Monday, March 30, 2009

The Homeless, Again

Funny, I still see an overwhelming number of chronic homeless on Downtown's streets. I doubt any progress has been made at all.

It goes without saying that any social service case management regime requires a way to track the process of clients. We have similar programs with GA clients and other programs. There are safeguards in those programs. SFPD can't just demand the GA or SSI address records of a given client who may have warrants, for instance.

The Board will never contribute to solving the homelessness problem because they receive endorsements and campaign assistance from homeless-oriented NGOs who want to be able to keep their service contracts. Downtown wants to see the homeless "moved along" someplace else, which is impossible. The Mayor has turned the issue into a cruel Potemkin Village sideshow with a program that allows corporations and constituents to feel better about themselves on the issue by letting them donate free massages.

The only answer to chronic homelessness is intervention. Implementation of Laura's Law, increased cooperation between MAP and SFPD, and the opening of transitional shelters for cumpulsory committment cases. And the program needs to be run directly by DSS/DPH, not contracted out.

Of course, that would violate the sensibilities of our City's political class, who use the ethical fiction "people have a right to live without money" to defend the presence of the homeless, which they in turn use to propagandize their constituents about the continuing need for their brand of social change - which never seems to arrive despite the fact that they were supposedly elected to enact it.

Richard Rodriguez once said "In the absence of government strategies of how to help the lunatic or the destitute, or the addicted, we pass out quarters. In return, the homeless give us the assurance that we live in San Francisco."

A Board of Supervisors panel this afternoon took up a Civil Grand Jury report that found San Francisco is on the right track with its push to create more permanent housing for homeless people but that new tools are needed to make sure service dollars aren't being wasted.

In particular, it was interesting to watch members of the board's Government Audit & Oversight Committee and Newsom administration officials tip-toe around the Grand Jury's call for a computerized tracking system that confidentially assigns a number to each client of city-funded homeless services agencies to determine which programs are working best.

"The Jury believes that such a tracking system, properly designed and maintained, will be an invaluable tool for establishing the effectiveness and cost effectiveness" of city-funded service providers, according to a report, titled "The Homeless Have Homes, But They Are Still on the Street."

The tip-toeing was on display because supervisors and administration officials either don't want to take on or share the view of advocates for homeless people who see such a tracking system as a violation of privacy and potential obstacle to getting care to people who are distrustful of how the information would be used by authorities.

Dariush Kayhan, the mayor's chief homeless policy director, never addressed the call for the tracking system directly but contended the city is keeping a close enough eye on the dozens of nonprofit agencies under contract to deliver homeless services.

"We know what they are doing," Kayhan said, adding, "I am very comfortable with the nonprofit agencies and how they are performing."

Supervisor Eric Mar suggested more attention on monitoring how homeless services dollars are spent might detract from the services themselves.

"I want to see strong services to people on the street," Mar said.

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Chronicle: 1st & Folsom Project Needs More Scrutiny

Perhaps, but maybe this way we won't get stuck with another giant condom-sheathed penis in the midst of our downtown...

Two years ago, the competition to win the rights to build San Francisco's tallest tower drew powerful developers, celebrity architects and fervent public interest in the proposed designs.

Now there's another competition just two blocks away, the grand prize a site with room for a 60-story tower at a major entrance to the Financial District. But only three teams bothered to respond - and the way the rules are currently written, the public won't be allowed to glimpse any of the proposals until the city selects a winner.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The New Plan To Bring Jobs Back Downtown

The smart growth movement has long called attention to the problems with sprawl, but has often been focused on residential sprawl. Yet the dispersion of jobs into suburban and exurban office parks that can never be served by transit is just as much of a threat to the environment as residential sprawl, if not greater. To achieve a low-carbon future, Bay Area residents need to be able to commute to work without relying on a car.

SPUR argues that our best strategy to reduce job sprawl is to channel more employment growth toward existing centers, particularly the transit-rich downtown of San Francisco.

Other transit-served employment centers in the Bay Area, such as downtown Oakland and San Jose, as well as Concord and Walnut Creek, also should capture a growing share of regional employment. The success of the other transit-served job centers is key to a future Bay Area that uses less carbon. But most workers in these other locations, including downtown San Jose and Oakland, drive to work. Future SPUR reports will look at what can be done to improve the land use, urban design and transportation networks for the other employment hubs in the Bay Area.

But downtown San Francisco is the only employment node in the region where most people travel to work without bringing their own car. This paper focuses on downtown San Francisco as the node with by far the greatest near-term potential to accommodate regional employment growth with a low carbon footprint. In fact, if reducing emissions and the amount of driving was our only criterion, we would advocate a region that adds as much of its incremental growth as possible into San Francisco. Even if San Francisco retains its share of regional jobs (16 percent), the increase in driving and emissions in the suburbs will prevent the region from attaining climate change goals.

While done from an environmental perspective, this is an excellent plan all around. One question, though: with regard to the Market-Mission and Civic Center, is public safety the Chicken or the Egg?

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Modest Proposal: Chris Magnus for SFPD Chief

Why not?

This is a person who has worked as a police manager in three very different but challenging jurisdictions: Lansing, Michigan; Fargo, ND; and now Richmond.

He's a "stereotypical white guy" who nevertheless understands and honors diversity - and at the same time won't back down in the face of racial cronyism.

He's got experience in successfully implementing community based patrol schemes, handling community concerns from entertainment issues, tackling hate crimes, and reaching out to classified constituencies.

Most importantly, in Richmond he's learned how to survive vicious political infighting.

He even looks a little like Hennessey. Plus he's single and collects art, so certain gatekeepers in the LGBT community could just assume he's... well, no, that probably wouldn't fly.

Oh well, just a thought. Still, who in the SFPD has this kind of experience, is still young enough to care about using it right, and isn't inured to the department's archaic culture?

Just A Thought.

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