Despite decades engaged in public forums, former San Francisco Planning Commission president Ron Miguel is a private person. Don’t expect a tell-all memoir from him anytime soon; he’d rather talk about land use policies, which first captivated him in the 1950s. At that time, Miguel, a third-generation San Franciscan, campaigned for tax increment funding to pay for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, which wasn’t constructed until the 1960s.
Miguel served on the Planning Commission from 2007 to 2012. He was also president of the Planning Association for the Richmond District for 16 years, and now, at 86, chairs a committee on how to bring high-speed rail into the City without disrupting automobile traffic.
“I won’t be around to see that, it’s 40 years in the future, but we’re planning for it now,” he said. “You have to be a bit of a futurist and convince people. Some people say ‘I moved here 20 years ago and everything is fine. Why ruin it?’ You can’t argue with those people. You deal with them and lead them forward.”
Until 1991 Miguel ran a flower shop he inherited from his father-in-law on 25th Avenue and Geary Boulevard, applying the skills he learned there to land use challenges. “I found in the floral business people would come in because they had a wedding or a party in a hotel room that was built for a convention meeting. My job was to turn that room into a party. It was difficult to get people to imagine what I was doing. They don’t automatically understand those things, which is no different with land use issues.”
According to Miguel, engaging in land use debates has allowed him to apply his creativity in a concrete and lasting way. “Nothing stays the same,” he said. “Everything will change and be different. You can have a hand or a voice in bringing opinions together, so the changes that are made make sense for the future, or not.”
Last fall, Miguel, facing health challenges, and his wife, Ruth, moved into the Rhoda Goldman Plaza assisted living center on Post Street after 42 years of residing on De Haro Street. The couple have three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Miguel makes concessions for his health by taking Lyft to meetings so he doesn’t have to drive or park. “Even though my physical abilities are diminishing, so far, I think, my mental abilities are still there,” he said. “I’d be bored to death if I wasn’t involved in land use. I’ve never enjoyed card games or playing bingo. I enjoy museums and movies and things like that, but my busy work has been organizational things and land use.”
Miguel remains active on Potrero Hill, volunteering with the Green Benefits District, Potrero Boosters, and Dogpatch Neighborhood Association. “I love the energy of the City, what the City provides,” he said. “Neither my wife nor I understand, appreciate, or want to deal with suburbia. It’s foreign to us.”
The Hill has “the best weather in town. No question about that. And in the past five to 10 years, the City kept coming to us: bars, restaurants, entertainment. If we moved out, where would we go that’s any better than where we were? The neighborhood was great, the neighbors and people around were wonderful. We made a number of good friends.”