Commentary: Sandra Lee Fewer

SFMTA’s Wake-Up Call

By Sandra Lee Fewer

The results of the June 7 election should have been a huge wake up call for SFMTA. I can’t remember when a bond measure has not passed in San Francisco. 

Compared to Prop. H (pro and con), Prop. A got very little attention. There was no organized opposition. No committee spent $7 million to pass it or oppose it. In fact, it was almost as if the City was not concerned that the $400 million bond would fail at the ballot. But it did. Perhaps, a deep review of their campaign strategy is called for. Or, more wisely, SFMTA needs to “repair” its relationship with the voters. Recent polls reveal voters are “disenchanted” with the city government and, apparently, they are especially “disenchanted” with SFMTA. 

There are a few things SFMTA could immediately do to attempt to repair the relationship. It could start building trust by being honest, transparent and collaborative. No small feat for an organization that has repeatedly struggled with communication, open dialog, authentic engagement and a never-ending arrogance that its engineers know best. 

It is no wonder that San Franciscans shake their heads in disbelief when SFMTA installs “traffic circles” on a Muni route; why is there one at 23rd Avenue and Anza Street? 

Then there are the slow streets and street closures. Supposedly they were instituted during the pandemic and SFMTA “promised” they would be temporary. But SFMTA offered no real criteria on which ones should be eliminated and which ones should be permanent, leaving it to political groups to fight it out by attending SFMTA meeting after meeting hoping to be heard.  

Or maybe it’s the hundreds of millions of dollars in overrun costs for the Van Ness BRT and Central Subway, with no real accountability. Should I go on? 

Now SFMTA has really angered the Geary merchants (once again) about two proposed changes: SFMTA is proposing to extend the use of parking meters to 10 p.m. and on Sundays. Plus, SFMTA also wants to eliminate angled parking from 15th Avenue to 28th Avenue to create a “red carpet lane.” These two changes have prompted more than 70 small Geary businesses and churches to sign on to a petition against these changes, mainly upset over the lack of transparency, open dialog and the lack of proper notification to the store owners. 

Most store owners had no idea this was being proposed, contrary to what SFMTA has claimed. Most importantly, the Geary merchants are mad. Very mad. They have struggled these past years to keep afloat, sunk tens of thousands of dollars into parklets which will have to be removed to accommodate the red-carpet lane and still have not recouped their losses from the pandemic. 

On top of this, SFPUC plans a huge sewer replacement project on Geary within the next year or two. Supervisor Connie Chan has been assisting the merchants, but her power is severely limited since the SFMTA board is 100% appointed by the mayor. 

The Prop. A bond measure was very important. Running a transit system is an expensive endeavor, and costs continue to climb for basic maintenance and repairs. Most importantly, seniors, low-income folks and others depend wholly on public transit to go to work, to medical appointments, to shop, to take their children to school and to just get around the City. Also, if we are really serious about lowering emissions and curbing our dependence on fossil fuels, we must have a dependable, reliable public transit system. For these reasons and more, SFMTA must mend its relationship with the voters of San Francisco. Thousands of people depend on it. 

There is talk that SFMTA may re-introduce the bond on the November ballot, hoping to get the two-thirds majority needed to approve the bond. My advice to them: Start working on your relationship with the voters now!  

And, by the way, what’s happening with an underground transit system out here on the west side?

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” – Dalai Lama

Sandra Lee Fewer is a fourth-generation Chinese-American San Franciscan, former Board of Education commissioner, former member of the SF Board of Supervisors representing the Richmond District and has lived in the Richmond for more than 60 years.

14 replies »

  1. Voters are like children who cut off their nose to spite themselves. The Entitled Motorists think any infringement on their sovereignty over the roads is treasonous. What do they do? Lash out without caring about the tens of thousands who rely on public transportation. I will never have an iota of empathy for the Self Entitled motorists of San Francisco. They are the ruination of San Francisco


    • Warning: This guy is an antagonist to all who are fighting to keep San Francisco the low key city that it has been for decades. Mr. Hues (if that is what his name is) is dead set on one of those progressive liberals who get the advance notice when the B of S votes on these street closures etc. Please ignore this guy and his comments.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cathy. Thanks. I am appreciative to have such an impact on the debate re Car Free areas. Rest assured I will continue to advocate on behalf of the many who want a San Francisco where The Car will take a back seat. In Solidarity


      • There was no real grassroots group going around wanting to defund SFMTA. The Prop was voted down because ordinary people are exhausted from the Pandemic SFMTA nonsense that has been fomented by people like you.

        We are a city of love, not hate. We are exhausted from all the hate that has traveled into the city via two wheels.

        if you want to see another Prop fail by bigger margins, keep up your hate. Or keep up the “fun” going out to “play” idea as others have to get to doctors, jobs, and more. Both are totally out of touch with SF culture.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Slow and closed streets, and highways, and altering commercial corridors are an insult to the public. Merchants lose business and many close when traffic and parking is removed or altered.

    SFMTA killed the downtown by turning it into a traffic nightmare that no one wants to venture into. Now they want to expand the failed policies on Geary. The merchants have a right to object.

    The only option voters have is to cut the funds that feed the beast that ignores and disrespects them. When did San Francisco civil servants decide they are smarter than the citizens they serve?

    Liked by 1 person

    • zRants. The “Beast” as you describe it are the climate destroying Cars and The Entitled who continue to Proclaim, “We Own the Road”. Guess what. You don’t. Deal with It.


  3. Instead of throwing our money away on the greedy, corrupt, incompetent agency ruining Our City, can’t we instead do something intelligent and innovative with it like helping a competent company perfect a fleet of safe, dependable driverless electric vehicles to provide safe, free transportation to the elderly, infirm and impoverished that could also benefit the public at large with a safer, cheaper, reliable, dependable, 24hr alternative to busses, taxis and rides rideshares and finally make use of those useless, archaic, traffic creating “red carpet” lanes created for “buses and taxis” after taxis had already become virtually extinct. Will SF leadership next begin a “Save the Dodo” campaign replete with thousands of signs, protective fences and special crossing lands to ensure the safety of these precious birds as they have done for the lowest element of San Francisco currently ruining and running Our City?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Isn’t that nice that Sandra Fewer, living in Mill Valley who votes in Mill Valley giving the SFMTA advice on how to repair the relationship with the voters in San Francisco so that they can be afforded another $400 Million to reek havoc in San Francisco this coming November. Let it be known that Sandra Fewer was in part responsible for the demise of San Francisco with her voting record, instituting privacy invasion by legislating a “Renter’s Registry” and ignoring her constituents over other constitution rights of voters and citizens in San Francisco. And here she is wanting us, the citizens of San Francisco to hand over more money to the SFMTA so they can waste it and put everyone out of business along targeted corridors where the SFMTA hasn’t been by advising the SFMTA to hold more meetings where citizens can exhaustively express concern and not be heard or considered.


  5. Prop A failed to pass by slightly more than one percentage point, 65+% of the voters voted yes on it. To cynically build some claim of widespread anger at SFMTA based on this result is despicable, but I guess to be expected when dealing with the car maximalists out there who won’t be satisfied with anything less than 100% car-centric urban planning. This is the kind of Zero Vision mindset that is bringing us reckless speeding drivers taking out bus stops and pedestrians all over the city. Fewer’s replacement is similarly terrible on this issue, and similarly afflicted with car brain.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The bike people can say what they want. Ultimately, the voters have the biggest voice. SFMTA lost because the Western Side of the City did not give them the 66.67% of the vote. Check the voter’s map.

    If the bike people want what they want, they need to be kind neighbors. Their rants and bad behavior is part of the reason Prop A failed. They live in a democracy and they need to deal with this fact. They can’t get outsiders to vote at our ballot box.

    I predict that SFMTA will have a harder time in November if attitudes do not swiftly change beforehand. June 7th marked a bunch of discontented voters independently deciding they had enough of all the nonsense. A November vote may, indeed, be against the bike community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the “bike people” should be nicer to the motorists who do everything possible to make cycling worse in this city. Motorists are entitled to speed, run stop signs, and drive dangerously, the onus is on everyone else to be nicer to them so that they may deign to let us cross the street without being killed.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What is all the fuss about? I just drove across town and did not pass one bus. Only saw 3 bikes. Not much traffic either. People are doing what they want to do and most of them are driving cars.


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