The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors will have a full seven-member board for the first time in months after the Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved two of Mayor London Breed’s nominees.
Supervisors approved small business owner Manny Yekutiel in a 9-2 vote and unanimously approved disability advocate Fiona Hinze.
The SFMTA board has been left with open seats for months since supervisors declined to reappoint Cristina Rubke last May and rejected Breed nominee Jane Natoli in August. The process to move nominations through the Rules Committee has also been lengthy.
Following the vote, Breed said in a statement that both new board members will bring valuable experience to the SFMTA board during a critical time at the transit agency.
“With Manny and Fiona on the Board, I’m confident that we’ll have the leadership we need to help the SFMTA as it does the hard work of keeping our transit system running while advancing our efforts to make transit more convenient, easy to use, and equitable.”
She stressed the importance of having a full SFMTA board as the transit agency tackles challenges around the budget and adjustments to Muni service.
Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who was one of the two supervisors who voted against Yekutiel, said while she respected the work he’s done for The City, she preferred someone from the Latinx community be nominated — that sentiment was reflected in community feedback, she said.
Similarly, Fewer said she voted no on some of Breed’s recent nominees because she wanted to see someone on the board representing the Chinese community, adding:
“I find myself in the same situation with the Latinx community too.”
“This is my way of urging the mayor to actually appoint someone who is Latinx from the community that meets the needs of the community and also has authentic representation for that community.”
At her last board meeting, Fewer urged her colleagues to seat a Latinx community member on the SFMTA board.
Supervisor Dean Preston also rejected Yekutiel’s appointment. While Yekutiel brings qualities that The City should have on city commissions, Preston said he lacks transportation-specific knowledge, particularly as it pertains to Muni.
Preston noted the unprecedented challenges the agency faces as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Muni service cut back and staff at risk of potential layoffs.
“I think it’s paramount that folks serving on the MTA have at a minimum some significant transportation experience
Many small businesses wrote in to show support for Yekutiel. The board currently lacks any members who own brick-and-mortar small businesses.
Yekutiel is the owner of Manny’s restaurant in the Mission District, which also serves as a space for civic engagement and discussions with political leaders. He also serves on the Small Business Commission, but will step down once sworn in to the SFMTA board.
In a statement, Yekutiel said:
“On this board, my goal is to serve as a bridge builder at a moment when our City and its public transportation system sits at a crossroads. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”
On Hinze, supervisors praised her work on transportation issues related to the disability community. Board President Norman Yee said:
“She’s amazing in terms of her activity and how she gets involved and to commit fully to all the things that she is involved with and her perspective that is invaluable to this commission.”
Hinze currently works as director of systems change for Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, a disability rights advocacy and support organization. She said in a statement:
“I am excited to work with SFMTA and community members to ensure that San Francisco’s transit system and streetscape is accessible and equitable for all San Franciscans, including seniors and people with disabilities.”