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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Coalition Gearing Up for Lawsuit Against SF and Its Tech Buses

Posted By on Thu, May 1, 2014 at 1:39 PM


Yet another hurdle awaits the Silicon Valley-bound commuter shuttles that have become a near-perfect -- and seemingly implacable -- allegory for tech despoiling the city.

Service Employees Union International Local 1021 is joining forces with a coterie of other political groups to sue San Francisco for accommodating these shuttles, even as they commandeer public bus stops and steer right into crosswalks. By allowing the tech buses to "rent" Muni stops at $1 per squat, the city essentially lets the operate outside the law, the plaintiffs argue.

And, because city officials exempted the tech shuttles from a state-mandated environmental quality review, it's furnished them with privileges it wouldn't bestow on its own transit system, the suit contends. Muni is currently undergoing an environmental quality review for its own Transit Effectiveness Project, while the tech buses overtake some 200 stops per day with seeming impunity.

Tech buses have long been a polarizing issue in San Francisco, providing grist for highly theatrical protests, and fraught symbolism for various quality-of-life debates. The fights picked up steam after city officials gave these shuttles a green light in January, by announcing its $1-per-stop pilot program. Because California Proposition 218 prevents city agencies from charging fees to companies and siphoning it back into city coffers, the city could only generate enough money to cover the cost of the program.

Local activists were not pleased. The coalition behind today's pending lawsuit filed an appeal, which the Board of Supervisors rejected on April 1. In an 8-2 vote, city officials roundly assured that no environmental review was necessary. At that point, SEIU Local 1021 political director Chris Daly hinted that a lawsuit was imminent.

Now, they're asking San Francisco Superior Court to enjoin all permits and entitlements for the program. That wouldn't take these coaches off the street, per se. But it might inconvenience their passengers.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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