KPBS: Lawsuit Challenges Plan For Bike Lanes On North Park Thoroughfare

August 14 – KPBS – Andrew Bowen reports – A group of North Park residents and businesses is suing the city of San Diego over its plan to add protected bike lanes to one of the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares.

The group, which calls itself Save 30th Street Parking, claims the city’s public outreach on the bike lanes failed to meet standards required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“You need to follow your plans, you need to follow environmental reviews,” Craig Sherman, an attorney hired by the group, said at a news conference Tuesday. “And that’s what this is about, that these projects need to be done in the open.”

Sherman added that the North Park Community Plan does not identify 30th Street for a dedicated bike lane.

Despite these claims, the lawsuit appears to be a longshot. Though there is not a dedicated bike lane on 30th Street in the community plan, the document does call on the city to reconfigure streets to provide “a continuous network of safe, convenient, and attractive bicycle facilities, where feasible.” It later states that street resurfacing projects, like one planned for 30th Street, shall include “additional bicycle and pedestrian improvements.”

The state’s Office of Planning and Research also recently updated its CEQA guidelines, stating the addition of bike lanes on existing roads is categorically exempt from the law.

Sherman told reporters he would email out a copy of the complaint filed in San Diego Superior Court, but had not done so as of Wednesday morning.

Sophie Wolfram, director of programs for the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, said the lawsuit is baseless.

“It’s unfortunate because we know that we need a connected network of protected lanes to meet our city’s climate goals,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate to see this small group come out so vocally to attempt to scuttle that project.”

The idea for adding some type of bike lane to 30th Street has been discussed for several years. It became a higher priority in the fall of 2018 as cyclists urged the city to add bike lanes after the street is resurfaced following a pipeline replacement project.

In January, city traffic engineers decided bike lanes were feasible on 30th Street, but that they would require the removal of on-street parking. Officials then presented design options at 11 meetings of community groups in March, April and May.

The volunteer North Park Planning Committee voted to support a design that would remove all on-street parking on 30th Street and replace it with a bike lane separated from traffic by a buffer zone and plastic poles. The bike lane would be wide enough to accommodate slower cyclists and allow passing.

North Park Main Street, a group that represents neighborhood businesses, voted to support a second option, which would retain some on-street parking, eliminate a center turn lane and create a narrower bike lane protected by a line of parked cars.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer ultimately directed staff to implement the first option, saying in a memo: “Reducing our reliance on cars by bringing new mobility choices into our neighborhoods is critical to meeting the city’s Climate Action Plan and Vision Zero goals.”

The city’s climate goals include increasing the share of bike commuters in the city’s “transit-priority areas” to 6% by 2020, and to 18% by 2035. City leaders have also pledged to eliminate all traffic deaths on city streets by 2025, in part by creating safer bike facilities.

Environmental groups and cyclists in California have long complained that CEQA, the state’s environmental quality law, is often used to kill or delay projects that would actually benefit the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In response to that criticism, state lawmakers voted in 2013 to amend CEQA and declare that slower automobile traffic and parking loss were no longer “significant” impacts and could not be used to challenge a project’s approval under the law.

Read the full article here.