My turn: Public-private partnerships are an industry gimmick that don’t serve public well

By Cathrina Barros : calmatters – exccerpt

The start of a new legislative session inevitably brings calls from industry for lawmakers to authorize privatizing state highway projects through so-called “public-private partnerships.”

That would be a mistake.

Proponents claim multiple benefits such as cost savings and efficiency. But they fail to mention that previous highway projects in our state built with the same scheme they seek have not delivered as promised.

In fact, they are marked by taxpayer bailouts, cost overruns and bankruptcies.

Let’s take a look at the record…

People who want to hand public highway projects over to private interests claim that cost overruns are the responsibility of the developer, not taxpayers.

Tell that to the California Transportation Commission, which in 2017 spent $91 million to cover unexpected cost overruns to the Presidio Parkway developer… (more)

On a local level, SFMTA and their enterprise partners have taken over large swaths of public space in various public/private enterprises that are hard to pin down. It is extremely difficult for the public to access information on the financial details of these agreements, though many attempts have been made. Ask the taxi drivers how their medallion investments have turned out or the firm that financed them. What we end up with is privatization of public property. Rarely does the enterprise benefit the public. If anything, the public/private enterprises become an easy way to hide disbursement of funds from the public.

It appears that Governor Newsom is giving up on the largest boondoggle in recent memory that was supposed to be a public/private enterprise but never caught the imagination of any big money investors. He is suspending High Speed Rail, limiting it to the area that has already been built. Putting the rest of the project on ice. It seems that no one really expects that train to bring in the billions it will take to break even.

Supervisors call for financial aid fund for merchants harmed by construction

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

From Chinatown to Van Ness Avenue, long-running, much-delayed Muni construction projects have threatened businesses and even caused some to shut down.

Now San Francisco leaders may have a solution: cold hard cash.

The Board of Supervisors, acting in their capacity as the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, pitched the idea for a “city construction impact mitigation fund” Tuesday morning

Later in the day, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin told the San Francisco Examiner the proposal could potentially throw a wrench into future transit projects.

Right now, “we’re doing record levels of public construction, the likes we have not seen,” he said. But if project costs go too high “depending on how you set the parameters, it limits the amount of work we could do.”

On Tuesday, however, nine out of the eleven supervisors either signaled future support for a construction mitigation fund openly during Tuesday’s transportation authority meeting or told the San Francisco Examiner that they support it… (more)

Right now, “we’re doing record levels of public construction, the likes we have not seen,” he said. But if project costs go too high “depending on how you set the parameters, it limits the amount of work we could do.”

DO NO HARM sounds like a better goal. Protect the businesses by limiting the projects. The goal to finish the projects not start them. The Supervisors could limit the number of contracts in each neighborhood by only awarding one at a time. Finish the Central Subway before cutting up any more streets within a quarter mile of it. If the project is overly complex, move the businesses into empty storefronts on other streets during the construction.

I remember hearing rumors about rules that used to exist that precluded more than one construction project per block. Limiting SFMTA projects to one per neighborhood would save the taxpayers money instead of adding to the cost. Maybe we should have some incentive built into the system that would award the contractor and the project manager for finishing the projects instead of starting them. All those workers can be directed to the few projects that are underway instead of spreading them thinning all over the city.

If you agree, write your supervisors. This could be the key to solving many of our traffic problems faster than anything else we can do. Less construction would get traffic flowing again. Limiting the noise and dust in the air would improve our healthy and relive the stress on our streets while protecting our businesses.  And best of all, it would cost us nothing because doing less costs less.

SF scales back airport taxi ban

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The City is scaling back a plan to ban most types of cabs from San Francisco International Airport that was pitched in October as a way to help save the struggling taxi industry.

Under the first plan, only cabbies using the existing 560 taxi permits, or “medallions,” purchased through the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for roughly $250,000, would be allowed to pick up passengers from SFO.

That would have left some 900 other drivers with medallions, some of whom obtained them in previous decades for free, barred from picking up passengers at SFO…

In the face of objections from taxi drivers, however, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is now pulling back that ban, just a bit.

The agency will allow an additional 570 medallion holders who obtained their permits after 1978 access to SFO, in what SFMTA called a “compromise” measure in an email to the taxi industry sent Thursday…(more)

SFMTA seems to feel they must make a point of disagreeing each time the public asks for something. “YES” is not in their vocabulary.

Red Lane Amendments and Efforts to Stop the Corporatization of our Streets

MissionReds

After months of letters, comments and neighborhood pushback against many elements of corporate takeover of our streets and public spaces, many people who shocked by the announcement that some of the Red Lanes in the city are open to use by private enterprise vehicles, such as tech buses, private shuttles, and any vehicle that carries more than 10 riders, based on the definition of a bus.

Supervisor Fewer, among others, scheduled hearings on the use of the Red Lanes that were re-scheduled a couple of times, and reset for early December. As many people were preparing for those meetings, we got the news that recent developments at the Land Use and Transportation Committee may have made those hearings unnecessary.  November 5, 2018, Aaron Peskin aide, Lee Hepner, introduced Amendment 18-862, that was passed unanimously to the Full Board by the Land Use and Transportation Committee:

Ordinance 180862 – Ordinance amending Division I of the Transportation Code to establish a procedure for Board of Supervisors review of Municipal Transportation Agency decisions related to Bus Rapid Transit projects that do not include transit-only areas or lanes for Municipal Railway vehicles, taxis, authorized emergency vehicles, and/or Golden Gate Transit vehicles; and affirming the Planning Department’s determination under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The tape of the meeting is below, go to Item 6: http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/player/clip/31749?view_id=10&meta_id=642988

As a matter of introduction Mr. Hepler described the areas of concern that are under the purview of the Board of Supervisors, though they are not being added to this amendment at this time.

This is a paraphrased transcript of the meeting:

Within the text of Prop A, there is a provision that allows the Board of Supervisors to enact an ordinance that gives the Board the option to review SFMTA decisions regarding various curb space decisions, bicycle lanes, traffic mitigations and measures etc…

Background information:  Supervisors Peskin and Safai co-sponsored Ordinance 180089, to enact that review provision regarding curb use. That ordinance expressly exempted certain projects from review that were determined to be public interest projects, such as bike lanes, curb modifications for street sweeping, and bus rapid transit projects.

This new ordinance is taking on elements of the Bus Rapid Transit Projects that are not clearly defined in the code and providing guidance as to the scope of the board’s review authority of these projects. This proposal expresses this board’s desire to promote Bus Rapid Transport projects that are generally designed and implemented to further public transportation reliability.

The amendment clarifies the Board of Supervisor’s policy preference. The board would not review BRT projects that are designed for public transportation use, but would take review of BRT projects designed for use by private commercial shuttles, tour busses or other modes of private transportation that might actually impede the flow of public transportation.

The proposed amendment… replaces the words, “bus rapid transit project” with “bus rapid transit project that includes transit only areas or lanes for municipal railway vehicles, taxis, authorized emergency vehicles, and/or Golden Gate Transit Vehicles.”

SFMTA appears to have collaborated on this. The amendment passed to the full Board of Supervisors as is on the agenda for the November 13 Board of Supervisors meeting. We had no notice, but, this appears to be going through rather rapidly. In this case, that may be a good thing.

Citing management failures, city withholds funds for Salesforce Transit Center expansion

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

A city transportation body voted Tuesday to suspend “all further financial assistance” for work on the Salesforce Transit Center, citing a lack of faith in the project’s leadership.

It is the latest delay to transit center funding, after $200 million was held up by a Board of Supervisors committee last Thursday for clarification purposes. That funding will return for a vote this week at the board.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of the Board of Supervisors, voted unanimously to delay $9.6 million in funds to the Transbay Joint Power Authority until The City can evaluate what led to the discovery last month of cracks in two steel beams, shutting down the newly constructed $2.2 billion transit center…

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said it is vital that The City plans the multi-billion dollar project effectively, making it essential to re-evaluate the transit center’s leadership before the next phase of transit center design begins.

“The right time to get it right is in the beginning,” Peskin said…(more)

The solution to dealing with the accountability problem is to pass a Charter Amendment to restructure the departments that are responsible for the transportation mess that seems to be pushing us toward a private corporate takeover of our streets. The shadowy regional TJPA has been a thorn in our sides for a while. Now we see the results of their efforts. What will it take for citizens to act? Ask the candidates for supervisor what they will do when they are in charge.

Muni cuts ties with contractor who pleaded guilty to bid-rigging, federal fraud

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco’s transportation agency is severing ties with Derf Butler, a city contractor who pleaded guilty to bid-rigging and federal fraud last week.

Butler, named in a federal indictment as the owner and president of Butler Enterprise Group, was also named in the federal trial of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow when court documents revealed transcripts of FBI wiretaps where a colleague claimed Butler bribed a San Francisco official.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency told the San Francisco Examiner Monday it has terminated its outstanding contracts with Butler Enterprise Group following Butler’s guilty plea in U.S. District Court last week. The company was awarded two $1.6 million public outreach contracts by the SFMTA in August last year, even after Butler himself was federally indicted in April 2017 for an alleged bid-rigging scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Energy. The company also previously was a subcontractor on the Central Subway project… (more)

SF to ban most of taxi fleet from SFO to help struggling cabbies

by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexminer – excerpt

The City walked back a controversial proposal to shrink the local taxi industry Tuesday night, but did approve restrictions on which taxis can pick up passengers at San Francisco International Airport.

The change was crafted with the intention of shuffling some taxi medallions back into San Francisco, instead of allowing large numbers to wait at SFO for one plum ride.
There are about 1,450 medallions in service today, according to the SFMTA, used across 4,800 active taxi drivers.

Among calls of “shame!” and “you should all go to hell!” as well as a stream of four-letter words, taxi drivers blasted the proposal for San Francisco to phase out about 260 decades-old taxi permits, called medallions, to help divert business to more struggling taxi drivers with more recent, more expensive medallions.

“They’ve killed the taxi industry,” said Yellow Cab driver Marcel Fonseca just after the vote. He wasn’t alone in his critique.

Five members of the Board of Supervisors also penned an eleventh-hour letter objecting to the reforms, arguing for a more incremental approach…

The San Francisco Federal Credit Union also opposed the taxi reforms. The credit union is suing the SFMTA to the tune of $28 million for allegedly allowing taxi medallions to become worthless, even as the credit union offered loans to taxi drivers. A letter in opposition to the reforms sent by Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Sandra Fewer, Rafael Mandelman, Norman Yee and Hillary Ronen called for the SFMTA to oppose limiting taxi pickups at SFO, and phasing out older taxi medallions.

“The City walked back a controversial proposal to shrink the local taxi industry Tuesday night, but did approve restrictions on which taxis can pick up passengers at San Francisco International Airport.”

I think you mean the SFMTA walked by a controversial proposal? They do not yet represent the city.

 

Coalition Demands End to City’s Unconstitutional Towing Practices

News from LCCR – SF Bay Area and Bay Area Legal Aid – Press Release

October 11, 2018

Contact: Taylor Brady, TBrady@baylegal.org, (510) 250-5234; Matt Kovac, mkovac@lccr.com, (415) 510-9601

Civil Rights and Legal Aid Groups Demand End to City’s Unconstitutional Towing Practices

Groups issue letter to City Attorney over violation of low-income people’s 4th Amendment rights

SAN FRANCISCO – One day after a federal court ordered the City of San Francisco to return an impounded car to its homeless owner, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, represented by Bay Area Legal Aid and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, is demanding that the City immediately cease towing and impounding vehicles over unpaid parking tickets unless the City determines the owner is financially able to pay.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Bay Area Legal Aid issued a letter to City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera this morning demanding an end to the current towing policy, citing Monday’s ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California…

“The City is taking and selling the cars of low-income people across the city simply because they cannot afford to pay parking tickets. We call on the City to end its current towing policy and adopt a constitutional, common-sense approach to collecting on tickets that does not punish low-income people,” said Elisa Della-Piana, LCCR legal director...

“No one wins under the City’s current towing practices,” said Rebekah Evenson, Director of Litigation at Bay Area Legal Aid. “Poor people lose their cars without any opportunity to show that they couldn’t afford to pay.  Residents of the City lose, with increased poverty and homelessness. And the City loses financially: the value of these cars rarely covers the cost of tow and storage, and the cars are often sold at a loss. It’s time for reform.”

The City Attorney has until Friday, October 19 to respond.

Read the full demand letter here.

.. (more)

Lime adds more drama to SF’s e-scooter saga

E-scooters can really rile people up — whether it’s cities trying to contain the onslaught of the mini motorized vehicles, or celebs such as actor-turned-venture-capitalist Ashton Kutcher fighting for their rights at a tech conference, it seems we are a nation divided.

And sometimes, it’s the scooter companies that can get all hot and bothered.

Take Lime, for example. Last week, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency shut down any aspirations the scooter-share company had of operating in the city, instead giving two newer companies, Scoot and Skip, permits to test scooters within the city for the next year…

About five minutes before the panel, titled “Scooting Through Regulation,” which would have featured Emily Warren, head of policy and public affairs at Lime, Sanjay Dastoor, Skip’s CEO, and SFMTA official Tom Maguire, a Lime spokesperson issued a statement explaining that Lime would not attend the panel… (more).

SF mayor Breed blasts Muni chief over delays, background checks and scooter permitting

By Rachel Swan : sfgate – excerpt

In a sharply worded letter, San Francisco Mayor London Breed blasted the director of the SFMTA over service delays related to its Twin Peaks Tunnel closure.

“In the weeks since I took the mayoral oath of office, a number of challenges have come to light related to the SFMTA and Muni service,” Breed wrote. She called for improvement in all 12 categories that the City Controller scores to evaluate San Francisco’s transportation systems.

As mayor, Breed wields substantial power over the SFMTA. She fills the empty seats on its board of directors — the body that sets the city’s transportation budget, determines its policy agenda and oversees department management. The board has the ability to fire Reiskin.

If that’s what Breed is angling for, it would be difficult for the board to resist, said political strategist Nathan Ballard, who worked closely with the three previous mayoral administrations…

Reiskin is scheduled for a performance review from the SFMTA board Tuesday… (more)

Let’s cut to the chase. Plausible deniability is no longer working. The unintended consequences of absolute power have reared their ugly heads far too many times to ignore. City Hall authorities need to give the voters a chance to remove that power from the SFMTA Board and the fastest easiest way to do that is to put a Charter Amendment on the ballot. The best the voters can do in November is to elect representatives who support this change. As you meet the contenders, be sure to ask how they will solve this problem.

RELATED:

City-sanctioned report finds SF has some of the worst public transit of major metros

SFMTA head’s job at risk after Breed calls for changes in leadership