Thursday, January 31, 2008

Matt Smith: Know-nothing

In the current SF Weekly, Matt Smith offers some more advice to Mayor Newsom. No doubt the mayor is grateful, but he may be worried that Smith doesn't seem to understand much about the Bicycle Plan or the litigation that resulted in a court order to do an environmental review of a project that would have completely redesigned city streets. Since, in the same column, Smith calls Supervisor Daly and those opposed to housing proposals in the Hunters Point area "know-nothings," let's tally up a few important things Smith doesn't know:

The bike network is stymied by a lawsuit that claims it didn't undergo sufficient environmental review; a judge has ordered the city to conduct new studies to demonstrate that bike lanes don't harm Mother Nature. The review process is hampered by a California Environmental Quality Act that maddeningly considers the swift flow of traffic to be in the best interests of the environment. As a result, improvements that hasten the movement of pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and trolley cars, yet possibly slow down cars, are ludicrously considered ecologically damaging.

Like his bike nut colleagues at the Bay Guardian, Smith, with his "sufficient" usage, suggests that the Bicycle Plan underwent previous environmental review that was merely inadequate. In fact the 527-page Bicycle Plan had no environmental review at all before both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to make the first volume---the Framework Document---part of the city's General Plan. Shortly thereafter the BOS, sitting as the San Francisco County Transportation Agency, unanimously passed the second volume, the Network Document, which consists entirely of detailed specifications---including engineering drawings---of exactly what the Plan will do to which city streets. And there was no environmental review of that document, either.

And maybe Smith can share with the rest of us exactly how, if the city takes away traffic lanes on busy streets all over the city to make bike lanes, that will not delay Muni buses and emergency vehicles? In their zeal to punish car drivers, the bike nuts don't grasp that not all motor vehicles are "death monsters," as the Guardian's Steve Jones calls cars. "Transit first" in SF doesn't mean "bikes first" or even "pedestrians first"; it refers most of all to buses and other Muni vehicles. You can't screw up traffic for cars without screwing up Muni, which already has enough on-time problems without the city deliberately creating new ones.

Smith again: "Andy Thornley, program director at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, says Crowfoot promised to work on reigniting efforts to complete San Francisco's patchwork network of bike lanes." Thornley knows---and Smith should know---that an environmental impact report on the Bicycle Plan is now underway.

We discussed this topic last month, when the Bicycle Coalition complained about how long it was taking the MTA to do the EIR.

Smith is implying that the folks at MTA are dragging their feet on the EIR and that all Crowfoot has to do is lean on them to get it done. Since Superior Court Judge Busch issued the court order to do the EIR on the Bicycle Plan, the whole thing is essentially still under his jurisdiction. Wade Crowfoot may be a great administrator who is wired directly to the mayor, but there's nothing he or anyone else can do about that. Once the city completes the EIR, those of us involved in the successful litigation will take a particular interest in its adequacy. If we don't think it's good enough, we will call its deficiencies to Judge Busch's attention, and he will make the final determination, Crowfoot or no Crowfoot.

Like the other bike nuts, it makes Smith cross that CEQA requires proponents of major projects to do traffic studies before their projects are built or implemented, a common sense notion that tries to avoid making traffic a lot worse. Hence, project proponents must propose mitigations if a project---and the Bicycle Plan is a large project---will have a negative impact on city traffic.

The bike nuts consider this to be a huge imposition. After all, bikes don't burn fossil fuel and only occasionally run over pedestrians, so shouldn't the Bicycle Plan get a free pass on environmental review? Nope, especially when you consider that if you take away a traffic lane on a busy street you are surely going to make traffic worse on that street, a direct impact on the city's environment. That's exactly the kind of impact CEQA was designed to anticipate way back in 1976. Smith and the SFBC---and the folks at the Bay Guardian---want to "reform" CEQA to give bicycle plans a pass on this requirement, but it's unlikely that the state legislature will agree that this is a good idea, since not many of them live in SF and breathe our rarified air (the ocean breezes carry our air pollution into the unprogressive Central Valley). Alas, most state legislators represent real people who live in the real world, which means that the City of San Francisco must follow the laws of the State of California just like every other jurisdiction in the state.

Oh, it's a great injustice that not everyone understands how very special we are here in Progressive Land!


...The recent appointment of government affairs director Wade Crowfoot to the newly created position of "director of climate protection initiatives" carried with it a whiff of bogusness.

Crowfoot was previously assigned the humiliating task of making presentations about a "climate protection initiative" that consisted of the fact that the mayor had ordered staff to stop drinking bottled water. However, Crowfoot has the potential to make a huge difference if he focuses on jump-starting plans to help city residents get out of their cars and move around San Francisco without polluting, taking up street space with parking spots, or running over pedestrians.

Andy Thornley, program director at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, says Crowfoot promised to work on reigniting efforts to complete San Francisco's patchwork network of bike lanes.

The bike network is stymied by a lawsuit that claims it didn't undergo sufficient environmental review; a judge has ordered the city to conduct new studies to demonstrate that bike lanes don't harm Mother Nature. The review process is hampered by a California Environmental Quality Act that maddeningly considers the swift flow of traffic to be in the best interests of the environment. As a result, improvements that hasten the movement of pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and trolley cars, yet possibly slow down cars, are ludicrously considered ecologically damaging.

It so happens that Crowfoot is the right man to help untangle this environmental dilemma, while uniting the various city departments that need to ensure the new environmental studies get written and the bike lanes get built...

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4 Comments:

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Freewheel said...

This whole thing strains credulity - a bike plan requires an environmental review? Furthermore, in major cities all over the world, public transit and bike lanes coexist. What's up SF?

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You obviously haven't read the item you're commenting on. If you take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes, you are inevitably going to make traffic worse on those streets---heavier and slower traffic, including Muni buses, idling in traffic jams---which is an impact under CEQA. Is that too much of a strain for you to understand?

 
At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Tatum said...

No, the thing about the plan is that a goat-child used legal trivia to hold it up. I could easily fine little peccadilloes like that everywhere if I wanted to be a goat-child and could hold up everything imaginable with the right legal wrangling. The only thing you're doing with the bike lawsuit is sending taxpayer money to a bunch of lawyers. Nice going little goat! See you when the plan passes, unchanged.

 
At 7:17 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Goat-child"? Is that supposed to be a clever insult? Being found in violation of the most important environmental law in the state is no triviality. Your bike crackpot friends and their enablers in City Hall could have saved everyone a lot of time and money by following the law---and doing the EIR---in the first place. Not surprisingly---and typical of you and the other bike morons---you don't show any knowledge of either the litigation or the Bicycle Plan itself.

 

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