The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) is a five-member body with representatives from the Peninsula, East Bay and San Francisco, charged with overseeing planning and development of the new Transbay Terminal in South of Market. Currently, San Francisco holds three seats on the TJPA: a member of the Board of Supervisors; a designee of the mayor; and the director of the Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni and oversees other city transportation functions. The proposed ordinance would instead designate the following officials to be San Francisco’s directors:
- the mayor (not a designee)
- the member of the Board of Supervisors who represents the district in which the existing or new Transbay Terminal is located (District 6), currently Chris Daly
- the representative of the City appointed by the Board of Supervisors (normally a supervisor) to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), currently Tom Ammiano
In other words, Proposition C would give the Board of Supervisors, rather than the mayor, majority control over San Francisco’s delegation to the TJPA.
As an ordinance, this measure could be approved through the normal legislative process and is not legally required to go to the ballot to become law. The City Charter gives any four supervisors (as is the case with Proposition C), or the mayor alone, the authority to submit an ordinance to the voters. This measure requires a simple majority — 50 percent, plus one additional vote — to pass.
The Transbay Terminal project is an intermodal transit facility that would create a “Grand Central Station” for the Bay Area, bringing together the Caltrain commuter rail extension to downtown, regional bus service (including AC Transit, SamTrans, Golden Gate Transit and Greyhound) with direct connections to Muni Metro and buses, BART and the proposed high speed rail project connecting northern and southern California. The transit hub will be the centerpiece of a major redevelopment of the area, with more than 3,500 housing units, office and commercial space, and major public amenities.
In November 1999, San Francisco voters supported Proposition H to extend Caltrain commuter rail to a multimodal transit station to be constructed on the site of the existing Transbay Transit Terminal. In 2003, voters passed the Proposition K transportation sales tax extension, which allocated $270 million for the project. Voters granted further support by passing the 2004 Regional Bridge Toll measure, earmarking $150 million to develop and construct the project.
In April 2001, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) was established by state legislation. It included representation from the Alameda—Contra Costa (AC) Transit District (one member), the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (one member) and San Francisco (three members). The state legislation creating the TJPA does not specify how the San Francisco directors should be appointed, but previous local legislative action gave one seat to the mayor or a designee, one seat to the Board of Supervisors and the last seat to the director of the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA). Proposition C would change the appointments as described above.
In the event that the members of the Board of Supervisors are no longer elected by district, the board would have the authority to amend the ordinance to allow alternative means to appoint TJPA directors. Should the board’s MTC representative also be the supervisor from the Transbay Terminal’s district, the board would appoint an alternate member.
This proposed ordinance follows a pattern of numerous ballot measures over the past several years attempting to shift the balance of power in appointments to various commissions and boards. The dynamic of these measures has been to shift appointing authority to the Board of Supervisors and away from the mayor. This proposal would give the Board of Supervisors control over two-thirds of San Francisco’s delegation.
It is notable that this measure would require the mayor, not his or her designee, to sit on the TJPA. It is rare that the mayor, rather than a member of his or her staff, actually sits as a voting member of a policy board or commission.
The proposed ordinance was placed on the ballot by four supervisors (Chris Daly, Torn Ammiano, Fiona Ma and Ross Mirkarimi) two hours before the deadline on the last day to submit measures. No hearings were held and there was no discussion of the proposal in a public forum. Two of the four sponsors of the proposed ordinance, should it pass, would be TJPA directors.
- Requiring the mayor to be a member, rather than appointing a designee, of the TJPA board would ensure the administration’s involvement in a critical project. Mayors in other cities have personally taken seats on transportation boards and used the position to advocate for urban transit projects. San Francisco needs this kind of focused leadership from the mayor on our priority transit projects.
- Having the supervisor whose district includes the Transbay project on the TJPA helps ensure that the interests of residents adjacent to the project are fully considered.
- Requiring the board’s MTC representative to be on the TJPA board helps ensure continued funding from the project’s second-largest contributor, the MTC.
- Having elected officials represent San Francisco on the TJPA provides the accountability and the necessary leadership to bring the project to fruition.
- The MTA director, who currently sits on the TJPA board, is less likely to be a full advocate for the project, since he or she is responsible for several major projects (such as the proposed Central Subway) that compete with the Transbay project for scarce funds.
- It is simply impossible for the mayor to sit on the board of every project that is important to the City. The mayor is responsible for the water supply, public safety, economic development, planning, and a long, long list of other policy areas. The mayor has to be able to delegate representatives to sit on bodies such as theTransbay Joint Powers Authority. This measure is unrealistic about public management.
- The proposed ordinance should undergo scrutiny through the normal legislative process, or at least a hearing with public input, before being submitted to the voters at the last minute with no public review.
- The institutional design of a public body needs to have a long-term policy logic, and not simply be based on the personalities of the individuals who are around today. While Supervisor Daly has, indeed, been a good advocate for the Transbay Terminal, this change needs to make sense on its own merits—and it does not. This measure is, in fact, a straight-forward power grab in the continuing attempt by some members of the Board of Supervisors to reduce the power of a mayor they view as too moderate.
- This measure removes the one transit professional on the TJPA, the executive director of the Municipal Transportation Agency, from his position on the Board. Not only would the proposed design empty the board of transit expertise, it would seriously weaken the role of the MTA executive director. The idea behind the MTA is to create a true multimodal transportation agency, in charge not just of Muni, but also of cars, bikes, the pedestrian environment within San Francisco, and coordinating with BART, Caltrain, ferries, the regional bus network and all modes of transportation. To kick the MTA off the TJPA because it is involved with other transit projects is to miss the point entirely. The City has many transportation projects that need to be completed; we need more, not less, coordination among them.
SPUR recommends a “no” vote on Proposition C. The proposal seems to be based more on a short-term effort to take over control of this body than on policy grounds regarding the long-term, institutional actors that should be representedon the TJPA. The chief proponent of this measure, Supervisor Daly, whose district includes the Transbay Terminal site and surrounding areas, has shown an active interest and commitment to ensuring the Transbay project is completed successfully. SPUR applauds Supervisor Daly’s role as a strong, consistent and involved advocate for the project. Ultimately, however, this measure is not about personalities or individuals. It is about whether the City should make permanent institutional changes that will affect the governanceof the TJPA long after the current individuals in the offices at issue are no longer involved. As apolicy matter it is immensely important that the Municipal Transportation Agency be intimately involved in the Transbay Project, to ensure that it is effectively integrated with the city’s transportation system as a whole. We should defeat this measure and then get back to work completing the Transbay Terminal and extension of Caltrain to downtown.