Letter to the Editor: Equitable El Camino Real and Eco-Resilience Planning

South San Francisco, CA March 16, 2022 by Jeffrey Tong

Ladies and gentlemen;

We’ve been dealing with life-threatening climate change for decades – it’s just been more evident in the last 10 years. As it accelerates, it causes us to seriously rethink our tradition FUNDAMENTAL VALUES!

Combined California Real Estate Law British Imperial Law with Spanish Conquistador Act – after having seized and fenced off the desirable fertile lands of the vanquished, the uncultivated lands are given (abandoned) to the poor. Likewise, designated bike lanes in suburban SM County are abandoned streets that are disconnected and deplorable as wildlife. Is it any wonder that coyotes and cougars roam our streets?

The reason suburban residents feel threatened by wildlife encroaching on “OUR urban space” is because Western architecture was designed around outward expansion – DIVIDE AND CONQUERwhile Asian properties have been designed around the inner (personal) reflection – the yard, which incidentally is superior in defending against external threats.

The difference between East and West is in their philosophy – East chooses to harmonize with nature, while West chooses to WAR against nature!

CA Env Quality Act / Nat’l Env Policy Act (CEQA/NEPA) was an anomaly in the capitalist system. After Love Canal, NEPA was created as an overlay to ‘dress up’ the crisis – without transforming the underlying issues that caused it! NEPA was therefore administered as an office divided into cubicles (this is “my” space / this is “your” space). Of course, the executives always claimed the best window locations first!

After taking inventory of wildlife and classifying which species deserve to be classified as ‘endangered’, the government for the past 70 years has banned all human activity on the last remnants of untouched open space!

Nina-Marie Lister, Landscape Architect, said: “Conventional approaches to disaster policy and planning have long been rooted in the language of resistance and controlreferring to coastal defense strategies such as fortification, shieldingand “consolidate” by using Brute force engineering answers designed to fight against natural forces. In contrast, emerging approaches to design and planning refer to the language

resilience and adaptive management, terms associated with elasticity and flexibilityleading to the use of hybrid engineering of constructed and environmentally friendly materials that adapt to dynamic conditions and natural forces.

Similarly, SF PUC, which controls strategic segments of the peninsula’s real estate, says CEQA/NEPA gives them the right to bar public access to public property under their control. THIS IS A PROPERTY WAR! Therefore, the 4.5 mile Bay Trail Gap around SFO was never connected. However, Scott Wiener seems to view CEQA/NEPA as an unnecessary burden! First, he saw housing as too important to be bothered with environmental impacts. Now he considers transport too important to be hampered by CEQA/NEPA? https://sfbayca.com/2022/02/10/permanent-exemption-for-environment-notice-wanted-for-california-transit projects If social and environmental justice comes down to power = right, we need to change the rules that rule the rules – we need a plus FAIR system of government. Can a city and county charter achieve this?

The transit corridors between Millbrae and San Bruno are shaped like an hourglass – everyone is forced to take I-101, I-280, or El Camino Real – which Ca Dept of Highways (Caltrans) has designated as an automatic highway, which makes 100% of the real estate for automobiles and 0% for cyclists or pedestrians. When cyclists or walkers do not feel safe, their only option is to BUY a car, which exacerbates the problem!

After listening to a climate change biologist explain our dire situation in 2015, I co-founded Colinas Costeras in 2018 – an NWF community wildlife habitat, because I believe that the restoration of the native habitat on the 99% (natural open space captured for urban space) will have a bigger impact than banning people from the remaining 1%.

Where are we today ? SSF and San Bruno are about to build a huge biotech center in Tanforan and South Maple – back to back. The town hall does not control private property, it only controls the streets of the city! If we allow yesterday’s Caltrans to dictate policy using Level of Service (LOS) to determine road width, the 11-lane ECR at Tanforan today will be 24 lanes wide tomorrow.

But unlike SF PUC, which is stuck in mental silos, today’s Caltrans has demonstrated a willingness to change. In fact, Caltrans has already empowered residents to determine their own destiny… but it’s such a revolutionary 180° change that local politicians haven’t fully embraced it yet! So they continue to “cut and paste” decades-old policies into new, updated policies and perpetuate the status quo!

Employees have to go to work to survive, and they have little say in how they go to work. If the physical infrastructure offers only one viable option, their fate is sealed!

To note [i = 2′ turn lane crash barrier.  Compared to Existing ECR, Equitable ECR does not remove traffic lanes – it merely creates a safety buffer between 2 fast lanes and 2 slow lanes, and prioritizes the slow lanes for bicycles and micro-mobility devices.  It does not “ban” if unnecessary – it controls speed limit largely with lane width (an 8′ wide car can not speed on a 9′ lane).  Bollards can be erected if denial is necessary, in contrast to deliberately mis-aligning streets.]

The STROAD* that is El Camino Real defines our cities! But change is inevitable, whether we like it or not. If you wish to continue fighting nature, just know that you will ruin us trying – because MOTHER NATURE ALWAYS WIN!!! So please stop wasting millions of dollars maintaining the dysfunctional status quo and invest in a more sustainable future instead!

* Ref: What is a STROAD?