MTC does the right thing, rescinds vote to move to San Francisco

19 Aug

I’ll have a more complete update in the coming weeks, and I realize most have already heard what happened, but I wanted to give an update on Wednesday’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) meeting. I attended most of the meeting and spoke but had to get to work before the commissioners spoke or voted. Luckily, others were able to stay and shared the good news that the MTC voted to rescind their July vote to purchase 390 Main Street in San Francisco and to set up a committee to further research the relocation of their headquarters.

This is huge and I want to thank everyone who helped make this happen. Thanks to Joyce Roy for writing an excellent guest blog post here that mobilized dozens to write the commissioners or to speak on Wednesday. Thanks to everyone who spoke on Wednesday, including many elected officials and advocates. And thanks to State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and the several senators who signed on to his letter to the MTC questioning this purchase and the use of bridge toll funds.

Now on to the updates. The first one is from Joan Lichterman:

I attended (and spoke) today too, armed with a printout of the Oakland Tribune editorial and this Living in the O post. A number of disabled people spoke about the poor accessibility of the site, and challenged the commission to go to 390 Main Street on public transit and see the building (a number hadn’t seen it). Probably the same number of state policymakers sent their reps to urge the commission to stay in Oakland as the appropriate regional center — to the point of annoying at least one commissioner. (Senator Mark DeSaulnier also had asked the state auditor to examine this expenditure — see— and other policymakers, including Rebecca Kaplan, suggested that the commission wait for the results.) Kaplan also effectively challenged the MTC’s estimates of renovation costs for 390 Main (no bids for anything, so they were pulling numbers out of thin air — my comment, not Kaplan’s). As the meeting wore on, it became clear that a number of significant questions needed to be answered before the commission could make a decision. It’s amazing that the process had gone so far without public input, which clearly turned them around. Look for Joyce’s post later, and stay tuned. This issue will return for further deliberation after they can answer the questions we raised today.

And the next is from Joyce Roy:

The MTC unanimously rescinded their July 27 vote for purchasing 390 Main. A committee consisting of the Chair and Vice Chair, and one other member, will come back to the commission in six weeks with a report answering all of the public’s and commissioner’s questions. This will also give them a chance to see how the state legislature responds. (Thanks for that link to Mark DeSaulnier’s statement, Joan.)

There were so many speakers, that even with a two-minute limit, the meeting lasted till noon. All of the speakers were against the move to 390 Main, except the Executive Director of the Air District. I learned that only five of the commissioners had toured the building. One who did, Mark Green used a technical term to describe it—“it sucks.”

Here are the #oakmtg tweets for the details:

OaklandBecks On my way to MTC mtg on SF vs Oakland HQ. Will be tweeting the #oakmtg but you can listen online on MTC’s website.

OaklandBecks MTC/BATA mtg starting now. Dozens of people are here to speak against SF relocation. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Great to see so many Oakland electeds and leaders here – CM Kaplan, Sup Carson, BART Dir Raburn & many more. #oakmtg

sagehoe BATA’s pro 390 packet. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Staff’s presentation on why toll payers are protected assumes commercial occupancy of 70%. Based on overall SF occupancy. #oakmtg

sagehoe Note: they use square footage as a cost indicator rather than total cost to justify 390. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Problem with this assumption is that this building is sub par for SF. Not near many amenities, far from transit. #oakmtg

sagehoe Speaker Hemminger(sp) asserts that 390 main is the only choice. Disregards access, transit, sustainability questions. #oakmtg

sagehoe Financially, the only choice. And this Argument rests on rating square footage over total cost. #oakmtg

Vsmoothe MTC audio feed not working, so I’m tuning out. Probably better, listening was just making me angry anyway. #oakmtg

sagehoe 390’s only advantage, commercial space to lease, would finance a more expensive project(total cost) for an inferior building #oakmtg

sagehoe Instead of Jane Jacobs, we should be quoting Gary Brechin. #imperialsanfrancisco #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Oak staff Eric Angstadt strongly questioning financial comparison of 390 Main to 1100 Broadway, esp with lifetime costs. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Sup Keith Carson – 60% of employees live in East Bay. This would raise their costs, increase congestion and pollution. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks CM Kaplan – was no apples to apples comparisons. Gave diff rules to diff bidders. Also, wheres the seismic report? #oakmtg

sagehoe Kaplan: where’s the seismic reports? #oakmtg

oaklandscene Kaplan now speaking saying the decision didn’t have an apples to apples comparison. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Statement from Sen Loni Hancock – Downtown Oak center of 9 county area and has BART and AC Transit. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Rep from MTC policy advisory council says they were excluded from this decision making process and they’re not happy. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping East Bay elected officials and their representatives out in force for redo #oakmtg on MTC relocation to SF.

OaklandBecks Rep from Asm Sandre Swanson and Sen Mark Desaulnier urging MTC to delay decision and stay in Oakland. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Andreas Cluver from building trades – Oakland space would create 900 new construction jobs. #oakmtg

oaklandscene While Oakland has a parade of supporters at this meeting so far no one has stepped up for SF. #oakmtg

oaklandscene Oops I spoke too soon! #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Speaker – need to consider cost of shuttle bus for employees to get to remote SF location. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Many senior and disabled advocates speaking about prob of distance and inaccessibility. They’ve gone to site to check. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Had to leave MTC mtg to make it to 11am mtg. Couldn’t have made it so couldn’t have spoken if it was at SF location far from transit #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Owner of Oakland site at 1100 Broadway disputes LEED costs given in initial staff presentation. Cites Jane Jacobs. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Two speakers from Genesis, a faith-based organization, wants flexible funds to go to improving existing transportation systems. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Sad that the MTC audiocast isn’t working. Hope others will keep tweeting #oakmtg@LarsSkjerping @oaklandscene @csburt @ctuan

LarsSkjerping Spkr makes point about impact on community around potential sites. Says Oakland space would have better impact on area. #oakmtg

oaklandscene One speaker challenged the MTC board to make the trip to to the new site which others have said is not readily accessible. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Sharon Cornu makes point that every single speaker, including all state, county, regional elected officials have expressed concerns. #oakmtg

oaklandscene MTC board now set to ask questions #oakmtg

oaklandscene Scott Haggerty repping Alameda County asking a series of real estate questions. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Public comment over. Onto questions to real estate negotiators. Questions about big differences in valuation of SF site. #oakmtg

oaklandscene Scott Haggerty said despite criticism of building issue he has great respect for MTC staff. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Heminger addresses accessibility of building – a concern of many speakers – assuring there are funds available to upgrade. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Heminger suggests transit systems may be persuaded to change routes for faster access to 390 Main. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Much confusion on commission over cost per square foot, room for expansion and parking for sites. No clear answers provided.

oaklandscene Commissioner Scott Weiner said Oakland has gone overboard and stirred up a hornet’s nest. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Scott Wiener, SF Mayor’s appointee, says Oakland officials have unnecessarily stirred up hornet’s nest on this issue. #oakmtg

oaklandscene Commissioner Weiner Calls Oakland’s argument contradictory. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Wiener: Accessibility depends on where you’re coming from. #oakmtg

oaklandscene Commissioner Green said the SF site “sucks”. #oakmtg

OaklandBecks Sounds like Sup Wiener is forgetting that it often takes longer to get from SF to SF than from SF to Oakland. #oakmtg

oaklandscene Commissioner Dodd said commissioners have to look at whether relocation is a proper use of toll funds. #oakmtg

oaklandscene Commissioner Dodd said the MTC board needs time to evaluate information before re vote. #oakmtg

oaklandscene Looking less likely MTC board is going to do revote today. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Comm Dodd of Napa County also expresses disappointment at East Bay officials for stirring up issue. #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Heminger: Preponderance of meeting attendees is based on location, i.e. why Oakland is so well represented at commission meetings. #oakmtg

dto510 Many MTC members say Oakland, cut out of decisions, shouldn’t speak up for our interests at all. Is this behind move to SF? #oakmtg

dto510 MTC head admits move meant to cut #Oakland input: RT @Heminger: Preponderance of meeting attendees is based on location. #oakmtg

dto510 #Oakland is denied any voice at MTC – apparently we are just supposed to accept this. No taxation without representation! #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Haggerty: Moving out of Oakland sends wrong message, city is the center of govt for Bay Area. #oakmtg

jameane @dto510 @Heminger Ok that is ridiculous. So they are mad that people in #Oakland #eastbay come to meetings. *rolls eyes* #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping Haggerty: Not about SF vs Oakland. It’s about accessibility. Most of tax $ for bldg comes from East Bay, keep it in Oakland. #oakmtg

oaklanDW Thanks @LarsSkjerping @dto510 @OaklandBecks for keeping us posted on MTC’s #oakmtg

LarsSkjerping “Apples to apples” is definitely the phrase of the day. #oakmtgmoves into closed session.

csburt MTC voted to rescind 7/27 vote to ourchas 390 Main st bldg.#oakmtg

csburt A special committee will examine legal issues and other questions re: MTC purchase of 390 Main St. and report back within 60 days. #oakmtg

3 Responses to “MTC does the right thing, rescinds vote to move to San Francisco”

  1. Andy K August 19, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Another (partial) success. I only say partial, as while the battle was won, the war goes on. Congratulations to all who were able to help. I now you will keep us all posted on the next steps.

    The use of bridge tolls seems to be a lynch pin here. While all the other issues are very important, I would have to guess that using bridge tolls for this is probably not above board. I would assume that a new building in Oakland would have the same issues as well.

    • Joan Lichterman August 20, 2011 at 10:50 am #

      From what I’ve read, one could argue both ways about the use of bridge tolls. However, there may be a distinction between using bridge tolls to finance MTC’s operations vs. using bridge tolls to be a commercial landlord. The first would be OK, but the second may not be. I can’t wait to see the state audit, and appreciate Senator DeSaulnier’s request for it. When I first heard about the plan, the reason given was colocation of these four regional agencies. However, to hear Steve Heminger at the commission meeting, the reason had shifted to MTC ownership of a commercial building and getting lease revenues. ABAG hasn’t agreed to move to 390 Main, and without ABAG the only possible advantage is commercial ownership. A number of speakers effectively questioned this reasoning and purported economic benefits — even without the access problems.

  2. Navigator August 19, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    In essence using Bridge toals is like having the 60% of East Bay residents who will be forced to commute to San Francisco subsidize this rediculous relocation plan. Why move from a central city with a less expensive new building right on top of the 12th Street BART station, to an expensive congested city with a BART station a half mile away? So much for the environment in the Bay Area. It’s always about San Francisco muscle moving residents from the more populous East Bay over to their side of the Bridge. It’s what they do by diverting people to SFO and it’s what they’ve done by redirecting High Speed Rail away from Oakland. I’m glad the Peninsula is making the quest for an SF trophy station very difficult. The SF political influence machine needs to eat a bit of humble pie and it’s about time Oakland stood up for itself.

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