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.”