$3 toll hike plan has Bay Area politicos dueling for dollars

“We are talking about an extra $700 a year,” Orinda Vice Mayor Amy Worth said of her suburban constituents.“These are working people who use the bridges to get to their jobs.”


Worth, who as a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has a say in how transit dollars are allocated, has some prominent company in questioning how the proposed ballot measure is being put together. State Sen. Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat, and GOP Assemblywoman Catharine Baker of San Ramon say BART in particular needs to be well policed if it’s going to be trusted with millions of additional toll dollars.

“The current proposal falls well short,” said Glazer, who has been on a one-man crusade against BART ever since a pair of 2013 strikes at the transit agency made life miserable for riders in Orinda and everywhere else in the East Bay.

If approved by voters, the toll hike on the Bay Area’s seven state-run bridges — every cross-bay span but the Golden Gate — would raise $125 million a year for projects intended to ease traffic congestion.

More by Matier Ross

The proposal is being put together by Bay Area legislators, with state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, at the helm. Supporters of the toll increase say everyone will benefit from the plan, but Worth and other East Bay politicos say drivers from Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties — who use the bridges most often — are getting the short end of the deal.

The officials note that, while nearly two-thirds of toll payers come from the East Bay, they are in line to get only half the money being outlined in the spending plan.

And a big chunk of the overall cash would be earmarked for projects that would do little or nothing to directly ease bridge congestion like $400 million to help extend BART to San Jose and $350 million to run Caltrain underground into the heart of downtown San Francisco.

Beall conceded that Santa Clara County drivers would pay a little and get a lot. But he said that’s part of the political equation needed to pass the measure, which must win collective majority approval from the nine Bay Area counties.

“You have to give people a reason to vote,” Beall said.

He added that East Bay critics “don’t need to be attacking projects in my area — why not just tell us what projects are important to your area?”

That’s just what they did last week, bringing in a $500 million wish list of projects for Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It includes millions to improve the Interstate 80-San Pablo Dam Road corridor and $100 million to smooth drivers’ ride on the westbound Interstate 580 approach to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

“If that happens, then we would not oppose the measure,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, who has raised objections to the plan as it stands.

Whether Glazer and Baker would come on board remains to be seen.

Beall said lawmakers have about two weeks to reach a deal if the measure is to make the ballot next year. Whatever eventually lands there probably has a decent chance of passing, regardless of whether the East Bay officials endorse it.

Just look at the math. On average, 378,000 Bay Area drivers a day cross the state-run bridges — compared with 3.7 million voters in the nine counties who would benefit from their extra toll dollars.

Alley oops: Presidio Terrace isn’t the only private San Francisco street that has been snapped up in a tax default sale — there was another road sold in 2015.

But unlike exclusive Presidio Terrace, whose homeowners are clamoring to get their street back, no one seems to want this one.

There are no street signs on the two-block alley, in an upscale part of the Richmond District near the southwest corner of the Presidio. It runs parallel to Lake Street and largely provides garage access to two dozen multimillion-dollar homes between 22nd and 24th avenues.

The company that developed the homes went belly up in 1922, which resulted in a long string of unpaid taxes on the alley. Finally, the San Francisco tax collector put it up for auction, and a New York real estate investor snagged it, sight unseen, in an online auction for about $5,000.

The investor then listed the street for $35,000, but finding any takers has been next to impossible because the homeowners have easement rights.

“You can’t build on it. You have to pay taxes, insurance and any other necessary items to maintain it,” local agent Fred Glick, who declined to identify his client, wrote in his pitch to sell the street. “But … you can impress your friends that you own real estate in the hottest market in California, beautiful San Francisco.”

And if that doesn’t convince you, Glick is also pitching the property as a tax break for anyone wishing to travel to San Francisco “to come and check on your investment.”

It’s not the first time Glick has worked a tough sale.

“I also had a warehouse back East with dead bodies in it,” he told us. “But I’m not allowed to say any more.”

San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or email matierandross@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @matierandross

Article source: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/3-toll-hike-plan-has-Bay-Area-politicos-dueling-11943800.php

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