Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerA private shuttle sits near Howard and 10th streets in SOMA.

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerA private shuttle sits near Howard and 10th streets in SOMA.

City Attorney’s office tries to stall Google Bus trial hearing

Petitioners of a lawsuit against San Francisco’s commuter shuttle pilot program last week challenged a motion by the City Attorney’s Office to have more time to respond to the suit.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency created the pilot program last year to study the impact of the so-called Google Buses, private shuttles that transport tech workers to campuses around the region. The buses have attracted ire in San Francisco as symbols of tech-industry gentrification.

The Coalition for Fair Legal and Environmental Transit filed suit last year against Google, Apple, shuttle providers and The City to stall the program, alleging they failed to study impacts of exhaust in the air and stress on the asphalt. They also argue rents skyrocket near the shuttle stops, displacing people with the luck of living near them.

Last Wednesday’s filing came as Superior Court Judge Garrett L. Wong was on vacation. The trial is set for June, but the City Attorney’s Office pressed for a key pre-trial hearing on March 27 to be pushed back.

Wong will hear arguments Monday for rescheduling the hearing.

The effort to delay the hearing coincides with a State Assembly committee hearing on AB61, a bill which would legalize aspects of the commuter shuttle pilot program statewide. Approval by the committee may add legitimacy to the city attorney’s arguments that the pilot program is allowable, some insiders said.

“This is reading a bit too much into the timeline of how a case moves forward,” spokesperson Matt Dorsey said. “The city is confident in its legal position.”

But others contend the bill’s language may in fact aid the petitioners’ case since it acknowledges that aspects of the shuttle pilot program are illegal.

Deputy City Attorney Audrey Williams Pearson explained that The City is arguing that the petitioners’ argument is incomplete and needs to be rewritten.

“In law school, they tell us it’s a pleading that says, ‘So what?’” she told the Examiner. “We filed a ‘so what?’”

The petitioners accused the City Attorney’s Office of trying to stall the clock on the trial.

“The commuter shuttle program is illegal,” said Cynthia Crews, a petitioner in the lawsuit. “The City Attorney’s pattern of delay and procedural roadblocks only shows they know they are not on solid legal ground.”

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