(Mike Koozmin/2014 S.F. Examiner)

Motion to throw out ‘Google Bus’ lawsuit denied, suit moves forward

A motion to throw out a lawsuit challenging The City’s legalization of private commuter shuttles was dismissed this week.

The shuttles, commonly known in San Francisco as “Google Buses,” were challenged under an environmental review by the “Coalition for Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit.” An attorney for tech company Genentech, a company which uses the shuttles, asked Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong to dismiss the case.

At the environmental hearing in November, Genentech attorney Christopher Carr argued the litigants failed to provide evidence they had legal standing to file suit.

“Cleanly, mechanically, there’s just a failure of proof here, your honor,” he said.

In a motion dated Monday, Dec. 14, Judge Wong denied the motion to dismiss. The order didn’t detail a rationale, merely stating “The Motion for Judgment is DENIED (sic).”

Wong then directed the litigants and defendants to file arguments no later than Jan. 22.

The City Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

The city and county of San Francisco, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Google, Yahoo and other tech companies which use private shuttles are defendants in the case, which was brought by private citizens Sara Shortt, Sue Vaughan, the SEIU Local 1021 and other parties for the Coalition of Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit.

To read the motion by Judge Garrett L. Wong, click here.

The coalition argues The City of San Francisco bypassed legally required studies, which may reveal health risks from the diesel shuttles to neighborhoods, pavement stress impacts, as well as displacement of long term residents due to rising rents around shuttle stops.

The coalition also argued the commuter shuttle program violated state vehicle code by allowing private shuttles to use public Muni bus stops.

Rebecca Davis, an attorney for the coalition, told the Examiner, “the defendants attempted a last minute ‘gotcha’ kind of motion,” which ultimately failed.

She feels the coalition has a strong case, and said “It seems the judge was asking the right questions, not only of us but of the defendants. He’s asking for both sides to submit proposed rulings. I think this is a great sign.”

The commuter shuttle pilot program went to court mid-November, and was approved for permanency by the SFMTA the same month.

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