The "Gator Pass," a transit discount for students at San Francisco State University, was approved by BART's Board of Directors on Thursday, July 14, 2016. (S.F. Examiner)

Mayor blocks effort to raise transit impact fee for large commercial development

Call it political theater or getting developers to pay their fair share — either way Mayor Ed Lee successfully blocked an effort Tuesday to increase the transit impact fee for new commerical projects.

Such contrasting narratives of a proposal to charge developers more for building large commercial property were offered during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Supervisor John Avalos had argued that such developers should pay another $2 per square foot than the $19.04-per-square-foot rate approved in December for projects greater than 100,000 gross square feet. The money helps fund transportation needs created by development.

Avalos’ measure would have raised $30 million in one-time revenue by altering the grandfathering provision, and another $2 million annually for Muni by increasing the rate.

But the mayor vetoed the legislation, arguing that the so-called Transportation Sustainability Fee approved four months ago was part of negotiations to reach a consensus. The fee was in place for 35 years but the board and mayor expanded it to include residential development.

“This veto underscores the economic bias of Mayor Ed Lee, a bias that favors the wealthy at the expense of working people,” Avalos said.

He needed eight votes to override the veto Tuesday, but he only got six, including his own. Supervisors David Campos, Aaron Peskin, Eric Mar, Jane Kim and Norman Yee voted to override the veto, while Board President London Breed, Katy Tang, Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen supported the veto. Supervisor Mark Farrell was absent from the meeting.

Wiener called Avalos’ effort “political theater”, noting that the fee as approved in December will generate $45 million annually for transit, an increase from $19 million annually.

“To have a fight between $45 million and $47 million, it is not about the money,” Wiener said. “That is about scoring political points vis-à-vis the mayor or whoever else.”

Avalos was supported by the Bicycle Coalition and the Transit Riders Union.

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