Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Night Football at the Stick


C.W. Nevius: City Hall megaphone

Photo by Luke Thomas

C.W. Nevius apparently sees himself as a scourge of obstructionism and nimbyism in San Francisco. He assumes that sensible policymakers in City Hall are routinely being thwarted by pointless protests and litigation.

He's promoted this grotesquely false picture before. He wondered a couple of years ago whether a compromise on the Bicycle Plan couldn't have been reached before the court decision ordering the city to do an EIR on the Plan. That column only showed his ignorance of the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA) that requires developers and government agencies to do an environmental review of any project that even might have an impact on the environment. The City of San Francisco was intransigent and refused to do any environmental review of its 500-page Bicycle Plan before it began implementing it on the streets of the city, which is why we had to sue to get a court order enforcing the most important environmental law in California. 

Nevius evidently doesn't like to read anything. His modus operandi seems to involve a few phone calls before tapping out his ill-informed columns. His column the other day on the America's Cup demonstrated his continuing ignorance of that important law:

It would have almost been disappointing if the environmental impact report for the America's Cup had sailed through City Hall without dissent. C'mon, this is a city that protests paper shopping bags and Happy Meals.

Both the shopping bag and the Happy Meal issues came out of City Hall and the Board of Supervisors, not from "protests":

No worries, San Francisco didn't disappoint. No sooner had the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the report---while praising its comprehensive look at environmental concerns---than a small group of activists filed an appeal to stop everything. That's fine. A certain number of the groups seem genuinely---if a little obsessively---concerned about matters like the health of native plant life and traffic flow. Those concerns will be heard at a Board of Supervisors meeting in January, a few tweaks will be made, and the preparations for this gigantic, global sporting event will continue on schedule.

Oh, yes, those bunny-hugging enviros are so fussy about plants and traffic. But, as Nevius correctly notes, those "obsessives" will be turned away with a "a few tweaks" and a project Nevius and City Hall support will go forward. So what's the problem?

But there's another group that's more troublesome. They are talking tough, and seem perfectly willing to stretch the debate out until the Cup is on the brink of collapse. Some are the
bay swimmers who are threatening to paddle out in the middle of the races because they aren't getting enough swim space. Then there is former Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin, who said at the Planning Commission on Thursday that there might be legal ramifications if the Port Commission went ahead with plans to start construction of a cruise ship terminal at Pier 27 before the appeal is heard. That sounds like the warning of a lawsuit.

Well, yes. But Nevius apparently doesn't understand that now that the Planning Commission has okayed the America's Cup project,
the final appeal will be heard in a couple of weeks by the Board of Supervisors, which will duly reject the appeal, which is what they always do on major city projects. Once that appeal is rejected by the BOS, that will be the time for litigation. The Port Commission can't wait a few weeks? No one embarks on this kind of litigation lightly, since it's very expensive and time-consuming.

No, what Nevius objects to is the very idea that someone would object to a City Hall project that he, Mayor Lee, and most city residents support:

I would just say one thing to those people. You'd better check your back, because there aren't many people behind you. The America's Cup is wildly popular in San Francisco. A University of San Francisco poll found support at nearly 80 percent. If the swimmers stop a race out of simple pique, or if a tedious lawsuit jeopardizes the event, those groups will look like petulant kids.

Either there are serious issues with the EIR on the project or there aren't. That's a legal issue and isn't something that can be decided by simply counting heads. But Nevius doesn't deign to deal with the facts on actual issues (and I can't find the poll he refers to). Instead he warns dissidents to "check your back"!

Peskin is far too smart not to see this, of course. But it is hard to see what concession he wants.

Did Nevius ask Peskin what he wants? Hard to believe that Aaron Peskin doesn't know what he wants.

This Cup can happen. It can be awesome. The idea of stopping the whole thing dead with a lawsuit, just because you can, is the worst kind of cynicism...Mess with the Cup and they'll be something more---furious.

Aaron Peskin better watch his back! Nevius is mad and he's not going to take it anymore! He'll lead a mob of City Hall insiders---with Larry Ellison, Mayor Lee, and Christina Olague---to Peskin's house on Telegraph Hill!

"In the end, if you are always the one who says no to everything," [Christina]Olague said, "eventually you are going to exhaust the public."

This is a trope trotted out by city insiders whenever a project they favor faces any serious opposition, as if development in San Francisco has been the least bit hindered in the last ten years. The contrary is the reality, as city neighborhoods are increasingly threatened by an aggressively pro-development City Hall with its trendy, half-baked dense development and "transit corridors" theories. Peskin is opposed to the Treasure Island project, and
for good reason, but the notion is ludicrous that the former supervisor who supports highrise development in SF, including on Rincon Hill, is now some sort of anti-development obstructionist.

Olague runs for District 5 Supervisor next year, it will be interesting to hear her justify the massive housing projects she and the Planning Commission have okayed---the Market and Octavia Plan, the UC housing development, Treasure Island, and Parkmerced. While she's at it, maybe she will try to justify waving the Bicycle Plan through the process with no environmental review.

Nevius raised a similarly
bogus alarm a year ago about the entirely imaginary "development wars" in San Francisco, where good projects are delayed by people and organizations "just because they can." The reality: the only leverage neighborhood groups have to modify, mitigate, or stop unwise City Hall projects is to appeal to the Board of Supervisors and/or threaten litigation. Once the BOS rejects the appeal---as they always do on major projects---the only recourse people have is litigation.

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