The (Too-) Open Sea
We prefer "Yellowstones of the Briny Blue": John Geluardi captures the essence of the problem of the thousands of large ships inside the bay ["The Shipping News," Nov. 21].
Outside the Golden Gate, however, the problem is even more extensive. Our three National Marine Sanctuaries and numerous state Marine Protected Areas at the mouth of the bay are being used as on-ramps of the global economy. Every one of the approximately 3,600 large vessels that enters the Golden Gate crosses at least one of these three sanctuaries and one or more Marine Protected Areas with even less oversight and regulation than once they are inside the bay. There is no speed limit, and vessels are reported to speed through these "Yosemites of the Sea" to make their deadline to the holding area in order to be allowed to enter the bay. In the process, these critical marine habitats have been turned into superhighways.
It's time for the Coast Guard and other federal and state agencies to implement one of the many existing measures that can reduce the numerous environmental hazards posed by large vessels, including rapidly rising levels of ocean noise, emissions of greenhouse gas, deadly collisions with marine mammals, and more catastrophic oil spills.
Robert Ovetz, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Seaflow
Wonky-tonk blues: A few points regarding Matt Smith's "Early (High) Riser" [Nov. 7]. New condos are running for $800 per square foot and up. Few jobs in San Francisco can provide income to service that kind of note, especially as lending standards for jumbo loans tighten. That means that luxury-condo dwellers will be either independently wealthy, or living in S.F. and working where the high-paying jobs are, in San Jose; if they're paying that kind of money they're not going to spend three hours on Caltrain commuting. Unless they work for Google and get bus service (which still emits), they're going to be doing the single-occupancy-vehicle US 101 slog.
There is no guarantee that housing built in S.F. will be occupied by people who work in S.F. — job security is nonexistent, people have many jobs over time, and those jobs will tend to be scattered around the Bay Area.
Contrary to what Smith suggests, a more effective solution to climate change is massive regional investment in transit infrastructure, not festooning SOMA with condo towers that wealthy foreigners will use as capital sinks and pieds-à-terre. High-rise towers also require massive amounts of energy, as each and every one of their building systems (climate control, elevators, water) requires electricity. If power goes out, or if power becomes more expensive (as it will as scarcity increases), then these towers just might become uninhabitable.
Finally, the notion that building more housing in the form of luxury housing will lower the price of housing in the city is unproven, merely put forth as an article of faith in an economic religion. Nobody, when challenged, can suggest an economic model that demonstrates how many units will need to be built over what timeframe in order to drive price down to what extent, and how many units will need to be produced annually to keep price down. What will S.F. look like after all those units are built? Can the utility infrastructure handle 200,000 more residents? The citywide spectacular failure of Proposition H is a foreshock of an anti-luxury-condo rebellion.
We need more housing to address the housing crisis. But in order to address the housing crisis, we need to build the kind of housing that will address the housing crisis, not housing that will serve other purposes, namely to bank coin for developers and add moderate voters to the city's progressive core.
Mopedders, Mo' Problems
Our favorite Web comment of the week: This article was amazingly entertaining ["The Angry Moped Gangs of San Francisco," Nov. 7]. Seriously, if these moped kids take their "gangs" so freakin' seriously, they really need to get jobs, lives, personalities, a sense of reality and/or humor, and, last but not least, a little damage in their lives — to make them realize how insignificant this all is in the grand scheme of things.