Valencia St. Next Cluttered Area
After my phone conversation a few days back with Grace Moore, the Department of Public Works' person in charge of news racks on city sidewalks, I posed follow-up questions in writing, to get a better understanding of why DPW continues to install racks, while simultaneously moving to merge existing ones that are primarily empty.
I asked Moore how the Castro could become the district with a pilot program to remove and/or combine the blight of the 12 big racks cluttering the public space, and the time-line involved. Her reply:
Before racks can be considered for consolidation, DPW must provide every reasonable opportunity for publishers to apply for vacancies. Many of the existing pedmount units throughout the city, including those in the Castro, will be subject to reassignment by October 1st. Only then can we assess and determine next steps.
The public needs more details about exactly what reassignment entails, how quickly consolidation can occur and what efforts DPW is making to give every stakeholder in this matter the chance to influence policy.
Agendas for DPW's News Rack Advisory Committee reveal the members have monthly meetings, when there's a quorum, and that the meetings start at 8:30 am, not the most convenient time of the day, maybe 10:00 am. I asked Moore if the committee be accommodating on the time, to increased attendance. Her reply:
Meetings at City Hall are calendared at least one year out and are not subject to change without prior discussion and consent by committee members. The News Rack Advisory Committee meetings are scheduled regularly; however meetings without a quorum can result in its cancellation.
That does not sound flexible at all, and I question why it was decided to meet so early, and will bring up these and other concerns at the September meeting of the committee, if they establish a quorum and conduct official business.
Unaddressed by Moore was a question about properly updating the DPW page for news racks. Currently, it's a confusing mess. Minutes and agendas are promised, with a list of previous months, some linking to documents, other months dead links. Click on August and a zipfile opens containing this month's committee agenda and the minutes from the May meeting. Huh?
The state of this DPW has to be immediately addressed and cleaned up, to better serve everyone's need for easy-to-navigate clicks to documents, laid out in a consistent manner.
Regarding installing more of this useless street furniture, the August agenda listed discussion and recommendation to the director of DPW to approve locations for new racks along Valencia Street from 15th to 24th Streets, Clement Street from Arguello to 11th Avenue, and Haight Street from Masonic to Stanyan.
Why is DPW moving ahead with misguided plans to place more of the empty racks on crowded sidewalks? I'd like to see the city's proof that any publication or guide will regularly be stocked in the racks on those three high-density streets. Minutes from the August meeting, if it happened, are not on the web.
Minutes from the April and May meetings record comments from committee members related to the many empty news racks.
In April member Jim Lazarus, who also works for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, asked if there is a process for reallocating un-used racks to other sections of the city. Moore replied that there is and it allows for downsizing at intersections, and can also eliminate the number of empty boxes.
Then in May member Debra Newman, and a member of the Noe Valley Benefit District, questioned Moore about reallocating spaces of the many empty news rack around certain parts of 24th Street. Moore said the city would examine locations block-by-block basis to consider downsizing.
BTW, at both meetings time was set aside for a report from Clear Channel, the advertising giant, and no representative from the corporation bothered to put in an appearance.
There seems to be no disagreement that there are lots of hollow racks on our sidewalks, which circles us back to the question about why DPW is charging forward to place more of this blight on the public space around town.
Let's get this horrible street furniture off our sidewalks and put an end to installing a single additional rack.