Supes question giving contract to top lobbying firm

An influential lobbying firm that also contributes money to candidates running for the Board of Supervisors was granted a three-year city contract for up to $175,000, drawing criticism from some supervisors who said they opposed it on principle.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority, made up of members of the Board of Supervisors, voted 6-3 Tuesday to approve a contract with Barbary Coast Consulting to perform public outreach when it comes to a slew of transit projects, including the Van Ness and Geary Boulevard bus rapid transit projects.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, along with Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier and Sean Elsbernd, voted against awardingthe contract. Supervisors Bevan Dufty and Gerardo Sandoval were absent.

“I just did not feel comfortable voting to approve a contract to a group that does a lot of lobbying on projects here at City Hall,” Elsbernd said on Wednesday.

Two years ago, the firm contributed thousands of dollars into what ended up being a failed effort to pass the controversial Proposition J, the so-called Workforce Housing Initiative, which critics said was pro-developer. On its Web site, the firm celebrates its recent victory in helping developers win approval of a 1,600-unit housing development on Rincon Hill.

In recent years, Barbary Coast Consulting or its partners have contributed thousands of dollars to local candidates, with some of the money going to Supervisors Chris Daly, Jake McGoldrick, Sophie Maxwell, Peskin and Elsbernd, according to campaign contribution statements filed with the Ethics Commission.

Given that partners in the firm make campaign contributions, “turning tax dollars around to them just didn’t seem appropriate,” Elsbernd said.

Peskin said he would have “preferred for them [the Transportation Authority] to go back out and get somebody to do public outreach that is not a lobbyist.”

The consulting firm serves such clients as Nordstrom, Comcast and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, according to its Web site. Officials at the firm declined to comment Wednesday.

“The reason why I voted in favor of [the contract] was because there was a process that the Transportation Authority went through that seemed transparent,” Daly said. He emphasized that the notifications for the position were sent out to a number of entities that provide the service and an independent review board picked Barbary Coast as the top candidate.

“I generally do not like to vote against the recommendations of an independent panel when the process seems fair,” Daly said.

Peskin said that even though the contract was legal he does not “feel comfortable being lobbied by people who are on the public payroll. It just seems inappropriate to me so I cast a dissenting vote.”

McGoldrick dismissed concerns over the contract. “I certainly understand their feelings. I understand the basis of their vote. They should propose some changes in law,” he said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Second grader Genesis Ulloa leads students in an after-school community hub in a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF parents face school year with hope, trepidation and concern

‘Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it’

Health care workers in the intensive care unit at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, with Alejandro Balderas, a 44-year-old patient who later died. Even in California, a state with a coronavirus vaccination rate well above average, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly doubled in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. (Isadora Kosofsky/The New York Times)
Why COVID took off in California, again

‘The good news is: The vaccines are working’

Lake Oroville stood at 33 percent full and 40 percent of historical average when this photograph was taken on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Tribune News Service)
A kayaker on the water at Lake Oroville, which stands at 33 percent full and 40 percent of historical average when this photograph was taken on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Oroville, Calif. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Tribune News Service)
Facing ‘dire water shortages,’ California bans Delta pumping

By Rachel Becker CalMatters In an aggressive move to address “immediate and… Continue reading

Most Read