Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Herrera: I told the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan


John Murphy asks City Attorney Dennis Herrera about the Bicycle Plan litigation[Later: Murphy edited his original post and deleted Herrera's admission below]:

"If you had a time machine, and went back to when Rob Anderson sued the city, what would you do differently." He didn't quite get the subtle context, he answered that he would have insisted on an EIR in the first place, I wanted to know how he might have shepherded the process along faster once the suit was in place. He said that he had told the City to do an EIR, but they were so anxious to get the thing started that they took the shortcut.

"Subtle context" aside---whatever that means---clearly Murphy wasn't up to asking any follow-up questions. After "they"---the mayor? the Board of Supervisors? the Bicycle Coalition?---rejected his sound legal advice to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan, did Herrera instruct the attorneys handling the litigation to refuse to certify the administrative record that we compiled? (Petitioners in CEQA cases have the right to compile the administrative record to save money.) Did he instruct his attorneys to claim that the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) isn't a city agency and therefore none of their documents should be in the administrative record?

Maybe he didn't decide exactly what the briefs contained, but, based on the record, the attorneys handling the case got the message: take a hard line on everything, make no concessions on anything, stipulate to nothing, even on trivial matters. 

What about how his office handled the litigation after Judge Busch ruled against the city and while the EIR was being done? Did he instruct his attorneys to maintain until the bitter end the fiction that the Bicycle Plan was only the Framework Document and didn't include the Network Document? Of course he did. 

Surely he can't claim that he was unaware that his office tried to get the injunction lifted three times before the EIR was finished and certified by the city and by Judge Busch. Look at the City Attorney's website, and you can see how he pushed the Plan.

From the City Attorney's chronology: 

June 20, 2006: Judge James L. Warren grants petitioners’ request for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the City from implementing projects contained in the Bicycle Plan, finding that they would likely prevail in their argument that the City was required to prepare an EIR for the plan.  

Okay, did Herrera then tell "them" that he was right, that the city is probably going to lose the case, that they should cut their losses and do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan? That would have saved city taxpayers a lot of money. There's no evidence of that from the way his office handled the litigation or from the City Attorney's "Bike Plan Litigation" Timeline. 

August 2006: Municipal Transportation Authority (the successor agency to DPT) conducts a count of the number of bicyclists at 35 locations throughout the City, generally between 5:00 and 6:30 p.m.

Since the litigation was only about doing the legally required environmental review of the Bicycle Plan, what's the bicycle count doing in the litigation timeline? Obviously, throughout the litigation the City Attorney was signaling his support to the Bicycle Coalition and the city's progressive community. Why would Herrera find it necessary to do that? Could it be that he was already thinking about running for mayor and didn't want to antagonize the Bicycle Coalition?

April 29, 2008: Judge Busch grants Herrera’s motion to modify the injunction in part, allowing for safety improvements to intersection of Fell and Masonic.

Herrera takes credit for this achievement, and it turns out that the so-called safety emergency at that intersection was based on a lie, since a subsequent MTA "collisions" report shows that the number of accidents involving cyclists at the intersection has been remarkably steady for years.

Herrera and the MTA conned Judge Busch into allowing them to modify the intersection with a special turn lane and stoplight.

Since those "improvements" were made, by the way, they have made no difference in the number of accidents at the intersection.

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Real cost of $248 million street bond: $440 million



...In 2003 the City had just 2,918 employees earning over $90,000 in total pay, excluding fringe benefits, costing $314 million. In 2010, the City had 11,838 employees earning over $90,000, an increase of 8,920 such employees, who now cost $1.47 billion, an increase of $1.15 billion, by the stroke of the Mayor's pen signing the City budget, and a compliant Board of Supervisors passing Annual Salary Ordinance increases. Clearly, the unfunded salary increases exacerbate our unfunded pension problem, largely driven by overly-generous top salaries, which isn't being addressed in pension reform ballot measures, or discussed by City officials. Thank you Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom for our terrible roads and our abundance of highly-paid, managerial employees...

After years of deferred maintenance, the City comes crawling back to the voters with a $248 million Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond on the November ballot. This is what the road repair bond claims they will give us: We get to pay for our infrastructure repair for a second time by paying $148 million for street repaving and reconstruction; $7.3 million for street structure rehabilitation and seismic improvements; $22 million for sidewalk and accessibility improvements; $50 million for streetscape, pedestrian walkways, and bicycle lanes; and $20.3 million for upgraded traffic signals.

The actual cost of the bond will be $440,749,617, after adding $189,249,617 in interest payments over the next 24 years, plus $3.5 million in bond issuance charges. Just $155.3 million of the $440.8 million---only 35 percent---will actually be used for street repaving, reconstruction, and seismic improvements...

Read the rest of the column at the Westside Observer

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