July 12, 2007 Special Meeting
Special Meeting Minutes
Commission Chambers - Room 416
City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
Thursday, July 12, 2007
COMMISSIONERS PRESENT: Olague, Antonini, S. Lee, W. Lee, Moore and Sugaya.
COMMISSIONER ABSENT: Alexander
THE MEETING WAS CALLED TO ORDER BY VICE-PRESIDENT OLAGUE AT 10:10 A.M.
STAFF IN ATTENDANCE: Dean Macris – Director of Planning, Amit Ghosh – Chief Planner, Bill Wycko, Linda Avery – Commission Secretary.
( Tape IA ; IB) (B. WYCKO (415) 575-9048)
LEVEL OF SERVICE - Department staff will present the methodology currently in use to determine Level of Service impacts under CEQA.
Rachel Hyatt, Senior Planner with the Transportation Authority
- As it was said, The Authority Board was the one who requested our examination and alternative to auto LOS [Level of Service].
- We produced a report that was approved in December, 2003 recommending a number of steps for the continuation of this working group.
- The SIR concluded that the current way of measuring transportation impacts under CEQA was un-predictable for project sponsors and Planning Department as well as not consistent with our transit policies.
- However; we can, as a local and lead agency, define for ourselves how to measure transportation impacts in San Francisco. The State Guidelines allow local agencies to do so.
- The Transit First Policy, especially number three, emphasizes that decisions regarding the use of our limited street right of way should emphasize movement by transit, bicycle and pedestrians.
- This policy acknowledges that in San Francisco, because we have limited street capacities, we are limited in the ability to widen our roads and some congestion is going to result by our efforts to implement the Transit First Policy and improve the transit pedestrian and transit networks.
- The policy recognizes this and as we build up the transit bicycle and pedestrian network, there would be traveling shifting to those modes.
- Unfortunately because the other modes are not built up yet, the network right of way is constrained.
- There are trade offs required - when we are improving those networks would result in some temporary car congestion.
- Unfortunately that is what we have defined in practice as the major negative impact to the transportation system. The point is that our practice is in conflict with our policy.
- The next generation of multi-model transportation improvements would require reallocating the right of way from mixed plot traffic to pedestrian, bicycle and transit use.
- CEQA [California Environment Quality Act] transportation impact standards should reflect the City's transit first approach to the transportation environment.
- We have recommended replacing the level of service that connects to a major congestion with major based auto trips generated by a project.
- The study that we are undertaking right now has main tasks within in it.
- First, we did some research on how other California jurisdictions set their threshold of significance not only on the transportation impacts but other areas as well.
- We are continuing to coordinate with various City departments as well as the City Attorney.
- Next task is to define what these auto trip generations are conceptually and in quantity.
- There are a number of ways to do this. We are using some projects and making a recommendation on the road map for adopting this.
- The key about the significance threshold is to measure the impacts on substantial evidence.
- Because of this emphasis, we put a lot of work into identifying the quantitative relationships between auto trips and their negative affects on the transportation environment.
- We need to identify the significance of the threshold.
Dr. Rashid Batia, Medical Director for Occupational and Environmental Health
- We have been working on the issue of transportation impacts and the relationship to environmental health impacts for about four years.
- Other than our interest in preventing avoidable environmental health and justice outcomes in San Francisco, the role we play is producing, reviewing and helping on the evidence part.
- We are the experts on environmental health impacts and we have produced evidence relevant to this topic and hope it would be useful in helping make the case and make our new policies legally defensible.
- From our perspectives, transportation has a number of impacts.
- Some are obvious like the cost of building facilities to provide accessibility to jobs.
- Auto dependent transportation systems increase the lack of physical activity.
- San Francisco spends $192 million a year on health cost due to obesity. This is very significant from an economic perspective.
- Transportation impacts have to do also with effects on air quality and therefore asthma and other respiratory diseases.
- Other impacts are injuries and environmental noise creating sleep disturbances and difficulties concentrating and global warming.
- All these four are adverse effects related to vehicle volume and trips.
- We have been doing research that helps demonstrate that vehicle volume is the fundamental cause of environmental health in San Francisco.
- There are very specific issues: we developed street level models of traffic air pollution; we used satellite images of streets proving that traffic causes noise and pedestrian injury pollution.
- We know that volume of cars on the street will increase the chance of being hit by a car.
- The amount of cars on the street vary from area to area in the City and it is one of the most important determinates of hazard to pedestrians.
- Auto LOS does not measure any environmental impacts. It measures the way and the social inconvenience.
- Historically, there has been this idea that when cars delay they create more pollution. In fact, the pollution does not really accumulate very much. We should measure the air pollution and not the delay.
- There is a lot of environmental issues sustainable in healthy transportation options and they are in a conflict.
- Mitigating auto LOS by allowing more cars to be on the streets actually causes more environmental harms.
- What is the point of transportation? It is about getting to places when you need to be there.
- The measure should be about how easy you need to get where you need to go and not on speed or cars.
- If we want to make people stop driving, we need to make it [driving] a little bit more painful.
David Borch, Principal Environmental Planner
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District
- LOS measures quality guidelines for CEQA only in a context of analyzing potential impacts of localized carbon monoxide concentrations.
- Fro purpose of analyzing CO concentration, we define a significant impact as one that creates or substantially contributes to or exceeds the State carbon monoxide standards.
- We want to make sure that we do not have any localized ascendance.
- The best way to analyze potential emission impacts of a project would be to conduct air quality modeling.
- We have identified several metrics that they can use to determine whether a modeling would be required or not.
- If a project would increase seal emission by 550 pounds per day, or increase traffic on the local roadways more than 10 percent, or would affect a segment with a current level of service DERF, or would deteriorate the current DERF level; these are the situations that might trigger the need for additional analysis.
- LOS is not a CEQA air quality threshold in or of itself. It is simply one of several tools to help planning decide whether additional analysis would be warranted in general situations.
- In general, we are concerned about admission levels and not about traffic volume.
- From our perspective, LOS is a paradigm based on the mind set that motor vehicles represent the best and highest form of transportation.
- Reducing vehicle traffic, producing criteria pollution, reducing green house gasses, and creating vibrant communities; are critical to our goals.
Dr. Terence Faulkner
- I found the hearing interesting and there are other facts involved.
- We have asbestos in the air that is to a certain extent by nature.
- Some of the things could be substituted a bit. Some companies could make deliveries by truck at night and it could be done in many of our industrial areas in San Francisco. I am inclined to look more into the public interest.
Robert Pender, President of Park Merced Residents Organization
- Our Board of Directors approved that The Planning Commission write up some new rules and regulations.
- We think the process has been ineffective and antiquated. It does not do the work needed.
Daniel Phillips, Vice President of Park Merced Residents Organization
- What I am seeing with LOS is a logical extension of what we have experienced in our neighborhood.
- The infrastructure was not in place before the growth began.
- When we reinvestigate this and look into curtailing what is done in the name of progress, we would have a better chance if we put the bus system in place ahead of the traffic.
- We would have then a less auto centered society.
- I am one of the parties in the litigation against the bicycle plan for the City. LOS reform is part of the bicycle plan and presumably will be part of the EIR.
- Taking away lanes on the roads will take out spaces for cars as well as for MUNI. This would deliberately make traffic worse in the City.
- There are 450,000 owned motor vehicles registered in San Francisco.
- Four and a half million people per year visit San Francisco and they stay in hotels. 25 percent of those people rent automobiles.
- If you make traffic more difficult for autos, it would be made more difficult for everybody. The first principal should be to not harm.
- The public ramp and plazas that we admired in European cities did not just happen. They were saved from traffic engineering in the end of the 19th century.
- Public plazas only work well when they are contiguous to retails, restaurants and pedestrian uses.
- During this discussion, there was no mention of public space as a social destination.
- I worked with the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association on the improvements for their plan on Hayes Green and we requested that the east side of Octavia be closed to traffic.
- There is an assumption that open spaces are to move through rather than to be in.
- This is the closest presentation reflecting what reality is about the noise and pollution affecting people.
- We should take into consideration the pedestrians and bicycle modes rather then driving cars.
- We should also think about the inhabitants of the City. MUNI has not thought about the people.
- We need to strengthen the gap between the reality of the City and the projects being built here.
Leah Shaluim, Executive Director San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
- We have made a big step by being here together and having this conversation.
- We are learning some important things. This is something that definitely affects many departments.
- The three major points that I heard today is that LOS is not an air quality indicator, it is a tool. My request is to look at better tools. Let us work together to find them.
- Auto level of service does not measure auto impacts but delays. We are actually having an adverse affect of what we are trying to do.
- When we mitigate level of service, we are putting more cars on the street causing more environmental impacts.
- Finally, the level of service is neither predictable nor transparent. What is efficient for staff to be doing? What is important in my mind is not consistent with transit first.
Andy Thornley, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
- San Francisco is advised by State law to conduct environmental review on projects to issue permits. Is our current use of level of service authentic or meaningful?
- The Board of Supervisors determined a year ago that probably not and that this Commission should have to have the conversation on alternatives.
- If we want to bring better transit to the West side, it is going to be an LOS issue.
- CEQA makes a very strong recommendation that a locality analyze transportation impacts on traffic, which is more than auto traffic, pedestrians, bicycles, carts, stocks and so forth.
- LOS is a very poor analyzing tool for auto environmental impacts.
Betty Biles, Park Merced Residents Organization
- Some consideration is needed to be made for seniors on how seniors get around.
- It is not easy. Some services are not really close to their neighborhood.
- Take a look at the density of our neighborhood and the importance of rental developments for seniors.
Maureen Gaffney, Association of Bay Area Governments
- Thanked San Francisco for taking the lead in this very important topic.
- We have seen many bay trail projects stalled or never get off due to the cost and complexities of the CEQA process.
- Several pedestrians and bicycle projects along the trail have been caught in what we call the LOS trap, whereby multi-use trails or bike lanes are usually considered an environmental benefit.
- This means that more study needs to be done that cost more and are time consuming.
- Your work on LOS in San Francisco will help the Bay Trail build the next 200 miles in the nine region counties and complete it.
- The possibility of modifying the old LOS is great when you envision a city like Tucson or Phoenix with their six lane boulevards and streets. But this is San Francisco.
- My wife and I live in Russian Hill and we go everywhere by bicycles and it can be done easily.
- We need to improve our municipal transportation system.
Dave Snyder, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research
- We really need to change the interpretation of the CEQA requirements.
- Thinking of the idea that a project does not get to the permit level because city government employees think that it is time consuming to process an EIR is deathly chilling.
- In terms of process - I encourage you to really make this happen. There should be a deadline to have a hearing and really change the CEQA guidelines.
Bruce Allison, Political Director of Seniors Organizing Seniors
- At Atlanta I saw a new form of transportation - a race street car.
- It could work here in San Francisco and it would help people to get out and not ruin traffic on the streets.
- Everything that you are doing today is expressing our values to our young people and that is very much foremost in my mind.
- San Francisco has a big commitment for social justice and has shown overwhelming opposition to wars over oil. This is a safe place to express that.
- We have also shown a commitment to reduce green house gasses and our impact on global warming.
- This is the first step. Cars are not the only way to transit. They are not available to everyone and it is just not feasible for a city of this size.
- In terms of the war, we are going to continue war until we have broken our addiction to it.
- I have seen too many EIR's where you counted car trips generated based on the space.
- The experts on congestion and trip generation are Caltrain.
- Parking is the cause of traffic congestion. When we have congestion, people will look for other alternatives.
- We are on the right track and I support it. I hope it is going to be strong enough to really help the BART.
- I think that this topic of looking at possible alternatives to the level of services would really go along with helping the city implement the Transit First Policy.
- I urge the commission to continue and take action on the subject.
- Bicycles would cause more inconvenience than outside pollution.
- These are the things that have been planned with the action of the wind that has combustion because of the knowledge that exists on this model.
- This has been a very long and strange trip.
- We started with the Bike Advisory Committee in 2002. There is broad support for this.
- It is very critical to know that if CEQA were implemented today, LOS would not be an acceptable standard to evaluate significant impacts. Since it is not defensible, it needs to be changed.
- Auto trip generations are very complex. That is not a solution.
- With some studies on Valencia or Market Street, we could demonstrate that creating more bike lanes would reduce auto traffic.
- It has not been said here that there are other impacts besides moving the auto lanes.
- In the South of Market on 9th and 10th and Howard Streets, there are double turn lanes.
ACTION: None. Informational only.
Adjournment: 12:08 P.M.
THESE MINUTES WRE PROPOSED FOR ADOPTION AT THE REGULAR MEETING OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION ON THURSDAY, July 26, 2007.
AYES: Olague, Antonini, S. Lee, W. Lee, Moor and Sugaya.
NOTE: Per Section 67.18 of the Administrative Code for the City and County of San Francisco, Commission minutes contain a description of the item before the Commission for discussion/consideration; a list of the public speakers with names if given, and a summary of their comments including an indication of whether they are in favor of or against the matter; and any action the Commission takes. The minutes are not the official record of a Commission hearing. The audiotape is the official record. Copies of the audiotape may be obtained by calling the Commission office at (415) 558-6415. For those with access to a computer and/or the Internet, Commission hearings are available at www.sfgov.org. Under the heading Explore, the category Government, and the City Resources section, click on SFGTV, then Video on Demand. You may select the hearing date you want and the item of your choice for a replay of the hearing.