A longtime commissioner on both the Planning Commission and the SFMTA board of directors, Gwyneth Borden, has decided to step down from the SFMTA board following her censure by the Ethics Commission over an undisclosed lobbying job.
We learned last week that Borden was set to be fined $9,000 for failing to disclose that she had been hired by a restaurant to lobby on their behalf to get an approval for a roof deck. Borden admitted that she had used her influence with the Planning Commission, on which she previously served, and in the Planning Department, to win approval for Fiorella to reopen a roof deck at their Inner Sunset location — a roof deck that had previously been used by the former tenant in the space, Park Chow but was not permitted.
The lobbying alone would not have been illegal or unethical, but Borden failed to disclose that she had done the work and was paid $12,500 for it.
"I made a mistake, I should have known, I misunderstood that I shouldn’t have contacted another city department at the time,” Borden told Mission Local. "Dem’s the rules.”
Now, as the Chronicle reports, Borden is resigning from the SFMTA board, perhaps under pressure, calling the decision "bittersweet."
"SFMTA is facing a difficult financial situation, particularly since voters rejected Prop A last year,” Borden tells the paper, referring to the failed ballot measure for a $400 million SFMTA bond that voters rejected in the same special election called for the recall of DA Chesa Boudin. “There are many who dislike the decisions we make and distrust the agency. I care too much about the critical role SFMTA plays in our city’s health and vitality to allow my mistake to be a reason the agency doesn’t get the support they need.”
Borden, who also previously served as executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, was on the Planning Commission from 2008 to 2014, having been appointed by Mayor Ed Lee. She has served on the SFMTA board for the last nine years. The lobbying in question occurred in 2019 and 2020, and consisted of dozens of emails to Planning Department staff.
As Mission Local notes, having served for 15 years on city commissions, it seemed unlikely to city insiders that Borden was sincerely ignorant of any wrongdoing.
The seven-seat SFMTA board now has two seats vacant, with an appointee named by Mayor London Breed last September, Gloria Li, still curiously not approved by the Board of Supervisors. Current members of the board are Stephanie Cajina, accessibility advocate Fiona Hinze, business owner Manny Yekutiel, former Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger, and transit sustainability advocate Amanda Eaken, who has now been named chair.
Previously: SFMTA Board Member Admits to Illegally Lobbying City Hall Colleagues To Get Permits for Italian Restaurant