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Lateefah Simon retains BART Board of Director seat amid residency dispute

Lateefah Simon will be allowed to retain her seat on the BART Board of Directors, agency officials said Wednesday, after she was briefly stripped of her role due to a dispute over whether she lives in the district she represents.

In a joint statement, BART Board President Rebecca Saltzman and General Manager Bob Powers said they consulted with an attorney outside of the transit agency after Simon was stripped of her seat earlier this month.

According to Saltzman and Powers, a vacancy can only be declared by a majority vote by the BART board or a court order, while BART staff members do not have the legal authority to declare a seat vacant, as they did with Simon’s seat representing parts of San Francisco, Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

As a result, Simon will be allowed to retain her seat on the board while the dispute over her location of residence is resolved by “outside legal experts,” Saltzman and Powers said.

Simon said in a statement:

“Above all, with deep honor, I thank the constituents, community members, workers and BART riders who spoke up so forcefully and who deserve to have representation. … I will continue to do what I have always done — fight for transit justice, accessibility and equity for the people.”

Saltzman and Powers were contrite in their statement, calling the dispute “a very difficult situation, especially for Director Simon.”

They said:

“We want to express our deepest apologies to Lateefah and all stakeholders for how this has played out. BART will continue to work with outside legal counsel through any next steps and we are committed to transparency throughout the process.”

BART officials announced March 10 that Simon would be removed from her seat because, the agency said, she did not live within the district she represented.

In a March 10 statement to supporters, Simon said she moved from a previous residence last year after her family received threats due to her support for police reform.

Simon also argued that she had consulted with BART officials prior to the move and was “assured that the building is within District 7.”

Many of Simon’s fellow directors and political officials in the Bay Area decried BART’s decision to strip Simon of her seat, arguing that her current residence is mere feet from the boundary of her district, which bisects the MacArthur BART station and sits adjacent to the district represented by Director Robert Raburn.

Simon’s supporters also argued that few are more qualified to sit on the BART board, since she is primarily dependent on the transit system because she is legally blind and cannot drive.

In a Twitter post earlier this month, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said: 

“Lateefah has been a tireless leader for those who have no alternatives to transportation than our BART system or public transit. She has delivered on equity, fairness and reforms that put people first.”

Simon was first elected to the board in 2016 and served as the board’s president in 2020. She is the only Black member of the nine-member board.

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