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Competing Goods

July 21, 2011

It's interesting when two forces of good in a community find themselves in direct conflict with one another. How does the community judge which "good" gets precedent?

I've been cogitating on this issue ever since I heard the news from a friend about the city's plans to build a new park in The Mission in a space currently occupied by a parking lot.

Replacing ugly grey concrete and car fumes for grass, trees and wooden benches has got to be a good thing, right?

The only tricky issue is that this particular parking lot is adjacent to the ODC theatre and school -- one of the premiere organizations devoted to dance in the Bay Area. If the parking lot is removed, some 25,000 audience members, 13,000 dance class attendees and dozens of ODC staffers will have a much more difficult job parking anywhere near the ODC facilities.

The BART station isn't far away, so perhaps the new park will encourage more people to take public transport to ODC, which is a positive development from health and environmental perspectives. But the walk from the 16th Street BART station to ODC isn't a lot of fun: the neighborhood is sketchy and not very walkable, especially at night.

The Mission is a rather industrial area of town. It needs green space. But I'm a little concerned about how the change will affect ODC.

I'm not sure if the park plans have been passed by local government and are definitely going ahead. But if they do, I hope the city acts fast. It'll be frustrating for the community as a whole if the parking lot is closed down promptly but the green space doesn't appear in its place for several years while the city spins its wheels on organizing and carrying out demolition and construction at the site.

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