Vapid Transit: City Transit Agencies' Office Digs Don't Come Cheap

Last week, the Board of Supervisors took the initial steps to place a $500 million bond on the ballot in hopes city voters will generously tap themselves to rehabilitate our shambolic transit system. Also in the works is a plan to triple residents' Vehicle License Fees to glean some $1 billion more.

San Francisco voters have been an agreeably indulgent bunch when it comes to approving revenue bonds — we're a city of transitory, altruistic renters who don't mind tacking a few bucks onto homeowners' property taxes. The pricier — and more widely spread — Vehicle License Fee, however, is polling at Mitt Romney levels here in the city; clever folks within City Hall have taken to quipping that “VLF” stands for “Very Likely to Fail.”

Those same folks are wont to point out that, while city residents are being asked to give till it hurts to aid city transit, the municipal bodies actually overseeing city transit haven't exactly reduced themselves into a state of penury in order to apply all available dollars to buses repaired with Glad Bags or potholes with potholes of their own.

There is still a healthy dose of internecine municipal grumbling regarding the County Transportation Authority's 2012 move into a penthouse space on the 22nd floor of 1455 Market St. — the same opulent tower housing the tech firm Square and located within ground zero of the city's increasingly insane Central Market real estate corridor.

In the steakhouse of San Francisco office rentals, the CTA ordered the lobster.

The CTA — not to be confused with the MTA (Municipal Transportation Agency) — administers the city's voter-approved Proposition K sales tax revenues and other grants and fees, focusing mostly on large-scale transit plans. Unlike the mayorally dominated MTA, the CTA is overseen by all 11 supervisors, who periodically transmute into the 11-member CTA “Board of Commissioners.”

Despite being overseen by the supervisors, CTA contracts aren't overseen by the Board of Supervisors' budget analyst. As such, the CTA's decision to shell out $32.38 per square foot for plush space in a skyscraper never came under budget analyst Harvey Rose's scrutiny.

The Department of the Environment's plan to also move into space at 1455 Market — paying far less per square foot than the CTA — was, however, critically reviewed by the budget analyst. A contentious hearing and changes to the proposed lease terms ensued.

The CTA's move required only the approval of its self-selected advisory committee and an up vote from the supervisors who also serve as its commissioners.

It is now a neighbor of the Department of the Environment at 1455 Market. Also housed in the same building: an outpost of the Municipal Transportation Agency.

Its rent per square-foot: $34.14.

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