Dangerous road’s future awaits vote

A double-fine zone for serious traffic infractions along 19th Avenue is admittedly no cure-all. But in attempting to reduce the carnage on western San Francisco’s notorious deathtrap thoroughfare — which is under state control as part of Highway 1 — only a multipronged approach could possibly work. In late July, The Examiner warned that pending legislation to impose a double-fine zone on deadly state Route 12 in the North Bay would also permanently bar 19th Avenue from ever getting its own double-fine zone.

We strongly supported state Sen. Leland Yee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in actively opposing Assembly Bill 112 — unless Vacaville lawmaker Lois Wolk amended it to include 19th Avenue. The ensuing struggle is a casebook example of the Sacramento minefield awaiting even the most sensible legislation.

Wolk flatly refused to expand AB 112, claiming that Caltrans demands limited criteria and would not support a wider bill. And since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger already vetoed two prior Yee bills to make 19th Avenue a double-fine zone — saying he disapproves of local exemptions to state policies — Caltrans support was vital.

This stalemate held until last week, when Yee obtained a conference with representatives of Caltrans and the Governor’s Office. Wolk couldn’t attend, but sent an allied legislator instead. The meeting hammered out a compromise acceptable to all present. The amended bill would direct Caltrans to write a statewide policy for double-fine zones covering 19th Avenue.

With only hours to go before a final Friday deadline, Yee’s staff rushed to get an amendment drafted by Senate attorneys and filed as a friendly amendment. But the saga wasn’t over.

When Assemblywoman Wolk got her first look at the amendment’s language, she flatly rejected it. This time her reason was that she wasn’t sure she had enough Assembly votes to pass the revised bill.

Yee’s response was that he had no choice except to submit the draft as an unfriendly amendment. Then everybody went home for the weekend. But this Monday brought yet another twist; Wolk gave word that she had changed her mind yet again and would accept the compromise as an easier-to-pass friendly amendment. The problem now was that any post-deadline friendly amendments must be approved via a rules waiver — and the Republicans were showing muscle by refusing all rules waivers.

As this page goes to press, the no-amendment version of AB 112 awaits its final call on the Senate floor and will be defeated without four more votes. Whichever way the tally goes, Yee deserves Bay Area thanks for his determination on protecting 19th Avenue.

And with this new compromise now endorsed by all parties, next year offers a much better chance for a double-fine bill that would include us.

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