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Posts Tagged ‘NIMBY’

CAVE Nimbys

What is it about bike lanes that turns Nimbys into lunatics?

The plan, which is strongly supported by Mayor Mike Davis and was approved by the city council, would cut the 4-lane road to two lanes, add sidewalks and bicycle paths on each side, erect park benches and classy lighting, and do away with the leafy median. Davis said this would be a “significant first step” to giving Dunwoody something that it doesn’t have — a real downtown. The vision is that a spruced-up boulevard and stricter zoning in the area would bring new buildings closer to the road, push parking to the back and give what is now a suburban shopping area an old-timey, hometown feel.

Bikes, trees and money seem to be the driving points of debate. Bikes especially.

Joe Seconder, a retired Army major and cycling activist, said he is excited for the plan. “It’s a down payment on revitalization. I see it as a lovely place to congregate,” Seconder said, adding other nearby cities, like Roswell and Sandy Springs, are gussying up their town centers. “We’re competing with our neighbors.”

Seconder said he is frustrated by what he calls the CAVE folks — “citizens against virtually everything.”

Here is one CAVE dweller:

Norb Leahy, a 29-year Dunwoody resident and tea party leader, said the roundabout and “smart-growth” plans like the parkway redevelopment are out-of-tune with a conservative citizenry.

“We see these plans as fluff, as fads, as driven by the urban planners,” said Leahy, who likened the plans to U.N. Agenda 21, which calls for “sustainable” urban growth. “They want transit villages like in Europe, rack-and-stack housing. They want to package us into urban areas. It’s a busy-body bunch who’s pushing it. That’s the rebellion here.

“Besides,” he added. “No one takes a bike to get groceries. It’s the suburbs.”

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Bike Paths and Other Threats

I continue to be astounded at the hate and bile neighbors have for bike/ped pathway projects. For example, this letter to the Berkeley Planning Commission:

Our kindergarten and 1st grade classes are located…directly adjacent to proposed Segment 1. The youngest and most vulnerable students at our University Avenue campus, i.e., 4 to 6 year old children, will therefore have a front-row seat for, and be exposed to, all the activities and risks that can be expected to occur on.

The letter goes on:

Another major concern is that the current plan calls for paving the entire length and width of the path but does not call for the installation of any shade-providing vegetation. This will result in considerable radiant heating of the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms on the west side of the school. In the afternoons, this radiant heat will result in these classes becoming too hot to safely conduct lessons.

This was not from a random Nimby, but Mitch Bostian. Mr. Bostian is the Head Administrator of an Elementary School in Berkeley.

And what amazing luck for his school to be located directly on a rail-trail! Kids could walk/bike to school, avoiding the huge risks of car transport. But noooo, the trail will expose kids to child rapists and murders.

That is, if the sidewalk death rays don’t kill them first.

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For the past 58 years, the German state of Baden-Württemberg has been governed by the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). That all ended last night in a crushing defeat to a center-left opposition, composed of the Greens and their Social Democratic Party allies. For the first time, the Greens would govern a German state.

According to media reports, the weekly Stuttgart-21 protests played a major role in CDU defeat. German voters are known for careful spending of public funds, which may explain the historic CDU defeat.

A recent Guardian article provides fascinating account of the Stuttgart-21 protests. The whole thing is worth reading, but here is one highlight:

It must help to feel the support of a weekly turnout, too. Because the Stuttgart movement isn’t just about blowing whistles or keeping trees and stations because they’re old. It’s about ensuring public money is wisely spent (Swabians are notoriously careful). So they’ve sought advice from Swiss rail experts about the number of trains the new station would process. They’ve pointed out the plan’s weaknesses in fire safety and wheelchair access. They have lawyers in their ranks who have proven it’s possible, and affordable, to withdraw from the current building contracts. And they’ve won concessions in arbitration, curbing the sell-off of public land. They’re not stopping there either: they’ve worked out an alternative, Kopfbahnhof 21, which would refurbish the existing station, and invest in the regional network instead of all those tunnels.

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Stuttgart Nimbys

With SF Bay Peninsula cities in open revolt over plans to build high-speed tracks through downtowns, it is worth comparing to a similar project in Germany:

That image is from Stuttgart, where mass protests have attempted to block construction of a new high-speed rail line through the downtown.

Arguments over the Stuttgart project brings up many issues familiar to Peninsula residents. Proponents say the grade separation would re-join neighborhoods. Detractors say the cost estimates are unrealistic, and the project will be disruptive and unnecessary. One key difference, however: the Stuttgart line would be underground. Which just goes to show that even tunneling may not panacea some Peninsula residents would believe.

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In voting against AC Transit’s BRT project, Berkeley has played up its stereotype as a community of affluent hypocrites. It unearthed ugly, negative stereotypes about bus riders that was shocking to hear in Berkeley of all places. And it exposed insurmountable political roadblocks to the Complete Streets agenda.

The BRT proposal went far beyond improved bus service. It was a textbook example of the ‘Complete Streets’ concept. The Plan would have incorporated Class II bike lanes, traffic calming, and ped safety improvements. The Plan addressed many problems in the blighted Telegraph Ave corridor, particularly the lack of landscaping. And, yes, it was genuinely popular with the electorate. Voters overwhelmingly favored BRT proposal by 80% in at least two citywide referendums (three if Measure “G” is counted).

But the high approval ratings was not enough as City Council killed the project anyway. It is a political variation of the 85% rule.

The “85% rule” in this instance refers to the crazy requirement in CA vehicle code that the fastest 15% of cars on the road sets the speed limit. The political analogue to this rule holds that the most extreme 15% segment of a population holds veto power over major policymaking.

Getting near unanimous support for any program is incredibly difficult. Consequently, the 85% rule holds Berkeley Bike and Ped Plans in check. The city government is in complete dysfunction bending over backwards to placate every single nutjob and nimby.

It is truly a sorry state of affairs. Whereas Berkeley was once a leader in the slow streets movement, City Council has actually banned the use of speed humps, in order to appease a militant faction of disabled activists. The most effective tool in the traffic calming toolkit is gone.

Or consider the hazardous condition of sidewalks in the Gourmet Ghetto. They become so overcrowded that it spills over onto the traffic median. A common-sense plan to expand sidewalk real estate was derailed when diehard nimbys made their usual ‘FUD’ complaints.

So what needs be done to turn things around? For starters, Berkeley has to elect more adults to City Council. Unfortunately, that prospect appears unlikely to happen in the 2010 ballot. So for now, Complete-Streets advocates will have look longingly at cities like Portland and New York and daydream what might have been.

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