SF Bicycle Coalition: "dollars and deliverables"
The memo below in italics is what the SF Bicycle Coalition is telling its members about the litigation against the city on the Bicycle Plan. Even allowing for the fact that whoever wrote it---Shahum? Thornley?---isn't a lawyer, it presents a completely distorted view of what the city has been doing to satisfy this aggressive political interest group:
Judge Busch acknowledged that the suit was not a matter of "bikes vs. cars" but rather a narrow question of process under CEQA (the state environmental review law) -- whether the Bike Plan, adopted unanimously last June by the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Newsom, has the potential to cause significant environmental impacts in and of itself, or is (as the city argues) a set of guiding principles and recommendations to steer San Francisco's progress toward a more bike-friendly city, leaving the specific change-making projects to another process of review and legislation.
Describing the city's complete failure to do any environmental study of the two-volume, 460-page Bicycle Plan as "a narrow question of process" qualifies as a lie coming from anyone familiar with the issues in this litigation. Since this may in fact represent the best understanding of the folks at the SFBC, I'll limit myself to just calling it bullshit. The city, by the way, in its briefs and written responses in this case, has routinely called us---Coalition for Adequate Review---as "C.A.R.," even though we use the acronym "CFAR." We are allegedly against bikes, so we must be "C.A.R." Har, har. This is what passes for wit in the City Attorney's office. Judge Busch simply made the point in his opening remarks that this litigation is not about the merits of the Bicycle Plan itself; it's about whether the city has complied with state law in a fundamental way---whether it did adequate environmental review of the Bicycle Plan. That is not a mere technicality; it goes to the heart of the state's most important environmental law.
Not surprisingly, the SFBC's account of yesterday's hearing fails to mention Judge Busch's rather rigorous cross-examination of Assistant City Attorney Pearson, during which he rejected all her arguments, even questioning her interpretation of the case law she used to argue the city's case. Maybe Shahum, Thornley and Co. really believe that the massive Bicycle Plan is nothing more than "a set of guiding principles," not a major project that will completely redesign many city streets. In fact, Judge Busch noted that, before the injunction, the city was already implementing pieces of the project. He even used a timber harvest plan analogy: If each tree in a Plan is declared categorically exempt and cut down without environmental review, eventually the Plan as a whole is rendered moot when all the trees are gone.
What the city has been doing is implementing the Plan street by street, literally rubber-stamping these mini-projects "categorically exempt" from review under CEQA. There has been no "process of review," just a reach for the rubber stamp, which is why Judge Warren gave us the injunction in the first place. Judge Busch's remarks during yesterday's hearing showed that he understood this.
Lawyers like to say that you can never be sure what either a judge or a jury is going to do, and that's of course true in this instance. I could be wrong, but I think the city and the SFBC better brace themselves for a decision that orders them to do a complete EIR on the Bicycle Plan, with the injunction staying in place until the process is complete and the city, at long last, is in compliance with CEQA.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition writes:
BIKE PLAN LAWSUIT UPDATE
Superior Court Judge Peter Busch today [Sept. 19] heard final arguments on the lawsuit against the San Francisco Bicycle Plan and is expected to deliver a verdict within a few weeks. Judge Busch acknowledged that the suit was not a matter of "bikes vs. cars" but rather a narrow question of process under CEQA (the state environmental review law)---whether the Bike Plan, adopted unanimously last June by the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Newsom, has the potential to cause significant environmental impacts in and of itself, or is (as the city argues) a set of guiding principles and recommendations to steer San Francisco's progress toward a more bike-friendly city, leaving the specific change-making projects to another process of review and legislation.
We certainly need big changes for better everyday bicycling in this city, but the Bike Plan alone won't make them---to make a real Citywide Bike Network happen we need an Implementation Plan with firm dates and dollars and deliverables, and we look to the Board and Mayor to commit in earnest to an aggressive program to move the plan forward once the lawsuit is settled. Since June, the city has been blocked from implementing on-street safety and circulation improvements for bikes, so we're very eager to have the case resolved for everyone's sake and get on with this important work. Count on us to share any news via our website---keep an eye on the SFBC home page for breaking headlines, and see our Network page for more information on the Bike Plan and lawsuit: http://www.sfbike.org/?network