Should San Francisco prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on its new commuter-bus policy (see April, page 7)? The Sierra Club thinks so, and so did the folks who filed an appeal of the Planning Department’s decision not to prepare an EIR, but on April 1 the Board of Supervisors rejected the appeal.
The Planning Department gave the project a Class Six “categorical exemption” from the requirement to do an EIR. “Class Six is a very limited exemption for data collection,” argued Richard Drury, attorney for the appellants. “Experimental management goes far beyond mere data collection, as does changing the law to make [the pilot] legal. [The administrators of the pilot] even admit to moving stops. That’s not mere data collection.”
The appellants’ attorney introduced evidence from the San Francisco budget and legislative analyst’s office that the private commuter buses may have impacts on infrastructure, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and socioeconomic displacement. He also introduced written testimony from a professional traffic engineer who claims there is a fair argument–a standard under the California Environmental Quality Act for requiring an Environmental Impact Report–that the Commuter Shuttle Policy and Pilot Program “may have adverse and significant environmental impacts.”
In addition, the California vehicle code prohibits any but common carriers from stopping in bus zones. “Does the city have the authority to tell shuttle operators that they don’t have to comply with the law?” Supervisor David Campos asked city attorneys repeatedly.
Other supervisors expressed concern about the impact of upholding the appeal on Vision Zero (see April Yodeler, page 7), a statement of purpose adopted by the Municipal Transportation Agency to improve street safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
In the end, only Supervisors Campos and John Avalos voted to uphold the appeal.
The appellants have 30 days from the rejection of the appeal to sue. It is not known if they will do so.
Sue Vaughan, chair, Sierra Club San Francisco Group