Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Big lie about CEQA reform #1


From the anti-car Planetizen:

The irony that an environmental law would frustrate the most environmentally-friendly (and efficient) mode of transportation was not lost on Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum. "I'm a pretty committed environmentalist, but it's still hard not to feel a bit of schadenfreude over the problems that California's premier environmental law has had on the construction of bike lanes," he writes.

Drum is a smart guy. I often cite him myself. 

But another quote from his blog post is more revealing:

I'm no expert on CEQA, so I won't try to offer any detailed criticism here. Generally speaking, though, I'd like to see the law reformed so that genuine environmental concerns get the hearings they deserve, but no more. There needs to be some kind of stopping point or reasonableness test in there. A $100,000 bike lane shouldn't require $200,000 in environmental impact reports and another $200,000 defending lawsuits from bike lane haters.

Odd that a California-based political blogger like Drum is so ignorant about the California Environmental Quality Act, the most important environmental law in the state. That's probably because he writes mostly about national/international issues.

"Environmental concerns" is exactly what CEQA is all about. Any project---public or private---that even might have an impact on the environment must do at least a preliminary study of its possible impact.

Instead, the city did no environmental review of the Bicycle Plan at all. The city knew that was illegal, but just assumed it could get away with it. 

A project like the city's Bicycle Plan---which will take away thousands of street parking spaces and dozens of traffic lanes on busy city streets to make bike lanes---obviously might have an impact on the environment by making traffic congestion worse, making finding a parking space harder, and funneling existing traffic into fewer lanes. It clearly required a full-blown environmental impact report, which is why the judge ruled in our favor.

It was an easy decision for Judge Busch to make, since he didn't have to figure out whether the city's PC pro-bike, anti-car policy was a good idea. All he had to decide is whether the city should do an environmental study of the ambitious, 500-page Bicycle Plan to determine its possible impact.

Drum seems to think that money is a CEQA issue, but it's not, especially for a rich city like San Francisco, which can afford to do whatever it really wants to do (e.g., the dumb Central Subway project).

The LA Times on the money issue:

The environmental law requires proponents of new projects — including bike lanes — to measure the effect the project would have on car congestion. When a traffic lane is taken out in favor of a bike lane, more congestion could result along that road. That result can put proposed bike lanes in peril. And traffic studies to show whether installing a bike lane would lead to greater congestion can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Oftentimes, cities won’t bother with the effort.

Yes, but if like San Francisco they "bother with the effort" and do the required environmental review, they can still create the bike lanes later, which is what the city is doing now, including the also dumb Masonic Avenue project. 

That is, CEQA itself doesn't stop projects; it can only delay projects while the required environmental study is done.

Tomorrow: LOS, VMT, and ATG

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4 Comments:

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with bike lanes per se, but we can't do them on the cheap. We need to make sure the lawyers and planners get a share of taxpayer money for each one that gets built. These CEQA application fees trickle down, folks! Think of all the restaurants and bar workers that depend on tips.

 
At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

". A $100,000 bike lane shouldn't require $200,000 in environmental impact reports"

But it of course needs an EIR!!

I graduated with degrees in environmental planning and also urban planning. It doesn't take my background to figure out that if putting in bike lanes results in removing a traffic lane(s) and does not provide mitigation measures such has more transit to offset the loss of a traffic lane, then there is an impact. Cars do not just evaporate if you remove a car lane...in fact it likely slows traffic, more idle time, more air pollution, more consumption of gasoline. All those are resultant impacts. Oh and did I mention safety concerns???

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, but here in Progressive Land the official City Hall policy is based on the "mode shift" fantasy, that once bike lanes are in place people will start giving up driving cars and shift to riding bikes. It's an if-you-build-it-they-will-come idea for which I've seen no evidence. It's actually a faith-based traffic policy. The biggest test of that theory/fantasy will come with the Masonic Avenue bike project that will eliminate 167 parking spaces and two lanes to make protected bike lanes on a busy north/south street that now works well for more than 40,000 daily travelers.

How many cyclists will use the new bike lanes? The city has no idea. I've never seen any evidence that there are many cyclists who even want to travel north/south in this part of town. Most bike traffic from the western part of the city of course is going west/east---that is, downtown and back.

 
At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ride a bike on weekends and would never take Masonic to go north/south, unless there is no other choice, but there are...and less grade intensive.

 

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