Board of Supes LIVE at City Hall 8/4

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By ARMAND EMAMDJOMEH

2:08p.m. And we’re off. Supervisor Alioto-Pier appears to be absent for now.

2:12p.m. Alioto-Pier arrives a few minutes late. Item #4, a resolution urging Attorney General Jerry Brown to reject evidence gained through torture and dropping charges against the SF8 is agreed to be tabled (I’m not actually sure what this means.)

2:20 p.m. We’re jumping to the in memoriams. Daly and Dufty deliver, Dufty gives a special shout out to those who participated in the candlelight vigil last night at congregation Sha’ar Zahav, commemorating those who were killed and injured in a shooting at a gay support center in Tel Aviv. Also commends and thanks President Obama (happy birthday!) for his special recognition to Harvey Milk.

2:26 p.m. Speaking of, happy birthday to District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi! He’s up now, addressing the use of Rec & Park property for farmer’s markets, noting a new plan to change the pric. Also giving special props to those who attended the rally at city hall protesting the crackdown and detentions in Iran two weeks ago.

2:28 p.m. Along with a commendation to the two journalists released from North Korea today (huzzah!) the usually quiet Eric Mar speaks about legislation he’s introducing that will prevent elected city officials from serving on commissions.

2:29 p.m. Campos says the best way to honor Harvey Milk, in addition to bestowing honors on him is to repeal discriminatory laws, such as “don’t ask don’t tell.” Also introduces a resolution calling for an FCC investigation into the use of hate speech in the media. The last similar study, according to Campos, was in 1993.

2:32 p.m. Public comment begins. The usual suspects. Hearings on the Drew School and Bike Plan start at 4:00 p.m.

2:39 p.m. District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty is up from his seat, leaving his computer open to his Facebook page.

2:43 p.m. “I bet you never had a back street budget guy…” Walter sings this week about wanting an “Uptown Budget.” “oh when the money’s flowing…” Perfectly timed, and very well rendered.

2:51 p.m. Lots of commenters are actually speaking out about the proposed exemption on BART surcharges for SFO workers that Chiu, Dufty, Campos, Mirkarimi and Maxwell have introduced.

2:55 p.m. You know, the woodwork on the ceiling of the board’s chambers really is amazing.

3:00 p.m. The board unanimously approves resolutions both in support of President Obama’s principles for national health care reform, and approving a $10 admission charge to the Lovevolution festival in Civic Center (D’oh!)

3:02 p.m. Elsbernd refers discussion about the SFO employee BART surcharge to committee. According to President Chiu, the surcharge of $4 amounts to roughly a $1 reduction in pay for employees who make the round trip on BART.

3:03 p.m. We’re at the end of the agenda until 3:30 p.m., when Supervisor Campos will deliver a commendation, and then the special orders at 4:00 p.m., which includes the bike plan!

4:01 p.m. The chamber’s really filling up. Looks like people are turned out for the two main events – the Drew School and the bike plan.

4:06 p.m. Campos is up giving a commendation to Dennis Garden, who has worked for the SFUSD Department of Transportation for 39 years, also serving as the director of the department.

4:15 p.m. Mirkarimi honors community leaders and police officers from the Park and Northern stations from the Annual Night Out, a.k.a. “Silence the Violence” nights in Hayes Valley, the Western Addition and the Haight, praising the reduction in crime, community activism and the accountability and sustainability of the policing performed in the districts.

4:22 p.m. time for the 4:00 special orders. First up is a plan demolishing a service station and putting up mixed-use housing at Market and Octavia streets.

4:27 p.m. “Hey hey, ho ho, Mike Theriault has got to go.” Supervisor Daly gives a “hell no” to continuing the discussion on this topic on September 15, on the grounds that there is a plan with “minimal neighborhood opposition,” mostly union labor, and ready to go. He’s ready to see this happen now. The rest of the board isn’t, and vote it to continue.

4:36 p.m. We’re hearing discussion on the proposed demolition of and reconstruction of a building for the Drew School at 2901 California Street.

4:51 p.m. Opponents of the plan are calling the environmental impact assessment of expanding the school inadequate. The school’s expansion would demolish several Victorian homes in the area, and erect a new building. District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar’s diligently checking the school’s location on Google’s streetview.

4:54 p.m. Now its the Planning Department’s turn to give its defense of the impact assessment. The building would include a theater and additional classroom space, which the school indicates that it needs, and they say they have reviewed “a range of reasonable alternatives” that would reduce or avoid impacts of the project. Alternatives include moving the building, or building on other property that the school owns.

5:01 p.m. Alioto-Pier notes that the plan had the Planning Commission’s report 6-1, and that the building set to be demolished is a “potentially historic” (that is, not historic) building in a “potentially historic” (that is, not historic) area.

5:02 p.m. Planning Department notes that the building was constructed in 1891, and has actually been deemed a historic resource, but has apparently had a lot of the detailing removed.

5:20 p.m. A speaker asks for “those here in support of Drew to please stand.” The whole room, which is full, gets up. Where are all the bikers?

5:37 p.m. Public comment on the Drew School environmental impact assessment are over, with plenty of voices on both sides. Alioto-Pier moves to table further discussion on the Drew School for today, and to vote to approve the impact assessment.

5:39 p.m. Campos says that while both sides made good arguments, he’s having a a hard time finding a reason to oppose the Drew School’s impact assessment.

5:43 p.m. Elsbernd is looking ahead to the next vote – says that if the board is going to turn down “one of the most complete EIRs I have ever seen,” then “good luck voting for the bicycle plan.” The vote on the assessment passes unanimously.

5:48 p.m. Now that the EIR is approved, we’re hearing whether the planning department’s authorization of the Drew School’s proposed construction will be approved. Seeing as they just heard these arguments, half the board is up and about, moving around, pacing, talking before settling back into their seats. Appellant Stephen Williams, on behalf of the Pacific Heights Residents Association and Western Addition Neighborhood Association, asks the board to repeal the authorization, saying that it was approved illegally.

5:51 p.m. As we have seen, delivering your public comment in song or poetry earns you bonus points: “the question before you all/is what do you value more?/Three homes or a hall?”

6:05 p.m. According to the planning department, Drew School has apparently owned the piece of land where the building is since the 1920′s.

6:07 p.m. Mirkarimi looks tired, guess a four-hour meeting is a lousy way to spend your birthday.

6:15 p.m. Apparently the school’s plan only meets one of 16 recommended criteria for housing, a planning department representative admits under questioning from Campos. However, the law allows for the department to approve the plan anyway, based on the merits and benefit of the project to the community.

6:43 p.m. WAIT! There’s a hearing? Right, oh, yes. Public comment and rebuttal on Drew is now closed, so we’re moving on to the vote, I think. Alioto-Pier is thanking the planning commission, and all those who provided such insightful commentary.

6:47 p.m. Campos seems disappointed in the planning department, saying they did “a disservice to the project” in approving the conditional use for the property. Doesn’t look like he’s going to vote for it.

6:48 p.m. Daly agrees and says the board should address the relevant section in the planning code, emphasizing preserving affordable housing.

6:49 p.m. Just noticed – bloggers = Mac. Board = PC. Patricia of @thepublicpress notes that they’re probably issued by the city.

6:58 p.m. Mirkarimi relates the issue to the loss of affordable housing throughout the city, including in the Western Addition, Fillmore and Japantown neighborhoods. Alioto-Pier, who strongly supports the project in her district, counters that the building has been vacant since June 2008, and the tenants received “generous” relocation benefits. She also says that 40 percent of students at Drew, who come from “all over San Francisco” receive financial aid. She finishes with “I have a motion on the floor and I’d like to have it voted on.”

7:03 p.m. The usually quiet Supervisor Eric Mar walks the line, saying that “I wish the planning staff had done a little bit of a more thorough job” with the authorization, calling the the demolition of three rent controlled units which go for $2000 a month, a “serious issue.” Nevertheless he sides with Alioto-Pier and indicates his support for the school. Alioto-Pier’s motion for an immediate vote fails.

7:10 p.m. Daly moves to amend the plan to require the school to relocate the three-unit building elsewhere in San Francisco. Dufty asks the city attorney what happens if the building collapses while in transit? Elsbernd also jumps on this line of questioning, inquiring whether the city could be held liable if the building collapsed or damaged other property in transit.

7:15 p.m. Campos says let’s just preserve three units of rent-controlled housing, instead of moving the ones in question. Seconded by Daly.

7:20 p.m. Let’s call it a “soft approval.” The vote turns out 6-5, but as this measure would have required 8 votes, it fails. However, as Elsbernd points out as the motion to table is stated, unless the board rejects the measure by a 2/3 vote, the Drew School plan can proceed. The motion to table succeeds, 7-4, with Avalos, Campos, Daly and Mirkarimi voting no.

7:24 p.m. And we’re on to the bike plan, the “other major hearing” that Board President Chiu referred to. Still a few stalwarts in the chamber, and Walter’s here as well, looks like we get another song!

7:29 p.m. Mary Miles, attorney representing the Coalition for Adequate review is up to say that the board has not fulfilled the requirements of the court ordered injunction and that the environmental review does not comply with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) standards. She calls the environmental impact review “utterly incomprehensible.”

7:31 p.m. Miles calls out board members for being absent from the hearing. Currently, Daly, and Chu are out of the room, Avalos is talking with the deputy city attorney in the corner.

7:33 p.m. Correction, Chu is also in the room in the back corner.

7:36 p.m. In her three minutes, Katy Liddell of the South Beach neighborhood association uses her three minutes to request that the plan be delayed for more discussion with community groups. Time for public comment.

7:42 p.m. One commenter zooms out to the macro level, saying the EIR doesn’t address the net impact to the city. What will the effects of a few minutes added commute, multiplied by thousands, but subtract perhaps thousands of additional bikers, but add in the minutes spent looking for disappeared parking spaces – will pollution increase or decrease? Will traffic increase or decrease?

7:47 p.m. The supes are restless, only Dufty, Mar, Mirkarimi Chiu and Avalos are in their seats, Maxwell is standing watching the comment.

7:55 p.m. The planning department says its piece, saying that its planning has been adequate, and they have considered the effects both in the individual 56 projects that comprise the bike plan as well as cumulatively. Now to hear the public voices in favor of the bike plan.

8:00 p.m. Richard Tillis, a retired transpotation planner of 40 years from District 2 says he has reviewed the proposed plans, and says the planning department even had a conservative estimate of effects because they didn’t reduce auto traffic on the streets where bike improvements were placed. Definitely thinks it’s an adequate document. Tillis also notes the irony of the city not being able to make bike improvements for three years because of environmental reasons

8:03 p.m. Anna Myans, an environmental litigation attorney says the issues addressed in the EIR have been before the public for several years now and “the final EIR is thorough, comprehensive and complete.”

8:05 p.m. Even after six hours Walter’s songs can bring a smile to my face. When are we going to issue a commendation for him?

8:12 p.m. Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bike Coalition, says that she is happy to hear that neighbors on 2nd Street, speaking earlier, are supportive of the bike plan and proposed bike lanes on the street. She notes that 2nd Street was named and official bike route for the city in 1997, and pledges to continue meeting with community members to speak with them about the plan. Since the MTA didn’t pass the proposed project on 2nd street, there are no reasons to hold off on this EIR.

8:17 p.m. Chiu asks the planning department to speak more about the level of public comment on the bike plan process. The planning department counters rumors that the Bike Coalition was paid to conduct outreach, and that no effort was spared in outreach to the public.

8:20 p.m. SFMTA’s Amit Ghosh says the EIR process took nearly three years, at the cost of $900,000 in consultant studies. No effort was spared in the process, and he hopes that EIR is approved.

8:22 p.m. Mary Miles is back on deck for rebuttal. She says there is no mitigation in the project to counter delayed buses or other effects, leaves with a low blow to the bike coaliton, saying the city can recoup funds by hiring the bike coalition to run “a bike operated shredder or something.” The board votes unanimously to approve the EIR.

8:30 p.m. Big smiles on the face of the supes mean we must be getting near the end. We’re now on to items amending the planning code to accommodate the bike plan.

8:33 p.m. Mary Miles is back in public comment and back making friends with the board, saying “you are acting illegally” because they have not released independent findings under CEQA, but she “realizes that you don’t care about what CEQA says.”

8:35 p.m. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is missing his own birthday party.

8:37 p.m. “Close it! Close it!” Like everyone else, Supervisor Chris Daly is just waiting for public comment to end, so he can vote, so we can go home.

8:38 p.m. Chiu asks the city attorney’s office about Miles’s claims about findings requirements. The attorney’s rep responds that all is kosher, since what the board is doing is incorporating the findings of the planning commission, as well as those of the MTA’s board of directors. Meeting is adjourning. Good night!

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