Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Cyclists tripped up again by that pesky CEQA

On Friday, April 6, 2018, Marin Superior Court Judge Haakenson handed down his final decision in the case of Community Venture Partners, Inc. v. The Marin County Open Space District. That decision confirmed the court’s Tentative Ruling in favor of CVP, which prohibits the County of Marin from opening the Bob Middagh Trail in the Alto Bowl Preserve to any form of biking. 

A quick summary of Judge Haakenson’s comments is as follows: [Emphasis Added]

* The petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Pub. Res. Code§ 21168.5 is granted. The decision of the District approving the Middagh Trail Improvement Project must be set aside, and the District is ordered to conduct a proper CEQA analysis as described herein before deciding whether to approve the project as currently planned;

* The court agrees with Petitioner that the District violated CEQA by not conducting the required Initial Study before approving the project. (MPA p.12) Where a project is subject to CEQA (e.g., not exempt), the lead agency cannot commit to carrying it out or approving the project before determining whether the project may have significant environmental effects;

* The court concludes that the District must evaluate the reasonably foreseeable social effects and safety risks to non-bike riders when making its initial study and other determinations whether the project may cause significant impact to the environment;

* The court finds the District's failure to score these proposals did not conform to its own mandatory evaluation methodology and constitutes an abuse of discretion...

See too Marin judge’s ruling throws wrench in bike trail plans in the Marin Independent Journal:

...Judge Paul Haakenson ruled Friday in favor of Community Venture Partners, a Mill Valley nonprofit, that challenged the county Open Space District’s plan to allow bicyclists on the Bob Middagh Trail, a narrow, single-track trail in the hills between Mill Valley and Corte Madera.

Work to prepare for the transition — widening of the trail from 3 feet to 5 feet, reducing its grade, installing textured rolling dips and armored drainages — was completed last fall. The trail was scheduled to reopen as a multi-use trail as soon as the winter rains ended...

Tom Boss, a spokesman for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, said, “It is unfortunate when the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) card is pulled[sic] at the public’s expense to protest outcomes that some may oppose, but 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.”

Image result for jeff the cyclist
Jef the Cyclist

One of the central issues in the legal challenge is whether the Open Space district fully complied with CEQA before deciding to open the trail to bicyclists...

“There is evidence in the record that the change in use of the Middagh Trail may have negative social effects on the enjoyment and recreational experiences for the very visitors — hikers and equestrians — the Trail Plan is designed to protect and encourage,” Haakenson wrote.

“Evidence in the record showing a likely increased risk of accidents between current users and the newly added mountain bike users runs counter to one of the express goals of the project — to improve visitor experience and visitor safety,” Haakenson added.

In addition to increased accidents, Community Venture Partners asserted that social effects would include increased erosion and sedimentation, increased noise levels and loss of wildlife...

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The Big One

From Vice:

California is the land of beaches, mountains, and all the legal marijuana you can stomach. It’s also, inconveniently, a dangerous minefield riddled with nasty fault lines that rupture without much warning, generating massive earthquakes that can level buildings, pulverize roads, and kill lots of people in the span of seconds.

The San Andreas is the most notorious of these faults. It runs roughly 800 miles long and produces quakes so catastrophic that there’s a 2015 action movie about it starring The Rock. 

The southern section of the fault generates earthquakes every 150 years on average, and considering some parts of it haven’t ruptured in more than 200 years, Southern California is overdue for a major shaking, otherwise known as “the Big One.”

“There is no fault that is more likely to break than the San Andreas Fault,” says Jonathan P. Stewart, professor and chair of UCLA’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department and an expert in earthquakes. 

“Small local earthquakes—the Northridge earthquake, the San Fernando earthquake—they can kill people in the dozens, they can have freeways coming down, they can affect dams, and all of that is bad,” he says. “But it doesn’t really pose an existential threat to our economy, our ability to live here.” 

A large earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, on the other hand, he says, could create a devastating threat to humanity, infrastructure, and the economy, with implications that extend nationally and even globally...

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