Left-right punch knocks out increased development fees for Muni


A new and unusual coalition of nonprofit, religious, and corporate interests today killed a legislative effort to get more money for Muni through the Transit Impact Development Fee, which was going through its process of being reauthorized every five years and came to the Board of Supervisors today.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was hoping to get millions of dollars more per year from the fee to help cover the increasing costs of Muni service, so the city last year commissioned a study establishing a nexus between new development projects and their impact on the public transit system as a way to set the fees developers would pay.

Using that study, Sup. Scott Wiener sponsored legislation that increased the cost per square foot of development for some business types – mostly notably hospitals, big retail and entertainment complexes, and Cultural/Institution/Education facilities – and ended the categorical exemption for nonprofit organizations.

Those who could be impacted by the increased fees banded together into an organization calling itself NOTT (Non-profits Opposed to the Transit Tax), a group that included the city's major health care providers, religious institutions, and influential nonprofits such as Council of Community Housing Organizations and Chinatown Community Development Center.

“We are gravely concerned that elements of the forthcoming Transportation Sustainability Program (TSP), especially elimination of the non-profit fee exemption, have been selectively imbedded in the TIDF update legislation. Elimination of the non-profit exemption has not been considered through a thorough and transparent process and is not good public policy,” SF Chamber of Commerce President Steve Falk wrote in Nov. 27 letter to supervisors on behalf of the organization.

In the face of opposition from both downtown and progressive groups, and hoping to get SFMTA more money for its next budget cycle, Wiener appealed for support to sustainable transportation activists, who had mixed feelings on the legislation for reasons ranging from its exemption of parking garages and development in Mission Bay to its inclusion of organizations serving low-income communities.

So Sup. Sean Elsbernd – who spoke on behalf of Catholic schools and churches – was able to amend the legislation back to the status quo on a 9-2 vote, with only Wiener and Sup. Carmen Chu opposed (Sup. Christina Olague, who co-sponsored the measure with Wiener, even failed to support it in the end).

While that ends this effort for now, it is really only the first round of efforts that are just getting underway to find more funding for Muni, which is underfunded and at capacity on many lines, and implement the TSP when it is unveiled next year.


is one way to return money to the system. Of course - The Guardian screeched to high heaven when Weiner suggested the system was underfunded and now is not the best time to be adding non-revenue generating riders to the system.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

giving away free muni rides while also asking for more funding at the same time. Can't recall which one it was - but male.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

Nonprofit residents need to pay taxes and fees, including development fees, to carry their freight.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

Some non-profits are significant trip generators and while not technically 'for profit,' they are financially comfortable. Hospitals and private schools come to mind. They do not necessarily need to be assessed the full TIDF, but they can pay something.

Posted by Sue on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

their support, the public health system would be even more overloaded. I am comfortable with this outcome.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:32 am

how bout corporations pay THEIR fair share!? sheesh!

Posted by mark snyder on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 7:28 pm


Posted by matlock on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

That is a different conversation, we're discussing how new development pays for itself. All new units need to chip into the transit pot whether they are market rate or affordable because the Muni needs to be made whole for the new riders. All new units need to pay property tax because all new residents are going to tax city services and need to cover their costs.

The people who are caterwauling about not paying their fare share of resident impact fees are the ones who cut deals with corporate San Francisco that are sweet for the nonprofits and let corporations off of the hook. Prop C is a fine example. They'll team up with the Chamber of Commerce to attack transit if that's what it takes to keep the cash flowing.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

Muni, so these new projects can be self-funding. Moreover, they pay various other fees, taxes and other revenues.

If Muni cannot be run profitably then maybe we need to consider privatizing it - it has worked well in London and some other places in "socialist" Europe.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:34 am

San Francisco has a fare recovery ratio of 1/3 as in fares cover 1/3 of the cost of providing service, which is low for the industry and which should be less to further lower barriers to riding for low income people. Fares cover ongoing operations not new capital investment. The TIDF is a development impact fee that provides capital financing to expand capacity that accommodates more people riding or snarling transit. Capital investment takes the form of more buses or LRVs, more overhead wires, etc.

Arguments in the form of nonsense...nonsense...nonsense..privatize don't cut it.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 7:55 am

need to have it managed more professionally or we need to outsource some or all of it to someone who can run it properly.

Running to the private sector for funds is a poor secomnd to actually allowing the private sector some say in how the funds are used.

No taxation without representation, remember?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 8:12 am

Developers are well represented, they practically buy elections, that is why they intend to rig the game so that they don't pay their fair share, they outsource that burden to existing San Francisco taxpayers.

Try raising the Muni fare to $6 to cover operations and watch the hilarity that ensues. New development is highly profitable, generating at least 28% ROI. That development is discretionary in nature, government don't have to entitle it.

This sense of entitlement leads developers to socialize the costs of their profit onto taxpayers, maximizing their profits in private at the public's expense.

You sir, are nothing more than a crony capitalist who insists upon free market discipline for average folks with a massive dollop of socialism for the wealthy.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 8:38 am

them as making decisions is ridiculous. In fact they pay huge fees and taxes as a brine to get their projects built, or SF would never get any new buildings.

If you don't like capitalism, why do you choose to live in the buggest capitalist economy on the planet? Wouldn't Cuba or North Korea suit you better? (Not that you'd be given any freedom to gripe from the peanut gallery there, of course).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 8:49 am

Developers and the wealthy throw their cash at elections to trash anyone who does not support the growth machine. This is why development is not on the agenda in east side supervisorial elections, because anyone who broaches equity for the public in discretionary project approval is demolished by those who stand to reap 28% ROI minimum on their development projects.

Developers don't need the vote to make sure the winners support their enrichment, they pay real money to make sure that the costs of development are socialized while the profits remain private and we are forced to live with the crappy and cheap yet overpriced and shabby construction.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 9:11 am

infrastructure to meet explicitly defined demand. So a new WalMart, say, will pay for new access roads, power and water supply, and so on.

That's reasonable but it is a stretch from that to say that developers should be extorted to funnel money into an existing service i.e. muni. It may well be that not many people will take muni to get to that development, and/or that those extra fares will help muni anyway.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 9:40 am

This legislation was not on my radar screen until about a week ago. I did not have a chance to look at it until Saturday evening, and what I read alarmed me. I am all for transit impact fees, but there are a tremendous number of exemptions, including "vehicle storage", automobile service enterprises, and most the massive formerly Redevelopment projects in the Bayview, Hunters Point, and Mission Bay. Surely those projects will have an impact on transit, and yet written into the legislation is an exemption for these projects if the sponsors apply for categorical exemptions by December 31, 2013.

The Transportation Sustainability Program, which is now undergoing an environmental review, is supposed to replace the TIDF and expand the fee to residential projects. But I wonder: in voting 11 to 0 in support of the amended legislation today, did the supervisors just create an exemption for all the residential building that will happen in the former redevelopment areas once the TSP is adopted?

Posted by Sue on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

The ones you cite are mostly to do with business that are vehicle-oritned like repair shops, which clearly should not be penalized by something like this.

Likewise redevelopment zones like Hunter's Point need all the breaks we can give them if they are to be successful - more fees deter developers and these are the poorest and most blighted parts of the city.

The exemptions strike me as enlightened.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:36 am

For instance, muni stores it's buses and streetcars overnight at it's depot at Balboa Park (and a couple of other locations). Nobody would say those vehicles are "parked" there, since those facilities are dedicated to muni, and are not parking spots available to you or I anyway.

Likewise, any other business or facility or institution that has and uses a fleet of vehicles, needs dedicated space to keep them when not in use. That's obviously a very different situation that street parking or multi-storey car parks. The former are private and permanent; the latter are public and temporary. Different rules should apply to each.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 8:39 am

The point of this fee is to mitigate impacts from new development on transit speeds and crowding. Muni bus barns by definition do not snarl transit or add load to transit. New development with parking generates trips that snarls Muni while new housing with parking adds warm bodies to Muni's load or snarls transit via the addition of new cars.

Either developers pay those fees and pass on the costs, if the market will bear, to new residents, or those costs are socialized to all San Franciscans while the profits remain private.

Developers are afraid that the market will not bear higher costs and that they will see their minimum 28% ROI crimped down to some horror like 25% ROI.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 8:51 am

reduce traffic if they are, say, closer to peoples' homes or represent a consolidation of facilities, thereby actually reducing trips.

So any fees like this will always have to have widespread restrictions and limits, else the development will simply take place elsewhere. You already see this as soon as you cross the county line into Alameda (Emeryville), San Mateo (Colma/Serremonte) and Marin (Corte Madera) - all massive retail and business locales that have clearly been built "just across the county line".

We get that you hate any new developer, Marcos, just like the crony hacks who write artciles here. If your lot were in charge, and thankfully they are not, San Francisco would look like it did 50 years ago.

Back to the point - a facility for storing vehicles does not add to traffic. In fact it removed traffic from the street and frees up regular parking spaces.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 9:04 am

has a transit impact fee because people might take transit?

Posted by matlock on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

A transit first city has a transit impact fee because new residents will either take transit or new residents will drive and snarl transit and existing San Franciscans should not suffer more slower transit and snarled traffic due to new residents.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

And misguided attempts to throttle private auto traffic through numerous inane schemes. Who's at fault? Those who live here or, as you're saying Marcos - NEW residents. Which conveniently removes any responsibility from you as a long-term resident as well as an MTA member. Right?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

Muni can't handle existing loads because the goals for the MTA under the regime of municipal corruption have little to do with delivering transit.

Encouraging more residents that will only further stress out city services that are at the breaking point due to pervasive municipal corruption only benefits the developers that buy up politicians in bulk and leaves us holding the bag.

The fact is that voters keep electing the Brown/Pak corruption parade because the alternatives have been coopted.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

costs are way too hoigh. 60K pa for a driver? In the private sector, drivers earn 30k pa.

If we want more money for muni, then let's cut the outrageous pay and benefits of muni workers, change their rigid working practices and bring in strong management.

Not a penny more for muni until those fixes are done.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:38 am

A contract is a contract and that is the fundamental, inviolable basis of capitalism, no? The Muni is failing because it is a cash generating department and Brown/Pak/Lee have designs on its proceeds that have nothing to do with providing transit.

They'd suck the airport, another enterprise department, dry if doing so did not result in planes with higher net worth individuals falling from the skies to their deaths just as they sucked the PUC dry by not maintaining the aqueduct for 75 years.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 7:58 am

Why should taxpayers or devlopers pay more when the system contains so many inefficiencies like insanely high pay and benefits packages?

Fix that before you ask me for another dime for the black hole that is muni.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 8:14 am

Capitalism is predicated on the sanctity of contract law. How else can parties have confidence to do business if the goal posts can change on a whim? Isn't tearing up contracts unilaterally the same thing as totalitarian communism, when the state has authority to decide what the law means?

So if the inviolable contract can be torn up when it benefits the less powerful, then why can't anyone tear up all contracts whenever we determine that they are bad contracts?

We shouldn't pay Wall Street back for all of those bonds, we should keep those funds to capitalize our own bank so that we can finance public projects with what is now public capital.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 8:35 am

form that doesn't give away the farm. If the muni workers don't like their new deal, they can leave.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 8:47 am

Pensions do not expire, they are ongoing contracts that can only be changed by agreement with the parties involved. It is economically suicidal to cut pensions, the savings from public contributions pale in comparison to the demand side stimulus that pensions provide. Muni operators are paid at $26/hr, it is corruption from the top that extracts resources from the system not labor costs that are strangling the agency.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 9:09 am

The obvious fix to to freeze the DB plan and have all new contributions be on a DC basis. That would remove the biggest problem right now - the open-ended future fiscal commitment that is killing local governments across the land.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 9:42 am

the contract.

First of all, if you grasp the tenets of capitalism the degree to which Muni drivers are "overpaid" brings higher caliber people to that job than would otherwise be drawn to it.

Secondly -- and I have little doubt that if you are not ignorant of this, then you are perfectly willing to ignore in order to make "your point" -- Muni driver jobs come with the completely unenviable requirement that they must show up at work at all hours of the day and night with shifts changing from week to week. These drivers can't know what hours they will be working from one week to the next.

More lowly paid private bus drivers don't have to interact with the same broad spectrum of potential riders as do Muni drivers.

In closing, I'll say that while there are some bad drivers, its problem has always been mismanagement and lack of funding.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 8:45 am

They are mostly incompetant and rude, in my experience. And, yes, it would be good to bring in better drivers who were cheaper, but of course muni drivers never quit and can rarely even be fired. Dead man's shoes.

If muni drivers were underpaid, they'd quit, but of course they never do - proof itself that they are overpaid.

There is simply no justification for paying them twice the market rate, nor for giving them insanely generous pension and healthcare benefits.

I'll agree with you that muni manage ment is bad, but only because they have shown no spine in standing up to the unions. That has to change, going forward. And muni is, if anthing, overfunded - investment should follow success, not reward failure. Not a penny more for Muni without true reforms.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 9:07 am

more utterly clueless commentary.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 10:04 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 10:22 am

I refute the idiotic notion that you could get better bus drivers in SF for half the salary. Who can afford to live here making 30k? I also believe that only ignorant people make blanket statements about large groups of people, e.g. All muni drivers are rude and incompetent.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

30K is what bus drievrs are worth - the private sector shows us that.

I see no reason for muni drivers to be paid twice what they are worth, and especially when they have fabulous pensions and kare impossible to fire.

Fix that before asking for more funding.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

The malicious make the same kind of remarks as the ignorant. They know. They know and they hate.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 2:20 pm
Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

I am glad that you raise the fact that you are as bad as Hitler so that I don't have to.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

but adds nothing to the perception that to do so is to admit you really have no case to make.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

I refute the notion that a superior group of transit operators can be obtained by cutting salaries in half. 30K a year? In San Francisco? Seriously? I also think anyone who makes blanket statements about a group of people (e.g. all Muni operators are rude and incompetent) is ignorant.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

market levels. He simply said it would make no difference, and he is correct.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

MTA management, Sean Elsbernd and the Chamber of Commerce passed Prop G a few years back that was supposed to put the TWU in its place. Staff promised $45,000,000.00 in savings due to the new contract, but when asked how those savings were to be programmed, Sonali Bose admitted that they were "unbudgeted savings."

The problem at the MTA is politically corrupt management, not operators who are getting paid $26/hr.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 10:21 am

Bad management and greedy out-of-control operators.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

No one in their right mind would sign up to be a muni driver for 30k, that's utterly ridiculous. Who can afford to live anywhere near SF on that salary? Not to mention that it is a difficult job. People who whinge about muni management have no idea how public transit works.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 10:02 am

It only matters that that is what the job is clearly worth, since that is what many bus drivers in the private sector make. no employer should be paying more than the job is worth.

30K pa is about 50% higher than the minimum wage. 60K is three times higher!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 10:24 am

underpaid MUNI drivers, forced to moonlight to survive. I prefer that the drivers be paid well so they don't have to work a second job and can rest adequately between shifts in order to operate the buses and trollies safely.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 10:37 am

any other mode of transit that isn't overpaid and unionized. Nor shop or eat at any establishment etc. etc.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 10:49 am

are still underpaid. Their collective action makes their wage higher than otherwise, but since someone else is profiting from their labor, they are, by definition, underpaid.

By the way, I have never taken a cab in my 23 plus years here. I will admit to owning a car.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 11:19 am

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