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

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays attends an event to honor the San Francisco Giants' 2014 World Series victory on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Willie Mays turns 90: San Francisco celebrates the greatest Giant

By Al Saracevic Examiner staff writer I couldn’t believe it. Willie Mays… Continue reading

Ja’Mari Oliver, center, 11, a fifth grader at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, is surrounded by his classmates at a protest outside the Safeway at Church and Market streets on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in support of him following an April 26 incident where he was falsely accused by an employee of stealing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
School community rallies behind Black classmate stopped at Safeway

‘When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us’

A warning notice sits under the windshield wiper of a recreational vehicle belonging to a homeless man named David as it sits parked on De Wolf Street near Alemany Boulevard on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. A proposed SF Municipal Transportation Agency law would make it illegal for overnight parking on the side street for vehicles taller than seven feet or longer than 22 feet. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA to resume ‘poverty tows’ amid calls to make temporary ban permanent

Fines and fees hurt low-income, homeless residents, but officials say they are a necessary tool

Income from Shared Spaces will provide financial resources to the San Francisco Municipal Transporation Agency, according to its director, Jeffrey Tumlin. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA director says Shared Spaces serves transit agency’s financial interest

$10.6 million price tag for program raises concerns among transit agency’s board members

A broad coalition of tenants and housing rights organizers rally at Stanley Mosk Courthouse to protest eviction orders issued against renters Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Federal judge strikes down CDC’s national moratorium on evictions

David Yaffe-Bellany, Noah Buhayar Los Angeles Times A federal judge in Washington… Continue reading

Most Read