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.

  • Robo

    What Tom said, X10.

  • Mike

    What Tom said, -10.

  • Nick

    If Bond Yee is going to be the equivalent of a “third-term” for Jack Fleck then the state of transportation politics can be summed up with these words: “Give them a little but don’t give them a lot.”

  • Lola

    Bond Yee is one of the most amazing and nurturing engineers to work with in the City. His appointment is a huge win for all of San Francisco. Congrats Bond!

  • wisecat

    Streetsblog: why not also ask MTA staffers or other transportation folks that work with Bond about what they think? Why so much air time for Tom and none for anyone else that works with Bond?

  • @wisecat: We are planning a follow-up story.

  • CityInsider

    Dear Streetsblog Journalists: Tom claims that Yee is resistant to traffic calming. Did you ask when or where? I think it’s totally unfounded. Can you check the facts before printing this type of muck-raking junk? Also, hello!! Yee’s been appointed to the transportation job of, yes, moving people actually: not public, social or environmental space making. ??? I am so bored with the demonization of traffic engineers. Yawn!!

  • esteban

    where is his galaxy sign… lol

  • EL

    Bryan Goebel – Where is the follow-up story? Instead, you continuously link to this article, when clicking “old school traffic engineer” in your recent commentary.

  • What kind of follow up are you looking for?

  • EL

    mikesonn – I have no idea. You should ask Bryan – see post #6.

  • Oh ok. But you are going to discredit his whole commentary because they don’t have the staff to write a follow-up? I find that a bit hard to swallow.

  • EL

    mikesonn – No, not his whole commentary. Just the link in his commentary that references this article. I can’t speak for Bryan’s workload, but it has been 4 months.

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