Politicians serving on BART’s policy arm — its Board of Directors — are sometimes connected to the world of transportation at consulting firms and transportation advocacy nonprofits.
Yet one BART director seeking re-election, Zhakary Mallett, is perhaps unique among directors, campaign filings reviewed by the San Francisco Examiner show.
Mallett drives for Uber.
His “day job” driving 20-30 hours a week for Uber highlights what may be a unique problem for the youngest person ever elected to BART’s board, who is facing stiff electoral competition from a well-funded opponent, Lateefah Simon.
Simon has spent about $196,000 against Mallett as of Oct. 22, according to Alameda County finance filings, and Mallett spent about $46,000 for the same period.
Mallett’s education in transportation planning qualifies him for work at transportation consulting firms, transit experts told the Examiner. But potential employers told Mallet his BART position may present either a real or perceived conflict of interest to work for them.
“No local transportation firm is able to hire me because I’m a BART director,” he said.
BART directors are paid a baseline of $17,000 annually, directors confirmed. BART Board of Directors President Tom Radulovich added, “the BART stipend isn’t a lot for a lot of people to live on.”
“I needed another way to make ends meet,” he said, and “driving for Uber allows me a flexible way to have a job.”
His Fair Political Practices Commission filings showed he reported between $10,001 and $100,000 in income from Rasier LLC, a subsidiary of Uber.
Mallett represents BART District 7, including parts of Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties, including the Bayview.
“I grew up in foster care,” he said, and while he was young moved homes more than 20 times. He earned his bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Stanford University, and a Master of City Planning degree with a transportation emphasis from UC Berkeley.
Because he moved often he was exposed to many different transit systems, which fascinated him. He was 14 years old when he wrote his first transportation proposal, which advocated for an alternative BART to San Jose link.
“I like puzzle solving,” he said.
In 2012, he won his first election at 25 years old. Quickly, he said, “I was bombarded with the reality that no one would hire me.”
He worked briefly for the San Francisco International Airport, from Dec. 24, 2012 to Feb. 8, 2013, the airport confirmed.
Yet transportation board members in the Bay Area working for transit groups is not uncommon: BART board director Gail Murray is a transportation consultant, and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board director Joel Ramos works for a nonprofit transit advocacy group.
But Mallett is working in the reverse, starting as a BART director and seeking employment.
So in 2015, Mallett sought advice from the FPPC on the legality of seeking consultant work.
The FPPC wrote publicly that under the Political Reform Act in most cases if a contractor seeking contracts with BART is a source of Mallett’s income it would be a disqualifying conflict of interest.
Radulovich explained that’s especially tough because “BART hires every consultant” in the Bay Area.
Mallett then started his own consultancy firm, but has yet to find a foothold. FPPC filings show “Mallett Consulting” garnered between $0 and $1,999 in income.
For now, Mallett said he enjoys driving for Uber in San Francisco. On one recent ride, he said, a passenger told him their employer pays for Uber rides, which is why they opted not to take BART that night.
Still, Mallett said, though he is passionate about BART, “It’s definitely been difficult.”
And, “if I’m not re-elected,” he said, “I will be geographically free. As long as I’m [a BART] director I have to live in District 7. I could move to London, or Atlanta.”
“I could move where life takes me.”