Completion of environmental review, growing accident rate justify dissolution of 3-year-old stay on bike lane improvements, City argues
SAN FRANCISCO (Aug. 28, 2009) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed a motion to dissolve the three-year-old court ordered stay that has prohibited the City from implementing the improvements envisioned in the San Francisco Bicycle Plan until after potential environmental effects were fully evaluated in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. The motion filed with San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch this afternoon follows an exhaustive environmental review and approval process that culminated in a 2,200 page environmental impact report, or EIR, which was recently certified by the City’s Planning Commission, and affirmed by the Board of Supervisors on appeal. In addition, the Municipal Transportation Authority, the Board and Mayor Gavin Newsom approved accompanying plans, findings, and amendments to the City’s Planning Code and General Plan in accordance with CEQA to enable the bicycle safety improvements to proceed. Herrera’s motion argues that the completion of the environmental review underlying the original injunction, together with the growing number of bicycle-related injury accidents in San Francisco, justify dissolving the injunction. The dissolution would allow the City to move forward with the implementation of 45 separate bicycle route improvements that are intended to enhance the safety and usability of City streets for the bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists who make use of them.
“After years of environmental review and public participation, the San Francisco Bicycle Plan reflects an unprecedented consensus to create a City that is safer, healthier and more environmentally responsible,” Herrera said. “Even amidst disagreements over the scope of the law’s requirements, Judge Busch has demonstrated sound judgment in recognizing our duty as City officials to protect public safety, and to fulfill our citizens’ vision for a better community. I am confident that the exhaustive process we’ve now completed will finally enable us to move forward, and I’m very grateful to the many dedicated public servants from the Municipal Transportation Agency, the Planning Department, the Board of Supervisors, and Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office for their hard work and commitment to improve health and safety for all San Franciscans.”
The 15-inch-thick filing — which includes thousands of pages of accompanying documentation, including the final EIR, legal pleadings, declarations, and approximately two dozen exhibits — marks an important milestone in a lengthy and procedurally complex process in which San Francisco has sought to enact improvements to its bicycle route network. The following is a timeline of significant events: BIKE PLAN LITIGATION TIMELINE
- Feb. 3, 2005: S.F. Planning Dept. reviews 2005 Bicycle Plan, adopts General Plan amendments, finding that the amendments would have no significant impact on the environment under CEQA.
- June 21, 2005: S.F. Board of Supervisors amends the City’s General Plan to incorporate the Department of Parking and Traffic’s Bicycle Plan Policy Framework.
- July 28, 2005: A legal challenge is initiated by two unincorporated associations opposed to bicycle-friendly policies — the “Coalition for Adequate Review,” or CAR, and “Ninety-Nine Percent” — and local blogger and perennial political candidate Rob Anderson. Together, the petitioners argue that the City should have first prepared an environmental impact report evaluating the Bicycle Plan.
- June 20, 2006: Judge James L. Warren grants petitioners’ request for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the City from implementing projects contained in the Bicycle Plan, finding that they would likely prevail in their argument that the City was required to prepare an EIR for the plan.
- August 2006: Municipal Transportation Authority (the successor agency to DPT) conducts a count of the number of bicyclists at 35 locations throughout the City, generally between 5:00 and 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 19, 2006: A hearing on the merits of CAR v. CCSF is held before Judge Peter J. Busch on the petitioners’ Petition for Writ of Mandate to compel the City to conduct environmental review.
- June 5, 2007: Planning Dept. issues a Notice of Preparation of an environmental impact report to analyze key components of the Bicycle Plan.
- June 18, 2007: Judge Busch issues a Peremptory Writ of Mandate ordering the City to conduct environmental review on the Bicycle Plan, continuing in effect the June 2006 injunction pending completion of environmental review.
- June 26, 2007: Planning Dept. holds a public meeting to solicit comments on what should be included in the scope of the Bicycle Plan EIR, accepting written comments on the scope through July 6, 2007.
- August 2007: MTA conducts another count of bicyclists at the same 35 locations and times surveyed a year earlier. The counts demonstrate a 15 percent increase in bicycle traffic over August 2006.
- March 15, 2008: Planning Dept. publishes an Initial Study (a preliminary analysis to identify significant environmental effects to be analyzed in an EIR). In this study, Planning Dept. narrows the range of impacts to be studied to those relating to traffic and circulation, traffic-related noise, and air quality.
- March 28, 2008: City Attorney Herrera petitions Court for modification of the injunction to allow for safety improvements to the intersection of Fell Street and Masonic Avenue.
- April 29, 2008: Judge Busch grants Herrera’s motion to modify the injunction in part, allowing for safety improvements to intersection of Fell and Masonic.
- August 2008: MTA conducts another count of bicyclists at the same 35 locations and times surveyed a year earlier. The counts demonstrate a 24 percent increase in bicycle traffic over August 2007.
- Nov. 26, 2008: Planning Dept. publishes Draft EIR, mailing notice of its availability to more than 1,400 individuals and organizations.
- Jan. 8, 2009: Planning Commission holds a public hearing on the Draft EIR to obtain oral comments. Only one person speaks at the hearing, in support of the draft.
- Jan. 13, 2009: The official period for submission of written public comments on the Draft EIR concludes, allowing slightly longer than the statutorily required 45-day comment period.
- June 11, 2009: Planning Dept. publishes its response to public comments on the Draft EIR, including those received after the official comment period had ended.
- June 25, 2009: Planning Commission certifies the EIR as accurate, adequate and in compliance with CEQA; recommends that the Board of Supervisors approve ordinances amending the General Plan and Planning Code. The Commission also adopts a statement of overriding considerations that the plan’s benefits outweigh unavoidable impacts to traffic, transit and loading.
- June 26, 2009: MTA Board of Directors adopts 2009 Bicycle Plan, together with a resolution approving traffic changes necessary to implement 45 of 60 proposed near-term improvements. It also adopts a statement of overriding considerations.
- July 15, 2009: Petitioners appeal the Planning Commission’s certification of the EIR to the Board of Supervisors.
- Aug. 4, 2009: Board of Supervisors hears Petitioners’ appeal of Planning’s certification of the EIR, and votes to deny the appeal.
- Aug. 11, 2009: Board of Supervisors adopts ordinances rescinding approval of the 2005 Bicycle Plan and amending the Planning Code and the General Plan, and makes other findings required by CEQA, including a statement of overriding considerations.
- Aug. 12, 2009: Mayor Newsom signs the ordinances.
- Aug. 14, 2009: Planning issues a Notice of Determination, reflecting the completion of the CEQA process that supports the City’s adoption of the Bicycle Plan.
- Aug. 28, 2009: City Attorney Herrera files motion to dissolve injunction.
The case is: Coalition for Adequate Review et al. v. City and County of San Francisco, San Francisco Superior Court No. 505-509, filed July 28, 2005.
- PDF of the Motion to Lift the Bike Plan Injunction Presskit, which includes the City’s MPA and motion (Aug. 28, 2009)