Thursday, August 27, 2015

My liberal credentials

A.P. photo

According to this poll (How do your beliefs align with the potential candidates?), I "side with Bernie Sanders" 97% of the time and with Hillary Clinton 87% of the time. I hope that doesn't make me a "progressive," since I think of myself as a mere liberal

But there weren't any questions about Islam, bicycles, or high-speed rail, all of which would have reduced my liberal score.

Hillary will surely be the candidate for the Democrats, and I'll happily vote for her in 2016, since her administration will essentially be an extension of the Obama administration, which has been good, except for the high-speed rail foolishness and the hard line on marijuana. 

If Hillary is smart---and I think she is---she'll lighten up on marijuana and let the high-speed rail folly die a natural death, since there's no credible source of money to even build the system, not to mention operate and maintain it.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Accidents" and Vision Zero

New Geography

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones is a smart guy, but he's "mystified" by an idea that originates from "a group" trying to get us all to stop talking about traffic "accidents":

I remember this from my driver's ed class 40 years ago. Our instructor told us endlessly that they were "collisions," not accidents. But we're still talking about accidents 40 years later, so apparently this is a tough habit to break.

And the truth is that I didn't really get it back then. I still don't. "Accident" doesn't imply that something is unforeseeable, or that no one can be blamed, or that nothing could possibly have been done to prevent it. Here's the definition: "noun. an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap."

"Unintentional" is the key word here. If you drop the dinner dishes, it's unintentional unless you're pissed off at your family and deliberately threw the dishes at them. Then it's not an accident. Ditto for cars. If you deliberately run over someone, it's not an accident. If it's not deliberate, it is ("Crash" vs. "Accident" Doesn't Seem Like It Matters Very Much).

Drum is apparently unfamiliar with the anti-car movement that's led by the bike lobby. The SFBC's new leader, Noah Budnick, makes it clear what the terminology bullshit means to his special interest group:

It starts with a simple matter of leadership, which is stating that traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable. They’re not accidents. That change in thinking is an incredibly important first step...When the [political]leadership acknowledges that all traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable, then you can move past these policy debates about whether or not zero is appropriate, and you can start from a strong moral position (emphasis added).

Those of us who do not represent an anti-car special interest group---that is, everybody else---understands that it's simply untrue "that all traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable" because of a thing called human nature. As Commander Ali put it last year, people---motorists, pedestrians, cyclists---will engage in a lot of "really bad behavior" on city streets, which sometimes causes death and injury regardless of how well our streets are designed and paved.

But according to Streetsblog and Budnick's group, there's a war happening on city streets, with those wicked motor vehicles---cars, trucks, buses---attacking pedestrians and cyclists, and the only way to fight it is by punishing motorists and making it more expensive and difficult to drive, especially in cities like San Francisco.

Budnick's idea of staking out "a strong moral position" is really about the sense of moral superiority cyclists have over the rest of us benighted souls who don't ride bikes. Steve Jones made it explicit several years ago in the Bay Guardian:

I understand that bicyclists are criticized in many quarters as a vocal minority with a self-righteous sense of superiority and entitlement, and that I'm personally accused of bias for writing empathetically about bicyclists in dozens of bike-related stories. Well, guess what? I don't apologize. We are better than motorists, by every important measure. We use less space and fewer resources and create less waste and pollution (emphasis added).

Get out of their way, they don't burn fossil fuel!

As a matter of verifiable fact, traffic fatalities in the US have already been going down steadily for 100 years.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, August 24, 2015

District 5, sit-lie, and the homeless

Most sit-lie problems are in the Haight

Calvin Welch has an unconvincing account (Stuck on dumb: A failure of SF homeless policyof recent history in District 5:

This November will be fifth anniversary of the passage of the deeply controversial, at least in this neighborhood, Sit/Lie law, which made it a jailable offense to sit or lie on a public sidewalk. One month later the Recreation and Parks Commission voted to end some 30 years of operation of the HANC recycling center at Kezar Stadium. Both actions were sold by both the Gavin Newsom administration (chiefly, Recreation and Parks Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg and Chief of Staff Steve Kawa) and the SF Chronicle (chiefly through the ranting of columnist CW Nevius) as effective measures to reduce homelessness in the Haight-Ashbury.

That's not the way I remember it. The sit-lie issue was about street punks occupying Haight Street, to the distress of small businesses, panhandling for drug and booze money during the day and at night sleeping in nearby Golden Gate Park. The street punks were/are a subset of the homeless population, but they're not really looking for housing; they're practicing a way of life.

It was/is mostly a Haight-Ashbury issue with Golden Gate Park nearby. The park has a chronic homeless problem, as a Grand Jury report (Golden Gate Park’s Homeless Population) told us a few years ago.

A report critical of the sit-lie ordinance admitted that neighborhood cops find the law helpful:

On one hand, beat cop officers at Park Station, where the most citations were issued, praise the ordinance and its efficacy at moving individuals along. As many Park Station officers attested, Sit/lie enables beat officers to enforce continual movement and mobility along sidewalks through the ordinance's permeating reputation, as well as through verbal and/or written warnings.

C.W. Nevius can be obnoxious when he's riding one of his hobby horses---his hounding of Mirkarimi was ugly---but he had a point about HANC's recycling center:

Residents have been upset about the facility for some time. The site is noisy and ugly, and seems dated. Recycling is done at the curb of nearly every house these days, so why does the neighborhood need a special site? But most of all, the residents were upset at the fact that the homeless campers in Golden Gate Park were raiding their recycling bins at night, loading up on cans and bottles, and turning them in for cash. It was, some said, a virtual ATM for those struggling with drug and alcohol addictions.

While the recycling center operated, there was a steady caravan of the homeless pushing shopping carts full of recyclables to the center in exchange for cash:

When Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi held a community meeting to discuss issues, the neighbors showed up and spoke up. They weren't angry, and they didn't deny that the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, which has run the site since 1974, has done good work. "It's a great organization whose time has passed," said Inner Sunset resident Jim Rinehart...For starters, the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council is a long-standing, vociferous action group with clout. Last year HANC got a grant of $60,000 from the city Department of Environment. (In previous years it has been as much as $135,000.) HANC isn't going to let the place close without a fight.

Welch cites the 2015 homeless count:

The most recent Homeless Count includes some surprising results. For example in 2015, 73% of those counted were never in foster care, 71% of them were San Francisco residents before they became homeless, 61% are on the street because they can't afford San Francisco rent or pay for moving costs, 40% “don’t want government assistance,” 38% report that they are homeless because they lost their job or where evicted, 20% had some college or post-graduate education, and 11% were, in fact, employed.

Actually, the report tells us that these results weren't from polling all the homeless counted in 2015, but instead were from a survey of only 1,027 of 7,539 homeless people (page 27)---and the results of course represent only what the homeless themselves say about their plight, which is not necessarily a verifiable reality. Welch likes the results because it confirms progressive doctrine about homelessness being mostly about economic conditions, that people "can't afford San Francisco rent," not about drugs/alcohol or psychological problems that many of the homeless have.

Actually, the Haight/District 5 homeless problem (310) isn't particularly significant compared to District 6 (3,836), which includes the Tenderloin and downtown (page 24).

The city's homeless population numbers have been remarkably stable over the years: 6,248 in 2005 and 6,686 counted in 2015 (page 18).

According to a Chronicle story last year:

In the past 10 years, 11,362 homeless single adults have been housed. An additional 8,086 people have been sent home to a willing friend or family member through the Homeward Bound program, which pays for bus tickets out of San Francisco and back to their hometowns.

So why hasn't the city's homeless problem been solved by now? 

Because San Francisco is not only a destination for tourists and techies; it's also a destination for the homeless, the marginal and soon-to-be homeless.

See also this.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Donald










Friday, August 21, 2015

Alamo Square

From CityLab:

...New York City and San Francisco are far and away the most expensive places to rent in America. Even people with six-figure incomes cannot afford the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in these cities’ most expensive neighborhoods. No wonder housing affordability has become a leading, if not the leading, political issue in San Francisco and New York. What remains to be seen is whether such incredibly high rents will begin to stifle and suffocate the very diversity and creative energy that have long powered these neighborhoods and cities.

25 U.S. Neighborhoods with the Highest Monthly Median Rent

RankRegion NameMetroRent/Month
1Bel AirLos Angeles$10,629
2Pacific PalisadesLos Angeles$7,987
3Beverly GlenLos Angeles$7,667
4BrentwoodLos Angeles$7,403
5Poet's QuarterLos Angeles$7,075
6Jordan Park-Laurel HeightsSan Francisco$7,000
7La GorceMiami-Fort Lauderdale$6,932
8LakeSan Francisco$6,521
9Cow HollowSan Francisco$6,471
10Pacific HeightsSan Francisco$6,380
11RiversideStamford$6,380
12Financial DistrictSan Francisco$6,373
13MarinaSan Francisco$6,362
14Parnassus-AshburySan Francisco$6,196
15Forest HillSan Francisco$5,891
16Berkley/Foxhall CrescentsWashington$5,868
17Kings PointNew York$5,763
18Spring ValleyWashington$5,740
19Eureka Valley-Dolores Heights-CastroSan Francisco$5,665
20ChelseaNew York$5,649
21Noe ValleySan Francisco$5,560
22Hollywood HillsLos Angeles$5,557
23Baywood KnollsSan Francisco$5,531
24Cheviot HillsLos Angeles$5,511
25Russian HillSan Francisco$5,486

Labels:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Streetsblog's fistful of straws

"Historic downturn"?

The hed on Monday's story in Streetsblog: Cities Lead the Way as U.S. Car Commuting Takes Historic Downturn. The writer desperately searched 2013 census data for evidence that Americans are turning away from those wicked motor vehicles:

The decline is small in number, but in the scheme of things, it’s huge: New census data out last week show car commuting among Americans is finally, after decades of growth, starting to reverse itself.

Driving to work is still the predominant mode to a depressing extent. Almost nine in 10 Americans get to work by car and about three in four drive alone. But those numbers are beginning to fall.

Since 1960, the percent of Americans driving to work rose from 64 percent to a high of 87.9 percent in 2000. Since then, it has declined slightly but meaningfully to 85.8 percent. The percent of the population commuting by car ticked down again in 2013, the latest year for which numbers are available.

Even solo car commuting is down from its high in 2010 of 76.6 percent. Despite a precipitous decline in carpooling, solo car commuting was down to 76.4 percent in 2013, after two decades of rapid growth.

This biased reporting was too much even for Streetsblog's readers. A comment to the story:

Title says this: Cities Lead the Way as U.S. Car Commuting Takes Historic Downturn. Data says the following:

2010 Solo Car Commuting: 76.6 percent.
2013 Solo Car Commuting: 76.4

Where is the historic downturn? 0.02% is a "Historic Downturn"?

The link the story provides to the ACS report has more "depressing" news for Streetsblog: only 0.6% in the US commute on bikes!

From the report:

In recent years, the percentage of workers who commute by private vehicle remained relatively stable after decades of consistent increase. For several individual years since the mid-2000s, the average number of vehicle miles traveled in the United States has either increased at a slower pace than in previous decades or declined.

What happened in "the mid-2000s"? The Great Recession, during which of course people drove less.

Calculated Risk provides more recent data from the Department of Transportation on driving in the US. Not surprisngly, people are driving more as the economy recovers:


Also see Randal O'Toole's Peak Automobile?

Labels: , ,

Smart[sic] Growth comes to Berkeley

Berkeley deserves better than 2211 Harold Way

From Attack of the Stepford Planners in The Berkeley Daily Planet:

by Elisa Cooper

Berkeley is an iconic city because of its bohemian ambiance: people dwell in Berkeley instead of elsewhere because they want to identify as intellectuals, artists, spiritual seekers, social activists, quirky, creative, and diverse. Just as we sought Berkeley to embrace those identities, we are collectively responsible for protecting the city as the place that makes those identities possible. 

For months I have been bewildered as I've watched the City Council and a multitude of commissions ignore, shrug off, and often mock the surge of citizens that have been pleading for them to put an end to the hijacking of the City by the interests of market rate developers and to attend to the need for affordable housing. This experience has become something like those cheesy old 70s horror films like Attack of The Pod People, They Live, and, The Stepford Wives. Has our City government been taken over by pod people? The way they consistently and rather robotically disregard their constituents that literally beg them to make the Market Rate Reign of Terror stop seems like it...

The invasion of the Pod People started in the City planning department. A planner named Mark Rhoades decided "planners set the pace" for the city of Berkeley. The latest "smart growth" philosophies being pushed from the State level as well as academic departments, including UC Berkeley—which has an interest in shifting the student housing burden onto the City—was to build for "density" around transit and eventually supply would meet demand for housing. 

Clever planners could insert themselves into this process and make their own fortunes on the side. The City Planning Department gets paid out of developer fees, so their mission became to plan for as much dense smart growth as possible. Mark Rhoades and fellow city planner Matt Taecker upzoned themselves to start their own development consulting firms. 

Once the Planning Department opened the door to the idea that Berkeley was ready to be "redeveloped," Berkeley's political process became inundated with money from real estate industry lobbyists from all over the country. The local property owners’ association formed a half million dollar PAC. Developers fund the most read local news venue, Berkeleyside, and astroturf the comments section. A couple of paid "youth" get paid to testify to City Council and the Commissions about how we need to destroy Berkeley because somehow that will ultimately result in the youth getting housing...


Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Burning Man: Then and now

Burning Man then:


Burning Man now:



From Thump/Vice:

..."Burning Man is not a festival," [Burning Man CEO Marian] Goodell was early to iterate. "A festival, for many people, now means stages and food vendors and having your comforts more taken care of. We're definitely not interested in providing a typical festival atmosphere."

That statement may be a tougher sell to the much maligned, but now-entrenched upper crusters who glamp amidst luxury and a minimal sense of radicalism that sits starkly against traditional Burner tenets.

"We have watched the change in the type of people that come to Burning Man," Goodell acknowledged. "We're not gonna get in front of certain things and force issues. We are gonna nurture the process so we all get the best results. Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community, and we're the stewards of that process"...

...The more threatening challenges looming above Burning Man come from off the Playa, where both state and federal government agencies press in on both sides. The federally-run Bureau of Land Management has the event locked into an inorganically conservative growth model, inhibiting the population size to 68,000. "That's not something we're doing willingly," commented Goodell.

"The biggest danger facing Burning Man right now is that the State of Nevada has levied an entertainment tax," Goodell stated further. "We still believe that we don't fit under a form of entertainment. Frankly, we're not a Las Vegas show. We're not a car race or a concert in a stadium."

Goodell claims that the Silver State is enforcing a massive 9% entertainment tax on the Burning Man project, crippling revenue flows and long-term sustainability. "We're not able to absorb that," she said, before balefully concluding by saying, "That's the thing right now that makes us look longingly towards Utah or any other state that might not have levied that."

Still, a little bit of danger never hurt anybody, right? That's why 68,000 of the world's dustiest are entering the annual pre-Playa frenzy mode as we speak. This time next week, Venice, CA will be a sleepy beach town and certain parts of San Francisco will enjoy their most parking-friendly weekends of the year as both cities will empty out onto Black Rock City...

Labels:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Heroes in blue take down black cripple



Story on Medium.

Labels:

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Masonic Avenue Derangement Syndrome #2

Michael Helquist: Bike demagogue rides again

For sheer demagoguery, stupidity and misinformation, Friday's story in the Examiner about Masonic Avenue by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez is remarkable (Safety improvements to ‘most dangerous’ SF street languishes in delays)

But when you learn that Rodriquez began his career at the defunct Bay Guardian---where city progressives used to learn the prog party line---you understand his mindset. 

I wrote about Rodriguez last May after an earlier story he wrote on Masonic that also read like a joint press release from the Bicycle Coalition and the MTA.

The demagoguery is about the death of Nils Linke, who was hit by a drunk driver at the Masonic/Turk intersection:     

Petra Linke still remembers when she first taught her son to ride a bike. Blonde haired and slender, 5-year-old Nils Yannick Linke swiftly learned to navigate the streets of Berlin. He didn’t need training wheels, his mother said. She would run next to her son as he pedaled confidently. “He was very fast,” she said, “and he learned very quickly.” Nearly two decades later in 2010, 22-year-old Nils Linke was struck and killed by a drunk driver at Masonic Avenue and Turk Street. The tourist’s death grabbed city headlines. Linke’s candlelight memorial was attended by members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors, neighbors and transit activists. Advocates say his death, and others killed and injured along Masonic Avenue before and after, spurred the SFMTA board to approve the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Improvement ProjectIt aimed to make Masonic Avenue safer for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Linke was killed by a drunk driver at the Masonic/Turk intersection. Even if this project, with its separated bike lanes, had already been completed, nothing could have protected Linke---or anyone else---from being hit by a car in an intersection. And Linke wasn't wearing a helmet, which might have enabled him to survive the accident.

From the Examiner's story on the accident five years ago (German cyclist's death found to be a homicide):

On the night of Aug. 13, Nils Yannick Linke was riding a borrowed bicycle to go to a party at Divisadero and McAllister streets when he was struck from behind. He crashed and died from blunt-force injuries to his head, according to the recently released autopsy. Linke was not wearing a helmet.

That this Masonic Avenue project is essentially a bike project the MTA tries to obscure by calling it a "Streetscape" project, since it includes landscaping and some crappy art near Geary Blvd. (The Polk Street bike project is also called the "Polk Streetscape Project.")

The Masonic Avenue project is all about creating separated bike lanes between Fell Street and Geary Blvd. by removing 167 parking spaces on both sides of Masonic. Those parking lanes are now converted into traffic lanes during morning and evening commute hours. Turning them into permanent bike lanes will surely create more traffic congestion on Masonic Avenue.

More from Rodriguez's press release:

Thursday was the fifth anniversary of Nils Linke’s death, and not one shovel has broken ground on the project. Five years later, the effort to re-engineer one of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets languishes in delays. “It shouldn’t be taking this long,” Supervisor Eric Mar told the San Francisco Examiner. Mar’s district includes part of the project. “Masonic,” he said, “is a deathtrap.” The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition also expressed frustration. “Everything is in place,” said Noah Budnick, the coalition’s executive director. “The neighbors have spoken loud and clear. There’s political support for safety improvements, and the funding is in place. It’s time to get it done.”

Masonic is not in fact a "death trap," since there are few fatalities on the street, especially when you consider that it carries more than 32,000 vehicles a day. Along with Linke's death, a pedestrian was hit and killed by a drunk driver and a pedestrian was killed jaywalking on Masonic in front of Trader Joes, which isn't even in the project area. Supervisor Mar is featured in my analysis of the only serious city study of Masonic Avenue.

Noah Budnick's credibility on cycling and safety is undisputed, since he once had a cycling accident in New York---a solo fall, by the way---that put him in a coma for nine days, but he really knows nothing about Masonic Avenue. As the new head of a special interest group, he of course backs the party line regardless of the facts, like his predecessor, Leah Shahum.

More misinformation from Rodriguez:

The $18 million improvements would completely reshape Masonic Avenue from Geary Boulevard to Fell Street. Instead of six lanes of auto traffic, Masonic Avenue would sport only four, accompanied by pedestrian bulb-outs, cycle tracks, landscaped medians and more than a hundred new trees.

In fact Masonic now has only four lanes of traffic, except during commute hours, when one of the parking lanes is turned into an extra traffic lane. The rest of the time there are only four lanes. Rodriguez of course adopts the MTA's terminology: everything the city does to our streets is an "improvement"!

Rodriguez caps his story by citing bike demagogue Michael Helquist:

Michael Helquist, from the group BIKE NOPA (North of the Panhandle), long advocated for Masonic safety. He was a member of a similar group, FIX Masonic, which presented former SFMTA-head Nathaniel Ford with 500 neighbor signatures for Masonic Avenue improvements in 2008. “Linke’s death helped spur The City to move forward with the Masonic project,” Helquist said.

There was/is no petition with 500 signatures. At least we've never been able to find a single copy of it.

And Fix Masonic was never anything but a Bicycle Coalition front group, part of a long campaign of lies about Masonic by the coalition and people like Helquist.

There is, however, a petition against the Masonic bike project circulated by Save Masonic that now has 1,314 signatures, but that reality doesn't fit the Rodriguez/MTA/Bicycle Coalition party line on Masonic Avenue.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Planning Commission will vote Tuesday 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 

PUBLIC COMMENT ON DRAFT SUPPLEMENTAL EIR 

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.

Labels: , , , ,