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Supes grant themselves power to appeal SFMTA decisions

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San Francisco has an existing law aimed at reducing the sale of tobacco by restricting the transferring of tobacco licenses. (Mira Laing/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)

The Board of Supervisors approved legislation Tuesday granting itself the power to overturn certain decisions by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency around stop signs, parking and commuter shuttles.

The legislation was introduced by Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Ahsha Safai, who had previously considered placing a charter amendment on the ballot to split up the transit agency but instead opted to move forward with this “compromise” proposal.

“Supervisor Peskin and I have worked on this legislation for over a year,” Safai said. “The genesis of this, colleagues, was the general frustration that many of us have felt on this board with our interactions with the SFMTA.”

The legislation was approved in an 11-0 vote.

Under the legislation, five members of the Board of Supervisors would need to sponsor an appeal initiated by residents, such as through a neighborhood group, to hold a hearing on whether to decide to overturn a decision by the transit agency. The appeal would need to be filed within 30 days of a final decision by the agency or the SFMTA board of directors. Appeals would only be allowed on certain issues, such as stop sign installations, Class III bicycle routes, parking meter rules and creating or modifying so-called Private Transportation Programs.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition supported appealing the Class III bike route. Brian Wiedenmeier, Bicycle Coalition’s executive director, told the board’s Land Use committee last week that the other types of bike lanes, known as Class 2 or Class 4, have protections but class 3 are “substandard.” “The idea here with not exempting class III bikeways is that we feel that they are substandard,” he said. “They offer no physical protection. They are just paint on the ground. And so, should the SFMTA water down the project, we would actually encourage the Board of Supervisors to review that on appeal.”

Peskin noted Tuesday that during his previous two terms on the board, supervisors had to approve agency decisions around curb zones and stop signs. That changed when voters approved Proposition A in 2007, a charter amendment Peskin spearheaded giving the agency more autonomy and funding.

Board members say they hear routinely complaints that the agency isn’t listening to residents.

“Just the mere presence of this appeal procedure has already I think started to effectuate the kind of communications that many of us felt were lacking,” Peskin said Tuesday.

WalkSF, a pedestrian advocate group, and Matt Brezina, of People-Protected Bike Lane, had asked for an exemption for high-injury corridor improvements.

“The last thing we need is to slow down Vision Zero projects at a time when we need SFMTA to speed up their work to get us to zero severe and fatal crashes,” WalkSF executive director Jodie Medeiros told the San Francisco Examiner in an email Tuesday. “We have only five-years left to achieve this. We need champions and bold action to put pedestrian safety first above everything else, not more bureaucracy.”

But Safai told the Examiner that “We believe this is the best path forward and feel confident our power of appeal will be used judiciously.”

Paul Rose, an SFMTA spokesperson, told the Examiner Tuesday that “we look forward to working with the Board of Supervisors as we continue to make progress on improving all transportation options and making the streets safer for everyone.”

He added that the new appeal process covers “certain MTA decisions, including Residential Parking Permits, color curb coordination, meter time limits, and commuter shuttles.”

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