Thursday, August 10, 2017

Jason Henderson: CEQA warrior?

Socket Site

Jason "Zero Parking" Henderson is doing a CEQA appeal of one of those highrise buildings at Market and Van Ness (SF Weekly One Oak’s OK Challenged).

Henderson, who teaches a bike course at SF State--this generation's version of basket-weaving---is apparently belatedly learning about CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act, the state law that requires every proposed project to undergo some kind of environmental review before it's implemented.

Bike advocates in San Francisco were outraged when we went to court in 2005 to make the city do an environmental review of the 500-page Bicycle Plan. 

Henderson in his book on transportation in San Francisco:
In 2006 an anti-bicycle lawsuit, litigated by two persons[sic] calling themselves the Coalition for Adequate Review (CAR), successfully delayed the city's implementation of bicycle lanes for over four years (Street Fight, page 3).

(The plural of person is "people.") Our suit was successful because the city did no environmental review of the ambitious Bicycle Plan before it began implementing it on upper Market Street, taking away street parking to make bike lanes (see also Pleas of small businesses fall on deaf ears). 

It was an easy decision for the judge to make. The city then had to do what they should have done in the first place: conduct an environmental review of the Bicycle Plan project as required by CEQA, causing the delay Henderson complains about.

Henderson's twisted account of recent San Francisco history in his book doesn't have "CEQA" in the index, though he included a murky, poorly-informed discussion of Level of Service and the court's decision in Street Fight (pages 120-123). Maybe he'll include "CEQA" in the index of his next book after his appeal is rejected by the Board of Supervisors.

More from the SF Weekly:

The [One Oak]project sounds great. But several residential developments coming to Van Ness Avenue and Market Street could derail the millions of dollars the city, state, and taxpayers have committed to speeding up this transit corridor, thanks to the impending arrival of hundreds of privately owned vehicles, which threaten to clog up this transit-rich artery. Or so claims Jason Henderson, who last month filed an appeal of the city’s decision to allow One Oak, a 304-unit luxury apartment building, to begin construction without a thorough review of the traffic impacts its 136 parking spots will have on the neighborhood.

That is, 136 parking spaces for a building with 304 housing units is too much for Henderson. He wants that reduced to 76 spaces. (There was a time when San Francisco reasonably required a parking space for every new housing unit created.) 

In Henderson's fantasy, residents of those luxury condominiums should ride Muni or bicycles (see "Smart" growth, bicycles, and Jason Henderson).

SF Weekly:

And just when the project was finalized and the plan hit the Planning Commission, nearby residents and neighborhood associations picked a fight with the city and developers over the proposed parking spots, claiming there was no need for so much personal vehicle parking in an area served by nine Muni lines. The Environmental Impact Report, people argued, was not thorough: It didn’t examine any ramifications the cars might have on nearby public transit or how the extra wind the building would funnel down Van Ness would affect the thousands of cyclists who commuted past the building each day.

I bet the only "neighborhood association" involved in this issue is the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, where Henderson is on the board of directors. He's also on the Market Octavia Community Advisory Committee, which pushed to allow these high-rise buildings in the first place at the corner of Market and Van Ness because that's in keeping with the Smart Growth theory as practiced in San Francisco:

Market Octavia Plan

SF Weekly includes some misinformation:

It’s not easy to file an appeal against the city. Appellants must have a track record of engagement with the project, with written letters and City Hall appearances proving their interest in the case.

Nonsense. Anyone can file an appeal, though of course you have to know how to do it, which is why it's usually done by lawyers. The Planning Commission already rejected Henderson's appeal; now it goes to the Board of Supervisors, which always rejects appeals (Jason Henderson and anti-carism).


But the impact of filing an EIR appeal can be huge, with construction delays on the horizon while the issue is heard by city government. In the best case scenario, “if the Planning Department wants to double down and put out some mitigations, this could take a couple months,” Henderson says. “They could make this a priority. I don’t see this as delaying the big picture...

Wrong! Henderson's CEQA education will continue after his appeal gets the inevitable rejection by the Board of Supervisors. He will then have exhausted his administrative remedies and will have to either give up or litigate. The only thing that will delay this project is persuading a judge to give you an injunction, which is unlikely here. 

We got an injunction and prevailed in court because the city had done no environmental study at all of the ambitious Bicycle Plan. Here the project already has an EIR and prevailing in court just to get fewer parking spaces is unlikely. The appeal process itself won't cause any delay or have any effect on the project:

But for now, the appeal process is just getting started. Both the SFMTA and Sup. London Breed’s office failed to respond to our requests for comment. The appeal is scheduled to be heard in front of the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 5 — when they return from August recess. In the meantime, Henderson will fine-tune his argument, gearing up to take on the Planning Department, the developers, and City Hall.

Henderson's fine-tuned argument will be rejected, and "the appeal process" will come to an end on Sept. 5.

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