Streetsblog Talks with Supervisor Jane Kim, Part II
4:45 PM PDT on July 21, 2016
Two weeks ago, Streetsblog did a Q&A with San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim. Kim was on a trip to New York and arranged to do the interview by phone. Unfortunately, the connection was intermittent, there was some miscommunication, and the interview had to be cut short. A few days later, Kim asked Streetsblog if we could continue the conversation. Fair enough. (Since Kim is in a tight race for the California State Senate seat for District 11 with Supervisor Scott Wiener, Streetsblog will do another interview with him as well).
In this follow up, Streetsblog talked with Kim about the State Senate, the search for a new police chief, Transbay and more topics of importance to livable streets advocates. But first on her mind was Tuesday night's marathon budget negotiations, which didn't turn out entirely as she would have liked.
Streetsblog: So the Board was here past 10 pm--the budget passed and there will be a sales tax increase on the November ballot.
Jane Kim: I supported the point-five sales tax measure, because it's a swap out of our existing sales tax.
SB: But not the .75 percent increase that passed?
JK: I wanted the city to look at alternative revenue. It [a sales tax] is ultimately a regressive tax. I don't want to depend on that for essential city services,
SB: What else then?
JK: We want to slightly increase the real estate tax on homes and on buildings $5 million and above and then a new category for $25 million and above. This tax would raise roughly $44 million a year on average.
SB: Okay. That will be on the ballot to pay for City College. And we've got the sales tax increase. It also has to be passed by the voters in November. Pitch it to livable streets advocates. What will it get us?
JK: The tax is going to provide up to $100 million every year to fund Vision Zero needs, expanding Muni's capacity and efficiency, and investing in regional projects like the DTX [the Caltrain extension to Transbay].
SB: Speaking of the DTX, we spoke back in 2011 about the DTX and you called Transbay the "world's most expensive bus stop." Unfortunately, we don't seem any closer now to getting that connection funded and built than we were then. Why?
JK: One thing I have learned in office is how complicated regional coordination is around public transit. You can imagine [the problems] just instituting a citywide biking structure within SF county lines. It's so much more challenging to work across multiple jurisdictions, like a multi-county jurisdiction, like with Caltrain. They, of course, have multiple stakeholders. San Francisco is only one of them. Then couple that with the different points of view on planning and engineering around the alignment, plus there's a huge gap with financing issues that has slowed that process down tremendously.
SB: I know advocates for the DTX think San Francisco should be taking a leadership role. They say the city isn't. They say the city is wasting time and money looking at alternate alignments when this was supposed to be settled.
JK: I feel San Francisco has been strong. Now for good or bad, there is debate about the alignment. What was currently studied and approved by the California Environmental Quality Act was a cut-and-cover tunnel from 4th and King to the Transbay Terminal. But now, because it has taken so long to build the terminal and High-Speed Rail, other transportation advocates and planners are questioning whether that is still the best alignment for the future or the most cost efficient.
SB: You're talking about the Mission Bay alignment?
JK: Planners are studying a variety of different alignments with the Transportation Authority. That includes a tunnel boring machine option and maybe even changing the alignment to serve Mission Bay and the Warrior's Stadium. They're looking at a loop to add redundancy to the system.
SB: But won't all of that add even more cost?
JK: I'm not a planner, but studying these alternatives makes sense to me. I know it's slowing down the process. But I think ultimately the big thing [the impediment to getting it built] is the cost of the infrastructure investment. We will as a city contribute through the sales tax, but we will need gigantic support from the feds and the state to make a downtown extension a reality and to build HSR.
SB: But you do support these big projects?
JK: (nods) I support another BART tube, the DTX, and more subways. But I've seen how difficult it is to come up with the funding.
In the meantime, I highly support improving bus and bikes and ferries. It costs less and improvements can be more near term. I think bikes are a key part to addressing congestion management and I think protected bike infrastructure will cost the city less and bring us an immediate mode of transportation for our residents and meet existing needs. We can do them faster.
SB: That's fine. But, as you know, bike lanes aren't much good if cars park on them and SFPD does nothing about it--even more so if SFPD and SFMTA enforcement officers block them too. I know you were one of the first to ask for Chief Suhr's resignation. Okay. So what will you seek in a new chief?
JK: Someone who takes pedestrian and bike safety seriously. More people are killed and injured by cars than guns, so I think we have to take street safety very seriously. We have the highest rate of pedestrian and vehicle collisions in the State of California and our police department is a key tool in enforcing rules of the road. I'd also like to see them at least mediating conflict. It's sad that cyclists feel they need to wear cameras on their helmets because they feel that's the only way they will be able to prove what happens. We have to stop living in a society where collisions, fatalities and injuries are considered an unfortunate byproduct of living in a city.
SB: There was a sad incident not too long ago of an off-duty Muni driver who was caught on video using the N-word. The process was started to fire him right away. If SFMTA can fire someone for using a slur, why can't it fire someone for breaking the very laws they are hired to enforce by, for example, parking on a bike lane in a non-emergency situation?
JK: I would like to see SFMTA promote a culture where all of its employees follow the rules of our streets, because they are one of the primary enforcers. Documenting it is incredibly important, for the SFMTA to view as well. I would like to see SFMTA take enforcement seriously. They take parking meters very seriously. I'd like to see that same level of discipline taken around double parking, blocking the box and blocking the bike lane.
SB: Should you win the election and move on to Sacramento, what do you hope to accomplish, in the Streetsblog wheelhouse.
JK: Someone who has been a lifelong public transit rider, who grew up in NYC, and as a relatively new cyclist in SF, I'm hopeful I can share that perspective on why increased investment in cycling and transit is essential to building a modern city.
SB: So I'll ask the standard question: If you win the Senate race, what are your goals for your first 100 days in office?
JK: Speed enforcement cameras. I'm committed to introducing that. Ellis Act and Costa-Hawkins reform. And expanding a free community college policy throughout the state.
SB: Final thoughts?
JK: We will build a much healthier society if fewer people are in their cars. I think it helps make our neighborhoods safer because they're more people are interactive. So I'm hoping a healthy urbanist perspective in Sacramento will help our state policy direction around transportation needs.
SB: Thanks for doing this follow up.
JK: Thanks for your time and patience.
This interview was edited.