Tuesday, February 5, 2013

There’s a better way than CEQA: Urban Planner’s Perspective

January 31, 2013 by Justin Ewers

For Gabriel Metcalf, the perverse--and unintended--consequences of the California Environmental Quality Act can be summed up in five words: the San Francisco Bike Plan.

After years of work in San Francisco to encourage the city's environmentally-conscious residents to ride bikes instead of using their cars, the city approved a citywide plan in 2005 to do just that, only to find itself tangled up in a CEQA challenge that seemed to turn the law on its head.

The suit, filed by a group called Coalition for Adequate Review (that's right, "CAR"), didn't target the bike plan's actual impact on the environment--bikes don't really have one, after all--but instead made a procedural argument that the city's proposed bike lanes had not received sufficient review under CEQA. The group's motives remain unclear, though the man behind the suit has compared cyclists to "Islamic fanatics."

A court injunction ultimately forced the city to spend three years and over $1 million to conduct the review, which resulted in a 1,353-page Environmental Impact Report--and still has San Francisco's sustainable development community fuming.

"We were not allowed to add a bike rack in San Francisco for three years while we studied the negative environmental impacts of a bike lane," says Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), a group that promotes long-term planning and sustainable infill development. "The goal was to take away space for cars and convert it to transit and bikes. That's an environmental positive, but not according to CEQA."


Posted by Steve Sinai


Anonymous said...

HaHa. Two can play the same game. You Reap What You Sow.

Kathy Meeh said...

Aside from the CEQA delays (including lawsuits), this is an interesting article post for sure. On one hand, bicycle travel in a crowded city (San Francisco) is an alternative to vehicles. On the other hand, there are the safety and air quality issues for the bicyclists.

FMV (without scientific evidence), the air quality in downtown San Francisco seems quite polluted, due to existing vehicle congestion.