There is an avenue in the city of San Francisco that provides a shining example of confrontations old and new, not only in The City That Knows How but for the rest of the country.
It’s called 19th Avenue.
19th Avenue cuts through the west side of the city, what is sometimes called The Outside Lands, from the southern border to Golden Gate Park. Though you stay on the same street, it magically changes names to Park Presidio when you exit the park and until you get to the Golden Gate Bridge on ramp. Thus it is the main connector from San Mateo County (just south of San Francisco) via Highway 280 to Highway 101, the bridge and over to Marin County.
That’s right, there is no freeway between the south end of The City and the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s one big surface street. Not that they haven’t tried to build a freeway.
Back in the 1950’s when freeway construction was all the rage in California there were plans to build a connector freeway above 19th Avenue to make it simpler for those in the south to get to and across the bridge or vice versa. Those living in the neighborhood of 19th Avenue we firmly against it. Having seen what happened to the areas where freeways had intruded elsewhere in the city and the attendant lowering of not just home values but quality of life values they wanted no part of a freeway.
This was not a Democrat versus Republican thing or a liberal versus conservative thing or even a Downtown SF versus The Outside Lands thing. This was the people living in the area who were saying “Why is our home less important than moving people from outside the southern end of The City to outside the northern end?” versus the forces of progress saying “The state has a vested interest in moving people and goods as quickly and efficiently as possible”.
So what happened? You already know there is no freeway above 19th Avenue, so did the homeowners of the late 1950’s win? Well, sorta. Actually what they did was something so alien today that I sometimes have to convince kids (and by that I mean anyone under 40) that it was possible.
The two sides compromised.
The freeway wasn’t built. But 19th Avenue got a unique makeover of sorts. Just after the Golden Gate Bridge was built the street was widened to accommodate the greater flow of traffic heading to the bridge so it was ready to deal with the volume of traffic. But the state wanted traffic that didn’t get stopped for traffic lights and there are give or take about 25 cross streets, each with a traffic light, along the route.
The first part of the compromise was that the state had The City change the timing on the traffic lights. If you got onto 19th Avenue and maintained a 35mph pace all the way down it, you never got caught at a red light. Go too fast you have to stop. Go too slow you have to stop. Hit it just right, you zipped along without a stop. A freeway without building a freeway.
The second part of the compromise was that in order to accomplish this, the north and south bound lights had a longer than normal “green” section which of course meant that the lights for all the cross streets had longer than normal “red” sections. For the most part those living there didn’t care because they understood that sitting at a red light a bit longer was better than having a monster freeway drowning out the sun.
Don’t compromise yourself by not finishing what you started. Click below:
Compromise is how this country was built. You can talk all you want about democracy and majority rules, but back in the day every law that was passed, from the whiskey tax in the 18th Century to the Civil Rights Bills in the 20th was an act of compromise. Each side gave a little and each side got a little. Some of the compromises worked out well like Jefferson compromising with himself on the power of the presidency in order to make the Louisiana Purchase. Some kicked the can down the road, like the Missouri Compromise. Some eventually worked out pretty good, like FDR getting Lend Lease passed so England could stave off the Nazis while allowing isolationists in Congress to claim it was “just a business deal” (though many still voted against it).
It’s not a sign of weakness to compromise. It’s a sign of maturity and rational thinking.
I personally believe all medical treatment in America should be paid for by the government with the government taking a percentage of my income as the “insurance premium”. There are many who feel only the free market can properly regulate insurance premiums and payments. The compromise was Obamacare. Do I like Obamacare? I consider it a start. Would I have preferred Medicare For All? You bet. But here we are, ten years or so since it’s passage and even those opposed to it have come to see it’s value.
Do we need an massive infusion of capital and labor to fix our crumbling infrastructure? Absolutely. Did the recently passed Infrastructure Bill give me everything I wanted? Hell no, but getting some of the bill passed was better than it not getting passed at all. That’s what would have happened if everyone stuck to their guns and not compromised.
In today’s atmosphere we decry any compromise as a loss. That’s crazy. Are you seriously saying that Democrats/Liberals lost because we got both Obamacare and the Infrastructure Bill passed? Hey out there in political outer space the key word here is that they both PASSED.
A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, ‘Huh. It works. It makes sense.’ — Barack Obama
Now I know some of you out there are saying to yourselves “he’s crazy, how can I possibly compromise with someone who thinks I’m less human than them or who outright want me dead?” Contrary to popular belief there are fewer of those people out there than the media would have you believe. Of course there are unrestricted wingnuts out there, on both ends of the political spectrum. Tommy T regularly reports on them right here on First-Draft. But those people represent a small slice of a much larger pie.
Find the people in that larger piece of pie. Talk to them, but more importantly listen to them. Sometimes that’s all they wanted in the first place. And if you listen to them, chances are they will listen to you.
Most people, even die hard conservatives, just want to live their lives in peace. They want to raise their kids, have a nice home, and enjoy life. They don’t want to be out at the school board meetings yelling about CRT or vaccines but they’ve been egged on to do it by Faux News and it’s ilk. Same as liberals have been egged on by MSNBC to “cancel” anyone who dares to make a joke or express a thought that can be twisted into somehow being racist rhetoric. To both those yelling at school boards and those yelling at John Cleese for 50 year old skits where he played Hitler, take it down a notch.
You know how we get everyone down from and off the proverbial ledge? The word is compromise. If we compromise, we can come together to form that more perfect union. Just like those long ago San Francisco citizens.
2 thoughts on “The 19th Avenue Solution”
As you surely recall, I lived on 17th Avenue for several years. I didn’t know about the mishigas back in the Fifties. You learn something new every day.
I surely do, but didn’t want to out you.
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