Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DPW Pushes Consolidating 
SF's Empty News Racks

After posting my photo essay on Sunday about the twelve mostly empty news racks cluttering up the Castro very limited sidewalk spaces, I poked around the Department of Public Works' pages for the racks.

One page contains info for publishers and distributors of recycled tree publications, about how to apply for stocking the boxes. Another DPW page is all about the News Rack Advisory Committee, containing a slim number of meeting agendas, and that page is being fully updated this week, in part because I've requested agendas and minutes for the last year.

Many questions about removing or consolidating the news racks came up while reading DPW's pages, and today I spoke with two folks from the mapping division, which is responsible for the racks. DPW employees Eric Lee and Grace Moore provided me very useful details about the past, present and future issues related to the racks and who is responsible for them.

First of all, I must correct the misinformation of my Sunday post on this matter, in which I said the street furniture belongs to JCDeaux. The racks are the property Clear Channel, which is also responsible for their maintenance. I appreciate DPW's Moore correcting my mistake.

Moore informed me that back in November 2010, at the advisory committee, DPW proposed consolidating some of the street furniture for newspapers and guides. The agenda and proposed changes to the news rack ordinance are here in zip format.

In February, DPW released a 7-page brochure about consolidating the racks and the evolving ordinance, and Moore told me that on the second page listing proposed modifications, the one of most importance to me was number five: Section 184.12 g(2)(e) establishes guidelines to consolidate clusters of pedmount units at intersections, where possible and to modify the size of individual units where possible.

Regarding number of news racks on San Francisco sidewalks, the number in spring 2010 was at 702, and approximately 100 additional pieces of such street furniture are added annually. Ugh.

Moore and her colleague Eric Lee are well aware of the high numbers of vacant boxes of current news racks, and believe the serious decline in publications and guides using them is due to drastic changes in the newspaper and business/real estate guides' industries. Of course, growth of online sources for previously printed information sources has also played a role in the declining need for street distribution of publications.

It pleases me that DPW has these consolidation plans in the works, and that DPW employees are fully aware of so many racks sitting empty and useless on the public sidewalk. Reclaiming any square inch of public space back from the likes of the for-profit Clear Channel and JCDeaux corporations is something I hope other advocates of making our great city more pedestrian-friendly will soon embrace and speak in favor of at civic meetings.

We also need to see the mayoral candidates present policy papers regarding how to give the people of San Francisco more of our public real estate back to the citizens.

Memo to mayoral candidates: If you have such papers already written and ready for public inspection, please send them my way. I want to bone up on where you stand on removing or consolidating the news racks.

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