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The Google buses and the state Senate race

February 10, 2016

by Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

The battle over the Google buses continued today, with Sups. Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, who are running for state Senate, showing very different approaches that reflect how their campaigns may shape up.

The issue at the Board of Supes was technical – the Sierra Club and SEIU Local 1021 have appealed the transit shuttle program, demanding a full environmental impact report. Sup. David Campos, who is trying to work out a deal with all parties, asked that the appeal be continued for another two weeks.

The matter was continued two weeks ago, and these sorts of continuation motions are normally routine, particularly when all parties agree that a little additional time may render the appeal moot.

But not today: Wiener immediately announced that he didn’t want a continuance and that the deal was being orchestrated by people who want to destroy the Google buses. “They want to make it so hard for people to use these shuttles that they won’t use them,” he said.

Opposing the continuance made little political sense if his goal was to keep the shuttle program alive. Most observers agree that a full EIR would delay for as much as a year the implementation of the permanent program – and it was pretty clear that if the appeal went forward, there were six voters to uphold it.

In other words, the center of gravity on the board has changed with the election of Sup. Aaron Peskin, and the Google bus deal, as it currently exists, isn’t going to survive.

The tech companies and the bus operators realize that, and were willing to meet with Campos and Sups. London Breed and Norman Yee, along with the Sierra Club and SEIU, to try to reach a compromise.

But Wiener drew a clear line in the sand: He was the supervisor, and the candidate, who fully supports the shuttles, supports the tech industry, supports tech workers who are moving into San Francisco, and doesn’t want to further regulate the buses…

Kim had a completely different perspective. While she insisted that nobody on the board wants to shut the program down, the Google buses aren’t like Caltrain: “We are legalizing a private mass transit program that gets to decide who is allowed to ride. We need to set up public regulations.”

She quoted Rebecca Solnit, the prominent local author, as saying the that the tech shuttles are “a roving gated community.”…

Kim has a record or working with the tech sector; she supported the Twitter tax break. But she’s made it clear she is going to consider what tenants and neighborhoods are facing. And Wiener is lining up completely in the camp of the Google buses… (more)



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