The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency could soon have two new board members.
Accessibility advocate Fiona Hinze and small business owner Manny Yekutiel were recommended for approval by the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee Monday, greenlighting both of Mayor London Breed’s October nominations.
Hinze, a San Francisco native who currently lives in the Outer Richmond, serves as the systems change director for the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, where she works with advocates and policymakers on accessibility reform and provides expertise on crafting solutions for people who live with disabilities.
As someone who lives with cerebral palsy, Hinze’s efforts at making the SFMTA an agency more responsive to the needs of San Franciscans is deeply personal. She frequently travels by paratransit and navigates city streets in her power chair.
Hinze promised to make the SFMTA board accountable and transparent to the public, committed to “ask the challenging questions” rather than rubber stamping anything from contract changes to major capital projects and pledged to ensure every mode of transportation is “as accessible as possible,” including bikes and scooters.
Yekutiel, who owns cafe and community space Manny’s on 16th Street and Valencia, would be the first brick-and-mortar small business owner to sit on the SFMTA board, a point he emphasized during his remarks as key to navigating the historically tense relationship between merchants and the transit agency as The City looks to life after the pandemic.
The transit agency, he said, has a “unique ability to save small business” by providing employees with critical access to their jobs, working with merchants to use the streets for mutual benefit and looping in business owners earlier on capital projects.
Yekutiel spoke of The City’s need to encourage residents to return safely to public transportation, and both nominees said bringing back Muni service equitably was key to economic recovery.
On the question of whether largely popular programs that have de-prioritized cars on public streets such as Shared Spaces and Slow Streets should be made more permanent, Yekutiel spoke glowingly of their ability to inspire civic pride, create safer, more sustainable environments and connect communities.
“I hope that we can find a way to keep as many of them as possible in the future,” he said, recognizing the pilots have caused “consternation” for some, such as those who have seen traffic implications in their neighborhood, for example.
Hinze was largely supportive of the programs, but she did highlight concerns from seniors and those with limited mobility that these “creative” uses of the right of way must take into consideration their impacts on the path of travel and guarantee they remain accessible to “all folks using all kinds of mobility devices.”
Both nominees emphasized the importance of The City’s Vision Zero efforts.
Yekutiel’s grandfather and father were separately struck by drivers of vehicles years ago and sustained serious injury. Hinze works closely with seniors and individuals with disabilities, who are particularly vulnerable to traffic violence, to recommend engineering changes, education and speed enforcement to enhance street safety.
“The Vision Zero clock is ticking,” Hinze said.
Both bring with them a laundry list of involvement in local organizing and engagement efforts.
Hinze co-chairs the Dignity Fund Coalition and has served on numerous boards and bodies including the Paratransit Coordinating Council, the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force and the California State Independent Living Council.
Yekutiel currently serves on the Small Business Commission, is a board member of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association and sits on a task force for the 16th Street Improvement Project. He organized for presidential campaigns as well as local elections and ballot measures.
Colleagues, co-workers and neighbors of both nominees turned out in droves to testify in support Wednesday, making for what Supervisor Hillary Ronen described as “exclusively positive” public comment.
“Stepping up during this time is really a heroic act. You’re not stepping into an organization when it’s thriving, you’re stepping into an organization when it’s in crisis,” she said. “That willingness is admirable, and I want to thank you both for that.”
The Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to approve their nominations at a later meeting.