Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Swirling Mists of School Street

Swirling Mists of School Street

Heya Pittsburger, do you like magic? Sure you do. Everyone likes magic, right? I mean, except for people who protest Harry Potter books which is, you know, weird.  Well, even if you don’t like magic, it may surprise you to learn that our own City Manager and the whole City Government are huge fans of magic. Huge. Now, your friend Zorro likes to poke at the CoP for its sloppy, bad planning and poor management, but I am starting to think that I have been viewing this whole mess of a giant corrupt housing development in the wrong light. I can admit when I have been unfair. My own myopic views have been too narrowly bounded by a philosophy that does not allow for the wonders of the magical realm.

As we all learned from the movie, The Prestige, every magic trick has three fundamental parts. First, there is the Pledge. This is the introduction of a perfectly mundane item or premise, something that is usually beneath your notice. Second, there is the Turn, this is what sets the trick or illusion into motion and maybe turns you from a disinterested spectator into someone who is enraptured with how this will all play out. Third, there is the Prestige, the change, the slip, the misdirection, the transformation revealed. You may not see how it happened, and if the illusionist is any good you won’t, but you at least now see where the trick was meant to go all along.

Seen through the proper lens, Pittsburger, you can see that there is in fact a great deal of planning happening in the CoP, planning to confuse and astound you, planning that shows a journey, planning to an end that almost seems inevitable once we get there.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you an illusionary feat of the magicks that will amaze your eyes and shock your very brains into quivering lumps of gelatin!

I give you, the Swirling Mists of School Street! My apologies to illusionists everywhere (including the CoP) for breaking the cardinal rule and revealing how the trick is done.

PledgeThe Pledge! Behold, a medium-sized largely unused parcel of land at 500 School Street. No major roads connect the parcel to the rest of the city or to the outside world. A small two lane street leads to a larger street running past a high school, which gets more congested than your friend Zorro at a petting zoo a couple of times a day. CoP purchased it for a cool couple of million bucks from the County. The County had to unload it after a planned hospital went (Saint) elsewhere. http://www.ci.pittsburg.ca.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=2950

In aught-seven, the City planned to sell the land to, you guessed it, residential developers. There were some talks, some things in the works and council agenda items, and then… nada. Because that was when the last residential housing bubble burst (a disastrous collapse from which the CoP apparently learned nothing), it is not surprising that these plans fell away right around then. And, lucky us that they did. The street the land is on, school street, would be inadequate to support any additional housing and though it connects to Harbor Street, a larger thoroughfare, Harbor Street is one of the only roads in town running North to South that is not already overwhelmed with traffic. And Harbor also gets clogged around the high school for which School Street gets its name, especially around the times for dropping off and picking up students; which also happens to overlap with rush hour. One could drive the other direction down School Street, but that just leads to a circuitous route of speed bumps, unkempt roads, and Pittsburg’s Projects.  No one does or will use that route. So, lucky for us, the residential development in this one place, this one and only place in Pittsburg, did not go through.

The Turn! Then, earlier this year, the planning division in the CoP sent out a notice, no big deal, they were just considering removing five trees from this parcel of land. http://www.ci.pittsburg.ca.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=8102 were the trees sick? No! Blighted? No! Possessed by witches? Hell no! Did anyone really give a shit? No.

Kristin Pollot, the Zoning Administrator, sent out the notice, the hearing happened, the trees got taken out by a resolution passed by the planning commission. Did the notice say why the trees were being removed? No. The turn, you see is all about giving the viewer of the trick some buy-in, some participation so the viewer goes willingly toward the conclusion.

PrestigeThe Prestige! Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no. Dammit, CoP. It’s not more housing is it?


It’s more housing.

Seriously, CoP, you make writing satire too easy. 82 brand-spanking new homes, to be precise. http://www.ci.pittsburg.ca.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=8188

Recently after the unveiling of the Prestige of this particular magic trick with the tragically predictable outcome, the project manager, Jordan Davis, took part in a community meeting with the good citizens of the CoP.  When asked if the developers, or the CoP, or anyone at all was looking into working on simple planning measures like traffic mitigation, you know, the kind of thing planning departments are supposed to do before such developments are conjured, Jordan Davis responded that there was no need to worry about that because there was a report from a Railroad Specific Plan in 2009 that said traffic is just fine.

Yes… that is an actual thing someone from the City Planning Department actually said out of his face!

Of course, the development is not on Railroad. Nor is it being built a decade ago, when that report might not have been completely out of date, since all the data it was based on was from 2006.  Given the level of development in this city since 2006, it is hard to see how the report had any practical relevance after, say, 2007, when the City was last looking at developing this land.

Also, this report was all about the e-BART and an area within ½ mile of the new proposed fake-BART station, and it was based on an idea that people will not walk for more than ½ mile for transit options, but if the CoP put in a lot of new residential homes and brought in new commercial development right round the station, people would be able to walk for whatever they needed.  That is why Davis said these new 82 units would just be fine.  Except for a few small things… 500 School Street is only “within ½ mile” from the proposed station as the crow flies. For people who would actually have to walk on streets, it is a mile or longer depending on what route one took. And, with Old Town filled with empty store fronts and no new commercial development in the works, there would not be a lot for these new residents to walk to, so, that means still more drivers.

How a report on another street (it is titled the “Railroad Specific Plan” for Pete’s sake) based on data from a decade ago – you know before all the homes that were built here during the first real estate bubble (before that burst) – and all the homes built here during this new equally burst-able bubble, could possibly have any bearing on whether there ought to be traffic mitigation done on another, smaller street in a city already overwhelmed with new housing developments, before the city builds another 82 freaking homes, is such an incredible premise, it leads to only one conclusion.

The only way this could work is… Magic.