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One Oak vote could set precedent for ride-hail data in planning decisions

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The Board of Supervisors will vote today on whether to factor Uber and Lyft data into their analysis of the traffic impacts of the 40-story One Oak development at Oak Street and Van Ness Avenue. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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Whether city planners will start factoring in data on Uber and Lyft vehicles when analyzing the traffic impacts of a development could be determined today at the Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors could set a precedent with their vote on an appeal of the proposed luxury skyscraper at Oak Street and Van Ness Avenue. Critics argue the intersection could turn into a traffic nightmare because a city analysis of the project left out data on ride-hail vehicles.

The so-called One Oak project cleared the Planning Commission on June 16 despite traffic and parking concerns from neighbors. The 40-story tower is slated to include 304 condos and 136 parking spaces — a larger housing-to-parking ratio than outlined in the Market and Octavia Plan for the neighborhood.

Jason Henderson, a San Francisco State University professor who studies urban mobility, filed the appeal of the project’s environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Henderson said he is concerned that the project will turn the project area into a “Valencia Street on steroids,” with Uber and Lyft vehicles blocking bicycle lanes.

“This is an appropriate site for high-density residential development, so that’s not the question,”
Henderson said. “This is a transit-oriented, bikeable and walkable location, and that is what should be emphasized, and that is not what is being emphasized.”

Henderson argued that the environmental review is inadequate because, among other reasons, it failed to include any consideration of the potential Uber and Lyft trips that a luxury building could bring to the transit-rich neighborhood.

However, city planners argue that there is a lack of data on ride-hailing trips in San Francisco and they are not allowed to speculate in environmental reviews under CEQA.

In a July 17 letter to the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Department said that “many details regarding how these companies fit into the larger transportation picture in San Francisco remain unclear due to lack of data, mainly because Uber and Lyft, both private companies, generally choose not to disclose specifics of their business models unless compelled to do so.”

The Planning Department does acknowledge that Uber and Lyft use has about doubled in San Francisco since 2015.

The San Francisco Examiner reported in June that Uber and Lyft account for 15 percent of all vehicle trips in The City. Furthermore, city data shows there were 45,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in San Francisco as of 2016.

“All you have to do is look at the windshields of the cars and you see U’s and pink moustaches,” Henderson said. “It’s having a huge impact, and we have evidence that it’s having
an impact.”

Henderson said that the project might include a taxi stand for Uber and Lyft pick-ups if city planners considered the ride-hail data.

“You create a taxi stand, not on Market and not on Van Ness,” Henderson said. “And if you really insist that you have to have an Uber to get to the Mission, this is where you get it.”

“You might have to walk a block or two,” he said.

Mary Murphy, an attorney for the project owner, reiterated the Planning Department’s position in an Aug. 25 letter urging the supervisors to reject the appeal.

“The appeal attacks the project’s [environmental impact report] by taking issue primarily with The City’s wind and transportation methodologies,” Murphy wrote. “These are not unique to the analysis before this board in this EIR, rather, they are employed by The City in all its environmental review documents.”

The Board of Supervisors will also consider today the wind and delivery impacts raised in the appeal.

 

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that as of June, Uber and Lyft accounted for 15 percent of all vehicle trips in The City.

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