Thursday, July 26, 2018

BDS outbreak in Marin

Image result for Bob Middagh Trail
Marin County Bicycle Coalition

Several years ago, I identified a social pathology afflicting even government agencies tasked with understanding land use and environmental law:

What is it about bicycles that encourages people to do and say foolish things? Riding bikes is mostly for young white men, but there are older white men whose mid-life crisis puts them on bicycles in an apparent attempt to be cool and, while they're at it, struggle against growing old. Let's call it the Bicycle Derangement Syndrome (BDS).

San Francisco has suffered from a chronic BDS infection since 2005, when City Hall tried to push the 500-page Bicycle Plan through the process without any environmental review, an obvious violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the most important environmental law in the state.

Marin's BDS affliction may also be chronic, since that county has been clueless while it and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition have for several years been fighting to allow mountain bikers on a trail now reserved for hikers and equestrians.

In The Marin Post, Bob Silvestri describes how Marin's lawyers reacted in court after it became clear that the judge was ruling against them:

...they became clearly emotional and angry when their arguments failed. At one point the judge even commented that he could see they were very upset by his affirming his Tentative Ruling and that it appeared as if "Mr. Perl and Mr. Somers almost leapt out of their seats in disagreement."

Once given the floor, County Counsel Tarisha Bal launched into a dissertation that I would charitably characterize as a novel theory of the California Environmental Quality Act and a creative interpretation of the County’s responsibilities and authorities under their Roads and Trails Management Plan.

During her almost 40 minutes of rambling and at times incoherent arguments, the judge apologetically stopped her on several occasions to ask her repeatedly to answer simple legal questions, such as, “Do you agree or disagree with the court’s opinion that a CEQA process is required before a decision is made?”---questions she repeatedly failed to answer.

...the county’s representation was astonishingly unprofessional. They seemed unprepared and genuinely shocked by the court’s detailed decision to deny their defense, were unresponsive to the court’s pointed questioning, and seemed to refuse to acknowledge the fundamental legal principles of CEQA when presented to them.

San Francisco's lawyers representing the city on its Bicycle Plan were a lot more professional in court than Marin's lawyers. But SF continued to lie about what the 500-page, two-volume Bicycle Plan contained, and, while the city was working on the court-ordered environmental review, went back to that court three times to try to lift the injunction so it could implement bicycle "improvements" on city streets, much to the annoyance of Judge Busch.

The bike movement seems to be a lot like a religious faith to its adherents. Like fanatical believers, they keep coming at you. 

Note that the Marin Bicycle Coalition is undaunted after the court ruled against Marin County and the MBC on their campaign to allow cyclists on the Bob Middagh Trail. They are determined "to move forward...in the near future" with the project:

MCBC is disappointed by the temporary setback in opening the Bob Middagh Trail to shared use, when Judge Paul Haakenson sided with Community Venture Partners in their petition to oppose bikes on the trail. It is unfortunate when CEQA is used as a tool to prevent progress at the public’s expense...

If the County decides not to appeal, they can circulate a new Initial Study for a change-in-use to allow bikes in the near future. This is the second change-in-use proposal to move forward in Marin County, and possibly the first which allows bikes equal access to shared trails. We have anticipated setbacks and are not deterred by this one.

We continue to believe in the value of the project and look forward to the day when the Bob Middagh Trail is available to all users. Watch for a follow-up message with more details and recommendations on what you can do to help move the project forward.

Note too that, like Marin's lawyers, the MCBC is ignorant about CEQA: "It is unfortunate when CEQA is used as a tool to prevent progress at the public’s expense."

(San Francisco's Bicycle Coalition also has a sketchy understanding of CEQA, but I suppose we can't expect objectivity from those representing special interest groups.)

As Judge Haakenson tried to explain, CEQA is about following a specific process to provide environmental review of proposed projects before they are implemented. Marin's taxpayers will now have the "expense" of paying the fees of the lawyer representing the prevailing party, Community Venture Partners.

Turns out that Marin County is also undaunted by Judge Haakenson's decision, since they have decided to file an appeal of that decision, which will almost surely waste more money in an ill-advised quasi-religious crusade.

Mountain bikers in Marin have long been a public menace in that county's open space: Mountain bikers beware: Marin rangers to use radar guns



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