Complicating the simple - Page 2

The city had the right to approve its current Bicycle Plan

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"The city can now go through the specific bike projects without having another step of analysis," she told us. "I think it's a complete and elegant approach even if it was more time-consuming at the outset." Busch asked both sides to submit proposed orders by July 6 and responses to those orders by July 13, with a ruling and possible lifting of the injunction expected later this summer.

Comments

What is the record of Dennis Herrera's Land Use Team before the superior court on this matter?

2 for 12 is my guesstimate.

With a record like that, how can anyone take that team's public or legal statements seriously?

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 10:44 am

Steve, I don't think that delaying Muni for bike lanes enjoys universal support.

Passing a bike plan not knowing that there were transit delays enjoyed universal support. Those impacts were now known when the plan was passed.

The MTA has since mitigated the impacts of removing auto lanes for bike lanes on Muni because but only because those impacts were identified in the EIR.

That makes it is clear that in quarters that count, delaying Muni is not an acceptable negative side effect of an otherwise good bike policy.

How are we going to know if a project delays transit unless we study that?

Why would we want to try to dig Muni out of a hole only to have dirt thrown on us by bike lane or development related delays?

How much of our refuse can we throw onto Muni and expect it to still perform to advance a host of other policy goals?

Comprehensive land use and transit planning requires that as much knowledge about the systems involved be collected and analyzed so that one can accurately assess the impacts of projects on those very complicated systems.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

Steven, I really appreciate this piece and yours effort to bring this issue to the SFBG readership. A lot of people in the progressive community instinctively flinch at any suggestion that CEQA should be rolled back or modified in certain situations. But when you explain, as you did, its effects on bike projects or, for that matter, on affordable-housing-projects-near-transit (what we all say that we desperately want and need), it becomes abundantly clear that there is a serious structural issue.

CEQA is arguably appropriate and needed for the likes of massive hard infrastructure projects and new subdivisions in greenfield locations.

But in the context of livable streets and equitable housing, it is holding us back from building the world that we need. It doesn't make it impossible, but it makes it far slower and far more expensive than it needs to be. It frustrates positive developments and prevents them from building on their successes to attain a critical mass. Also, because of the legalistic mindset that CEQA fosters -- where every intervention that is contemplated must be exhaustively studied in an attempt to bullet-proof the EIR from possible lawsuits -- there is a suppression of design creativity and incremental experimentation of the sort that abounds in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, the livable streets capitals of the world. These are the places that we should be emulating if we're truly as serious as we claim to be about being a green, low-carbon, livable city. It goes without saying that these places have nothing resembling CEQA.

The solution is state-level legislation to exempt whole categories of beneficial projects -- say, car-lane-to-bike-or-ped conversions and all-affordable housing projects within 1/4 mile of a rail transit stop -- from ANY CEQA process whatsoever. All of a sudden the Rob Andersons of the world would have to crawl back into their caves, because they would have no grounds on which to launch a lawsuit to stop what had been duly decided upon.

The effects of bike improvements on Muni are surely important and must be taken into account. But we already have a democratic mechanism in which to do so. It's called the Board of Supervisors. There is no reason why this issue couldn't be duly studied within the context of existing city-level procedures, rather than under the auspices of a state law. Environmental law that allows a single cranky person to launch a lawsuit on virtually any grounds, however flimsy, and succeed in frustrating the bike infrastructure ambitions universally agreed upon by the City's political leadership for four years is the furthest thing from being democratic.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 8:09 am

Projects that delay transit, no matter what other benefits they offer, create environmental impacts.

The predicate for streamlining bike projects was that they "could not possibly have" any environmental impacts.

We were wrong. They do. And CEQA commands localities to study impacts on transit and to propose mitigations. Thankfully, that is not going to change.

Cyclists need to face up to the fact that our advocacy was so misplaced that even someone like Rob Anderson was able to punk us in court. Food for thought.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 8:44 am

Thanks for the feedback and insights, Guest, I think you make some excellent points. CEQA could definitely use some reform and modernization, as even progressive urban thinkers like Tom Radulovich have suggested. I think that an exemption for bike and pedestrian projects would make a lot of sense. Even if they cause some Muni delays, it would be pretty easy to correct those later, particularly if cities were freed from the more ridiculous uses of CEQA and allowed to be more nimble and experimental. That has worked well on the temporary projects in SF, which are exempt from CEQA, and it would certainly work with bike projects. After all, it's just paint on roadways, which is pretty easy to alter later if its creating a problem.
stj

Posted by steven on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

It is interesting the commentators that want to repeal CEQA for the projects they favor, but keep it in place for the ones they dislike. There doesn't seem to be much logic behind those positions. Maybe you don't care about the environmental impacts of affordable housing but others (particularly those who live near the proposed projects) may care deeply about them. Just because affordable housing happens to be your most important policy goal doesn't mean you can ignore others concerns.

As for the impact of bike lanes being easily reversible, that is not always the case -- look at the proposal for Cesar Chavez. Also, people are rightly suspicious that something that is labeled as being "temporary" will be kept in place permanently whether or not it is delivering its proposed benefits. People know it is difficult to remove something that exists, so they sensible oppose creation of "temporary" things. This does make "experimentation" more difficult. Proponents of experiments need to think of ways to truly make such projects "experiments", so that they won't be perceived as back-door attempts to create something permanent.

Posted by Bob on Jul. 04, 2010 @ 12:13 pm