Bike Plan challenger stays course despite legal costs

Despite being on the hook for more than $50,000 in administrative costs, local blogger Rob Anderson continues to fight a costly legal battle with The City over its plan to expand San Francisco’s bicycling network.

In 2005, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency came up with its Bike Plan, an ambitious proposal to add more than 30 miles of dedicated cycling lanes to city streets. However, Anderson sued under the California Environmental Equality Act, successfully arguing that The City needed to conduct an environmental impact report before implementing the plan.

While The City carried out various environmental studies, a four-year injunction against any bike-related improvements was imposed. In August, the injunction was finally lifted unconditionally by Superior Court Judge Peter Busch.

Although many advocates thought that was the end of the ordeal, Anderson filed an appeal of Busch’s ruling in October, extending the legal battle for what will likely be another nine months, according to Matt Dorsey, spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office.

So far, the City Attorney’s Office has paid Anderson’s attorney $406,000 in legal fees (required as part of the environmental act) and has incurred roughly the same costs itself,  Dorsey said.

In September, the City Attorney’s Office billed Anderson to recoup $51,959 in administration costs, which entail document preparation and employee payments.

Anderson, who lives on monthly Social Security payments, said there is no way he can afford the large sum billed to him by the city attorney. He said the bill was meant to intimidate him into dropping his legal challenge, something he has no intention of doing.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable to bully people away from their legal rights,” Anderson said. “What if this was a case of a neighborhood group fighting some big development plan? Would they want to stick their neck out now?”

Anderson and the City Attorney’s Office will trade off opening briefs in the appeals case before a hearing date is set for an oral argument. Within 90 days of the oral argument, an opinion will be issued. Dorsey said his office expects the process to take about nine months.

During the appeals process, the SFMTA will be able to continue implementing changes outlined in the Bike Plan.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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