John Avalos swings and misses at Ed Lee veto

An attempt by San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos to override a mayoral veto on legislation that would have increased the amount paid by developers toward transportation met with defeat Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-4 this afternoon in support of increasing the transportation sustainability fee charged on large commercial developments, but failed to muster the eight votes needed to override the veto announced by Mayor Ed Lee on March 11.

The board approved a transportation sustainability fee last year that imposed fees on residential development and raised fees on commercial projects up to around $19 per square foot for projects over 100,000 square feet.

However, Avalos and transportation advocacy groups have argued that the fee was set too low. The proposed $2 per square foot increase defeated Tuesday would have generated an additional $2.4 million a year and $30 million in one-time revenue for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Avalos said.

In his veto message, Lee said that reopening the discussion over the fee would:

“… undermine the trust of impacted stakeholders and hinder our ability to create consensus in the future.”

Avalos Tuesday said the mayor’s approach was not about consensus but about “concessions” to developers:

“This veto underscores the economic bias of Mayor Ed Lee, a bias that favors the wealthy at the expense of working people. … The SFMTA will be forced to make up for the gap in revenue through increased fares and fines or further defer much-needed maintenance and capital projects.”

Supervisor Scott Wiener rejected the accusation that the fees approved last year favored business interests, arguing that they nearly doubled the amount paid by developers for transportation, from around $26 million a year to $45 million:

“Anyone can always take the position that it’s not enough, but what we did is a gigantic step forward. … What is being proposed today is very small, it’s not going to accomplish anything, but it makes for good political theater.”

Wiener voted to uphold the veto, along with Board President London Breed and supervisors Katy Tang and Malia Cohen.