The Oregon beach house that a former Association of Bay Area Governments official suspected of embezzling $1.3 million from a South of Market community fund bought three days after the money disappeared is back on the market.
The Pacific City house, which Clarke Howatt bought on Aug. 15, 2014, for $1.53 million, is on the block for $1.63 million, according to a listing posted on real estate website Trulia. Curbed SF first reported the listing, which boasts of lodge-style fireplace, clear fir finishes, a blue stone outdoor courtyard, fire pit, hot tub and “epic river frontage with your very own boat house.”
The listing went up Monday, the day The Chronicle first reported that Howatt had bought the house.
On Tuesday, Howatt’s attorney, Mary McNamara, said her client would cooperate with law enforcement and pay the money back.
Also, the executive committee of ABAG’s independent financing arm, which Howatt managed, voted to dip into reserve funds to reimburse the South of Market Community Stabilization Fund, which was set up to pay for parks and street improvements.
And on Wednesday, Howatt’s father, Les Howatt, told the Oregonian newspaper his son had always been a model citizen. Howatt grew up in northeast Portland and graduated from Madison High School in 1977.
“This whole thing makes no sense, but it happened, and no amount of magic can erase it,” Les Howatt said. “We’re devastated. He’s devastated. He’s not even capable of commenting at this point.”
Supervisor Jane Kim has called for a hearing into the oversight of community funds like the SoMa community fund, which are generally set up to mitigate the impacts of development.
— J.K. Dineen
First stop: The Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors held its annual workshop this week — it’s an early-in-the-year chance to review last year and learn what’s coming in the year ahead.
The news was mostly upbeat, with MTA officials boasting of growth — a 3 percent increase in transit boardings, 12.3 miles of new bike paths, 315 new sidewalk bike racks, five intersections with new traffic signals, 56 “traffic-calming” projects and 1.6 miles of red-painted transit-only lanes in three locations.
But the positive news didn’t stop there. Transit Director John Haley said Muni service has improved over the past year, especially in the past couple of months when the agency has been able to roll out enough buses to cover 98 percent or more of its scheduled service, a standard established by voters when Proposition E passed in 1999.
“I am pleased to say that we are, I believe, at a turning point,” Haley said.
Tom Maguire, the MTA’s newish sustainable streets director, told the board the agency had met its long-stated goal of reaching a 50-50 split in the percentage of people who take trips in the city by car and those who use transit, bikes, taxis, ride services or their feet.
But it wasn’t necessarily because of transportation improvements. For the past few years, the agency figured that about 62 percent of trips were made by private vehicle, but more current and detailed data, including from a survey of residents’ “transportation choices,” indicated the real share was about 50 percent.
“It was probably close to that all along,” he said during a break.
But he said bike and Muni service improvements and new transportation options, including bike and car sharing and new ride services like Uber and Lyft, may well push the percentage of people getting around outside private cars higher.
As for what’s ahead — a lot, including projects to redesign Masonic Avenue, Second Street and Polk Street and build bus rapid transit lines on Van Ness and Geary avenues.
Changes are also coming to Market Street. As part of its efforts to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety under the Vision Zero plan, the MTA will add turn restrictions, which are designed to keep private cars off Market Street between Third and Eighth streets, by this summer. Red transit-only lanes will be extended east to Third Street.
More traffic restrictions, possibly including a ban on private vehicles on downtown Market Street, are being considered and could happen by 2018, when San Francisco’s main boulevard is rebuilt.
— Michael Cabanatuan
Next stop: You may recall October’s tragic death of Priscila “Precy” Moreto, an employee in the city controller’s office. She was run over by a tourist bus in a crosswalk in front of City Hall.
Police later arrested the driver of the tourist bus on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter. He was allegedly narrating a tour while driving and reported being so distracted he didn’t see Moreto in the crosswalk.
Now, Supervisors Norman Yee, Jane Kim and John Avalos are pushing legislation to prohibit tour bus drivers from conducting tours while driving on public streets.
“When you are operating a vehicle, you should be focused on driving, not speaking on a cell phone or guiding a city tour,” Yee said in a statement.
“This was a senseless death that could have been prevented. I hope that our legislation sends a message to all motorists that distracted driving will not be tolerated in this city.”
Yee is also working with state legislators to regulate tour bus companies throughout California.
— Heather Knight
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