Vice chair of the SFMTA Board of Directors Gwyneth Borden took an undisclosed $12,500 to help a Sunset District Italian restaurant, and worked the Planning Commission she used to be a member of to help the restaurant get permits for a roof deck.
It is a well-known open secret, and regrettably generally legal, that people who’ve had SF City Hall jobs can also get paid gob-smacking amounts of money to help work with their colleagues at City Hall. We learned last August that former supervisor and current BART board member Bevan Dufty was pulling $7,500 a month to help Another Planet Entertainment get their Castro Theatre plans through (he is no longer retained in that capacity). This is all generally legal, you just have to disclose it.
Longtime transit commissioner Gwyneth Borden does not dispute a report that she lobbied Planning staffers, commissioners and a Board of Supervisors member while sitting on the SFMTA Board.— Mission Local (@MLNow) April 18, 2023
Borden is not a registered lobbyist.
From @jrivanob https://t.co/kuw5ddFYxk
But if you don’t disclose it, it’s illegal. And Mission Local reports that SFMTA board member Gwyneth Borden admits to illegally lobbying on behalf of an Italian restaurant, who paid her $12,500 to help get an unpermitted roof deck its proper permits. Borden was appointed to the board by Ed Lee in 2014, and very crucially here, was on the SF Planning Commission before that from 2008 to 2014.
And she clearly lobbied with those Planning Commission connections. Mission Local reports that “Starting in 2019 and into 2020, while she was a member of the SFMTA Board, Borden sent 32 emails to six Planning Department staffers, sent personalized emails to all seven members of the Planning Commission, and sent another email to Supervisor Dean Preston, hoping they would support the legalization of an outdoor deck for the Sunset District Italian eatery Fiorella, per the Ethics Commission.”
That outdoor deck is seen above. It was installed by the building's previous tenant Park Chow, and is now permitted.
Mission Local adds that a proposed Ethics Commission penalty against Borden, “which is not final and will be revisited by the Ethics Commission as soon as next month, would fine her $9,000 — $3,500 less than she made on this transaction.” Though the site adds that “Commissioner Yvonne Lee hoped for the maximum — three times the total unlawful compensation, or $37,500.”
For her part, Borden admitted guilt to the lapse when asked by Mission Local. “I made a mistake, I should have known, I misunderstood that I shouldn’t have contacted another city department at the time,” she told the site. “Dem’s the rules.”
Related: SF Building Inspector Under Fire For Secretive $180,000 Loan from Developer He was Inspecting [SFist]