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tv   SF GovTV Presents  SFGTV  August 2, 2022 4:30am-5:01am PDT

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>> >> you are watching san francisco rising. a special guest today. >> i am chris and you are watching san francisco rising. focused on rebuilding and reimagining our city. our guest is the director of financial justice in the san francisco office of treasure to talk about how the city has taken a national lead in this effort and how the program is comlishing the goals. welcome to the show. >> thanks so much for having me.
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>> thank you for being here. can we start by talking about the financial justice project in a broad sense. when did the initiative start and what is the intent? >> sure. it launched in 2016. since then we take a hard look at fines, fees, tickets, financial penalties hitting people with low incomes and especially people of color really hard. it is our job to assess and reform these fines and fees. >> do you have any comments for people financially stressed? >> yes. the financial justice project was started in response pop community outcry about the heavy toll of fines and fees. when people struggling face an unexpected penalty beyond ability to pay they face a
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bigger punishment than originally intended. a spiral of consequences set in. a small problem grows bigger. for example the traffic ticket this is california are hundreds of dollars, most expensive in the nation. a few years back we heard tens of thousands in san francisco had driver's licenses suspended not for dangerous driving but because they couldn't afford to pay traffic tickets or miss traffic court date. if they lose the license they have a hard time keeping their job and lose it. that is confirmed by research. we make it much harder for people to pay or meet financial obligations. it is way too extreme of penalty for the crime of not being able to pay. we were also hearing about thousands of people who were getting cars towed. they couldn't pay $500 to get them back and were losing their
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cars. at the time we hand people a bill when they got out of jail to pay thousands in fees we charged up to $35 per day to rent electronic ankle monitor, $1,800 upfront to pay for three years of monthly $50 probation fees. people getting out of jail can't pay these. they need to get back on their feet. we weren't collecting much on them. it wasn't clear what we were accomplishing other than a world of pain on people. we were charging mothers and grandmothers hundreds of dollars in phone call fee to accept calls from the san francisco jail. we heard from black and brown women struggling to make terrible choices do. i pay rent or accept this call from my incarcerated son. the list goes on and on. so much of this looked like
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lose-lose for government and people. these penalties were high pain, hitting people hard, low gain. not bringing in much revenue. there had to be a better way. >> it is important not to punish people financially there. are issues to address. >> sure. there are three core principles that drive our work. first, we believe we should be able to hold people accountable without putting them in financial distress. second you should not pay a bigger penalty because your wallet is thinner. $300 hits doctors and daycare workers differently. they can get in a tailspin, they lose the license. we dig them in a hole they can't get out of.
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these need to be proportioned to people's incomes. third. we should not balance the budget on the backs of the poorest people in the city. >> financial justice project was launched in 2016. can you talk about the accomplishments? >> sure sometimes it is to base a fine on the ability to pay. consequences proportional to the offense and the person. other times if the fee's job is to recoupe costs primarily on low-income people. we recommend elimination. other times we recommend a different accountability that does not require a money payment. here are a few examples. we have implemented many sliding scale discounts for low-income people who get towed or have parking tickets they cannot afford. you pay a penalty according to
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income. people with low incomes pay less. we also became the first city in the nation to stop suspending people's licenses when they could not pay traffic tickets. we focused on ways to make it easier for people to pay through payment plans, sliding discounts and eliminating add on fees to jack up prices of tickets. this reform is the law of the land in california. it has spread to 23 other states. we also stopped handing people a bill when they get out of jail and eliminated fees charged to people in criminal justice system. they have been punished in a lot of ways. gone to jail, under supervision, the collection rate on the fees was so low we weren't bringing in much revenue. the probation fee collection rate was 9%. this reform has become law from
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california and is spreading to other states. we made all calls from jail free. the more incarcerated people are in touch with families the better they do when they get out. it was penny wise and pound foolish. now phone calls are free. incarcerated people spend 80% more time in touch where families. that means they will do better when they get out. we eliminated fines for overdue library books. research shows were locking low income and people of color out of libraries. there are better ways to get people to return books, e-mail reminders or automatically renew if there is no one in line for it. this has spread to other cities that eliminated overdue library fines. these hold people accountable but not in financial distress
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can work better for government. local government can spend more to collect the fees than they bring in. when you proportion the fine with income they pay more readily. this impact can go down and revenues can go up. >> i know there is an initial group that joined the project. they had a boot camp to introduce the program to large audience. is this gaining traction across the country? >> yes 10 cities were selected to launch the fines for fee justice. they adopted various reforms like we did in san francisco. as you mentioned we just hosted a boot camp in phoenix, arizona. teams of judges and mayors came from 50 cities to learn how to implement reforms like we have in san francisco.
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there is a growing realization the penalties are blunt instruments with all kinds of unintended consequences. it is the job of every public servant to find a better way. governance should equalize opportunity not drive inequality. >> quite right. thank you so much. i really appreciate you coming on the show. thank you for your time today. >> thank you, chris. >> that is it for this episode. we will be back shortly. you are watching san francisco rising. thanks for watching.
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>> you're watching san francisco rising with chris manners. today's special guest is katy tang. [♪♪♪] >> hi. i'm chris manners, and you're watching san francisco rising, the show that's focused on rebuilding, reimagining, and revitalizing our city. with us today is katy tang, and she's talk to -- talking to us about assistance and services provided to local businesses. can we talk about the role of the office of small business?
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many small businesses are struggling to help. how can you help? >> director tang: we are here as the city's central point of information for all things small businesses, so we can help people start, stay, and grow in the city. if you want to start a small business, we can pair you up with small business advisors, who can talk you through your business plan, help you develop it, whether it's regulatory requirements, business permits, and just help you understand the journey that was up ahead. and if you'd like to stay in san francisco and perhaps your business is facing challenges, we can also pair you with a business advisor who can assess your business needs and figure out whatside that would best help you. so for example, perhaps you need more marketing assistance or you need to be connected to a loan, a low interest loan or
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a grant program, if that's available. those are services we can provide to you, whether you're starting out or trying to stay in san francisco. and of course, if you want to expand and grow into a new space, we can help assist you with that and help prepare you for the journey ahead. we have a team dedicated to assist you you with all the small business needs, all the requirements needed to help you establish your small business in san francisco. >> do you have an e.s.l. program for people who want to start small businesses? >> director tang: we have staff that can speak spanish and mandarin and cantonese, and we understand if english is not your first language, it can be difficult, so we want to be as helpful as possible.
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>> excellent. i know that s.f. shines was created to help with restoring and improvement. can you tell us more about that? >> yes. it's run out of a sister development and it's much needed in the small business community. if you are trying to improve your storefront, whether it's outside, perhaps you want to make some interior improvements, a lot of times, that involves a lot of cost and resources to be able to do so. for example, you may need to hire an architect to submit drawings so you can get your work done. currently, s.f. shines is offer a pairing of business sign services. you can be paired up with an architect to get your drawings
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done to help you start to do the actual work. we hope that people will stay tuned, and you can find out more information on our website. that's >> let's talk about the shared spaces program. it's been a huge success, and outdoor dining spaces are very popular. >> the shared spaces program, especially during the pandemic, really helped spaces survive. to have an outdoor space where people could safely gather was critical, and the office of small business has been working with these shared spaces during the pandemic. some may or may not have been up to the city's code
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regulations, so department of public works and other departments have been trying to figure out what violations are and help businesses come into compliance. the planning department and the city have decided that they'll give businesses until 2023 to come into compliance. also in the meantime, for businesses that want to start new shared spaces, new parklets, that is still an on going program, a new program, so people can always submit their applications for shared spaces regardless whether they started one during the pandemic or not. >> do you anticipate there being other shared spaces programs in the future and how do small businesses go about finding out about them? >> small businesses can find
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out about it by visiting our website, sfgov/osb or you can call 415-554-6134, and we can connect you with the planning department and other agencies that would be connected with the shared spaces programs. >> over the pandemic, businesses have been victimized by vandals and other crimes. how can you help them? >> the city offers a program called the vandalism relief fund, and this would allow businesses suffering from graffiti or broken windows to apply with the city through our neighborhood services division, and you could get up to 1,000 or 2,000 if you submit certain
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documentation, such as a photograph of the damage or a copy of the receipt or document showing the amount you paid for to correct the incident. we are so excited that the city now has a centralized permit center, where people can come and get their business done, hopefully, in the same day where there are several different agencies, ranging from department of building inspection, planning department, public health, fire department, all here to help people, whether you're building a new business or even new construction, to be able to, again, fit all of your appointments in one day and get things done quickly. so starting in may, our office of small business has actually started working out of 49 south van ness at the permit center, and we have a team of two staff
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who are dedicated to helping small businesses through their permitting journey. so we do encourage people, you can come to the permit center or you can e-mail us at, and you can communicate with our staff dedicated to helping you with your permitting needs. we hope that people will consider consulting with us before you even sign a lease so that we can help you on the path to success and understanding the journey of setting up a small business in san francisco. >> well, thank you so much. i really appreciate you coming on the show, miss tang. thank you for the time you've given us today. >> director tang: thanks for having me. >> and that's it for this show. we'll be back shortly. you've been watching san francisco rising. for sfgovtv, i'm chris manners. thanks for watching.
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>> you are watching san francisco rising.
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today's special guest is jeff tomlin. >> hi. you are watching san francisco rising. to show that is focused on restarting, rebuilding, and reimagining our city. our guest today is the director transportation of the sfmta and he's with us to talk about the agency's 23-24 budget with the muni equity strategy and new projects across the city. welcome to the show. >> thank you it is good to be here. >> i see the sfmta's budget for 2023 and 2024 has been approved. how will it help provide a strong recovery during the next few years for our riders, operators and staff? >> it has been a challenging couple of years. covid wiped out the basic finances. our agency is funded primarily from transit fares, parking fees and a fixed set aside for a general fund and covid has meant we have lost more than half of our parking and transit for
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revenue. we are not expected to recover them until 2027. this budget takes a one-time federal release funding and spreads that out between now and 2025. and our task is to rebuild trust with the voters that sfmta can actually deliver on their goals and that includes things like making muni faster, more frequent, and more reliable. includes making our streets safer and making everyone feel safe riding the bus. it means taking advantage of the amount of change we're going to experience in order to advance equity so that we invents -- invest the most amount of money in communities that need our services the most. it also means supporting san francisco in its larger economic recovery. basically two years between now and 2024 in order to build trust
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with the voters and figure out how are we going to find muni moving forward because it is in 2024 and 2025 when the one-time federal release fund went out. >> are you planning on starting up? >> as a result of covid, we have 1,000 vacancies in the organization. that is why muni service is not fully recovered. this budget allows us to fully staff through 2024, which means we can restore muni service, invest in safety, and invest in other programs in order to make the transportation system work better for everyone. >> can you talk about the mooney service equity strategies? as you move out of the pandemic, how has that plan been updated? i have heard there are elevator upgrades in progress. >> we have been working a lot on equity during muni's recovery. we have been basing our work on the muni equity strategy. this is the plan we update every
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two years that looks at the changing demographics of san francisco and helps us direct our transit resources where people need it the most. that means people with low income, people of color, seniors, people with disability, children, all the folks who have the fewest choices. during covid, when we had to strip back the transit system, 13 quarters of the workforce were in quarantine, we directed all of the agency's resources to the equity neighborhoods. places like the bayview, chinatown, the mission, the valley, and even through our recovery, we have continued to deliver the best muni service's so -- to the neighborhoods that need it the most. right now we are still operating more frequent service in core lines in equity neighborhoods than we did precovid.
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and the result of that is extraordinarily high ridership. we are finding, for example, by investing in the frequency and reliability on lines like the 22 fillmore, that we are getting 133% of precovid ridership, even when the overall system is only at about half of the ridership recovery. that is 133%. that is on weekends. we are at about 96% of precovid ridership on our main equity lines on weekdays. we're also investing a whole variety of infrastructure projects aimed at making transit work better, particularly for people with disabilities. on the market street corridor, our elevators to the subway station date back to the 1970s and need significant renovation. right now we are busy working on renovating the elevators at the station. we have completed the elevator upgrade for the eastbound platform. we are now working on the
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westbound platform. that will modernize the elevators and make them a lot more reliable, and make sure that we can continue to prioritize people with the fewest mobility choices. >> that's great. changing topics slightly, i understand the improvement project is halfway completed. have shared spaces made the product -- project more complicated? >> yes. lots of things have made the terminal project more complicated, including things like covid and supply chain issues. we learned a lot on the first phase of the terra vale project, which rebuilt the street from sunset boulevard to the zoo, including rebuilding all the infrastructure of the streets, the underground utilities, to modernize all that infrastructure and make it more resilient, and make sure that we do not have to rebuild the street, hopefully in any of our lifetimes. we also learned about the importance of collaborating, particularly with neighborhood businesses and residents.
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we want to make sure that we are constructing the city's infrastructure in a time that the city is suffering and we are not adding to suffering. we're doing things like partnering with the mayor's office of economic workforce development to support neighborhood businesses through programming during this time. we are also making sure that businesses that create shared spaces in the parking lane, some of those need to be moved out of the way while the utility work is done underneath them. we are making sure that we will either move those platforms and outdoor eating areas back as they were, or help local merchants rebuild them so that we are not adding to the burden of local businesses and that we help everyone recover in this challenging time. >> quite right. finally, many of the sfmta vision zero quick build projects have been well received. can you talk about the evans street project?
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>> one of the things we did during covid was dramatically expand the rate of what we call quick build projects, which are fast-moving projects using simple and cheap materials in order to redesign streets and test out new ideas and see how they work, as well as get a lot of feedback from community before moving into a larger capital project that converts all of that plastic stuff into concrete and trees and, you know, curb extensions. what we have been finding is that our quick build safety projects are able to cut severe injury and fatalities between 25 and 75%, depending upon the location on the techniques that we use. so we are targeting streets that have the highest rate of traffic crashes, particularly injury crashes and fatalities. we focused on evans, which is really important connector for all modes of transportation
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between the bayview and the central neighborhoods of san francisco. also a street with a terrible track record of severe crashes. on evans, what we are doing, again using paint and plastic posts for the time being, is taking the lanes that are out there right now, and converting them to one lane in each direction plus turn pockets. what we found on streets like valencia or south bend this, or -- south van nass, is a street with one lane in each direction plus a term pocket can move just as much traffic as a street with two lanes in each direction. left turning vehicles mean the two lanes of traffic are never really available for through traffic. these road diets that we do have been tremendously effective for improving safety outcomes for
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all road users, without exacerbating traffic. they do make all cars slow down to the speed of the most prudent driver. this week we are getting started in partnership with the department of public works on work to restripe all of evans between third and cesar chavez, and as part of this work will be collecting a lot of data, talking to industrial users in the industrial district and talking to folks in the bayview commercial district and in the mission about how it is working. we will make some adjustments along the way and if it is successful, then we will start another project that is more capital-intensive to make it permanent. if it is not successful, we will turn it back the way that it was, having spent very little money. >> thank you so much. i really appreciate you coming on the show. thank you for the time you have given us today. >> it has been great being here. thank you so much. >> that is it for this episode. we will be back shortly.
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you have been watching san francisco rising. thank you for watching. [♪♪♪] >> >> good evening, this is the san francisco commission on environment. >> please do not use any devices. >> please note that using of cell phones and pagers and similar devices, please note that the ringing of cell phones and