Monday, April 18, 2005

District 5 Diary to Supes: Don't do it!

Notes for Tomorrow's Three-Minute speech to the Board of Supervisors in Opposition to Making the Bicycle Plan Part of the General Plan With No Environmental Review
 
You really have two problems here: first, with the process and second with the contents of the document itself. Your immediate problem---today’s problem---is the process problem: the notion of making the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan without any environmental review is legally preposterous. Hard to believe you don’t understand that. Even harder to believe that both the Planning Dept. and the City Attorney’s office don’t understand that. I’m not a lawyer, but I had one year of law school, and I know how to read a statute, and I know what case law means. If you pass this, you will lose in court if it’s litigated, costing the city money it doesn't have and undermining public confidence in the Planning Dept., the City Attorney, and, even worse, the Board of Supervisors itself.

The other facet of your process problem is the way Planning proposes to piecemeal the Bicycle Plan into the General Plan, voting in one section now and offering up the Network Document later. This too is a legally dubious strategy and unlikely to hold up in court.

The question is, What’s the hurry? Why not take your time with this document, which obviously proposes a lot of specific changes in how the city deals with its streets, buildings, and traffic? (Have you read it? Have you even been provided with a hard copy?)

The other problem you have is with the contents of the Bicycle Plan itself. In Section 5, the idea of proselytizing city schoolchildren on cycling as a "lifestyle"---provided they are over nine years old, of course---is the sort of proposal that cries out for review, along with the reckless notion of lane-sharing, where bike riders are encouraged to assert their right to share lanes equally with trucks, buses, and SUVs. These are just two examples of the kind of nonsense you are getting ready to put into the General Plan.

And there’s the ultimate overreach embodied in Action 8.3 in the Bicycle Plan and the Planning Commission’s resolution 16942, which in effect will have the tail wagging the planning dog in the city: all of the city's area plans will have to conform to the Bicycle Plan, and, in the resolution, “When determining General Plan conformity, public and private decisions must refer to the Bicycle Plan…”

This is the sort of political arrogance that would be discussed if the document is given the proper review as per state law.

Why is this violation of the process even being attempted by Planning at this time? Apparently just because they can get away with it, not because there’s any political or social emergency that demands undue haste on your part. The bike fanatics in Planning probably figure that, after all, the Planning Commission unanimously signed off on it and that you, too, will go for it, since there is bound to be little opposition. Who in San Francisco is against bikes? Just a few people like Rob Anderson, who is always going on about how outrageous Critical Mass is. In short, the bike zealots in Planning assume they have the votes to do this, so they are going to do it, even though it’s bad policy and surely illegal under CEQA.

In San Francisco riding bikes has become something of a sacrosanct, Politically Correct issue, even though few of us actually ride bikes. The reality is that the bike zealots aren’t accustomed to having any political opposition. Hence, they’ve become arrogant, and, in their arrogance, they have badly overreached here. You shouldn’t let them get away with it. It’s bad policy, bad government, and, in the long run, it’s bad politics, since future political opponents in your districts will rightly use this issue against you if you vote to give this small, arrogant, politically aggressive minority a blank check on city policy by enshrining their dangerous hobby in the city’s General Plan.

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