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Supervisors blast Muni for not using bond money that was, in turn, blocked by supervisors

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Muni riders wait for a train at Van Ness Station in San Francisco. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Board of Supervisors President London Breed was not happy with Muni last week.

Breed blasted the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last week for so far only using $12 million of its $500 million voter approved bond from 2014, at the Board of Supervisors regular meeting.

After Breed’s complaint, which she pinned on excessive community meetings, records from the SFMTA back up her claim that the culprit for the slowdown in using bond money may be the community itself, as it seeks to compromise on various Muni projects across The City.

Perhaps one salient detail is not all of the $500 million bond money is available at once. SFMTA has only spent $12 million of an available $60 million, records show, not $500 million.

And as for the rest of that unspent $48 million, it was mostly subject to spending in 13 discrete projects in a list provided to the San Francisco Examiner by SFMTA.

Mark Ballew, a member of the SFMTA Citizens Advisory Council, pinned the delay on the community.

“Projects are stalled at the last moment from certain members of the community who didn’t like the end result,” Ballew said. “And now it is costing even more since interest is stacking up for loans on projects that are mired in lawsuits and bickering.”

Most all of those projects were delayed after the community asked SFMTA to redesign a project: Red bus-only lanes intended for Chestnut Street drew ire of the Marina District, changes to Taraval Street for the L-Taraval train drew the ire of Sunset neighbors, changes to the 14-Mission drew the ire of Mission neighbors, and pedestrian safety changes on Columbus Avenue drew North Beach ire as well.

All followed a similar pattern, records show: The community voiced concerns, board supervisors in their districts intervened on their behalf, and the project was redesigned or delayed.

Even Breed herself, who complained the bond wasn’t spent fast enough, created some delay on the SFMTA spending bond money when traffic signals with transit priority for the 5-Fulton were removed at her suggestion based on community feedback.

But at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, she noted how Muni projects can essentially suffer a death by a thousand cuts, through excessive neighborhood meetings.

“It takes too long to get transit projects approved,” she said, “Outreach is very important, but at some point, we have to make decisions—and accept that they will not please everyone.”

“It’s not fair. It’s not democratic,” she said.

This article has been updated from the print version.

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