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Proposition L: Giving Supervisors More Say Over Transit

This Charter amendment would shift some power from the mayor to give the Board of Supervisors more say over how the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency operates.

The supervisors voted 6-5 to put this initiative on the ballot. Voting for: John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, Aaron Peskin and Norman Yee. Voting against: President London Breed, Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell, Katy Tang and Scott Wiener.

Photo by Nadia Mishkin / San Francisco Public Press

Why is this on the ballot?

SFMTA makes crucial decisions about Muni, the city’s public transportation system, and commands a budget in excess of $1 billion. Proposition L’s proponents argue that because the agency is so important, it should face the same budget scrutiny as other departments and its leadership should be more accountable than it is under the current systems, in which the mayor appoints the entire SFMTA Board of Directors.

The proposition’s opponents argue that SFMTA’s leaders are already accountable enough, and that if the Board of Supervisors had more control over the agency’s budget then it would interfere with Muni, worsening service and planting the seeds for a repeat of the so-called Muni Meltdown of 1998.

What would it do and at what cost?

Power would shift to the Board of Supervisors in two ways:

  1. Appointments to SFMTA’s leadership: The board would gain the authority to appoint three members to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s seven-member board. Currently, the mayor nominates all seven, whom the supervisors must confirm. Under the amendment, the mayor would nominate four members, who still need the supervisors’ approval.
  2. Minimum votes to reject SFMTA’s budget: When the Municipal Transportation Agency proposes its budget to the Board of Supervisors, the board could reject it with six votes; currently, seven votes are needed. The supervisors would also have to explain their decision.

If approved, Proposition L would remake the Municipal Transportation Agency’s board from scratch as of July 1, 2017. On that day, seven new members would assume those seats after having been selected by the new method described above.

Proposition L would have “minimal impact” on the city’s budget, the controller says.

Who officially proposed it?

Supervisors Norman Yee, Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin and David Campos are the official proponents. Supervisors John Avalos and Eric Mar also support this measure.

Yee wrote the official proponent argument.

Who officially opposes it?

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former San Francisco mayor; former San Francisco mayors Willie Brown and Frank Jordan; Angela Alioto, former president of the Board of Supervisors; current board President London Breed; and supervisors Mark Farrell, Katy Tang and Scott Wiener.

Wiener is writing the opposition argument.

Vote threshold to pass

Simple majority — 50 percent plus one

Effective date if passed

The new Board of Directors, which would be chosen using Proposition L’s method, would begin serving on July 17, 2017.

Follow the money

Two committees are spending money to oppose Proposition L: “San Franciscans Against Wasteful Spending, No on Propositions D, H, L & M,” and “No Recall on Mayor Lee, No on D, H, L, and M.”

Follow the money at the San Francisco Ethics Commission: all Proposition L filings.

Endorsements: our methodology

The Public Press chose to count endorsements from organizations that backed multiple candidates or ballot measures, and that made those endorsements available online. We did not count endorsements from individuals.

If you think we missed an important organization, please tell us. We’d love to hear from you.

Tracked endorsements by organization


Written by: Noah Arroyo

Published: Sept. 30, 2016