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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