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Bike share monopoly expands, the next NextBus, and the 1906 lie

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What you need to know today

Inside a big Muni bus. Photo by Todd Lappin

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

The next NextBus

While longtime San Franciscans will brag that they remember when you never knew when a Muni bus would arrive, we can all agree that, while imperfect, the transit agency’s NextBus prediction system has made taking Muni a great deal easier to manage. Sure, there have been bobbles, like this January’s prediction meltdown that seemed—to the outside observer, at least—like procrastination that went horribly wrong.

It’s been 15 years since Muni started using NextBus, and the transit agency’s contract with the prediction provider is set to expire in July. But though the agency has apparently known for a while that they would have to transition off NextBus, as the technology “is likely to become ‘outdated’ and will require the use of expensive cellular infrastructure,” SF Bay reports, it seems like the agency waited until the last moment in this case, too, eventually extending their current NextBus contract for another year at a cool $3.7 million.

Now that Muni got an extension from the teacher to write its paper (because, really, isn’t that what it sounds like?), they announced this week that they want public feedback on their next Automatic Vehicle Location System, so they can “build a new customer-focused system that will enable riders to make informed decisions about how to reach destinations quickly and efficiently.” You can tell they what you want via this survey right here.

It’s unclear how long it’ll take to compile survey results, but one thing that seems likely is that Muni will be asking for at least one more NextBus extension next year. According to SF Bay, the MTA won’t even finish up the request for proposals process for NextBus’s successor until “early 2018.”

They hope to have the new system in place by July, 2019, so we’re already looking forward to the new system’s big kickoff party in 2022.

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YIMBYs take on another journalist

Earlier this week we mentioned the case of two journalists allegedly harassed for their coverage of the local YIMBY movement, but it appears those guys aren’t the only reporters who’ve aroused the housing advocates’ wrath.

The SF Chronicle reports that SF Yimby Party board member Vincent Woo has reported local nonprofit advocacy journalism website 48 Hills to the Internal Revenue Service, claiming they the site violates IRS policies around electioneering.

The fine line nonprofit journalism organizations must walk when it comes to politics has been a discussion since 48 Hills founder Tim Redmond was still editing the now-defunct San Francisco Bay Guardian.

In a 2008 report, NBC writes that “federal law bars tax-exempt organizations from donating money to a politician’s campaign or endorsing a candidate, either verbally or in writing. But it’s OK to put on such events as a voter registration drive or voter forums—or a get-out-the-vote push, as long as all are nonpartisan.”

According to Woo, who posted his letter to the IRS on his blog, “48 Hills as a publication is a unilateral supporter of the ‘progressive’ faction of the Democratic party in San Francisco, and does not hesitate to attack any politician outside of this camp,” and is therefore in violation of IRS codes, which state that “all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

The Chronicle reports that 28-year-old Woo runs a software company called CoderPad in addition to his duties on the YIMBY board. “I couldn’t believe that no one had said anything,” he told the Chronicle regarding 48 Hills, which Redmond started after he left his role as editor of the Bay Guardian in 2014.

Redmond, for his part, denies the allegations. “We cover races, but we’ve never endorsed a candidate and we never will,” Redmond told the Chronicle. “If you say nonprofit journalists can’t cover politics, you’re creating a very, very dangerous precedent.” One might also say that if your political movement gets a reputation for coming at journalists, well, you best not miss.

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Bike share monopoly expands

With Bluegogo out of the SF bike sharing game after a January launch was marred by political grandstanding and eventual allegations of zoning law violations spurred them to pack up their bikes (at least for now), the field is clear for Ford GoBike to expand across the city, it appears.

According to a San Francisco Examiner report from March, “Bluegogo was heavily lobbied against within city government by a rival bikeshare company, Motivate, whose Bay Area Bikeshare program is backed by Ford Motor Company.”

It didn’t help, perhaps, that the company allegedly left bikes scattered on city streets, though it would certainly be nice to see certain city officials apply the strong stance they took against the “thousands of new bikes” on SF’s streets against other things littering our roads and sidewalks.

But now Bluegogo appears to be gonegone (sorry!) and the Ex reports this week that now Ford will be adding “thousands of new ‘shareable’ bikes” to city streets with nary a peep from any city supervisors.

Expect 101 new app-enabled bike share stations in the Bayview, North Beach, Balboa Park, and Marina, with a future map expected to add even more in the Richmond District, Laurel Heights, Inner Sunset, Sunset, Ingleside, West Portal, and Lakeside.

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The 1906 lie

Bay Curious reports this week that that many of SF’s homes that have a recorded construction date of 1906 actually weren’t built that year at all. No, this isn’t a scam to deny those occupants rent control by claiming the structures actually appeared after 1979-instead, they report, many of those 1906-dated buildings are way older.

The reason? The quake, of course. In the subsequent fire, which burned for three days and destroyed about 80 percent of the populated portion of the city, “Volumes of building records, deeds to homes, contracts, parcel histories and the like went up in smoke,” Bay Curious reports. Therefore, “much of the historic part of the city received a second birthday: 1906.

While San Francisco was formally incorporated April 15, 1850, much of it was destroyed 56 years later, on April 18, 19, and 20. But with money in the bank and bodies ready to work, all the rebuilding was a rebirth of sorts. And a new date of 1906 was slapped on much of the city.”

If you live in a 1906 building and want to figure out its real birthdate, it’s not impossible if you have the time to devote to detective work. The archives and city history center on the sixth floor of the SFPL is the place to start, as surviving non-property documents might provide peripheral information to help research your residence.

“For example, there’s a wealth of information in the water tap records,” City archivist Susan Goldstein says.

Those are the ledgers dating back to the mid-19th century that document when and where water was hooked up to a home or building. From that we learn the names associated with a building, about the buildings, and interestingly the order in which buildings were put in place.

So while they may not be in order on any given street, the water hookups, or water tap records, reveal the order in which the houses or buildings appear on a street.

Those ledgers are at the library in hard copy and digitized. The digitized version offers photos of the ledgers, so either way it’s a trip back in time with a glimpse at the old-fashioned handwriting and the ink blots on the pages.

Speaking of big quakes, Bloomberg has a little present for residents of old and new buildings alike: In a report this week entitled “Waiting for `The Big One' to Shake San Francisco,” we’re reminded that “A magnitude 7 quake on the Hayward Fault could kill hundreds and injure more than 60,000, while another 7.8 temblor on the San Andreas might cause 2,550 deaths and more than 220,000 injuries.”

The 1906 quake, if you were wondering, is estimated to have clocked in at a 7.8.