Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oakland building inspection reforms 'too slow'

Oakland Councilwoman Jane Brunner tore into the city's building services division on Tuesday, saying its attempts at reforms in the wake of a scathing grand jury report have been sluggish.

Among other things, the division has failed to create an independent appeals board or create a citizens task force, Brunner said. In addition, the division plans to bring a reform plan before the council in March even though an Alameda County Civil Grand Jury issued a report with recommendations in June.

"We are absolutely moving too slow," Brunner said at a meeting Tuesday of the City Council's community and economic development committee. "I had higher expectations of things."

E-mail Matthai Kuruvila at

Judge orders more Grand Jury transcripts be handed over to Colonies' defendants

Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/29/2011 10:37:41 PM PST

A San Bernardino Superior Court judge on Tuesday ordered that the Grand Jury testimony of a former county official be unsealed.

Judge Michael A. Smith ordered the release of transcripts of testimony given by Jim Lindley, the county's former public health director and former director of purchasing, before the county's civil Grand Jury on April 21.

Defense attorney Stephen Larson requested the transcripts. He is defending Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum in a corruption case.

Burum and three former county officials are accused of conspiring to expedite a legal settlement between the county and Rancho Cucamonga investor group Colonies Partners LP, of which Burum is a co-managing partner, in exchange for bribes.

The county settled with Colonies in November 2006 for a landmark $102 million, ending a nearly five-year legal battle over flood-control easements at the developer's 434-acre residential and commercial development in Upland.

Prosecutors allege the settlement was tainted by bribery and blackmail. Also charged are former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt. All four defendants deny any wrongdoing.

Lindley's Grand Jury testimony occurred the same month state and local prosecutors impaneled the special criminal Grand Jury to hear testimony in the Colonies' case. His testimony was subsequently summarized to the criminal Grand Jury by prosecutor Lewis Cope, Larson said.
Larson said that when all the evidence is presented, Burum will be vindicated.

"We are confident once all the information is out in the open it will clearly establish Mr. Burum's innocence," Larson said.

Contact Joe via email or by phone at 909-386-3874.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

S.F. Ethics Meetings Coming to Local TV

CITY INSIDER/S.F. ethics meetings coming to local TV
Three cheers for '10-11 (San Francisco Grand) Jury

Monday, November 28, 2011 (SF Chronicle)
By Rachel Gordon
Move over, "Dancing with the Stars." San Francisco soon may lay claim to one of the hottest shows on TV: "The Ethics Commission." Starting in January, the commission's regular monthly meetings will be moved to thefourth Monday of the month and televised locally on Channels 26 and 78, orviewable online at And special sessions held in between -sweeps week, perhaps? - also will be broadcast.
The San Francisco Civil Grand Jury pushed for the idea, after derisively describing the panel as "the sleeping watchdog," and Supervisor David Campos ran with it, crafting legislation to turn the concept into reality,as in reality TV. Raw and unfiltered. The idea, states the legislation, is to give "the public a chance to monitor and understand the commission's role in protecting the integrity of city government and local officials." The commission oversees and enforces San Francisco laws regulating campaign finance and the conduct of appointed and local officials.
Currently, only audio recordings of the meetings are available. The public also can catch the commission action live and in person at City Hall. But that's far different from watching from the comfort of your own home or on the communal flat screen at your favorite bar. The Board of Supervisors gave a preliminary OK to the broadcast deal las tweek, with final approval expected Dec. 6. The five commissioners and executive director may not be household names -yet. But just wait. And, to keep the show from getting stale, keep an eyeout for guest appearances by campaign consultants, good-government watchdogs, candidates and attorneys. Mondays will never be the same.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

San Bernardino officials draft response to grand jury

By Kimberly Pierceall, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.
Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


San Bernardino International Airport's response to the civil grand jury's response (that was a response to the airport's original response to a scathing report that questioned the airport's management) appears to be ready.

On the Nov. 30 agenda for the San Bernardino International Airport Authority's agenda is a draft copy of a letter the authority and its parent agency -- the Inland Valley Development Agency -- may send to the grand jury.

Approval of what the letter may say is only up for a vote of the airport board, though, not the related IVDA board.

Earlier this month, the grand jury made the unheard decision to fire back at the agency for its "unsubstantiated and misleading" allegations that the jury got its facts wrong.

The cost to build a passenger terminal and a destination for private planes to land and refuel has grown in cost from $45 million to more than $142.5 million and the report questioned no-bid agreements awarded to the airport's developer, Scot Spencer, as well as a legal settlement with the agencies he manages, among other concerns raised. The grand jury's report was released June 30. In September, the FBI led a raid of airport offices as well as the offices and rented Riverside home of Spencer.

The Nov. 30 meetings of the SBIAA and IVDA boards will start at 3 p.m. at Loma Linda City Hall at 25541 Barton Rd.

The proposed response (verbatim and with no changes to spelling, punctuation or formatting errors):

SBIAA and IVDA Confirm Intent for Action on Grand Jury Report

The Board of Directors of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority acknowledged the receipt of the Grand Jury's follow up letter and affirmed at their meeting the implementation of a program to address the concerns.

"We welcome the clarifications of the Grand Jury who, as we, wish to insure that the San Bernardino International Airport and the related development activities of the Inland Valley Development Agency are managed and operated with the highest professional standards."

"We have moved forward and begun the process of addressing all of the concerns with the systems and operations issues raised by the Grand Jury report We have already taken steps to address their suggested improvements and are conducting a review which will set in place policies and procedures that meet the highest professional, accounting, and public accountability standards".
Best Impaired Risk

"We have asked out Interim Executive Director to manage this corrective action process and anticipate that we will be able to demonstrate in a very short time not only the intention but the capacity to become a public entity whose policies, procedures, programs and operations will be viewed as exemplary".

"We are pleased with our achievements in the redevelopment of Norton Air Force Base and the development of the San Bernardino International Airport to date but remain committed to new ideas on how we can do even a better job."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

San Bernardino COUNTY: Grand jury disputes airport’s claims

A civil grand jury is saying officials tied to San Bernardino International Airport, seen above during an FBI raid, are misrepresenting findings from a previous civil grand jury that faulted the management of the airport's operations.



Published: 08 November 2011 03:12 PM

The San Bernardino County civil grand jury has fired back at officials leading San Bernardino International Airport who had earlier accused the jury of getting its facts wrong in a highly critical audit of efforts to build a commercial airport at the former Norton Air Force Base.

The current grand jury defended the report Tuesday, saying the airport’s allegations were “unsubstantiated and misleading.”

While unusual for a grand jury to respond in such a way, the jury said in a statement Tuesday that it felt it was necessary to do so, quoting a line from the airport’s own response that it needed to “ensure the integrity of the process.”

The 15-page response was sent Nov. 3 to San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris, president of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, and the rest of the board made up of elected officials from San Bernardino County’s east valley. One alternate member on the board called the response from the grand jury unprecedented.

“The (airport’s) written response to our audit report consistently misrepresents our findings and provides vast amounts of information that is superfluous to the audit topics,” the letter stated.

The grand jury letter was signed by Edward Burgnon, foreman for the current 2011-12 grand jury who wasn’t a juror June 30, when the airport report was released. Burgnon said the audit report commissioned by the prior jury was “very thorough” and “pointed out things that we would hope they would build on and correct.” He said the report was free of errors.

“We stand by that report,” he said.

The 120-page grand jury report questioned many of the airport’s operations, including the decision to award lucrative no-bid development agreements to Scot Spencer, who was convicted of bankruptcy fraud in the mid-1990s for his role at Braniff Airlines and who was later banned from the aviation industry by the Department of Transportation.

In 2007 Spencer was put in charge of developing the main passenger terminal and a smaller fixed-base operation for private pilots, earning a developer fee and a percentage for each construction contract awarded. The projects grew in scope and cost from $45 million in 2007 to at least $142.5 million today and now include a three-story U.S. Customs building still under construction.

After the grand jury report was released, airport officials, including Morris and former executive director Donald L. Rogers, defended the decision to award contracts to Spencer and often discredited the report for containing errors.

In one case, Rogers — a certified public accountant who is a former partner in the San Bernardino CPA firm Rogers Anderson Malody & Scott — said the report wasn’t a true performance audit as it was represented to them by San Francisco auditing firm Harvey M. Rose Associates. Harvey Rose auditors wrote the final grand jury report.

Rogers had said the audit wasn’t a performance audit because it didn’t compare the airport to similar airports, for example.

The 15-page letter from the grand jury pointed out that a performance audit, as defined by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, is exactly what the jury conducted.

Rogers resigned Sept. 28, a week following an FBI-led raid of airport offices as well as the offices and rented Riverside home of Spencer. The FBI was seeking evidence of conspiracy, bribery, fraud and money laundering among other wrongdoing, according to the search warrant.

The grand jury report had criticized the airport’s decision to buy used airport equipment from Spencer for $4.06 million and how the transaction was handled.

Calls to Morris and San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales, another longtime member of the authority board, weren’t immediately returned Tuesday. Neither were calls to the airport authority’s assistant director Mike Burrows. In an e-mail, Rogers said he hadn’t seen the grand jury’s letter and declined to comment since he’s no longer with the airport.

The authority is related to the Inland Valley Development Agency, which earns revenue from property tax revenue and has been overseeing redevelopment of the former Norton Air Force Base since it closed in 1994. The IVDA funds the airport's construction and operation.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry, who was appointed to the IVDA board in 2009 and is an alternate on the airport board said Tuesday that he hadn’t read the 15-page letter but had been told about its content and believed it was unprecedented.

“All in all, I don’t question its accuracy,” he said of the original grand jury report.

In August, the airport responded to the 120-page grand jury audit with a collection of 583 pages that included presentations made at public meetings and a Cal State San Bernardino report paid for by the airport that looked at the beneficial economic impact of private development, primarily nonaviation commercial development, at the former base.

The grand jury took issue with the airport using other companies, including TranSystems which is a subcontractor still developing the airport, to make presentations that attempted to discredit the grand jury’s claims. TranSystems ultimately misrepresented the report’s findings, the letter states.

The grand jury’s investigation spanned two years after it received an anonymous complaint in 2009.

(San Joaqin) Sanitary district counters key grand jury findings

By Keith Reid
Record Staff Writer
November 08, 2011 12:00 AM

WOODBRIDGE - The Woodbridge Sanitary District has responded to a critical June report out of the San Joaquin County grand jury, denying that the district has falsified reports to the State Water Resources Control Board or was involved in payroll fraud, but also saying it will implement some new policies to better monitor district spending.

A scathing nine-page San Joaquin County grand jury report released in June blasted general manager Luis Ching for engaging in payroll fraud, falsifying State Water Resources Control Board records and nepotism. The report also criticized the elected board of directors for being "uninformed" on the issues.

The Woodbridge Sanitary District, which serves 3,500 customers over 188 acres in northern San Joaquin County, issued a seven-page response to the allegations signed by board president Douglas Colucci. Ching would not respond further when contacted by The Record.

"It's a constant work in progress as far as implementing the policies," Woodbridge Sanitary District Attorney Mia Brown said. "We've responded to all of the allegations and implemented or have drafted forms (for procedures) in regards to everything recommended."

The payroll fraud allegation stemmed from a report that an employee was paid $1,260 for 36 hours of work that he didn't perform so that he could turn the money over to another employee who couldn't be formally paid because he was getting disability benefits.

That allegation was denied in the district's response, saying the employee that did the work was paid for his time "and no check was issued improperly."

The district also denied falsifying quality control reports or failing to document sewage spills that were reported by customers. In both cases, the district said "The district does not find support for this finding in its records, no such records were requested by the Grand Jury for inspection, and therefore the District is unclear upon what evidence this finding is based."

In the case of the water quality control reports, the district said employees did find that three full months of records regarding dissolved oxygen levels in the district's water treatment system are missing. The district is filing a police report in regard to the missing documents in the event they were stolen.

The grand jury also alleged the district engaged in nepotism/favoritism in hiring and paying employees. The grand jury report said relatives of district management were paid as much as $25 an hour more to do the same work as nonrelatives. The district made it clear it will not hire relatives of employees.

"The district's personnel manual does not allow for the hiring of relatives of present employees," the district's response states.

In other areas, the district said it has begun a process of tightening up its operations and fiscal management with new procedures for credit card use and employee-training manuals.

The district has also created new policies to review water readings and spills and to better monitor public complaints.

Brown said the district's response is likely the end to the grand jury's report.

"The grand jury that performed this investigation is disbanded. The next grand jury can take it up if they wish," she said.

Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 546-8257 or Visit his blog at

CA Grand Jurors’ Association gives award to Oakland Local for outstanding coverage

Oakland Local is proud to receive a 2011 A Certificate of Merit for Excellence in Reporting – Media Award from the California Grand Jurors’ Association for our coverage of the CEDA/Building services issues and the Alameda County Grand Jury report.

The citation reads: "Many media organizations reported on the 2010-2011 Alameda County Grand Jury’s investigation and subsequent report titled “City of Oakland Building Services Division,” however, it was the comprehensive series of reports by Oakland Local that made a significant impact and through this exposure, created a positive change in the government of the City of Oakland. This extensive series of articles, which included interviews with citizens and city officials, was made possible by a grant from “The Fund for Investigative Journalism” in Washington, D.C. This Fund was founded in 1969 to grant money to determined journalists to assist in the fight against racism, poverty, corporate greed, and governmental corruption. The awarding of this national grant for press coverage substantiates the impact of the Grand Jury’s investigation and report.

"The Alameda County Grand Jury’s investigation was generated by many citizens who were negatively affected by the city of Oakland’s Building Services Division’s practices and who contacted the Jury to express their outrage. Through the series of articles presented by this media outlet, many other citizens were alerted to a means of finding resolution of their complaints with this Division."

The ward was presented at the association’s annual conference held in Napa on Nov. 7-8. Susan Mernit, founder and editor of Oakland Local, and reporter Barbara Grady attending the ceremony and accepted the award; reporter Jennifer Inez also shared the lead writing duties on the stories with Grady.

Representing the 2010-11 Alameda County Grand Jury were Dale Rogers Marshall, Foreperson; Dr. Patrick Preminger, Forman Pro Tem; and Anita Ramlo, Government Committee Chair.

The California Grand Jurors’ Association is a statewide nonprofit organization of former grand jurors dedicated to promoting government accountability by improving the training and resources available to California’s 58 regular grand juries and educating the public about the substantial local government oversight and reporting powers of those grand juries.

We're thrilled to receive this honor from them. The Fund for Investigative Journalism's grant made the work possible. Follow the stories recognized at

If you'd like to support what we do, make a donation to our nonprofit at

2011-2012 Yolo County Grand Jury is in session

• Sun, Nov 20, 2011

The Yolo County Grand Jury functions as a citizen “watchdog” organization to review the operations and performance of county and city organizations, school districts and special districts. Citizens may submit complaints about the actions or performances of public officials or public agencies within Yolo County and the Grand Jury makes its own determination about which complaints may be investigated. All information is kept strictly confidential.

Based on these reviews or investigations, the Grand Jury publishes its findings and may recommend constructive action to improve the quality and effectiveness of local government.

The public can access Grand Jury forms, information and published reports at or by calling (530) 406-5088. Forms are also available at Yolo County Administration information counter, 625 Court Street, Woodland, California and Yolo County Public Libraries.

The Grand Jury is an all volunteer panel of Yolo County residents. Jury service is a one-year term. The Grand Jury is an arm of the judicial system, but acts as an entirely independent body. Juries act as oversight bodies for county and city governments and also have responsibilities in certain criminal matters. Grand Juries are mandated by the California constitution.

Monday, November 14, 2011

AIRPORT: Leaders to respond to (San Bernardino) grand jury’s response


Published: 11 November 2011 06:05 AM

The back and forth between San Bernardino International Airport officials and the San Bernardino County civil grand jury isn’t over yet. Expect a response to the grand jury’s Nov. 3 response to the airport’s 500-plus page answer to the jury’s highly critical report of the airport’s operations.

That’s right. A response to the response that was a response to another response.

During the closed session of Wednesday’s meeting, the elected leaders that sit on the San Bernardino International Airport Authority discussed their intention to formally respond to the grand jury, again, but this time they’ll keep it short and concise.

Meanwhile, there was no mention of the grand jury’s letter during the regular Wednesday meeting’s open session. The letter was made public a day before and accused airport officials of being misleading and making unsubstantiated claims that there were errors in the original jury report, a rare action by a grand jury.

The original report released June 30 was the culmination of a two-year investigation that started in 2009. The jury had hired San Francisco firm Harvey M. Rose Associates for $75,840 to conduct an audit of the airport’s operations and management.

The airport’s former executive director, Donald L. Rogers, deferred comment to the authority’s current staff. The authority’s assistant executive director Mike Burrows didn’t return calls seeking comment the day the letter was released. Neither did San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris and San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales who both sit on the authority’s board. Morris is president and Gonzales is a member.

When asked about the letter after Wednesday’s meeting, board member and Colton Councilman Vincent Yzaguirre said he had actually handwritten his thoughts on the subject on the back of one of the pages in the agenda. He wrote:

“I personally and respectfully appreciate the sincere effort by (the) grand jury to provide a meaningful and helpful critique of this airport. One that we can all humbly find value in (in) the form of recommendations that will help us become more efficient, more effective and more productive in our efforts to develop this base for the future benefit of this region. I personally thank the grand jury for their collective input and service to our communities.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

(Santa Cruz) Grand jury’s final report now online

Posted: Friday, Nov 11th, 2011

The final report of the 2011 Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury has been put online, complete with responses from those investigated.

The city of Watsonville was the target of an investigation titled “City of Watsonville: Fastest Growing City Looking for Leadership and a Fire Truck.” The investigation questioned the process the city took when buying a used fire truck, which was purchased in 2008 but did not arrive in Watsonville until earlier this year; questioned the city’s apparent nondisclosure of environmental issues concerning selective land use permits; criticized the city for its handling of development issues around the airport; and criticized the city for failing to provide the public, the City Council and other elected bodies with complete information regarding city functions.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grand Jury commissions second audit of Victorville

Joe Nelson, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 11/03/2011 02:13:47 PM PDT

The San Bernardino County Grand Jury has commissioned a performance and compliance audit of Victorville, the embattled High Desert city's second one in the last two years.

A letter received by the city on Monday from Grand Jury foreman Edward "Ted" Burgnon confirmed that the Grand Jury is now in its unprecedented third year investigating the city.

"This engagement is intended to complement a forensic audit of the accounts and records of the city of Victorville and associated agencies that was requested by the Victorville City Council and conducted for previous grand juries by the firm Kessler International," Burgnon said in his letter.

He said the Grand Jury has commissioned North Hollywood-based Harvey M. Rose Associates LLC to conduct the performance and compliance audit. The company will investigate the operations, accounts and records of the city and the Victor Valley Economic Development Authority.

Kessler International, a New York City-based forensic accounting firm, conducted the audit in 2009 and 2010 at the request of then-Councilman Ryan McEachron, who is now mayor. The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved an allocation of $195,000 for the audit.

In July, Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt voiced concern when the Grand Jury released its annual report, which did not include any findings from the Victorville audit and investigation.

Mitzelfelt did not return phone calls Thursday seeking comment, and it was unclear how the recently commissioned audit will be funded.

In December 2009, McEachron pushed for the forensic audit amid allegations of shaky finances and reported handshake deals for development projects, mainly at Southern California Logistics Airport.

Earlier that year, the Grand Jury interviewed roughly a half-dozen elected and appointed city officials, inquiring about the city's financial and at least three verbal or handshake deals involving former City Manager Jon B. Roberts, who is now the city manager in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

The allegations also prompted an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is still ongoing.

When volunteers were selected for the 2010-2011 Grand Jury, six members of the previous year's Grand Jury were held over for the continuing investigation of Victorville. They were dismissed on June 30, leading some to believe the investigation had been scrapped or handed off to the FBI.

But rumors swirling about a potential FBI investigation have gone unconfirmed.

"The city has had no contact with the FBI in any way," City Manager Doug Robertson said Thursday.

McEachron said he has not received any concrete proof that the FBI is investigating and just wants to see some closure to the whole thing.

"We want to move on.... I think we all deserve a report," McEachron said Thursday.

A news release issued this week by the city summed up its position:

"Inasmuch as the investigation was never concluded we are hopeful the work to be done by Harvey M. Associates LLC and the 2011-2012 San Bernardino County Grand Jury will finally conclude this investigation with a public report. The city and its employees stand ready to fully participate and assist in any way in the completion of this investigation."

Reach Joe via email, call him at 909-386-3874.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

True Facts on (San Francisco) Central Subway

Documented true facts on the Central Subway

By:Quentin L. Kopp 10/23/11
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, 10th edition, defines boondoggle as “a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft.” In one of the most remarkable and distorting set of glittering generalities in contemporary local public affairs, Steve Falk, president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, in an Oct. 6 op-ed tries to justify the Central Subway project on the ground it would create construction jobs and put money in businesses.
He doesn’t tell us that most of those big businesses are headquartered elsewhere. He claims the project has been “politicized in the heated mayoral race.” He purports “to set the record straight.” Well, let’s do so.
If it weren’t for the unappreciated San Francisco civil grand jury’s June 11 report, titled “Central Subway: Too Much Money for Too Little Benefit,” and the unsung and uncompensated efforts of citizens Howard Wong, Gerald Cauthen, Aaron Peskin (two-term Board of Supervisors president), Jake McGoldrick (eight-year Board of Supervisors member), the Sierra Club, Save Muni and now others, this scandalous project would never have been the subject of mayoral candidate debate.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, former Supervisor Tony Hall and Green Party member Terri Baum have unmistakably declared the project should be scrapped in favor of a more effective, considerably less expensive plan, which the appointed mayor never even knew about when first questioned this month. Public-Defender Jeff Adachi recommends thorough, public reexamination of this disgraceful, political waste of taxpayer money.
Falk mischaracterizes the Central Subway as a “fully funded $1.6 billion project.” It is not fully funded. The major source, the Federal Transit Administration, supposedly will supply $983.2 million, or 62 percent, of the June estimated total cost of $1.6 billion. For the record, in 2003, the estimated project cost was $648 million by 2004, it was $763 million by 2006, it was $994 million for a 1.7-mile project.
Omitted from Falk’s false rhetoric is that FTA final approval as part of its so-called New Starts program has yet to occur. Moreover, any FTA approval must thereafter be approved by both houses of the U.S. Congress, and on Sept. 8, 2011, an appropriations bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives; its effect will strip all federal funds from the Central Subway project.
Falk then talks of where the Central Subway will go, but not where it will not go. It will not go to the Market Street Subway System. The Central Subway’s Union Square stop is about 1000 feet from the BART and Muni subway stops. It also manages to miss connections with 25 of the 30 east-west bus and rail lines it crosses, thereby making connections to most of Twin Peaks longer and less convenient. And because it arbitrarily ends at Stockton and Washington streets, the subway would extend neither to the nine populous residential and commercial districts to the north and west of Chinatown, nor the northerly two-thirds of Chinatown itself.
Falk asserts the Central Subway would “provide direct, rapid transit from the Bayview, Mission Bay and South of Market areas to The City’s dense downtown core and Chinatown.” That’s untrue. The trip from the Bayview would continue to be virtually all by surface light rail, a service that today is slow and unreliable. “Direct service to the downtown core”? Also untrue. Union Square isn’t the downtown core — it’s our shopping center, featuring high-priced retail stores unlikely to be patronized by Chinatown or southeast San Francisco residents. And, “service to Chinatown”? Misleading. Chinatown extends at least as far north today as Greenwich Street, eight blocks past the end of the vaunted subway.
Next, Falk repeats The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s exaggerated contention that by 2030, “the new rail line will accommodate 43,700 daily riders in its opening year and more than 65,000 in 2030.” But here’s the rub: The SFMTA representations of 65,000 one-way riders includes ridership of the already completed and paid-for Third Street line; and according to reports The SFMTA filed officially with the FTA, by 2030, the Central Subway would carry only 35,100 one-way riders daily, of whom but 4,800 would be new Muni riders. If Caltrain is extended to First and Mission streets, Central Subway ridership is projected by The SFMTA to decline by another 8,000 or more riders per day. These are The SFMTA data, not political campaign talk. These are reasons Messrs. Peskin and McGoldrick, who approved the proposed project eight years ago as Supervisors, and the Sierra Club, which did likewise, now loudly proclaim opposition to an excruciatingly flawed project.
So, San Francisco City Hall is now poised to spend over $100,000 in capital for each daily rider added by the subway and force Muni to suffer $15,200,000 more a year in operating costs to its 2011-12 estimated $23,000,000 deficit. What Falk doesn’t tell readers is that Muni promulgated in 2002 a “transit-preferential streets” program, which included for Stockton Street traffic signal priority, transit-stop respacing and relocation, bus bulbs, and an extension of overhead trolley wires to Marina Boulevard, at a three-year completion cost of only $9,100,000.
Finally, Falk refuses to note that under applicable federal law and contractual requirements, San Francisco taxpayers will be responsible for all further cost increases of the project beyond the approximate $1 billion-per-mile current price tag.
In sum, Central Subway represents a garish, highly overpriced “loser” that if opened by 2018 (which it won’t) will fail to provide enough in transportation benefits to justify exorbitant cost and its baleful effect upon Muni operating expenses. Heed the facts, not the downtown propaganda.
Quentin L. Kopp is a retired Superior Court judge, a former state senator and San Francisco Board of Supervisors member.