Leland Yee’s Downfall No Loss for Livable Streets

Now that State Senator Leland Yee has been arrested on charges of accepting bribes to facilitate trafficking of illegal firearms from a militia group in the Philippines, it’s probably a safe bet that his political career is over. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has called for Yee’s resignation in light of the FBI’s charges.

Leland Yee being arrested by the FBI at his home in the Sunset yesterday. Photo: NBC

Yee has hardly led on sustainable transportation and livable streets since he joined the Board of Supervisors, representing the Sunset District in 1996, before moving on to the State Assembly and Senate, and running for SF mayor in 2011. He participated in a “Critical Mass for cars” in 1999, fought for full reconstruction of the Central Freeway, and blocked a traffic camera that protects bicycle commuters from illegal right turns where the freeway ends today, at Market Street and Octavia Boulevard. (Yee saw the camera “as a police state issue,” his aide told the Bay Guardian at the time.)

On the other hand, Yee also pushed double-fine zones on SF’s street level highways — 19th Avenue, Van Ness Avenue, and Lombard Street — first instituting a pilot, then attempting (but failing) to permanently enshrine them, even when their effectiveness on improving safety wasn’t clear. Yee also had a mixed voting record on state budgets that illegally raided Muni’s funds, before protesting the “golden parachute” given to SFMTA CEO Nat Ford upon his departure.

“He was certainly never any kind of leader in sustainable transportation,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. “For San Francisco, you really want somebody who’s going to be a leader.”

Even Yee’s push for double-fine zones seemed largely “symbolic,” he said. “They sound good, but design changes would be much more effective.”

Yee “was an early adopter of whining about the ‘war on cars’ in San Francisco,” Radulovich added, highlighting his participation in the “Critical Mass for cars” (which occurs daily citywide, whether organized or not). “Folks involved in sustainable transportation and livability do remember all that.”

  • Leland Yee’s Downfall No Loss for Livable Streets


  • Didn’t expect you to do a Yee post, Aaron! I’ll repeat my comment from the Headlines here, if I may.

    If you have a spare hour and a half, check out the affidavit FBI agents filed against Yee and a whole parade of characters. Eye-opening, to say the least. After the first twenty pages, it begins to read like a noir crime novel.


    My takeaways:
    1) Most politicians are so desperate for money, they will sell their souls for relatively small amounts of it. ($5000, $10,000, $20,000) I don’t see Yee being particularly unique in this regard. Whether the quid pro quo favor is linked directly with the cash when the cash is received or comes a few months after the donation (when the favor is then “gently” request) is just a matter of timing. (I don’t know why Yee didn’t make use of a PAC to get around individual contribution levels like Lee did?)
    2) International arms dealing, however, is a whole different kettle of fish.
    3) Shrimp Boy Chow is quite a piece of work. (Although kudos on the nickname. If you’re going to be a gangster, at least you can provide entertainment with a colorful moniker.)
    4) Keith Jackson and son had so many different deals going down, I’m surprised either had time to sleep the past five years. (I’m still scratching my head why someone comfortable with orchestrating killing for hire jobs would bother with the San Francisco School Board?)
    5) There’s a movie in this somewhere. Perhaps it’s already in production.

    How does this relate to livable streets? Always, always, always follow the money.

  • djconnel

    Leland Yee is out of the BOS, so his positions on SF policy were far less relevant. But the obvious question is: was he the tip of the iceburg? The FBI attention, no doubt, was for the gun smuggling. The politics-for-hire part is a local matter. Who else plays that game? With yesterday’s Polk Street “compromise”, what’s really driving the decisions?

  • bobster1985

    I don’t expect any supervisor elected from the Richmond and Sunset areas to be anything but a champion of cars.

  • I wouldn’t write off the west side so easily. Eric Mar pipes up for bikes and BRT every now and then (and certainly isn’t a cars-first champion). Katy Tang certainly hasn’t come out as a leader yet, but she doesn’t appear hidebound on transportation, either. Norman Yee, albeit raised in Chinatown and not his more suburban district, has emerged as a leader on pedestrian safety — perhaps unprecedented in D7.

  • NoeValleyJim



California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

For social media coverage focused on statewide issues, follow Melanie Curry @currymel on Twitter or like our Facebook page.  Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of legislation and events related to sustainable transportation at the California capitol. This week, the legislature was out for Spring Recess, giving legislative staff time to prepare for the onslaught of […]