To ensure that tech shuttles can continue to roll along, business-as-usual, companies such as Salesforce and Y Combinator are among more than 24 contributors to a political action committee backing moderate candidates for SF's Board of Supervisor in Districts 1 and 11. The Examiner reports that such corporate donors, along with other interests like Maximus Real Estate Partners, the developer behind a proposed 330-unit project at 16th and Mission that opponents have dubbed the "Monster in the Mission," had given $1.2 million in funding to the group Progress SF by September 24, a group that's spending to pave the way for policy interests including tech shuttles and development. Other contributors to Progress SF include individuals like Ron Conway, the angel investor that critics say has too much ahold of the mayor's ear. But rather than supporting progressives as the PAC's name might suggest, Progress SF has given more than $695,000 to three political groups that instead support moderate candidates, Supervisor Marjan Philhour in District 1 and Ahsha Safai in District 11, politicians more in line with the political bloc of the board that has been willing, for example, to continue the shuttle bus system as it stands.
The 35 Bay Area bus providers that ferry more than 34,000 employees to and from work per day are currently operating under a one-year extension of a pilot program which the Board of Supervisors are expected to revisit in the coming months. Correction: SFMTA has contacted SFist to point out the following: "The pilot ended and the 1-year is just for the program, not an extension of the pilot. The program had many additional regulations/benefits than the pilot. It is also not entirely accurate to say that BOS revisits the program in a few months. The program is approved by the SFMTA Board and the BOS has a say on the program only through a CEQA appeal."
The "Google Bus" system has been a wedge issue among supervisors: First a moderate-dominated board favored permanently extending an 18-month pilot program in November, then progressives gained power, with Aaron Peskin elected to District 3, and an environmental group, the Coalition for Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit, spearheaded a legal challenge to the board's decision. In February the SFMTA began investigating the divisive idea of pursuing a new system of tech shuttle 'hubs,' assigned clusters of stops instead of the current system of 125 assigned locations in San Francisco. Later, in May, a report detailed hundreds of violations
Throughout, progressives like Supervisor Jane Kim have emphasized a distrust of the status quo. "I think the current program bends over backwards to accommodate these tech companies," Kim told NBC Bay Area in May. "Residents keep asking who is the city for, who do you represent? Do you represent all of us, or do you just represent a very small category of employers?”
After the legal challenge was mounted, Peskin observed of the shuttles that “They’ve been too big for our streets, there are pollution concerns, and impacts to the public transportation system. I have an open mind, but like many San Franciscans I have concerns about them driving on our city streets.”
The Robert F. Kennedy Democratic club is one of the three political groups that Progress SF funded, providing it $200,000: It supports Philhour in District 1 and Safai and District 11. Another beneficiary of Progress SF is San Franciscans for a City that Works, which received $195,000 from the PAC and spent $63,397 to support Philhour. San Francisco Firefighters Local 798 is the third group funded by Progress SF, receiving $300,000 from Progress SF. It spent more than $309,330 in support of Safai, for whom third-party spending totals $384,327. $365,507 in third-party money has been spent in support of Philhour.
“Early morning commuters need to know how the supervisor race will impact their lives,” Laura Clark wrote in a mass-email to supporters obtained by the Examiner. The RFK club's vice president and the president of Grow San Francisco, a group that promotes the building of housing, Clark punctuated her remarks with the call to "Help reach techies near you!” according to the Ex.
John Avalos, the current District 11 Supervisor who is supporting candidate Kimberly Alvarenga to succeed him rather than Safai, told the paper he's "not surprised that tech money is flooding into D-11 through back channels like the firefighters [independent expenditures]. The tech bros are trying to elect Safai who has demonstrated to them that he will give them the tax breaks, subsidies and favorable business conditions that will provide them at the expense of the D-11 neighborhoods.”