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.

  • Aaron B.

    I’ve gotta wonder – has a bike lane ever had to be removed because it’s affected traffic so badly?

  • Anderson will appeal even though the BOS will clearly deny his appeal. At that point he’s merely being an obstructionist, holding on to the pavement with his fingernails.

  • Pete Thompson

    The argument that cyclists are getting something at the expense of drivers is totally non-sequiter. Currently over 99.7 percent of city road surface (AND THAT’S CONSERVATIVE) are open to motor vehicles. Yet regular cyclists make up several percent of the user groups for these streets. (A much largest number do it on occasion)

    In fact cyclists are really being under-represented and motor users are over represented. Add to that the associated air pollution and that you can fit 6 bikes side by side in a spot used by one car, it’s very much motorists who are getting beneficial treatment here for a very long time and thank goodness that will change.

    I am sure as more people transition to bikes, cars will be able to drive around with less traffic and we wont need streets 6 lanes wide anymore. Its time to move away from the L.A. traffic model which is a complete failure and free SF.

  • It’s going to be a little sad actually for the guy. The thrill of exploiting legal loopholes and death-gripping unsound arguments (politics and opinions aside) are ephemeral, fragile things that quickly dissolve under one’s feet and leave one wishing for something more tangible, more meaningful, less empty.

  • I wasted a lot of time trying to reason with the litigant. I finally realized that I wasn’t having a spirited debate on the merits, but talking to a brick wall. I don’t feel sorry for brick walls. Happily I have cured my curious addiction of talking to brick walls, on the litigant’s blog and elsewhere.

  • marcos

    The fact that an individual as pathetic as Rob Anderson was able to prevail against the City should speak volumes to the quality of CEQA and legal product that was presented in court by the City.

    The fact that Mary Miles was able to get the City to pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars for her efforts should not go unnoticed when we elect a City Attorney or that City Attorney asks for a promotion.

    I’m not sure what’s worse, challenging an American’s right to seek relief in a court of law for executive malfeasance or painting lipstick on the pig that was trotted out in court and calling it pretty.

    The way to prevail in cases like this is to do your legal homework and come to court prepared, not to denounce your opponent or your perceptions of his motives because that doesn’t count. That said, Anderson lies, claiming to have nothing against bikes and then slipping into his multiple prejudices against bikes, cyclists and his perceptions of us.

    All of his caterwauling would have been for nought had the MEA and CA done this all right the first time and not bowed to political pressure from our allies to break the law by taking a short cut.

    -marc

  • It’s worth noting that those increases cited probably account mostly for traffic moving from other streets to the bike lanes. It’s not likely completely new bike trips, though some of surely is.

  • marcos

    Since the City has striped, what 3 bike lanes over the past 7 years, one might conclude that factors other than the expanded bicycle lane network contributed to the increase in the number of cyclists in San Francisco.

    -marc

  • Ron Milam

    Suburban cities such as Roseville, CA have removed bike lanes to accommodate intersection widening for additional turn lanes so they could meet their vehicle LOS threshold.

  • “It’s going to be a little sad actually for the guy. The thrill of exploiting legal loopholes and death-gripping unsound arguments (politics and opinions aside) are ephemeral, fragile things that quickly dissolve under one’s feet and leave one wishing for something more tangible, more meaningful, less empty.”

    Oh Justin, don’t be sad! “Legal loopholes”? The city violated the essence of the most important environmental law in California, which is all about environmental review of projects before they are implemented. The city knew this but just assumed they could get away with it. Yes, of course my life would be much more meaningful if I could only see the light and embrace the great, planet-saving bicycle movement.

    “I wasted a lot of time trying to reason with the litigant. I finally realized that I wasn’t having a spirited debate on the merits, but talking to a brick wall. I don’t feel sorry for brick walls. Happily I have cured my curious addiction of talking to brick walls, on the litigant’s blog and elsewhere.”

    Yes, you wasted everyone’s time with your dim-bulb comments on my blog. All you established is that you’re a complete bore. I diligently read all the city’s documents on bicycles, but you never seemed to read anything, and your one idea—Bikes are Good and Cars are Bad—barely qualifies as an idea at all.

    “The fact that an individual as pathetic as Rob Anderson was able to prevail against the City should speak volumes to the quality of CEQA and legal product that was presented in court by the City. The fact that Mary Miles was able to get the City to pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars for her efforts should not go unnoticed when we elect a City Attorney or that City Attorney asks for a promotion.”

    Why am I “pathetic”? But Marc is right about the deficient “legal product presented in court by the City.” As I say, obviously the city simply thought they could get away with it, and they would have if we hadn’t challenged them? What does that say about the integrity of “progressive” government in SF? Yes, of course the City Attorney showed zero integrity in allowing the litigation to continue for months beyond the point where the city surely knew it was going to lose. That’s malpractice in private practice; you have to tell your client the truth about his/her case, but the City Attorney obviously extended the litigation for purely political reasons. After all, he had a united Board of Supervisors and the Mayor behind the Bicycle Plan, and he would have gotten a ration of shit if he dropped the case. Dennis Herrera is not the kind of politician who sticks his neck out on a matter of principle. Once we got the original injunction in June, 2006, the city knew its case was lost. To get an injunction in the first place, you have to convince the judge that you’re likely to prevail on the merits once the hearing takes place. Instead, the City Attorney took us and the court on a lot of unnecessary trips about the Administrative Record: they refused to certify it, tried to exclude documents that put city in an unflattering light, etc. All a waste of time and done with a lot of nastiness in the process. And of course the clock was running for Ms. Miles, who simply added all that delay to her bill once the process was over.

    “Since the City has striped, what 3 bike lanes over the past 7 years, one might conclude that factors other than the expanded bicycle lane network contributed to the increase in the number of cyclists in San Francisco.”

    Yes, of course. Riding a bike in SF—and in many other cities in the US—is as much a political act and part of a political lifestyle as it is a serious transportation “mode.” It has little to do with bike lanes or that cycling is a safe and sane way to get around.

  • g

    The bike plan EIR would benefit from more information in the record, particularly the los legislation. The EIR, suprisingly, apparently does not really address impact conflicts. It is also not clear that they have perceived the issues resolved by the LOS legislation most notably the air/quality los thing. This is also an opportunity to make more realistic statements concerning bike safety in regards to traffic engineering. Such as invoking real rights like a right to move in reasonable safety.

    This is all important because a statement of overrriding considerations must be supported by substantial evidence, so if some information is not in the record and they are doing things the old-fashioned way it may be difficult to rationalize doing things differently or any such decision may be vulnerable to appeal.

  • thegreasybear

    Rob Anderson writes: “Yes, of course. Riding a bike in SF—and in many other cities in the US—is as much a political act and part of a political lifestyle as it is a serious transportation ‘mode.'”

    Politics? Driving a private car alone through San Francisco–and many other cities–is also as much a political act and part of a political lifestyle as it is transportation. And unlike the politics of cycling, the politics of pimping petrol are sickening and destructive to people and other living things.

    Private motoring in America in 2009 engenders the politics of constant and bloody oil wars abroad that kill hundreds of thousands of innocents; the politics of tens of thousands of Americans killed annually by cars; of auto-oriented exurban sprawl that alienates humans from one another and facilitates obesity and related chronic diseases; of pollution of the air, soil and water and the alarming warming of our global climate.

    The politics of driving a car are the politics of war, disease, toxicity, imbalance, destruction and degredation.

    So I’m happy to put my body on the line to make a political statement against all of that–I ride a bicycle. And, Rob–you’re welcome.

  • marcos

    Rob, the only “power” you might enjoy is augmented not by your own initiative and creativity, rather by the serial incompetence of others.

    And when I say incompetence, I mean serial incompetence. We would have seen more positive outcomes on the bike plan had we flipped a coin at each decision point to chart a path forward rather than for these people who get paid to do so apply their collective “expertise.”

    We would have seen more positive outcomes had these decisions been exposed to the sanitizing rays of sunshine and not conducted behind close doors between designated stakeholders on a mission to monopolize the debate.

    In a world where everyone is blind, the one-eyed man is king. You, Rob, are the one-eyed man in this picture for the next several months.

    -marc

  • “We would have seen more positive outcomes had these decisions been exposed to the sanitizing rays of sunshine and not conducted behind close doors between designated stakeholders on a mission to monopolize the debate.”

    I never saw you or any of the bike people at the many hearings during the litigation leading up to Judge Busch’s decision. Where too were Steve Jones and Matt Smith?

    “In a world where everyone is blind, the one-eyed man is king. You, Rob, are the one-eyed man in this picture for the next several months.”

    I don’t claim that it took any great intellectual acumen to be informed on the issue, but I went to the hearings and read the documents, something that apparently no one in the bike community did. That ignorance was reflected in the statements issued by Leah Shahum insisting that the Plan was only being delayed by legal technicalities, when in fact the city violated the very essence of CEQA. It’s never clear when she and the SFBC issue a statement whether they are simply ignorant or are lying.

  • marcos

    Rob is correct that the SFBC, MTA and MEA went into a sustained state of pathological denial once the TRO came down. And I’d never claim that Rob had the intelligence of a two-eyed person, just a mediocre intellect at the “top of the bell curve.”

    Back in 2005, I urged folks on the BofS to put $1m on reserve to start an EIR as soon as the City was enjoined, but was rebuffed by groupthink practicing denial; the City Attorney is going to get us out of this, just wait!

    Those of us who had trod through LOS and CEQA instead of dancing around it knew the dangers, but groupthink elicited a kind of policy recklessness that has yet to be acknowledged by its proponents, and which ended up costing life and limb of cyclists for half of this decade.

    This life is more than just a read through, these are real policies here that portend real, even fatal consequences for real people. This is not academic, some community improvement project you did for your grad school thesis.

    So long as servicing the ego and bending over backwards to not offend other actors trumps sober policy analysis, we’re going to see these dangerous policy outcomes continue.

    When will there be accountability for failure? The people who led us here are still getting paid, still deny complicity in a disastrous outcome, still project their failures onto others, and thus don’t appear to have learned much, yet they maintain their claim on the mantle to lead us into the future. Incredible!

    -marc

  • But Marc isn’t certifying the Bicycle Plan a great triumph for bike people, of whom you are one? Still waiting for you to give us an account of your accidents on your bike, explaining how the Bicycle Plan would have helped you avoid them. Or how about some analysis of bike accidents since the injunction, with an explanation of how the Bicycle Plan could have prevented them, too.

    The moral of the story: progressive city government is just like convervative government. Political elites do whatever they want and ignore the law to do it.

    You sneer at my alleged intellectual deficiencies, but I’m the only one still writing about other important progressive failures, like on homelessness and the shockingly bad Market/Octavia Plan, which is only being delayed in implementation by the recession and litigation. And the equally shocking surrender of the old UC extension property to that predatory institution by the city, with Ross “Revolution” Mirkarimi leading the way on the sell-out.

  • marcos

    Rob, the “bicycle people” shun me because instead of using my bicycle occasionally, and generally then as a proxy for socializing, I use it as a proxy for a car.

    I agree with Rob that illegal shortcuts are a bad idea as much now as I did in the years leading up to the debacle which is about to conclude.

    However, the political calculus in San Francisco is stacked decidedly on the side of development because that is where the money is. Any San Francisco politician who stands up significantly to the growth machine, as in exacting more than 30% of the net costs that such growth visits on existing residents, will be targeted for defeat, the political equivalent of being taken out back and shot.

    When you add the power of a state agency to that of the growth machine, supervisors are impotent.

    Rest assured, Rob, that you will win out in the end, that this inability of progressives to effectively challenge the growth machine means that progressives are forfeiting themselves out of our own base by entitling more and more moderate “settlements” in our progressive “east bank,” which will lead to our eventual defeat and extinction. With it, will go the progressive protections, and probably you from San Francisco, as your rent controlled apartment, if it is that, goes on the market.

    -marc

  • This is like a bad Star Trek episode. Marcos as matter, Anderson as anti-matter. Will the entire city explode? Perhaps we can send them off to Houston to have their battle royale.

  • marcos

    @murphstahoe, why such a polar view? When Anderson is correct, let’s give him that and not convince ourselves that because he is correct and because that makes us wrong, we still get to win because our ends are noble. When Anderson is wrong, let’s call him on that as well.

    I can understand how difficult watching a give and take like this is within a groupthink culture, a culture that is manicured on avoiding conflict.

    But don’t piss on my leg and tell me its raining, okay?

    -marc

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Mayor Newsom, City Agencies and Advocates Celebrate Bike Plan

|
Mayor Newsom said bike lanes were part of a sustainable, 21st Century city. Photo: Matthew Roth At a press conference this afternoon characterized by relief and jubilation, Mayor Gavin Newsom, representatives from the city agencies responsible for San Francisco’s streets, and bicycle advocates celebrated the MTA’s adoption of the Bike Plan and the legislation of […]

MTA Mulls Scenarios for Moving Bike Plan Forward

|
The MTA is considering a number of scenarios for moving the Bicycle Plan forward when the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is finalized and the bike injunction lifted.  One being discussed is a rare joint meeting of the Planning Commission and MTA Board with an appearance by Mayor Gavin Newsom to certify and adopt the EIR […]

Planning Commission Votes Unanimously to Certify Bike Plan EIR

|
After three years of waiting, three years without a single bicycle infrastructure improvement in San Francisco, the Planning Commission tonight unanimously certified the Bike Plan EIR, the first step necessary to lift the bicycle injunction. "We are so thrilled and relieved. This was a big step forward to getting the bike plan back on track," […]

To Become a Great Biking City, SF Needs to Stop Crawling and Start Running

|
Our Streetfilm from 2010 documented the experience of North American transportation officials and advocates in Copenhagen during the latest Velo-City conference. San Francisco doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” to become a bike-friendly place — the city need look no further than peers like Copenhagen, widely considered one of the world’s best cycling cities. So […]

This Week in Livable Streets Events

|
Coming off a heady week in which San Francisco got its first bike lanes in years, there’s plenty more advocacy work to do: East Bay bus rapid transit and non-motorized access to the Bay Bridge are two of the big items. There’s also plenty of pure fun, with a holiday lights ride and a bicycle […]