District 3 supervisor candidate Aaron Peskin provided consultation for Polk Street bike lane opponents earlier this year on filing a lawsuit over the street’s redesign.
Despite his recently-declared support for full bike lanes along Polk, Peskin confirmed his one-time involvement with Save Polk Street, a group of merchants which has fiercely opposed protected bike lanes to preserve car parking.
Peskin said that he had let Save Polk leaders know “what their rights and options are” when they’d considered filing a lawsuit against the city in anticipation of the plan’s approval in March, even after it was heavily watered down.
Streetsblog asked Peskin to clear the record on the rumors last week at a campaign event hosted by the furniture store Flipp. Flipp’s owner, Dan Kowalski, has been the primary press spokesperson for Save Polk since the group formed over two years ago. Peskin said he’d only met Kowalski for the first time that evening.
Peskin said he didn’t encourage Save Polk to sue, but that he’d provided advice about legal rights:
I always let everybody know what their rights and options are, the same way that I let tenants know that they can disappear into the middle of the night, but they also have options. If you’re asking whether I encouraged anybody to file a lawsuit, no, but people will say, Do I have rights of appeal? Yes, you’ve got rights of appeal. These are the things that you can do. I’m always clear with people what their rights are. It’s important that people know what their rights are. That’s part of the way you bring people together — you let them know, these are the powers you have, these are the powers these people have.
Peskin defended his record on improving bicycling, walking, and transit as a former supervisor, and said his position on the Polk bike lanes has not changed recently.
As Streetsblog highlighted last week, Peskin wrote “yes” on an SF Bicycle Coalition questionnaire which asked D3 supervisor candidates if they will “commit to supporting continuous, protected bike lanes on the High-Injury Corridor segments of Polk Street when the Polk Streetscape Project is next reviewed.” He added that he “was disappointed by how contentious the Polk Street process became.”
Efforts from public representatives to “bring folks together and build some consensus” were “unfortunately lacking,” Peskin told Streetsblog. But “in the months and years to come, we’ll see what we’ve seen all over the city, that [street redesigns like Polk’s] actually work, that business will continue to not only survive, but thrive.”
Supervisor Julie Christensen, Peskin’s opponent, did not respond to the SFBC’s question about committing to expanding Polk’s bike lanes. She wrote that she’d “worked to sustain a compromise that does not preclude future adjustments, but will allow the significant bike safety portions of the current project to move ahead.”
When Christensen was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to the office in January, “The plan was in jeopardy,” she wrote.
Peskin served two terms as D3 supervisor from 2000 to 2008, and acted as board president from 2004 to 2008. In 2011, he was nominated for appointment as interim mayor by the Board of Supervisors when Gavin Newsom vacated the office. The board instead appointed Lee as mayor, who was then elected to remain in office. Lee faces re-election in November along with the D3 candidates.