the very IDEA of closing off a public street to become an outdoor coffee bar and stroller park. My entire voice has always simply been against the IDEA. Period.

It's now time to move forward and work together to fund, support and build the plaza in the parking lot.

murphstahoe said...

Good to hear you are excited about the Ministry Lot project Doug. The residents of Vicksburg Street are apparently pretty skeptical about new public space in that area. I will gladly send you their email addresses so you can start the outreach.

Anonymous said...

We should totally kill Caltrain and run BART down the peninsula.

I'd even (reluctantly) be okay with HSR stopping in San Jose in exchange, as long as there was a simple transfer station.

murphstahoe said...

For the money it would take to rip out the Caltrain line and run BART down that line we could finish the HSR segment down the line and give free drinks to all passengers.

Don't get me wrong, I like BART, but Caltrain is better and costs a lot less.