When I remember The Chronicle’s Throughline section, I’m going to think of Howard Chabner. The nine-week special section exploring San Francisco’s post-pandemic potential always felt like a dialogue with readers. While writing about everything from a bike utopia to a cultural crisis at a burrito shop, I’ve received stronger email feedback than I have from any project in recent memory. Most correspondence was constructive. And all — including the letters from angry golfers — was appreciated. But no one put in more effort than Chabner.
After reading my July 10 Throughline project, “Back to the drawing board: A map to make SF a bike and pedestrian utopia,” the disability rights advocate who uses a power wheelchair sent an 11-page letter (single spaced!) that challenged several of my points in detail, made a case against a car-free San Francisco and included block-specific grievances — while still conveying an inextinguishable love for the city.
“I greatly enjoy strolling through San Francisco, often rolling several miles in a day,” Chabner wrote. “I don’t feel unsafe as a pedestrian, except when I encounter a corner without a curb ramp and have to go into the street.”
Chabner agreed to continue the writer/reader exchange of ideas with a phone interview, excerpted here. My original project, and his entire response, is linked in the online version of this article.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Howard Chabner’s name.