Sunday, August 16, 2015

Planning Commission votes to screw up Second Street

The Planning Commission will vote Tuesday to screw up traffic on Second Street by eliminating two traffic lanes---leaving one lane each way---and street parking to install "cycletrack" bike lanes. 

See page six of the Notice of Meeting and CalendarTuesday, August 18, 2015 Room 400, City Hall.

FROM: Mary Miles, Attorney at Law (State Bar # 230395)  
San Francisco CA 

TO: Sarah B. Jones 
Environmental Review Officer 
San Francisco Planning Department 
1650 Mission St Ste 400 
San Francisco CA 94103 

RE: Second Street Improvement Project Draft Supplemental EIR, File 2007.0347E 


This is Public Comment on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (“DSEIR”) for the Second Street Improvement Project (“the Project”), formerly known as “Project 2-1, Modified Option 1” of the San Francisco Bicycle Plan. The Project now includes raised, separated “cycletrack” bicycle lanes on both sides of Second Street, a major, congested traffic corridor in downtown San Francisco providing vehicle access to downtown offices, freeways, the Bay Bridge, and AT&T Ballpark. 

Instead of improving severely congested traffic and already substandard air quality conditions, the Project proposes to make them worse throughout the Project area, which includes the entire downtown area cumulatively, freeway ingress and egress, and AT&T Ballpark. The Project therefore directly and facially conflicts with the mandates of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA,” Pub. Res. Code [PRC] § 21000 et seq.) to “enhance the environmental quality of the state,” to mitigate the Project’s impacts, and to “consider alternatives to proposed actions affecting the environment.” (PRC § 21001.) The DSEIR fails to propose feasible mitigation measures or alternatives for the admitted impacts of the Project, and therefore violates not only those mandates but the legal requirements of CEQA to inform the public of the Project’s impacts and mitigate them. The DSEIR also violates the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), since the Project is a federal project receiving federal funding (DSEIR, p. 1-3), and has failed to address the requirements of NEPA. 

The DSEIR claims that the Project now includes replacing sewer facilities and undergrounding overhead utilities, but those activities are unrelated to the Project, which proposes complete reconfiguration of Second Street to reduce traffic capacity from two lanes to one in each direction, eliminates nearly all parking spaces on Second Street and other streets, and eliminates existing loading areas, causing significant impacts on traffic, transit, parking, air quality, noise, and human impacts, to implement bicycle facilities benefiting the tiny portion of travelers on Second Street who ride bicycles.

The DSEIR does not comply with CEQA’s requirements to accurately state existing (baseline) conditions of traffic, thus negating the impacts analysis, the mitigations analysis, and the alternatives analysis on these crucial impacts affecting traffic, transit, air quality, safety, and human health throughout the affected area. The DSEIR contains no traffic counts or other traffic indicators and an inadequate analysis of operational air quality impacts from the congestion inevitably caused by removing traffic lanes and parking. The DSEIR’s disingenuous conclusion that the Project will have no impact on emergency services is false and dangerous. With the gridlock created by bottlenecked traffic, even if emergency vehicles can surmount the obstacles and climb over the raised “cycletrack” bicycle lanes, those emergency vehicles will not be able to climb over the backed up cars, buses, and trucks occupying the two remaining travel lanes on Second Street. The DSEIR also fails comply with CEQA’s mandate to mitigate the Project’s impacts by proposing in a separate section of the EIR feasible, effective, and enforceable mitigation measures for each impact identified, and to present a full range of alternatives, including off-site alternatives, to the Project to eliminate or reduce the Project’s impacts. 

These defects make the DSEIR legally inadequate, since it fails to inform the public and decisionmakers of the Project’s true impacts and fails to mitigate them. Further, the DSEIR’s conclusory statements are in many instances unsupported. The large number of references to other EIR’s and documents on other projects, which are not included in either the DSEIR or its Appendices, make the document user-unfriendly and its conclusions unsupported. The minimal public comment period on the DSEIR from February 12, 2015 to March 30, 2015 is inadequate. 

1. The Project’s “Objectives” Violate CEQA And NEPA, Since They Cause Environmental Degradation Throughout The Project Area Affecting The Vast Majority Of Travelers. 

The “Project Sponsor’s Objectives” fail to comply with the fundamental requirements of CEQA and NEPA, since they deliberately exclude and adversely impact the vast majority of travelers to, from, and residing in the Project area and the entire downtown area, degrading traffic conditions, air quality, noise, parking, and loading. The Project will admittedly have both direct and cumulative impacts directly due to the unstated actual objective of permanent gridlock throughout the area for most travelers. CEQA and NEPA mandate environmental protection and enhancement for everyone, not just small special-interest groups such as bicyclists. The location of the Project area in downtown San Francisco and the large number of affected travelers and residents in the area make this Project of regional and statewide importance. 

The DSEIR, moreover, fails to fulfill CEQA’s requirement of objectivity, instead advocating for the Project Sponsor, City’s Municipal Transportation Agency (“MTA”) and Department of Public Works (“DPW”), with the DSEIR created by the lead agency for the 2009 Bicycle Plan EIR, the San Francisco Planning Department (“Planning”). (DSEIR, 1.1.1, p. 1-2.) The lack of objective analysis flaws the DSEIR as an informational document and violates CEQA. (See e.g., Citizens for Ceres v. Superior Court (2013) 217 Cal.App.4th 889, 918-919.) 

2. The Project Description In The DSEIR Fails To Include An Accurate Description Of The Project Area, Since The Project’s Impacts Will Affect Many Other Streets In The Downtown Area. 

The DSEIR fails to define the Project area, which extends beyond Second Street, instead limiting its review to only Second Street. (DSEIR, Figure 2-1, p. 2-4, Fig. 2-4, p. 2-17.) In fact, the Project’s impacts extend throughout the downtown area, to freeway accessibility, and to many other streets and intersections. By failing to describe the entire Project area, the DSEIR is misleading and fails to accurately inform the public of the extent of the Project’s direct and cumulative impacts. 

The DSEIR’s failure to include surrounding streets invalidates many of its conclusions on traffic, transit, parking, and loading, since the City also proposes to eliminate traffic lanes and parking on 3rd, 4th, and 5th Streets for other “bicycle improvements,” including raised, separated “cycletracks.” Second Street is not a neighborhood or isolated street, but a major corridor that moves traffic and transit from the Financial District and Market Street to King Street (AT&T Ballpark), freeways, and the Bay Bridge. 

3. The DSEIR’s Reliance On The Initial Study For The Bicycle Plan EIR Is Misplaced, Since An Initial Study Does Not Fulfill The Requirements Of An EIR. 

The DSEIR (p. 4.2-4) relies on the 2009 “Initial Study” (“IS”) for the San Francisco Bicycle Plan Project for its claim that the Project will have no impacts on, e.g., land use planning and public services. The DSEIR admits that this Project is not the same as that described in the Bicycle Plan EIR or initial study, a different agency is now the “project sponsor,” and there is no initial study for the Second Street Improvement Project. The traffic congestion and lack of parking will, for example, discourage ground floor retail operations throughout the area, thus adversely affecting existing and future land use. Further, new CEQA provisions require determination of the significance of greenhouse gas emissions due to the project that were not covered in the 2009 Bicycle Plan EIR or IS. (See, e.g., Guidelines § 15064.4.) In fact, the new Project requires a comprehensive EIR, not an afterthought to a six-year old IS borrowing outdated studies for other projects. 

4. The DSEIR Fails To Accurately Identify The Project’s Impacts. 

a. The DSEIR Underestimates The Project’s Traffic Impacts

The DSEIR admits that the Project would cause intersection operations to degrade at at least five of the 29 intersections analyzed to an unacceptable level of service (“LOS”) and that at six others the Project would contribute significantly to already-unacceptable LOS. (DSEIR, p. 4.4- 41 to 4.4-59.) 

At other intersections, the DSEIR claims it would “mitigate” LOS impacts on Second Street by increasing green traffic signal time and/or increasing signal cycles to 90 seconds but fails to analyze the traffic impacts on the intersecting streets of increasing red time. 90 seconds of delay would itself be LOS F. 

Even if only 13 of the 29 intersections analyzed would experience unacceptable LOS, the backup from those intersections would affect the entire street, including the 16 of 29 intersections that the EIR claims would not be degraded. That analysis is entirely absent from the DSEIR. That omission makes the DSEIR a defective document that fails to accurately inform the public and decisionmakers of the Project’s impacts. 

b. The DSEIR Fails To Adequately Analyze Direct And Cumulative Air Quality Impacts From Operation Of The Project. 

San Francisco exceeds air quality criteria pollutant concentration standards (DSEIR, p. 4.6-3 – 4.6.) San Francisco also has levels of Toxic Air Contaminants (TAC’s). San Francisco is also in Non-Attainment Status for State and Federal Air Quality Standards for Air Pollutants, including ozone, particulate matter (PM-10 and PM-2.5). (DSEIR, p.4.6-13.) 

Yet the DSEIR disingenuously claims that the Project would not have any “operational” air quality impacts, since it “would not generate any new vehicle trips in the area,” and speculates that “localized isolated increases” in pollutants “are likely to be minor because drivers would be expected to modify their travel routes, or in some cases, change their travel modes…” (DSEIR, p. 4.6-34, 4.6-37.) However, no supporting evidence is presented for that speculation, and there is no factual analysis of the cumulative impacts of increased air pollution throughout the area. 

c. The DSEIR Fails To Analyze Parking Impacts. 

The DSEIR’s claim is false that removing nearly all of the parking on Second Street would not cause significant impacts on parking, traffic, air quality, noise, and safety, and entirely fails to analyze the direct, secondary, and cumulative impacts from the Project’s removal of 129 parking spaces, as well as the removal of parking on parallel and nearby streets. 

d. Transit Will Be Delayed By Queuing And Gridlock Caused By The Project. 

The DSEIR’s claim that the Project’s impact on transit “travel time” would be “less than significant” defy common sense, since buses and vehicles will have to share the gridlocked single lane in each direction on Second Street. 

5. The DSEIR’s GHG Emissions “Analysis” Omits The Project’s Impacts On Traffic Congestion, Violating CEQA’s Informational And Other Requirements. 

The DSEIR fails to include the Project’s admitted significant impacts on Traffic congestion, only reaching unsupported conclusions that the Project will have a “less-than-significant impact with respect to GHG emissions” for its construction phase but not its operational phase. (DSEIR, p. 4.2-14-4.2-15.) The document fails to comply with CEQA’s requirements, including describing existing conditions (baseline), analyzing impacts, and “reducing or mitigating the project’s incremental contribution of greenhouse gas emissions.” (Guidelines §15064.4.) 

6. The DSEIR’s Reliance On The Bicycle Plan EIR To Analyze The Environmental Setting, Impacts, And Mitigation Is Misplaced, Since The Project Is Completely Different, And The Bicycle Plan EIR Is Outdated. 

a. The Existing Conditions (Baseline) Must Be Accurate And Up To Date.  

The DSEIR relies on outdated information, including the 2009 (six years old) Bicycle Plan EIR for its “Study Intersections,” including the intersections of Second Street at Howard Street, Folsom Street, Harrison Street, Bryant Street, Brannan Street, Townsend Street, and the intersections of New Montgomery Street at Howard Street and Folsom Street. (DSEIR, p.4.4-3, Figure 4.4-1.) The DSEIR’s information must be accurate and up-to-date, and needs to include current traffic conditions at all affected intersections. An inaccurate baseline affects the impacts and mitigation analyses, and violates CEQA’s informational requirement. 

b. The DSEIR Contains No Information On Traffic Counts. 

The DSEIR states that it is analyzing 29 intersections on Second Street for Level of Service for sixty minutes during the “p.m. peak hour.” (DSEIR, p.4.4-5) However, the “traffic counts” were derived from studies for other projects for nearly all of those intersections. 

c. The DSEIR Contains No Information On Bicycle Counts. 

As with the Bicycle Plan EIR, the DSEIR fails to include existing bicycle volumes. Six years ago, the Bicycle Plan EIR admitted that bicycle volumes on Second Street were “low,” a fact which should have ended any further plans for “bicycle improvements” on Second Street. The DSEIR again admits that peak hour “bicycle volumes were observed to be generally low along Second Street…” (DSEIR, p.4.4-19.) Again those “low” volumes are undefined in the DSEIR. 

7.The DSEIR Fails To Include Essential Information On Other Existing And Planned Bicycle And Pedestrian Facilities, Including Bicycle Lanes On 3rd, 4th, And 5th Streets, And The Existing Bicycle “Improvements” On The Embarcadero And Other Nearby Streets. 

The DSEIR disingenuously omits other existing, planned, and foreseeable bicycle “improvements” within blocks of the proposed Projects. These include dedicated “cycle track” facilities on Third Street (one block away), Fourth Street (two blocks away), and Fifth Street from Market Street to Townsend Street (three blocks away), as well as already implemented “improvements” including removing traffic lanes and hundreds of parking spaces to create dedicated bicycle lanes on Fremont Street from Harrison Street to Howard Street, Beale Street from Bryant Street to Folsom Street, and the Embarcadero where a speeding bicyclist killed a pedestrian while running a red light. (DSEIR, p.4.4-73; Bicycle Plan Project No’s 2-2, 2-5, 2-7; Central SoMa Plan [aka “Central Corridor Plan”], April 2013, pp.53-65, 63.) 

Without this critical information, the DSEIR violates CEQA. The DSEIR’s failure to provide this information invalidates any “analysis” of impacts, particularly as here, cumulative impacts, or weighing of the Project’s benefits versus its significant impacts on public transportation, and fails to inform decisionmakers and the public of the actual conditions affected by the proposed Project. 

8. The Cumulative Impacts Analysis Fails To Comply With CEQA, Is Inadequate, Out Of Date, And Fails To Include The Project’s Diversion Of Traffic To Other Streets, And Six Other Known Projects Affecting Traffic, Transit, Air Quality, And Land Use In The Project Area. 

Instead of a legally adequate analysis, the DSEIR’s “approach” to Cumulative Analysis is to piecemeal discussion of individual impacts as afterthoughts tacked on to the “direct” impacts analyses. (DSEIR, 4.1.3, pp. 4.1-3 -4,1-6, 4.4-33, 4.4-36 -4.4-37.) The “combined approach” (DSEIR, p. 4.-5) does not comply with CEQA’s basic requirement to identify and propose feasible, effective mitigation measures for the Project’s cumulative impacts. 

The DSEIR, nevertheless, identified significant cumulative traffic impacts at 21 of 29 intersections. (DSEIR, p.4.4-74 – 4.4-88.) 

However, by constricting the analysis to only Second Street, the DSEIR fails to analyze the cumulative impacts in the entire area affected by the Project. For example, the DSEIR notes that the Project’s reduction of travel lanes in each direction “would divert Bay Bridge-bound traffic to several streets adjacent to Second Street,” including First Street, New Montgomery Street, Hawthorne Street, Third Street, Harrison Street, Mission Street, Howard Street, Folsom Street, Bryant Street, Brannan Street, Townsend Street, and King Streets, estimating that “approximately 950 vehicles during the p.m. peak hour” alone would be “diverted” to other streets, changing traffic volumes on those other streets. (DSEIR, p.4.4-34.) 

Moreover, the DSEIR fails to analyze the queuing gridlock caused by traffic backed up on other intersections on Second Street where significant impacts are identified at other intersections, and fails to analyze the spillover traffic onto Second and other Streets due to the “bicycle improvements” identified in the “Draft Central SOMA” plan, which will foreseeably reduce traffic capacity and eliminate traffic lanes and parking on Third, Fourth, and Fifth Streets. 

9. Removing Traffic Lanes And Parking And Creating Physical Impediments To Vehicle Movement Will Cause Significant Impacts On Emergency Vehicle Access. 

The DSEIR's conclusion that the Project will not cause significant impacts for emergency vehicles on Second Street, claiming “vehicle operators…would be able to pull over onto the ramped concrete painted buffer or the cycle track itself to allow emergency vehicles to pass,” is false, dangerous, and irresponsible. Most vehicles cannot climb a curbed “cycle track” from the single traffic lane remaining on Second Street to allow emergency vehicles to pass. Further, the false implication that the entire Street would not be gridlocked is silly, since the backup from gridlocked intersections would prevent any vehicles from moving anywhere. 

10. The DSEIR Fails To Propose Effective And Feasible Mitigation Measures For The Project’s Impacts. 

Under CEQA, “An EIR is an informational document which will inform public agency decisionmakers and the public generally of the significant environmental effect of a project, identify possible ways to minimize the significant effects, and describe reasonable alternatives to the project.” (14 Cal. Code Regs. [“Guidelines”] §15121(a); PRC §21002.1(a), (b).) CEQA requires specific content in the EIR, including either a separate chapter on mitigation measures proposed to minimize the significant effects or a table showing where that subject is discussed. (Guidelines §15126.) The DSEIR contains no chapter on mitigation and no table showing where mitigation, including feasibility analyses, are discussed. (Id.) 

The “mitigation” measures proposed consist chiefly of increasing green signal time on Second Street, thus increasing red time on intersecting streets, without analyzing the impacts on those other streets or the greater Project area. 

11. The DSEIR Fails To Evaluate Alternatives To The Project. 

The DSEIR fails to evaluate a “range of reasonable alternatives to the project, or the location of the project, which…would avoid or substantially lessen any of the significant effects.” (Guidelines, §15126.6(a).) The DSEIR proposes only three alleged “alternatives”: “Alternative 1 No Project Alternative,” “Alternative 2 Bicycle Lanes Alternative,” and “Alternative 3 Center Turn Lane Alternative.” 

The “No-Project Alternative” may not be counted as an “alternative,” because it will be rejected as not satisfying the “Project Sponsor’s Objectives.” The other two alternatives do not substantially lessen any of the significant impacts, since both would eliminate two traffic lanes and install cycle track bicycle lanes on both sides of Second Street. Therefore, no serious alternatives are proposed that would lessen the Project’s impacts and comply with CEQA.

Thanks to Meter Madness for the agenda link.

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At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is someone suing for the EIR to be done completely? I hope so. this is going to be a disaster for traffic to benefit a very few

At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see the BoS saw through the bike nuts' lies! Thank you Mary Miles for your hard work and sound legal reasoning!

At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary Miles is leading the league in worthless public comments.

At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob and May should pat themselves on their back for their tireless work in defeating this terrible, pollution-causing disruption and safety hazard. I wonder what their next victory will be! Exciting times.

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Glad to see the BoS saw through the bike nuts' lies! Thank you Mary Miles for your hard work and sound legal reasoning!"

Right. Since the Board of Supervisors voted to screw up traffic on Second Street it must be both legal and good public policy.

Like its unanimous vote on the Bicycle Plan---and allowing 19,000 residents on Treasure Island and allowing 5,000 more housing units at Parkmerced.

The supervisors are real smart, you understand, and the City Attorney will of course warn them if they're doing anything illegal.


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