SFMTA to Name Bond Yee as Sustainable Streets Director

IMG_0914.jpgYee at a press conference recently celebrating the Valencia Streetscape Improvement Project. Photo: Bryan Goebel.

Bond Yee, a veteran traffic engineer who has spent thirty years designing and managing San Francisco's streets, will be named to fill the recently created Sustainable Streets Director position permanently, Streetsblog has learned. Yee was appointed interim director of the Sustainable Streets division eight months ago while the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) conducted a nationwide search for a permanent director.

"He was intimate in merging us toward the Sustainable Streets division over the last 8 or 9 months so he’s been putting the infrastructure there and I think it’s only fair that we give him a shot to bring it home," said SFMTA Chief Nat Ford.

Yee was the city's longest serving traffic engineer before Jack Fleck, who recently retired, and had been the director of the former Department of Parking and Traffic before stepping into his new role. He is greatly respected among many staffers at the SFMTA.

DPT was merged into Sustainable Streets last year as part of a directive passed by voters under Proposition E in 1999 to merge all departments into one agency to better govern the streets. Whether that has been working is something transit advocates have been debating. Some have even called the move a failure.

Many advocates had hoped to bring some fresh blood into the position and wanted the SFMTA to hire someone with a bold vision for streets governance, similar to what has happened in New York City under the leadership of NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Tom Radulovich, the Livable City executive director, said both Yee and the retired Fleck have been resistant to traffic calming measures over the years. He said the mission of the Sustainable Streets division has been "ill-defined," and was not pleased with Yee's promotion.

“It’s disappointing news. That department needs to not just be traffic engineering and for too long their idea of street design has been traffic engineering. It’s not the same thing. We need somebody with more of a multi-modal street design background and we need somebody who gets that streets aren’t just for moving cars. They’re not even just for moving people. They’re actually public spaces, social spaces, they’re environmental spaces and we just haven’t seen that from Bond.”

Radulovich has been pushing the agency and elected officials to consider moving streets management into a separate agency.

Ford defended Yee and said the characterization of him as an old-school traffic engineer who tends to prioritize automobiles over other modes was unfair.

"Under Bond’s watch we’ve done some very creative things with bikes. We’re one of the most bikeable cities in the country. We’ve done some innovative things with pedestrians. We’re one of the most walkable cities in the country," said Ford. He also noted that Yee has been overseeing the implementation of SFPark, one of the most innovate parking pilots in the country. "What perception may be is one thing, but let’s look at the results and look at where we stand as it relates to other urban cities."

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said it was looking forward to working with Yee, but offered no other comment.

In the interview with Streetsblog, Ford did acknowledge that part of the reason the position was being handed to Yee was because the agency has been eliminating management positions and two people they were eyeing for the job turned it down.