Friday, August 08, 2014

The new 49er stadium, traffic, and EIRs

Field of Schemes is an essential site for information and critiques of stadium deals/issues around the country. Check it out on the new Niners stadium in Santa Clara and traffic gridlock in the area. Turns out that EIRs can be futile, doorstop-like documents. Who knew? Some comments to the story:

MikeM: See, the thing that bothers me about this is that these entities are required to write an EIR, and then have it approved, and once it has been approved, they’re in the clear.

It shouldn’t be that way. If the EIR says, “This won’t cause traffic issues!” and then it turns out that they missed that mark by miles, then the ones who wrote and the ones who approved the EIR should be financially liable to resolve the problems. If that means they have to add a lane on the freeway for 2 miles in all applicable directions, then so be it.

If this had REAL penalties, maybe EIRs wouldn’t turn out to be the steaming piles of bullshit they currently are. So sure, people can claim their EIR surpassed requirements, but it ain’t exactly like the requirements are worth a plug nickel.

Another commenter responded:

@Mike M: Yes, there was an EIR. The 49ers paid for it. The parking and traffic portion of the EIR predicted a level of service of ‘F’ at intersections near the stadium---that’s complete gridlock. Our City Council knew this and approved the EIR anyway. It isn’t a matter of the EIR hiding the truth---the truth was exposed and our Council and the 49ers wanted a stadium in that location so badly that they just ignored the EIR.

No one seems to care about the residents who live on the north side. They are getting caught up in this awful traffic and can’t go about their normal routines. Neighborhoods were supposed to be protected with ‘neighborhood intrusion controls’ to keep stadium patrons from parking up the streets---that didn’t happen last Saturday, and residents are hopping mad about it.

We have a City Council which all live in the older, single family low-density residential area of Santa Clara, far from the stadium, so our council members don’t have to experience the traffic that our north side residents experience.

Field of Schemes on the idea of a new stadium in Oakland.

How labor unions abused CEQA in Petaluma.

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Second thoughts on that high-speed rail decision

Monte Wolverton

A week ago I wrote this about that Court of Appeal high-speed rail decision: "What the Court of Appeal has done is essentially invalidate promises made to state voters in Proposition 1A, which passed with only 52% of the vote in 2008." 

Wrong! Instead of actually reading the decision, I relied on media accounts and the reaction of the lawyers who sued the state on the project. Those lawyers are surely now having second thoughts about the decision. From the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail:

...One knowledgeable lawyer, who has followed the litigation closely, provides a much more accurate summary of what the recent Appellate Court decision actually means. He calls the July 31st decision a "Stay of Execution" for the proposed high-speed rail project.

In fact, that is actually what the court decision does do, and that is the "good news" report coming out of a decision that seems, on its face, to represent a setback for HSR critics.

What the Third District Court of Appeal actually said was:

The Authority does have to meet the requirements of Proposition 1A.
The Authority has not yet met those requirements.
The Authority cannot construct the project until it has met those requirements.
No bond funds can be used for construction until the requirements have been met.

The Authority must demonstrate that all the requirements in Proposition 1A that pertain to its funding plans are met by the time the Authority asks for approval of its final funding plan. This means that the Authority must show that there is adequate funding to complete the initial operating segment of the project before the Authority can begin constructing the project. And the funding that has to be demonstrated must be something definite, not just a vague hope that money will be forthcoming in the future. So far, no such funding source is visible. In addition, the Appellate Court made clear that the Authority must demonstrate that all required environmental reviews have been completed (not just promised).

The Appellate Court called the requirements of Proposition 1A a "straightjacket," indicating how tough they are. AND (it bears repeating), the Appellate Court said that the Authority must comply with those tough requirements before starting construction.

The reason for the decision "in favor" of the Authority was the court's holding that the challenge to the Authority's action by the petitioners in Tos was essentially "premature," aimed at an initial funding plan that is now no longer correctable (because the Legislature has appropriated the money the Authority had asked for). In the future, high-speed rail opponents can come back to court, if the Authority actually tries to construct part of the project without showing it has the money to complete the entire first segment, and without showing it has complied with environmental review requirements for that entire first segment, too...

When Smart People Are Dumb: James Fallows on high-speed rail.

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