October 04

An Appreciation: Edward Galland Zelinsky
Gridlock, Ferries & Peter Grenell
Amtrak to Portland
Tiburon a town of Grace and Fun
Sprawl Is All Around
SF Taste of Greece Festival All About Choices
Bay Crossings Cuisine
Bay Area Tollpayers Race Clock To Take Advantage of FasTrakTM Discount
Drinkin’ in Dogpatch and dancin’ on the Third Rail
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park Debuts
Fall into Jack’s New Tapas
Port of San Francisco First West Coast Seaport to Install Radiation
Bay Round Up
Barrel of Fun
San Francisco Welcomes the US Navy
Boating Calendar
Berkeley Ferry Service
Community Calendar
Best Alternative for Bay Bridge Replacement Is Awarding Current Bid



Gridlock, Ferries & Peter Grenell
Bay Crossings proudly announces the addition of a Peninsula editor, print veteran Sam Tolmasoff (above). This is the first of an ongoing monthly series by Sam.

By Sam Tolmasoff

There is a peculiar and disquieting sound on certain summer days that 101 produces just north of Whipple at about 8:30 AM when the traffic is stalled out. When things are well beyond slow and annoying and have established themselves at parking lot still. When things are so thick that everyone has realized that they have slipped into relative time (everyone knows that time slows way down in a traffic situation) and accepted that they are where they are for a while. This is the point when hitting the horn or flipping anyone off is meaningless except for the angriest and most desperate.

There is nothing to do except sit back, breathe and wait while the day becomes quiet, yet heightened.

Even though the day is clear and lovely and the exhaust fumes are no more than fender height, cautious drivers look around, check their seatbelts, close their windows and turn their radios and air conditioners up a notch. It doesn’t help; you can still hear that haunting, sub audible noise.

A striking young blond in a Miata with the top down glances nervously around, instinctively looking for someone who might protect her. It takes a while for anyone to identify what he or she is being subjected to. It is the near absence of sound; it is the faint presence of natural sound. It is that small water surface sound of the surface of the nearby bay (you almost forgot it was there, huh?). It is the seldom noticed call of seabirds and of a warm morning breeze moving through the remaining grasses, around the corners of endless rows of buildings and sun bleached road signs. It is the sound of the Peninsula before the construction of 101 broken only by occasional train whistles. It is the way things sounded when the bayside towns were connected by elegant ferryboats moving on the surface of the bay. Perhaps even the time when the steamer fare from Alviso to San Francisco was fifty cents.

Deep in the memories, the imaginations, in the very souls of those citizens possessing a certain sweet depth of sensitivity, a longing is evoked. It is a nameless longing going largely unrecognized but definitely felt. It is a longing for a better time, a time when the Peninsula might be the paradise it could have become.

I imagine a time when the freeways have outlived their usefulness and all sixteen lanes of concrete have been pounded to rubble and hauled away to be recycled like the shadowing structure that once blighted the Embarcadero. Only tiny segments will be left, as reminders of what we once contended with, like the sections of the Berlin wall that remain.

It could be so. The November election isn’t far off and Measure A is a small but definite step towards that better time. It is a step forward that we must be prepared to make. There are among us visionaries. People who hold definite images of that better time our children might live in.

Peter Grenell, general manager of the San Mateo County Harbor District is such a man. The S.M.C.H.D. operates the Oyster Point Marina for the City of South San Francisco. The Oyster Point Marina is slated for new ferry service to and from San Francisco and the East Bay. Peter’s image of a ferry system on the bay is one that would efficiently transport an appreciable number of commuters taking at least some cars out of the gridlock. These people would have a pleasant and dignified trip. A commute that would be the best part of the day rather than the worst. A commute in which a ferry passenger could sit comfortably, have a cup of coffee, plug in a laptop and arrive at work in a positive state of mind, hitting the ground running rather than recovering.
Peter is a man whose feet are confidently on the deck, his eyes are on that better future and his sleeves are rolled up in readiness for dealing with the task at hand. He has come a great distance from the Manhattan he was born in 1939. His love of ferryboats came to him early.

One of his earliest memories is of his father taking him on the Hudson Ferry to Fort Lee New Jersey. He speaks with delight of riding the Staten Island Ferry as a boy. ”It was only a nickel!” he says. Today the system he loved as a boy is free and it efficiently moves 70,000 passengers a day!

To hear him speak of such things is to realize that Peter Grenell has the soul of a poet, the crystal mind of a scientist and the spirit of a crusader. Even though he is skilled at innovation, he always seeks the most practical and cost effective answers to problems.
Watching him move around his office and speaking from his encyclopedic knowledge of the bay and ferry systems, it is impossible not to catch some of his enthusiasm.
We do live in troubled times, and our beloved Bay Area is not one of the most geologically stable places on earth. It is unpleasant to think about, but we will have another earthquake. Worse, is the situation with those-who-would-be-terrorists that seeks to cause us harm? These are things we must consider.

Peter describes a series of simple, basic docks in each community down the bayside. In such an emergency as above, ferryboats could dock at these, even in relatively shallow water and thus maintain a line of transport to move people and supplies while maintaining a line of communication. This is in addition to the obviously immediate and practical value of the ferry system.
Peter went to Maplewood High School in New Jersey and then to Antioch College in Ohio. Antioch was one of the colleges to institute a “hands on learning, work study program”. Previously such an approach had been limited to trade schools. Antioch’s approach suited Peter just fine.

His first experience was to work as an engineering aide in Indiana. “Imagine a kid from New York who’d never been in the Midwest before. I loved it!” he said. His second round of work-study saw him working at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in the post Sputnik space program. His job there was to spin his bosses around in a centrifuge, riding as an observer with a stop switch if it was needed.

These enriching experiences led the engineering major to take a degree in philosophy. Talking to Peter, this seems somehow perfectly logical.

From Antioch he traveled to India and studied social sciences; specifically,
Tribal welfare. He lived in several tribal villages, carrying only his backpack and his sleeping bag. Included in his travels was spending time in the province of Madhya Pradesh, which was the place that inspired Kipling’s Jungle Book.

Keep in mind that this was before there was a Peace Corps.

A book he read while he was in Southern India, “Garden Cities of Tomorrow” by Ebenezer Howard, inspired him to return to the U.S. and did graduate work in city planning at M.I.T.

He returned to India in 1964 to do graduate work, and then worked for the Ford Foundation in Calcutta. He returned to M.I.T. in 1967 and in 1968 he went in to private consulting. In 1972 he again returned to India, this time to work with UNICEF.
Peter and his wife came to San Francisco in 1974 and he did private consulting. In 1978 He went to work for the California State Coastal Conservancy. Another period of private consulting from 1983 to 1985 when he became Executive Officer for the Coastal Conservancy. Private consulting again in 1985 including working for the Moss Landing Harbor District.

He came to the San Mateo County Harbor District in1997 and did post graduate work in housing and urban development and eventually worked there for UNICEF for two years. He and his wife came to San Francisco in 1974 where he worked as a private consultant and then joined the California State Coastal Conservancy. After a period of working again as a private consultant, he returned to the Coastal Conservancy as Executive Officer. In 1994 he was again a private consultant including Moss Landing Harbor District. He came to the San Mateo County Harbor District in 1997. San Mateo County is indeed lucky to have such a man as the General Manager of the Harbor District.