Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Catching up with China


Picture of Mongolia by Lu Guang

A recent headline on the front page of the Chronicle: "Lawmakers OK bill to soften environmental reviews"

...Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who championed the bill: "We are not doing anything to weaken key environmental laws, but if we can resolve disputes faster than not, good projects will be done sooner."

On the other hand, "bad" projects may also be done sooner. The whole point of the law they're watering down---the California Environmental Quality Act, aka "CEQA"---is to determine the impact projects will have on the environment before they are implemented.

As I've pointed out before, the Bicycle Coalition has long complained about CEQA and the Level of Service standard for doing traffic studies, which they'd like to do away with so that they and the city could jam up traffic on busy streets---taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes---without having to worry about CEQA. Now the SFBC has both Democrats and Republicans willing to join them in diluting a good law, though the Chronicle story is about fast-tracking stadium deals, not bike lanes. But the precedent is now there.

High-speed rail supporters like President Obama keep saying that we need to catch up with China, which, until lately, hasn't worried much about its environment (see photo above).

Labels: ,

21 Comments:

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would also allow for more car-dependent sprawl to be built. But clearly, the greatest threat to our environment is more bike lanes.

 
At 3:59 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It really is all about bikes for you, isn't it?

 
At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly that looks a lot like Gary Indiana. And if we want to talk about protections, the Deepwater Horizon well is leaking again.

 
At 6:09 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Try real hard to focus on the topic: CEQA and the attempts to "reform" it.

 
At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mongolia isn't China and vice versa

 
At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watering down? The LoS standard makes no sense. Changing it does not water down the law.

 
At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CEQA was created to protect the status quo. Your generation fucked up Rob. Time to get with the new times. The world is changing, but you keep digging in your heels.

And I think you are the one stuck on bikes. You are really reaching thinking that Steinberg is working with the "bike-nuts". You just keep finding dirt down at the bottom of your hole.

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Once again you bike guys show that you're remedial readers, who, by the way, don't understand CEQA. I didn't say that Steinberg is working with you bike nuts, just that you both are critical of CEQA, an inconvenient law for both interest groups. Steinberg wants to rush stadium deals through the process, and you want to rush bike plans through the process.

CEQA is a "status quo" law? That's a bit of fakery on your part. Could you explain exactly how doing environmental review of projects before they're implemented serves the status quo? No, you can't, because you're a phoney and a bluffer.

 
At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you explain exactly how CEQA - as written - protects the environment?

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Pretty dumb question, Anon. CEQA now requires an environmental review of any project that even might have a negative effect on the environment to determine what those effects might be and whether they can be mitigated. Got it?

Any time a developer or a jurisdiction finds that perfectly reasonable requirement irksome, they talk about "reforming" CEQA, like the Bicycle Coalition and the recent litigation that made SF do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan.

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CEQA now requires an environmental review of any project that even might have a negative effect on the environment to determine what those effects might be and whether they can be mitigated. Got it?

CEQA does not accomplish that goal, because - as written - it doesn't determine negative effects on the ENVIRONMENT. "How fast a car gets from point A to point B" is not an environmental impact. As such, the whole thing is bogus.

 
At 12:25 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

This is so ignorant it's not worth a response.

 
At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Your Neighbor said...

You know just as well as we do that CEQA doesn't necessarily do anything to protect the environment on its own; it just requires all of the potential effects to be documented. That's why it was idiotic for you to think that you could stop the Bike Plan by trumpeting CEQA. Thanks to your litigation the city spent over a million bucks just to tell us what we all knew already: that, yes, bike lanes could impact auto and bus traffic, though not nearly as catastrophically as you've claimed, and certainly not to the extent that "bike lanes could cause pollution".

You point to LOS as though it's a perfect standard for measuring the real capacity of a given street, but any traffic engineer could tell you that it's fundamentally flawed—not just in terms of capacity, but because it doesn't even take safety airborne pollutants into account. You can use google just like anyone else to find hard evidence in studies proving that adding capacity (in the form of lanes) to many roads reduces their actual capacity, and even some proving the inverse: that constricting capacity actually improves their throughput. Others indicate that just living near roads with lots of traffic (even fast-moving) correlates with higher incidences of respiratory illness, which suggests that what we really need are fewer cars, not added capacity. We, as a society, have to balance these impacts with the very real need to move more and more people around in a city with absolute geographic constraints. And that means that we have to entertain options that don't impact the environment directly—even if a significant proportion of the population thinks that they are simply too "dangerous" or "inconvenient".

There is a wealth of evidence out there contradicting your philistine assumptions, but (as in the climate change "debate") the internet bullhorn and an abundance of free time provides spirited deniers such as yourself with a platform from which you can shout them without any repercussions. But there's no structure to that platform: underneath it's just a big pile of balsa wood and chewing gum you've amassed from writing (mostly) baseless screed on your blog for 6 years. You are not an expert. There are very smart people actively working on this stuff, and their considerable efforts are undermined by people like you, who seem to have nothing better to do than insult them from the sidelines—rather than, say, offering anything even resembling a solution to the many problems we face as a city and as a society.

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Actually, I am an expert on the litigation on the Bicycle Plan, since I was a party in that case. I've read the documents, including the original Bicycle Plan and the doorstop-like EIR.

The point of the first phase of the litigation wasn't "to stop" the Plan but to make the city do an EIR on it so that everyone could understand what City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition planned to do to our streets.

The city did the EIR, and---surprise!---as we expected, it tells us that implementing the Plan will indeed have a negative effect on city traffic---and on a number of Muni lines. Here's just one post I did on the EIR. And here's a story from the Examiner that tells of those impacts.

No one is talking about "adding capacity" to any roads in SF. The city's streets are already built out, so that you have to either take away street parking or traffic lanes to make bike lanes. That's what we're talking about. As the EIR says, implementing the Bicycle Plan is going to make traffic worse for everyone but cyclists, who actually like traffic jams, because they slow traffic down.

But traffic jams actually mean more air pollution, which is one of the impacts discussed in the EIR, along with delaying a number of Muni lines in our allegedly "transit first" city.

"There are very smart people actively working on this stuff, and their considerable efforts are undermined by people like you, who seem to have nothing better to do than insult them from the sidelines—rather than, say, offering anything even resembling a solution to the many problems we face as a city..."

I don't think the people working on the Bicycle Plan in SF are very smart. They're anti-car ideologues, with their heads stuffed full of half-baked, trendy planning theories about "smart growth" and dense development.

Speaking of the dumb "smart growth" theories, check out this building height map that tells us what the Planning Dept. wants to do at Market and Van Ness---20-story, 30-story, and 40-story highrise buildings! Hard to believe that anyone can think this is "smart growth."

Transit first? There's no money for transit in the plan this map is from, even though it encourages 10,000 new residents in that part of town.

 
At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Your Neighbor said...

I'm sorry, but you're not an expert on anything just because you sued the city. You succeeded only in forcing the city to "admit" (at great cost) something that they already knew. And none of the catastrophic effects you (and CEQA, to some extent) predicted have materialized yet after several major Bike Plan projects have been implemented. So what's your point again?

And while you may not be talking about added capacity right now, you have before. Once you even suggested putting a parking lot under Alamo Square, which is one of the most idiotic things I've ever heard. You're insane if you think that a couple of bike lanes will have a bigger impact on the environment than anything that encourages more people to drive into our neighborhood. And it's disingenuous at best of you to imply that "bike people" are the problem while spouting ill-informed ideas that ignore the hard work of many actual experts.

You are not an expert. If you were, you would have something more to offer than half-baked assumptions. Experts have ideas of their own, not just opinions.

 
At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city did the EIR, and---surprise!---as we expected

The moron delivers an oxymoron.

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I'm sorry, but you're not an expert on anything just because you sued the city."

More remedial reading on your part. Except for the lawyers working on the litigation, I know more about it than any of you bike people do. None of you seem to have read much of anything about the case, including the original Bicycle Plan or the EIR.

And can we retire the "I'm sorry" usage that you passive-aggressives like to use when discussing public policy?

"You succeeded only in forcing the city to 'admit' (at great cost) something that they already knew."

Actually, this is almost right. The city---people in Planning, MTA, and the City Attorney's office---surely knew that they should have done some kind of environmental review of the ambitious Bicycle Plan. But they told the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors otherwise, which qualifies as a lie in my book.

The city gave the Bicycle Plan a general rule exemption from CEQA, a category that's supposed to be used only for projects that can't possible have any impact on the environment. Under CEQA you have to do some kind of environmental review, however cursory, on every other project.

And of course it would have been cheaper if the city had simply done that review in the first place, instead of dragging out the litigation for months---for purely political reasons---on what they surely knew was a losing case.

"And none of the catastrophic effects you (and CEQA, to some extent) predicted have materialized yet after several major Bike Plan projects have been implemented."

We never used rhetoric like "catasrophic." All we said is that the Bicycle Plan is going to make traffic worse in the city than it has to be, which the EIR confirmed. The big projects haven't been implemented yet, and on some of them---Second Street, Cesar Chavez---the city has had to back off of the original plans.

Masonic Avenue is still not done, but apparently it will be just in time for the opening of the Target store on Geary and Masonic.

Yes, as I put it in a comment to a blog post on the city's predatory parking ticket industry, "ideally" for the neighborhood there would be a garage under Alamo Square. I still think that's a good idea, but of course it will never even be considered here in Progressive Land. A lot of people drive through our neighborhood, but stopping and visiting is difficult because of the limited parking here, as opposed to the Ninth and Irving neighborhood, which has a couple of small parking lots and the underground garage in nearby Golden Gate Park.

"Actual experts" in City Hall? Like the recently retired Jack Fleck? Ha! Or the people who still insist that Octavia Blvd. is a triumph of traffic planning?

 
At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

on some of them---Second Street, Cesar Chavez---the city has had to back off of the original plans.

1) This does not imply that the impacts would be worse than the EIR determined. If means that

A) The citizens of 2nd Street wanted a different configuration because the planned configuration was bad for *pedestrians* (NOT cars!)

B) The trucking companies that are worried that things will go to hell on Chavez donated a shit ton of money to Ed Lee's campaign. The "city" did not back down - the "Mayor's Office" told the "city" to back down.

expert my ass.

 
At 5:28 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I claimed to more or less "expert" on the litigation, not everything that's come after. Typically obtuse reading on your part, since you're so desperate to score debating points. So the mayor's office somehow doesn't represent "the city"? Who does? The Bicycle Coalition?

 
At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Your Neighbor said...

Not going to post my last comment again, huh? Coward.

 
At 9:42 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I've posted everything. Scroll up to see the last comment on this post I got from you.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home