Friday, July 16, 2010

Driving through Pacifica - "its not that easy being green"

From  "Linda Mar Highway 1", letters-to-the-editor, Pacifica Tribune 7/13/10
Video  "The 1.3 mile message"

I read the letters covering the SMCTA meeting of June 22nd and have to disagree with the letter writers. These letters had a decided bias, in some cases so decided that they looked like they decided what they were going to write even before attending the meeting.

As most would know by now, many concepts have been suggested by the public and addressed. A list of these is on the Route 1/Calera Parkway Project — Preliminary Concepts Matrix (May 2010), which can be accessed by a link (Preliminary Concepts Matrix) at the SMCTA website. By now the TA has addressed concepts from widening the highway, to grade separation, to signal timing, to moveable cones. It is obvious a lot of work went into studying the feasibility of each of these.

The one thing that should be evident by now is that we need to move forward on this. It's not just about having to wait 8 minutes to get through this section of highway. According to an EPA publication, 'Emission Facts', "A gallon of gasoline is assumed to produce 8.8 kilograms (or 19.4 pounds) of CO2."

Not from the EPA but from my own math: For every 5-mpg reduction of every vehicle's fuel economy over a one-mile stretch of the Calera Parkway, during the am and pm rush hours; 226 extra tons of CO2 are added to the atmosphere every year. I think that's a very compelling reason for addressing our highway congestion issues sooner rather than later.

Posted by Gil Anda


ian butler said...

Gil made this argument on Wavelength, and it's a valid point, that too many cars sitting in traffic wastes a lot of fuel. But if we want people to use less fuel, is it really a good idea to build more roads? Years ago I read a study that concluded adding lanes doesn't actually reduce congestion, because it encourages more driving and development. I've been trying to wrap my mind around that concept ever since and it is counterintuitive to say the least, but it's an important point that needs to be weighed against Gil's argument.

Kathy Meeh said...

"'s a valid point, that too many cars sitting in traffic wastes a lot of fuel." True. What else is there to consider?

"If we want people to use less fuel, is it really a good idea to build more roads?" Are you really saying "if you don't build it they won't come"? Other bay area cities are growing. Otherwise, 1) less fuel and 2) building "roads" are separate concepts. "Building more roads" in this instance = doing an environmental study to potentially fix an old 1.3 mile bottleneck.

"...adding more lanes...encourages more driving and development". Try this: fixing the 1.3 mile bottleneck encourages safer driving and cleaner air.

Unknown said...

HELLOOO...Pacifica has Highway 1 that goes along the think people don't want to drive that? They will use it whether there is a hangup in Pacifica or not because they want to look at the ocean. They will just bypass the storage units, Mc Donald's, Taco Bell, and the motor home/rv park because that's what Pacifica looks like it is. Be happy hippies. You have won.

ian butler said...

I poked around the internet and found these excerpts from "Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream" by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, North Point Press 2000:

"The simple truth is that building more highways and widening existing roads, almost always motivated by concern over traffic, does nothing to reduce traffic. In the long run, in fact, it increases traffic. This revelation is so counterintuitive that it bears repeating: adding lanes makes traffic worse. This paradox was suspected as early as 1942 by Robert Moses, who noticed that the highways he had built around New York City in 1939 were somehow generating greater traffic problems than had existed previously. Since then, the phenomenon has been well documented, most notably in 1989, when the Southern California Association of Governments concluded that traffic-assistance measures, be they adding lanes, or even double-decking the roadways, would have no more than a cosmetic effect on Los Angeles' traffic problems.

Across the Atlantic, the British government reached a similar conclusion. Its studies showed that increased traffic capacity causes people to drive more--a lot more--such that half of any driving-time savings generated by new roadways are lost in the short run. In the long run, potentially all savings are expected to be lost. In the words of the Transport Minister, "The fact of the matter is that we cannot tackle our traffic problems by building more roads."2 While the British have responded to this discovery by drastically cutting their road-building budgets, no such thing can be said about Americans.

There is no shortage of hard data. A recent University of California at Berkeley study covering thirty California counties between 1973 and 1990 found that, for every 10 percent increase in roadway capacity, traffic increased 9 percent within four years' time. For anecdotal evidence, one need only look at commuting patterns in those cities with expensive new highway systems. USA Today published the following report on Atlanta: "For years, Atlanta tried to ward off traffic problems by building more miles of highways per capita than any other urban area except Kansas City…As a result of the area's sprawl, Atlantans now drive an average of 35 miles a day, more than residents of any other city."· This phenomenon, which is now well known to those members of the transportation industry who wish to acknowledge it, has come to be called induced traffic.

The mechanism at work behind induced traffic is elegantly explained by an aphorism gaining popularity among traffic engineers: Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt."

ian butler said...

I also found a study titled "Increases in greenhouse gas emissions from highway-widening projects" by Clark Williams-Derry, that calculated the net effects of adding one lane to one mile of highway over 50 years.

It calculated the net reduction of CO2 emissions from congestion relief at 7,000 tons. Unfortunately the construction of the project added 3,500 tons of CO2, additional traffic on the road added 90,000 tons and additional traffic added elsewhere added at least 30,000 more tons, for a grand total of 116,500 additional tons of CO2 as the result of "congestion relief".

Does this directly apply to Calera Creek? I'm not sure, but I do know we need to look at all the facts with an open mind before we jump to conclusions.

Kathy Meeh said...

Ian, really how can fixing our little 1.3 mile road in Pacifica be an example of the much larger issue you site? As mentioned by Sharon (separate article), stalled traffic is an air-quality health hazard for those who live along the highway. Its also a safety hazard. Its a time waster. Its another reasonable issue that need to get fixed in Pacifica, and doing the environmental impact report (which takes about 18 months) is long overdue and needs to move forward.

This small city is not green in terms of accommodating its population who live here. As Marcus mentioned (separate article) only 12% of our population work in Pacifica. Most people have to drive to work, but also to shop, for medical appointments and for many other reasons.

Then there are all the other "pass through" people who drive the coastal highway, some that stop and visit. Lois has the reality check on that one.

Green cities? With transportation/air quality being one component here's an article showing San Francisco as #2, Popular Science 2/08.

Our city infrastructure is not built or maintained for "green" or much else, and because it hasn't moved forward with other peninsula cities in the past 8 years its more like "the land time forgot". I was amused by the dialog on Steve's most recent Travel Adviser post, and finally the 9th comment from "simba": "take a cab to and from Daly city" reach adequate public transportation.

Anonymous said...

I sent my letter off to the SMCTA. Here it is:

I wish to register my objections to the SMCTA's proposed State Route 1/Calera Parkway Project concepts.

I attended the June 22, 2010 Public Information Meeting and disagree with the manner in which the severity of the traffic problem was depicted. To put it simply, I do not believe that we have a traffic problem necessitating a large-scope project with fairly drastic local impacts.

In particular, I disagreed with the Traffic Analysis as presented. Specifically, on the slide titled "Peak Spreading," it noted that the average travel time during AM Peak Congestion was approximately 6:00 minutes. I commute daily through this portion of Highway 1 during this time frame and I have not experienced this level of congestion, nor have I experienced serious congestion in the PM drive will headed southbound. In fact, at the Public Information Meeting, the traffic analyst stated that traffic was currently lighter than when the study was initiated.

This leads me to my second point, which is that I believe that the traffic growth forecast used justify the need for the project (0.75% growth per year) to be inaccurate. During the presentation, it was stated that 2/3 of the traffic through this stretch originates locally: approximately 1/3 entering from Fassler, 1/3 from Crespi/Linda Mar (the remaining 1/3 from points south of Pacifica). Pacifica simply has not experienced a 0.75% growth rate during the last 15 years. Are we to assume, then, that the growth in traffic will come solely from among the 1/3 of the total volume that originates south of Pacifica?

None of the traffic analysis projects have taken into account changing driving patterns; all assume that unless highway improvements are performed, drivers will find themselves sitting in ever-increasing backups while they travel through this stretch of highway. None of the plans account for a change in driving habits, with a sizeable portion of drivers, confronted with daily delays, either changing their travel times or, in the case of those coming from south of Pacifica, finding alternative routes. In fact, this is the thinking behind many recent urban freeway REMOVAL plans. As examples, I would refer you to the traffic solutions being implemented at the following sites:

* Rochester, NY - Innerloop
* Trenton, NJ - Route 29
* Akron, OH - Innerbelt
* Washington, DC - Withehurst Freeway
* Cleveland, OH - Shoreway
* New Orleans, LA - Claiborne Expressway
* Nashville, TN - Downtown Loop
* New Haven, CT - Route 34 Connector
* Montreal, Quebec - Bonaventure Expressway
* Tokyo, Japan - Metropolitan Expressway
* Sidney, Australia - Cahill Expressway

In addition, we have seen similar traffic measures locally implemented at San Francisco's Embarcadero and Octavia Boulevard projects.

The SMCTA does itself and Pacifica a disservice by proposing very disruptive highway expansion solutions to a) a problem that doesn't currently exist to the extent portrayed, and b) not considering that future traffic growth may self-regulate due to driver flexibility and changing driving habits.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kathy Meeh said...

Oh funny, Pacifica is just like all those large cities, the professionals who did the analysis did not know what they're doing, and fixing the 1.3 mile bottleneck which stalls all coastal traffic is inconsequential (although its a 10 year concern and was the #1 reason quarry development was defeated).

I know, its better to not fix pacifica, just continue to let it rot. If the bottleneck gets fixed the air quality, traffic safety, car wear, commuter time would all be improved. The city could move into the future rather than the 3rd world. That would be a terrible thing.

Hope you signed your letter to SMCTA as Anonymous too.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why you're so angry. Can you refute the points I bring up rather than attack bogus positions that I haven't taken and don't stand for?

There are other ways to address traffic issues besides simply adding more concrete and many studies have shown that increasing the size and scope of thoroughfares actually harms local businesses and redevelopment efforts.

If you'd like, I'll list some enlightening studies, but it seems like you're dead set on a singular approach and I don't want to waste my time.

I suppose you weren't at the June 22nd Presentation Meeting? The professionals who did the analysis and presented their findings were asked about their thoughts regarding this approach to traffic I mentioned and their answer was, "It's complicated."

So no, I'm not taking the position that they don't know what they're doing, but that they certainly aren't exploring all the alternatives -- especially ones that seem to work very well.

Anothernonymous said...

"the 1.3 mile bottleneck which stalls all coastal traffic ... was the #1 reason quarry development was defeated." If you believe that, you understand nothing about the issue.

Kathy Meeh said...

A pile of major City traffic "solutions" does not = fixing a 1.3 mile coastal highway bottleneck. And, and you have actually made a fuss about me refuting your "points". Whereas, these "points" seem opinion without reasonable assumption, or back-up documentation. At the same time you deflect from any analysis to behavior, opening with "why are you so angry"? These are classic propaganda technique, which are done so well in this "our environment is our economy" city, no surprise.

Pacifica has had a long standing traffic problem, and the opportunity to fix the 1.3 mile bottleneck is at hand. Not later, now. First step: the draft environmental impact report (which will take about 18 months once begun).

The research and studies for this Pacifica specific traffic solution was done by independent professionals. These independent professionals specialize in components of the specific research and design which was completed. At least 9 final alternatives have been considered. Some of these solutions could not be passed by the Coastal Commission for environmental or other reasons currently (the requirements have become more stringent over the past several years).

Anonymous #1, although you may look in the mirror and view an "enlightened genius" with a whole new plan or more likely none-- I'll stick with the paid professionals, their research, consideration, design, and advisement. And its time for the DEIR study to move forward.

And yes, detractor Anonymous #2, traffic was the primary concern with the public about quarry development. Hope some of you will send emails of support for this DEIR to:
Also see comments to SMCTA article 7/7/10.

Anothernonymous said...

"traffic was the primary concern with the public about quarry development." Not so. The massive size of the housing development was the primary reason the public said no - twice. Talk to some people who voted no. They'll tell you.

Steve Sinai said...

I talked to lots of people who voted no, and traffic was a major reason. (Not necessarily the only reason, though.)

Traffic backups were a major argument used by the Nobies. The No on L website even had a live webcam pointed at the intersection of Highway 1 and Reina Del Mar to show how bad the traffic was.

Now the same people who tried to say traffic was too bad to allow development in the quarry are the ones saying traffic isn't really that bad. Everyone knows they want to keep traffic bad in order to discourage development.

Anonymous said...

I voted no on L. My decision had nothing to do with traffic and everything to do with the measure being nothing more than a developer's promise with no legal framework in place to ensure compliance.

Steve Sinai said...

I can believe that, but that doesn't mean everyone voted no for the reasons you did.

I was surprised at how many people I spoke to who voted no because they thought the extra supply of housing would eventually make their own homes harder to sell.

Kathy Meeh said...

Anonymous, of course you voted no on needed quarry economic development for this city, and no doubt for you think a great "legal(contract) framework" would be an 88 acre quarry gift to the GGNRA, "our economy is our environment." Its just a race to the economic bottom for some of you folks.

"No legal framework"? What are you talking about? With Measures L and E prior the developers wanted to build projects, that's what they do.

Peebles Corporation did a variety of research and studies, a traffic congestion study, and a population opinion study were two. Additionally several of us made a ton of phone calls for Measure L. As Steve said there were other issues, traffic was #1.

Anonymous said...

Kathy, why do you keep insisting on projecting your bizarre motives onto what I post?

There was nothing legally binding in place that would guarantee that the developers couldn't change their minds and attempt to build something quite different from what they proposed.

That's what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

Build more lanes and they will be filled with more traffic.
We don't want a freeway.

Anonymous said...

Steve Sinai said...

I was surprised at how many people I spoke to who voted no because they thought the extra supply of housing would eventually make their own homes harder to sell.

That's a.... strange... take on it. I wonder how they figured that?

I was fine with the plan that L put forth and would have voted yes had there been some legal "teeth" in place that would discourage deviation from the promised plan/scope.

No one here bought their homes on a handshake and I didn't feel like giving a developer the green light predicated on nothing more than a "trust me" promise sans legal documents.

Anothernonymous said...

"I was surprised at how many people I spoke to who voted no because they thought the extra supply of housing would eventually make their own homes harder to sell."

That doesn't even make sense. I never heard that idea during the election.

Kathy Meeh said...

Anonymous @7:22am, what you're talking about is "bizarre". Everything to be built in the quarry was centered around and directed toward a town village. A lot of money, research, plans, consultants and advertising were spent by the developer toward that effort. The property was also privately owned. Whatever was built there would go through regulation, and conform to the city general plan. The inclusion of housing was part of the village (the reason for Measure L, putting that component on the ballot). There was also a conservative income estimate for the development of $17 million annually. Traffic was studied, the developer would mitigate.

The property is the only Pacifica re-development area, hence producing enhanced revenue. 45% of the land would remain "open space". Win, win but once again those of you who have run this city into marginal economic status are to be congratulated: lose, lose. That's what we got. 8 years of city council presiding over "lose, lose". Hopefully most everyone other than you will figure-it-out this time. PS: your revised history is pure paranoia.

Anonymous @8:38am. Build more lanes and the bottle neck problem over 1.3 miles will be resolved. Also, the air quality will be better-- its a green concept. The alternatives of "nothing" you support are unacceptable. We all live here.

Anonymous 9:45am. Once again no date, or source reference on the alleged quote Steve made. However, many people were confused by the quality grass-roots style propaganda campaign forged by those of you "nothing for Pacifica" folks-- that's worked for years here. Imagine you now digging-out this kind of quote which may be taken out-of-context, or never existed in the first place. So far you haven't said much that is trustworthy.

Anothernonymous said...

The "alleged quote" is on this page, posted yesterday.

July 19, 2010 10:27 PM
Steve Sinai said...

I was surprised at how many people I spoke to who voted no because they thought the extra supply of housing would eventually make their own homes harder to sell.

Anothernonymous said...

"Build more lanes and the bottle neck problem over 1.3 miles will be resolved." How does that work? The traffic signals are still there and the road narrows to 4 lanes at either end of the widening. The bottleneck is still there.

Anonymous said...


Are you deliberately being obtuse? I see that in you knee-jerk hysteria to attack me as some sort of no-growth boogeyman, you've missed the point once again.

Did you read where I said I was fine with the planned development of Measure L?

Let me repeat that: I was fine with the outlined development of the quarry.

Let me rephrase it so it sinks in and you stop with your idiotic portrayal of me as a no-growther:

The planned development was okay with me and I liked it.

Got it?

Now, I'm going to be concise and bold this part so you understand, clearly, the issue I had with Measure L and why I ultimately voted no on L:


pete bootmaker said...


I saw the development plan Peebles gave to Pacificans for Sustainable Development along with my good buddies peter loeb and nancy hall before the Measure L vote. It was exactly what he promised. But it was bad for Pacifica. we need that feral cat farm and vallemar dog park. it is good for pacifica.

Kathy Meeh said...

Anonymous coward, come out of your "rat hole". You want to be anonymous, think its generally possible to distinguish you from others of the same name?

Oh, and you voted No on Measure L, because you were okay with the project-- guess that works (for you). It doesn't work for me, and shouldn't work for those who were actually okay with the project.

Here's the language of Measure L, quarry development (2006). Similar to Measure E (2002) the only reason Measure L was on the ballot was to comply with the city general plan requirement. Otherwise Peebles Corporation was a private property owner/developer proposing a project which was subject to state, city and coastal commission regulation. Once again, there is no clue to what the "big deal" of your alleged concern is-- other than to add confusion.

Anotheronymous, 6 lanes with turn-offs = better traffic flow in a bottleneck area with or without traffic lights.

Don't you one or two Anonymous characters have something better to do than make fools of your self. Oh I forgot you're Anonymous. "Pete bootmaker" seems to have the answer for you.

Scotty said...

Kathy, I think you're the one being unreasonable. It's a completely legitimate position to want development, but at the same time be concerned about giving the keys to the kingdom to Peebles. My position was very similar at the time.

Everything isn't binary, and just because someone disagrees with you, it doesn't mean they're Brent Plater or Kathy Jana.

Anonymous said...


Peeble's comprehensive plans and outlines didn't end up in the text of Measure L as you can clearly see in the link you provided -- just nebulous generalities.

I was supposed to vote yes on the Measure because it "includes a commitment for the developer that all the elements of the development will be built and completed?"


And the nature of this "commitment" is?

Nothing more than a "trust me."

No thanks, I'll wait for a more substantive and binding guarantee.

Kathy Meeh said...

Nonsense. What "keys to the kingdom" are you talking about Scotty? Peebles Corporation (private property owner/developer) had intended to build a quality green-building village project in the quarry. Something complicated about that? Obviously you and Anonymous were not looking at the same information I was.

Measure L was put on the ballot to obtain citizen approval to add housing, the maximum of which could be up to 355. Peebles corporation bought the property with intent to develop, they performed a bunch of feasibility studies, held public meetings, and plans were submitted to the city according to Cynthia Montanez who worked on the project. In advance Peebles Corporation sent a letter of intent to the city which could have been signed and mailed back (a contract).

After Measure L, Peebles Corporation met with city council sub-committee (Vreeland/Lancelle) with intent to build a retail/commercial component-- until Vreeland/Lancelle proposed an alternative: public-private partnerships. At that point, Peebles Corporation walked.

Anonymous said...

Connect Oddstad to Sneath and have another way out of Pacifica from the back of the valley has Caltrans looked into this?

Scotty said...

How about this, Kathy? You give me $1000, and then I'll give you a brand new car -- you choose the make and model.

The only problem is I won't put it in writing, so you're just going to have to trust me.

Anonymous said...

Good one, Scotty. The Haight street dope dealers and con artists loved to pull that one on the naive 60's hippies just arrived from the midwest. "Give me $100 and I'll meet you back here in an hour with 50 tabs of acid." They learned real quick not to trust anybody and to insist on seeing the goods before they handed over the money.

Kathy Meeh said...

Scotty, how about this. You own a property, you decide to develop the property. You file the proper paperwork, do the studies, fulfill compliance, and pay the fees. You try to move forward.

The city and the city machine campaign against you. The "dope dealers in charge" offer you an alternative: the "50 tabs of acid" and a beat-up old Chevy in exchange for building "a business corner" where clients and dealers can all sit around and get high.

Scotty said...

You're forgetting the part where the purchaser of the property knew that the property wasn't zoned for what they wanted to develop, and that an election would be required that approved that type of development.

Anonymous said...

if you guys are so brilliant about hardballing developers, why is pacifica broke?

Kathy Meeh said...

Scotty, well we agree on that, although the quarry is zoned mix-use a citizen vote to build even 1 house is required.

Knowing the infrastructure condition of the city and the value this project would have brought to the city, any responsible city council would have supported. Since they didn't we're left with their accountable economic plan: a failed city and increasing taxes.