Meeting to Certify Bike Plan EIR Tonight, Red Tape Likely to Follow

Picture_1.pngPhoto: SFBC
The meeting San Francisco bicycle advocates and commuters have been waiting three years for, the first of several steps required to lift the bike injunction, will take take place at City Hall Room 400 at 6:30 pm tonight.

SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum said, “This will be a win-win for San Francisco. Improving the streets for bicycling is proven to increase the number of people bicycling, and that means a greener, healthier San Francisco.” She cited city counts that show bicycling activity increases 50% on average after a bike lane is added, including the following noteworthy increases where bike lanes have been added in the past: Howard St. (300% increase); Valencia St. (144%); Arguello (67%).

Planning staff appear to agree with this characterization. The Planning Commission will hear recommendations from staff to certify the EIR and to adopt CEQA findings with overriding considerations where LOS fails. From the Planning Commission meeting notice:

The CEQA Findings include a statement of overriding benefits and a mitigation monitoring and reporting program (MMRP) associated with approving the proposed General Plan and Planning Code amendments and implementation of the 2009 Bicycle Plan. They include a rationale for rejecting alternatives identified in the EIR, and a statement of overriding considerations that lists technical, social and economic reasons for adopting the amendments and implementing the 2009 Bicycle Plan despite identified significant, adverse environmental impacts.

Assuming the commission certifies the EIR, the MTA Board tomorrow at 9 am will take its turn to approve the bike plan and vote on the priority 40-plus projects being considered for immediate implementation once the injunction is lifted.

Once the Planning Commission certifies the EIR tonight, the clock starts on a mandatory 20-day appeals process. Given that the litigant promised to appeal just this morning in the Chronicle and the Board of Supervisors must give a 10-day notice for a hearing after the appeals, the earliest possible hearing date is July 27th. Given the various scenarios (see details at the bottom of the article), the earliest the city could go to the judge to ask for the injunction to be lifted is early August. There is also a provision that would allow the supervisors to postpone the hearing until late October; in that case the injunction wouldn't be lifted until November.

Fortunately, the city players involved in this tremendous legal and administrative burden say they are committed to expeditious completion of the process.

"[City Attorney] Dennis Herrera has said no one is going to be happier when the bike injunction is lifted than he is," said City Attorney Press Secretary Matt Dorsey. "It's discouraging that a law that is intended to protect the environment is being used to delay a city's effort to do something to improve the environment."

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu's office said there would be minimal delays within the context of the appeals process. "We intend to hear the EIR promptly, though with enough time to consider the appeals," said Chiu's Legislative Aide, David Noyola. The board would only need six votes to approve the Bike Plan over potential appeals

Wade Crowfoot, Mayor Gavin Newsom's Director of Climate Initiatives, pointed to the Mayor's recent letters of support sent to the Planning Commission and the MTA Board and Chief Nat Ford. Crowfoot said their office would work as quickly and diligently as possible given the appeals procedures laid out by administrative code. He said that they were committed to fast-tracking as many projects as possible within budgetary constraints.

"The projects are going to be started the day after the injunction is lifted," promised Crowfoot.

Two Scenarios for Lifting the Injunction (From City Attorney Herrera's Office)

  • Scenario #1 (considered unlikely, given litigant's assertion he will appeal)

The City Attorney could petition the Court to dissolve the injunction on the first business day after the 20th day of appeals process has elapsed. Assuming the EIR is certified on Thursday, June 25th - and assuming no appeal is filed over the next 20 days - the 21st day would be Thursday, July 16, 2009. There could be a small time lapse of a few days for the City Attorney's Office to prepare its motion following the 21st day, due to supporting documentation that would need to be presented for the Court's consideration.

  • Scenario #2 (considered more likely)

The Board of Supervisors would hold an appeal hearing after the 20 day appeal cycle. S.F. Admin. Code Sec. 31.16 (b) imposes a notice requirement of "not less than ten (10) days prior to the date of the hearing," establishing the earliest possible hearing date sometime around July 27th. The latest allowable date for the hearing is set by S.F. Admin. Code Sec. 31.16(e), which provides that the "Board shall act on an appeal within thirty (30) days of appeal of the Planning Commission's certification of the EIR."  That same section allows for postponement under certain circumstances of "not more than ninety (90) days from the date of filing the appeal."  Assuming the Board affirms the Commission's EIR certification on appeal, the City Attorney would then petition the Court to dissolve the injunction. As with the first scenario, the lapse of time for the City Attorney to prepare this motion should be within a few days of the Board's action, due to the extensive supporting documentation that would need to be presented for the Court's consideration.