Manny Yekutiel, left, owner of Manny’s, helps a customer in January of 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor nominates Manny Yekutiel to SFMTA Board

Cafe owner expected to bring small business perspective to transit agency

Mayor London Breed nominated small business owner Manny Yekutiel to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors Monday.

Breed described Yekutial as a “regular rider of public transportation in our City” who “understands how critical Muni is to everyone in our City, especially our workers.”

Yekutiel started Manny’s in 2016. The cafe and “civic gathering space” in the Mission District includes a cafe and bookshop. It also provides formerly unhoused and/or incarcerated individuals with training and employment in the food industry.

At Manny’s, Yekutiel hosts regular panels and conversations on topics including racial justice, climate change, politics and city planning.

“Manny knows how to bring people together and make sure everyone has a chance to share their diverse perspectives,” Breed said in a press release announcing the nomination.

Yekutiel currently serves on the Small Business Commission and is a board member of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, where he helped spearhead the temporary closure to cars of Valencia Street earlier this year under The City’s Shared Spaces program.

“Manny has played a huge role in transforming Valencia Street into a space that supports our residents and helps businesses thrive, and I know he will bring that same energy and commitment to the Board,” Breed said.

Different path to SFMTA Board

Yekutiel would bring to the board a perspective different from many of the current commissioners.

While many have come up through some of San Francisco’s more classic urban planning or transportation pathways, Yekutiel’s relation to transit instead stems more from his experience of its impact on merchants like himself who have been fighting to keep their businesses alive during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The relationship between our transport system, streets, workers and small businesses has never been more important. I’ve seen first-hand how decisions made by the SFMTA, in the case of temporarily closing streets to cars, has given small businesses a fighting chance to survive this crisis,” Yekutiel said in the same press release.

According to Breed and other supporters, Yekutiel would bring a community-based approach to his tenure on the board, advocating for workers and The City’s more vulnerable.

“Mobility is freedom, and it’s my belief that a City like ours should aim to create access to that freedom for everyone, everywhere. Our transportation system can and should do that,” he said.

The Los Angeles native isn’t new to politics. Yekutiel first came to San Francisco in 2010 to canvas for same-sex marriage and later worked for the 2012 Barack Obama and 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns.

Approval from the Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors Rules Committee will first hear Yekutiel’s nomination and determine whether to recommend him for the full board for approval in the coming weeks, though no specific timeline has been announced.

Breed’s track record with SFMTA Board nominations and the current slate of supervisors has been mixed, at best, for much of this year.

Though the Board of Supervisors approved former city planner turned private sector development director Sharon Lai to the SFMTA Board in August, it blocked housing activist and former San Francisco Bicycle Coalition board member Jane Natoli’s nomination in the same meeting.

Earlier in the year, the supervisors rejected Breed’s reappointment of then-director Cristina Rubke, a disability rights advocate who had served since 2012, in the wake of a dispute over fare increases.

If approved, Yekutiel would become the sixth member of the SFMTA Board of Directors, leaving just one vacancy to be filled for a full roster.

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