Concern over the recent death of two pedestrians in Tenderloin traffic collisions may be the impetus for finally bringing traffic speeding cameras to San Francisco streets.
A bill aimed at authorizing such cameras died in the state assembly in 2018. Assembly Bill 342, which was originally co-authored by Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), was seen as a way to prevent carnage on The City’s streets.
One of the bill’s staunchest opponents? Cops.
Now San Francisco’s defenders in blue are hoping to turn that narrative around, or at least, their union is.
The Police Officers’ Association confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday that they would join San Francisco lawmakers to advocate for a renewed to authorize automatic speed enforcement cameras in The City.
“No one should feel they’re risking their lives by simply crossing the street,” Tony Montoya, president of the POA, told the Examiner on Tuesday.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin asked for the POA to join the coalition of San Franciscans pushing for street safety, at a San Francisco County Transportation Authority board meeting, Tuesday.
It was there that Peskin recounted the troubled history of AB 342, which would have authorized San Francisco and San Jose to use automatic speed enforcement cameras in a pilot program.
Peskin noted that California-based law enforcement organizations were one key factor in torpedoing the effort. To help persuade them to stand down he called on the POA to help in open session at the meeting.
“I would like the Police Officers Association of San Francisco to get an expressed carveout, so only this city and county can have automated speed enforcement,” Peskin told the board. “I will leave the other 57 counties and their state delegates to their own means, but I am calling on the POA to petition the state legislature to get us automated speed enforcement.”
Those cameras are already in more than 140 communities across the United States, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Essentially, those cameras use vehicle speed sensors to take photos of license plates on vehicles traveling above the speed limit, to ticket them.
Unsafe speed is behind a quarter of all traffic fatalities, according to SFMTA.
“Given the staffing crisis our department faces, we welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with Supervisor Peskin on improving traffic safety for all San Franciscan, including the use of speed enforcement cameras or other proven technology,” Montoya said.
But will the POA’s help see Chiu revive the bill?
“I welcome any and all support from San Francisco and throughout California to make this lifesaving policy a reality,” Chiu said.
And the list of law enforcement opposing the cameras to protect their members’ jobs was long, from the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs to the Riverside Sheriffs Association, and the Los Angeles Professional Peace Officers Association. Local politicians hope the POA can be a strong voice in negotiating with those entities.
Peskin was frank, however — there are more opponents than just law enforcement.
Privacy groups fearing photos of license plates may be used for ill, the Teamsters unions who fear too many speeding tickets for their members, and the Assembly Committee on Transportation chair Assemblymember Jim Frazier have all been public roadblocks to the measure, Peskin said.
Doug Bloch, political director of Teamsters Joint Council 7, representing thousands of members statewide, confirmed to the Examiner his members were still in opposition to automated speed enforcement. Peskin voiced confidence he and Bloch could come to a compromise.
Speaking of the privacy groups, Peskin noted he recently authored a facial recognition technology legislative ban, and wanted to assure the public he’d offer similar “protections and controls” to speeding surveillance.
And as for the final perceived obstruction to the bill — the Assembly transportation committee — Peskin offered that perhaps starting the bill in California’s senate, instead of the assembly, may prove fruitful.
“While we thank David Chiu for his efforts, we should start on the senate side with Senator (Scott) Wiener,” Peskin said. “That is not because David Chiu did not try to do his job, it’s because Jim Frazier is worse than Senator (Jim) Beall,” who chairs the Senate transportation committee.
So will senator Wiener revive automated speed enforcement cameras at the state level?
“David has been working on this important issue for a long time and has done a lot of great work on it. I’m fully supportive of his efforts,” Wiener told the Examiner, Wednesday.
Peskin hoped he could change his mind.