Fireside Chat With Mayor Ed Lee

Uploaded by eventsatgoogle on 30.01.2012


VERONICA BELL: Hello, it is my pleasure to
welcome you here today.
My name's Veronica Bell.
I'm the manager of Community and Government Affairs, and
I'm really excited for this event.
We have two very special guests here today, but before
I introduce our guests, I'd like to introduce our Googler.
I'm sure she is a familiar face to most of
you, Gretchen Howard.
She's the director of global new products and solutions
here at Google, which means that she handles our social
sales strategy as well as our cross product solution sales.
She joined Google in 2006 and was the founding sales leader
for the San Francisco office in 2007 when we opened.
She studied history at Williams College and has her
MBA from Harvard.
She lives in San Francisco and has lived here for about eight
years, and is raising her two children here, so she's
familiar with the wonderful parts of the city and some of
the challenges in the city.
It's also my pleasure to introduce a surprise guest,
and a very welcome surprise guest, Mr. Ed Reiskin, who's
the director of transportation for the San Francisco
Municipal Transportation Agency.
Mr. Reiskin is in charge of many things in the city, Muni,
parking, traffic congestion, pedestrian planning, bicycle
implementation, accessibility, and taxi regulation.
And based on the questions from moderator, I think a lot
of you will be thrilled to see him here, so he'll be
answering our transportation questions.
Mr. Reiskin is also responsible for over 5,000
city employees in his role and manages a
budget of $780 million.
Before joining the SFMTA, he was the director of the
Department of Public Works for the city of San Francisco.
And he holds a Master of Public Administration from
Harvard, an MBA from New York University, and a bachelor of
science degree from MIT.
He also lives in San Francisco with his wife and three
children, and he rides Muni daily, so that was a
nice part to read.
And now, it is my great pleasure to introduce the
mayor of what's quickly becoming known as the
innovation capital of the world, given his focus on
tech, the 43rd mayor of San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee.
VERONICA BELL: In addition to running on a tech platform,
Mayor Lee has focused on balancing the budget, job
creation, transit, and general quality of life within the
city of San Francisco.
Prior to becoming the 43rd mayor, Mayor Lee was deeply
involved in public service for many years.
He successfully held many roles in San Francisco, most
recently as city administrator.
He's also worked as the director of the Department of
Public Works and was the executive director of the
Human Rights Commission.
Prior to dedicating himself to public service in 1989, Mayor
Lee was the managing attorney for the San Francisco Asian
Law Caucus.
Mayor Lee was born in Seattle, graduated summa cum laude from
Bowdoin college, attended Boalt Hall School of Law at
the University of California in Berkeley.
He's married to his wife Anita, and he is the father of
two daughters, Brianna and Tania.
And we are absolutely thrilled to have our guests here today.
And with that, I will pass it over to Gretchen.
GRETCHEN HOWARD: Well, thank you again, both of you, for
joining us.
I'm going to start off with a couple questions, but I know
you guys are all very passionate about the topic of
So feel free to start standing at the three mics in the room,
and we'll go quickly to you guys as well.
So I wanted to start off, and either of you guys can answer
this, about telling us a little about the city's pilot
bike program.
Alternate and green transportation is obviously
very important to Google, so we'd love to hear more about
that program and your plans for it.
ED LEE: Well, if I may begin, first of all, I want to thank
Ed Reiskin because we always think two Eds are better than
one, especially coming into Google.
I also want to point out, Jay Nath.
I brought him here, too.
He's our newest chief, the only nation's--
in the mayor's office--
Chief Innovation Officer for San Francisco.
So we've indicated our support for technology helping us
deliver services better in the city by naming Jay Nath our
Chief Innovation Officer.
Also want to thank Sarah Lacy for being here as well, and
thank you for starting up your second company here in the
city as well.
Thank you.
SARAH LACY: Sorry for being late.
ED LEE: Oh, that's OK.
Ron Conway, thank you for your work and help, as well.
Wonderful partners that we're creating and establishing here
as I embark on my first political office in my life.
I don't know if you know that.
I've never run for office before, but this city is worth
every sacrifice.
So of course, running for this office meant a lot,
and I did mean it.
We are on a technology innovation platform, and
you're going to see a lot of things changing in our
government to make it better, and hopefully, with your
Having said that, the very first topic on bicycles, both
Ed and I are big bicycle enthusiasts.
We've been extremely supportive of, not only the
bicycle coalition, but for the infrastructure that's needed.
And we are both, by the way, former directors of Public
Works Department.
So we know the roadways very well in the city and their
And that's why we joined together very solidly this
past year to promote, and did successfully help pass, the
city's first pavement bond program that will get our
streets smoother so that the bicycle experience, along with
cars and shuttles and everything else, can ride
smoother because we've heard so much about the famous and
infamous potholes in the city.
The bike sharing program, it's one that has been in
contemplation works for years, and I might even think in
decades because I remember, as my previous public works
director spot, I was involved with the former MTA director
in trying to get input about which of the bike sharing
programs that we would choose from.
And we were very focused at that time on a company called
JCDecaux, who had started it in Paris.
I was pushing that very hard because I had been the
introducer of the JCDecaux public facilities, public
toilets, and I thought that they had worked really well.
And I think the bike sharing program, the same kind of
concept, public-private partnership, setting it up,
having these bikes all over the place.
MTA decided to put out the bid, and they bid it out.
And I think they went through years of kind of start and
non-start, and that got very much delayed.
Fast forward, we now have a vendor already in place.
And instead of just making it a San Francisco program,
we've, I think smartly, made it a Bay Area collaborative
program with all the other transit agencies.
And maybe that's the best way to introduce all the details
that Ed Reiskin can go into on the Bay Area's bike sharing
program and how it will start and when it will start and
what we have in mind immediately.
ED REISKIN: We are going to launch this summer.
We are doing it, as the mayor said, in collaboration with
the region.
We're doing a pilot because that's what we're able to get
funding for.
We got a grant from the Regional Air Quality
Management District.
We're going to start with a pilot with 1,000 bikes.
500 will be in San Francisco, and the balance in the
peninsula, largely along the Caltrain corridor.
In San Francisco, they're going to be concentrated kind
of down here along the waterfront from the Caltrain
station up through Fisherman's Wharf mostly, so mostly in
kind of the flat northeast part of the city.
We're currently working on getting the locations for the
bike share pods.
It'll work pretty much like car share works, for those of
you who are familiar with that, the main difference
being is that you can return to a different location.
You pick it up at one pod, you can ride down to Fisherman's
Wharf and leave it there when you're done, you can take the
F Line back.
We are seeking--
we're working with the owner of this building to see if we
can get a pod placed right here.
There's a number of other locations around here.
We're trying to get them every couple of blocks.
We've done a lot of research into best practices and what
works in terms of spacing, in terms of critical mass of
locations that you need in order to make a system viable,
so we hope to have it up and running this summer.
We have funding for, I think, one year.
I'm looking for my bike share guy who's here.
But there's incredible enthusiasm.
I just came from the transportation research board
meeting that was happening in Washington, DC this week and
heard Chicago was about to roll out 4,000 bike pilot.
New York-- a 10,000 bike program.
The momentum for bike share across the country is really
picking up, so I've no doubt, despite the fact that our
funding is limited now, and we're starting with what I
think is a pretty modest 1,000 bike program here, that we
will be able to both sustain and ramp it up soon
So we're very excited about it.
Cycling is a huge part of how we're going to accommodate the
growth in San Francisco.
And I noticed the intro said I was in charge of traffic
congestion, which I don't know if that was in the bio that we
provided to Google.
I like to think I'm more in the--
GRETCHEN HOWARD: Maybe the elimination of traffic.
ED REISKIN: Right, traffic decongestion is something, and
cycling is a big part of that.
Getting people out of their cars and onto transit or on
bikes is really how we're going to manage the amount of
people we have currently in San Francisco, but more
importantly the growth that we see that's going to be coming.
ED LEE: And I just want to re-emphasize that it is not
just the bikes themselves and
availability and the vendoring.
We've done all of that.
It really is, we passed successfully, $248 million, a
street repaving bond, and of course, that's going to help
us with that very necessary infrastructure.
And to make the bike sharing experience positive, we've got
pedestrian safety involved in that $248 million.
Those contracts are already under way.
We just sold the bonds for them as part of a $327 million
bond passing of it, and the street bonds was part of that
to get through the board.
And so that's all being set up, and you'll start seeing,
literally in a matter of weeks, some of these smaller
parklets and streets getting under repavement right away.
So it's all coming together, I think, very timely way.
GRETCHEN HOWARD: So speaking of safety and bicycling, my
understanding is that there was a project on Oak and Fell,
which a lot of our folks bike down those and back and forth
to this office, that there is a delay, that MTA delayed the
creation of a separated bike path due to protests from
removing car parking.
Can you comment on that?
And how do you balance the needs of those two different
ED REISKIN: Yeah, it's a great question.
I live on the Wiggle, and I don't have a car.
So when I'm not on Muni, I'm on my bike, which is
frequently, so I know the area very well.
It's a critical connector from the Mission and Downtown out
to the west side of the city.
We actually didn't delay.
We haven't delayed anything.

Our schedule for a permanent solution remains where it is,
which would have something in place next year.
We had been talking about trying to pilot something
sooner, but we have run into a pretty significant amount of
opposition from the folks in the directly impacted
And San Francisco, as those of you who live here know, is a
very process intensive city, and we don't want to steam
roll over folks and leave them with a kind of bad taste in
their mouth and have them hurling rocks out their
windows at the cyclists as we go by.
So we're taking the time to try to find ways in which we
can mitigate the parking loss.
This is a transit first city, and the transit first policy
that was adopted by the board nearly 40 years ago--
it's not transit only.
It's really getting people out of their cars, so generally,
in a trade-off between bicycles and parking, bicycles
should win.
But we also have people who have moved into neighborhoods,
who have bought houses, who have established themselves
with a certain expectation for how they're going to be able
to use their car, and so we want to kind
of work with people.
We want to educate people about how it benefits them as
car drivers to get more people onto bikes, but we are trying
to work through the issue.
So we've been having a series of community meetings, and
those will continue.
I think the next kind of major, next big one is going
to be in March.
And I know the mayor, when he first heard about this early
in his appointed term, was very eager to see something on
the ground quickly, as is our board.
So with all due haste, we will lean towards doing that.
ED LEE: Actually, and more importantly I think, both Ed
and I have ridden that route, and we experienced it, not
only for the quality of the route, looking at pedestrian
safety, bicycle safety, the balance, and I'm supportive.
We're going to give leadership to this to
make sure it happens.
We had just concluded, I think, some very good
agreement on the JFK route, and we just
literally finished that.
We had to actually balance out some challenges from the
disabled community to get that done, but we did it.
And we were very focused on it, and I think we're proud to
say that you're going to see the JFK route go blend in
right into the panhandle and the Wiggle.
And so this is just another extension, in our opinion,
about it, but we got to go through that process.
And you'll see that happen.
ED REISKIN: And I believe in JFK, the parking loss may have
been greater even than what we're
anticipating on Oak and Fell.
It's a much longer stretch, but it's an example of where,
in this case, it was really the Rec and Park commission
made the difficult policy call to make that trade-off and to
give more of the real estate and the right-of-way to
bicycles at the expense of cars.
GRETCHEN HOWARD: And I can attest, personally, that you
are a biker because your office invited me to bike with
you last spring, and I was nine months pregnant, so I had
to decline.

So switching from bicycling to central subway, which is an
interesting topic.
So I've heard this referred to as a pork barrel project with
a faulty design.
So I would love for you to just address that issue and
also talk about why would we invest in this without fixing
Muni first.
ED LEE: Well, while we're fixing Muni, while we're
improving service, while we're trying to take care of labor
issues that have really prevented us for quite some
time to be as efficient as we should be, I don't think that
we have to wait for our future to arrive and tell
us we're too late.
Our future's already here.
It's no different than our
welcoming of the tech companies.
We know our future rests with the future industries and the
future places where people are going to live.
So we figured out quite some years ago the new housing is
not going to be in the Sunset or the Richmond.
It's going to be in Mission Bay and Hunters Point.
That's the last area of open land that we have.
How do we connect up the next 10,500 new units of housing
that are going to be built and already are planned to be
built in that area?
How does transportation work for them in
the very near future?
This central subway has been in the works
for a couple of decades.
And it has often been said--- and I'm sorry that it took a
political nature to it during the mayoral campaign because I
think it got misrepresented at that time.
It was approved time and time again as the best
transportation answer to the housing and the needs of our
future city.
And so this link that will go from 4th Street down near
Townshend, where the Caltrain station is now and where the
3rd Street ends, all the way up through Chinatown is going
to be invaluable to link up the north and south to be able
to have that transportation that, right now, if you see
the transportation that goes up and down the north--
and if you ride the 30 Stockton Street, you
can't get on it.
There are times that you just can't get
on it, it's so crowded.
And do we want the future of the city to crowd more
vehicles and very congested streets
between north and south?
I think the answer is the subway.
No other jurisdiction in the country has ever rejected a
subway when they've got it built.
What they have done is they regretted the opportunity, as
we did, to extend BART where it should have gone, and we
regret that.
Right now, it should gone all the way down Gary Street and
reached Richmond if we had been smarter
during those years.
Now, they're finally making it to San Jose.
How many people are jumping up and down?
A lot of people, so I think this is
going to be our answer.
Yes, it does cost.
When you're tunneling, it costs hundreds
of millions of dollars.
Most of that is gotten through our Federal Department of
And I was there just a week and a half ago, and we got
some good news.
We got confirmation that this letter of non-prejudice, which
is a very critical letter that comes just before the final
grant agreement of full funding from the feds was
to us, and that allows us to spend another $250 million on
the tunneling equipment that we need to tunnel under
Stockton Street and rebuild the station in Chinatown.
And there's about four stations that are being built
as part of this whole thing.
ED REISKIN: Very well said.
I guess all I would add, two things.
One in terms of a design itself.
I think the mayor kind of spoke to the need that the
growth is coming.
We need to accommodate it, regardless, really, of the
state of our current system.
And just so people know, the impact, the net additional
operating impact of the central subway, once it's open
for service, would be less than 2% above
what we have now.
So pretty marginal operating impact.
But the mayor mentioned that the planning for this started
about 20 years ago.
The real kind of heavy planning environmental process
and design started maybe six or eight years ago.
It went through maybe 300 community meetings, a very
exhaustive CEQA and NEPA, the environmental review
processes, a lot of work to get consensus in terms of
what's the best technical solution, the best financial
solution, the best operational solution.
And that's what got us to the design we have today.
So for folks in the heat of a mayor's campaign to look back
on decisions that were made through an exhaustively,
rigorously vetted process and say it should have been on 3rd
instead of 4th or you should have tried to come on top of
the BART tube instead of under, every possibility was
analyzed and vetted.
This is probably the most rigorously studied public
works project in the history of San Francisco, because of
the federal funding and the rules that come with it.
So we're very confident that we have the design that will
be the best bang for the buck, that will work operationally,
and that reflects the consensus of San Francisco
during the 300 community meetings that it went through.
And then in terms of is it that or fixing Muni, it's got
to be both.
My job one is to make Muni more reliable, because that is
the core of making transit first work in San Francisco.
So we don't at all see it as, well, let's let Muni decline,
and let's build this fancy new project.
We've got to do both.
ED LEE: Many of you, if you're interested, and I think you
are, to live in a great, wonderful city of San
Francisco, you'll find the housing that we're building
probably will be pretty attractive when you start
looking at the hillsides of Hunters Point, and you view it
over the bay.
It's beautiful down there.
We don't want you to have two cars.
We just can't have that in our city.
We've got to have a integral, multi-mode transportation for
our city, and central subway's going to be, I think, the
provider of a great part of that solution, along with
bicycling, and along with employee shuttles, and along
with our Muni, of course.
But I think we are considering your future when
we make this decision.
We want you to be here in this city, but we also don't want
you stuck on 4th Street for hours, and then complain, who
was that Mayor-- who were those two Eds?
What were they doing?
All right, we're going to open up the field to questions.
Take a couple more transportation questions, then
we're going to actually switch topics.
AUDIENCE: On the topic of adding new housing while
accommodating transit, transit works well when density is
high, and it doesn't work when density is low.
A lot of San Francisco is astonishingly low density.
Two or three story buildings, a lot of
individual family homes.
When we add new development, are we trying to make sure
that that new development is high enough density to make
transit viable?
ED REISKIN: First of all, your premise is obviously correct.
You need a critical mass to make transit work.
You need density to get that critical mass.
San Francisco is generally the second densest city in the
country, after New York.
So even when you're out in the Richmond and the Sunset, if
you look at dwelling units per acre, it's very high, relative
to most of the country, and transit
does or can work there.
It should work there.
I'm working on it.
GRETCHEN HOWARD: Geary Bus, not so much.
ED REISKIN: The L is good.
38 L, I mean.
In terms of as we're planning forward that there's really
two parts of that.
What the city saw 5 or 10 years ago was most of the
growth was going to be coming to the eastern side of the
city, so the city undertook a number of planning processes.
The big one was the eastern neighborhoods plan, which was
adopted by the Board of Supervisors a couple years
ago, that along certain areas, there's some pretty
significant up zoning.
The same happened with the Market Octavia plan, the
Balboa Park plan.
So in areas that were not really fully built out, the
plans that the city adopted do exactly that.
They allow for a lot more density.
They have parking maximums instead of minimums, so
they're very much geared towards that.
In the big growth areas, what the mayor was
just referring to--
Mission Bay and Hunters Point Shipyard--
they have their own plans.
And they're even much more aggressively, since they're
starting from a clean slate, much more aggressive in terms
of density and minimizing car use.
As the mayor said, we can't have everybody in Hunters
Point having two cars.
So the land use and transportation planning for
those happen together, the same with Treasure Island, the
same with the Parkmerced redevelopment.
So everything that we're doing going forward will much more
reflect that integration of land use policy and
transportation planning so that we'll
really have the density.
The transportation plan for Hunters Point Shipyard, for
example, has a very significant transit build-out
that's associated with it, because it's being built for
people to use transit.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
ED LEE: Thank you.
GRETCHEN HOWARD: Question from the middle?
AUDIENCE: Two questions.
One is I've heard proposals for adding some sort of
suspended bike lane to the western span of the Bay
Bridge, and I'm wondering if you have any insight into that
and any opinion.
And then the other thing about the central subway line--
we've seen in other transit projects, particularly BART,
that there will be grand plans for transit systems that
connect urban areas with extended suburban areas.
And what always seems to happen is that the cost of
laying rail in an urban infill area becomes so high that they
do all the development in the suburban areas, usually hand
in hand with developers there, and they never get around to
doing the difficult urban bits.
I'm sure you're aware how long BART has been talking about an
extension to Warm Springs in San Jose, and it's just never
going to happen.
So I would like to know, as you start to build this
central subway, are you going to tackle the difficult bits
first, or are you going to start down in Hunters Point?
ED REISKIN: So let me take the second one first.
The 3rd Street light rail project runs from Visitation
Valley to Chinatown in its first two phases.
The first phase is already built from Vis Valley up to
4th and King.
So what the Central Subway Project is is phase two, which
is going from 4th and King to Chinatown.
We expect to get our grant agreement from the federal
government within the next couple of months-- a $942
million grant agreement.
With those funds, we will have a fully funded project of
about $1.6 billion, of which $250 million is contingency.
So on a percentage basis, it's got a huge, very, very
overly conservative contingency that the federal
government is requiring us to carry.
So we will have a fully funded project that we will
absolutely be able to complete, hopefully be able to
return some of that contingency money back.
So it's a relatively short project
that we'll be building.
We will not ever be in a situation where we've started
drilling the hole and are going to run out of money or
have to stop.
And in terms of BART to San Jose, they actually just got a
grant agreement from the federal government.
The same program that we're applying for.
So I think theirs is going to happen.
The last piece to get all the way into downtown San Jose is
still not funded.
BART expansions out to Livermore or Antioch, those
start to really raise the questions you're talking about
of should we expand out further where it's easy, or
should we really focus on infill development?
And without getting into it, the Bay Area is undertaking
this whole regional land use and
transportation planning process.
If you go to, there's a lot of good
information there.
And the region is ultimately going to
choose a growth scenario.
It's either going to be kind of continuing to sprawl out,
or it's going to be focusing more inward.
And we're hopeful in San Francisco that it's going to
be the focusing more inward strategy, which is going to
make other transit projects in the city more viable, such as
even infill BART stations such as maybe Mission and 30th to
put a BART station in there.
If it's down to that or extending the Livermore,
that's the choice that the Bay Area as a region is going to
have to make.
In terms of the bike way right out here, I think it'd be
great if it would happen.
I know the East Bay Bicycle Coalition has been pushing
hard for it.
From what I understand, it'd be an extraordinarily
expensive project.
There's no funding source for it now, so I'd say just in
practical terms, it's probably fairly far-fetched.
But the fact that the new bridge, which we were hoping
will be open in time for the 2013 America's Cup on the
other side will at least allow people to
get to Treasure Island.
And then as we build out Treasure Island, we'll have
much better transit service, both buses and ferries, to get
people to San Francisco, and at some point down the line,
maybe we'll get that bike lane on the west span as well.
ED LEE: I'm an incredible optimist on things like that,
and I think that it will be impossible if we only think
one dimensional that government should pay for it.
I think that there's enough ridership and interest here.
A public-private partnership to do something is
spectacular, and link it to the bike lane that will be on
the new Bay Bridge from Treasure Island
to the other side.
It's got to be a fantastic ride.
And I would put up some private money, if I had it, to
help, because I think it'd make the San Francisco Bay
Area that much more spectacular of a fun place.
It's fun.
It would be absolutely fun to have that ride.
So when you talk about both entertainment and recreation
and sports, it's never just government doing it.
I think a public-private approach might be a very
incredibly good one.
GRETCHEN HOWARD: We're going to take one more
transportation question, and then we're
going to change topics.
AUDIENCE: So lately there's been a lot of talk about high
speed rail, whether it's going to happen, whether it's not.
I know most of it falls outside of the jurisdiction of
San Francisco, but how is uncertainty about that
affecting your planning for transportation, whether you're
going to be building a new high speed rail station?
And if funds don't get used for that, how's it going to be
used for other transportation projects?
ED REISKIN: I can start on that.
First of all, we in San Francisco, and largely in the
Bay Area, though not unanimously, are very
supportive of high speed rail.
Every elected official in San Francisco at the local, state,
federal level, very supportive.
We see the value looking to the future of California of
being able to move people between San Francisco and San
Jose, and then on down south to LA is critical to the
future of California.
Just incredibly important for its economy, for its job
growth, for the same reasons that we have a transit first
policy here.
We're not going to be able to accommodate all the growth in
California all through highways and the airways, so
we need to catch up with the rest of the world and get high
speed rail moving.
In terms of the Transbay project, that was conceived
before high speed rail was really a topic of
I think that we all believe--
in the transportation realm, anyway, and
the land use planners--
that getting rail to downtown San Francisco is critical.
So I think the way we're looking at it is first, we're
advocating hard to keep high speed rail on track, but see
that as kind of icing on the cake.
The core project is to get this
intermodal terminal built.
A significant amount of bus traffic comes in there.
The buses alone are in need, and the people who ride the
bus are deserving of a decent place to land and transfer.
But we see the extension of Caltrain into the terminal as
really a must have for the future of San Francisco, and
for the ability of people to be able to move between San
Jose and points in between.
So we see that has merit, very strong merit, on its own, to
get the project built.
And then to connect it, to connect the rail, basically,
to extend from 4th and King right to here at the Transbay.
And then if high speed rail comes and can make it happen
faster, all the better.
What we're proposing to the high speed rail authority is
to move forward with the electrification of Caltrain,
and the extension of the downtown tunnel to extend from
4th and King to here, which would get you 80% or 90% of
high speed rail from San Jose to San Francisco about 20
years faster than what their business plan calls for, and
for less than 1/3 of the cost.
So we think we have a good solution that kind of threads
the needle and gets the rail connectivity we need,
regardless of what the long term of high speed rail is.
ED LEE: I'd also want to make a pointed argument here.
If you go to our airport, and you understand the flights,
1/3 of all of our air flights in San Francisco Airport is
the LA-San Francisco commute.
And we cannot, and we won't be building additional
runways in our bay.
So what do we do with our future marketing?
Well, for a company like Google and all the other tech
companies, your future is part of this question.
Because if we cannot expand the flights for international
travel, we are strangling ourselves
for the global market.
And so our vision is to move that 1/3 of that commute onto
high speed rail, and then allow our airport to receive
that 1/3 in international flights.
That's our global marketing future.
And if I'm going to sell San Francisco homemade products
here to China and to Japan and to Southeast Asia, I've got to
have those international flights.
We can't do that without high speed rail moving that
transportation onto a better place.
So that's literally big.
Now, great news came just last week.
Jerry Brown stepped up.
This is on top of his transportation priority.
President Obama wanted to hear that, because they're there.
Secretary LaHood told me that.
They're there with us.
And then you have, through the state of California, the top
10 mayors of all the major cities from LA all the way to
San Francisco, we are in concert.
And that includes both Democrats and Republican
mayors are all on board with this high speed rail.
So I, again, optimistic, because I think that we are
doing and making the right decision on this.
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much.
So that ends our transportation segment.
So a huge thank you to our special guest, Mr. Reiskin,
half of Team Ed.
Thank you.
ED REISKIN: Thank you.

GRETCHEN HOWARD: So feel free to come to the mic with any
questions you may have for Mayor Lee.
I'm going to start it out with talking about technology.
So you ran--
part of your campaign was all about technology, and
improving the technology for the city, which I think all of
us here applaud.
How are you going to pull that off, given your issues with
the budget, and just the outdated technology that the
city has today?
ED LEE: Thank you.
Well, I'm certainly going to pull it off in a way in which
it's not just an announcement, it's for real.
I think we asked Ron and others to come and meet with
us and get the best ideas, and we start off with inviting
you, Google, as part of SF City, which we've created.
It's a collaboration.
It's kind of what I've referred to as the technology
chamber of commerce, if you will, for San Francisco.
And we made a commitment with initial 85 companies that are
in the tech world, that include Google and others,
that are going to help us with actually two areas
to start out with.
The first area is how do we make sure one of my number one
goals is accomplished when the technology comes?
And that is the creation of jobs, and getting job
training, and making sure there is a curriculum out
there that reflects the kinds of skill sets that your
company needs, and how we can get our kids excited about
making sure that they fulfill that, along with those that
want to change or need to change their careers and are
in mid-career, along with the returning veterans.
How do they get that curriculum?
What is that training?
Where do we go?
We're creating that as we speak.
The other part is a special partnership that we had under
this umbrella with SF City is our relationship--
and this is where Jay Nath comes in-- is to create that
special relationship with Code for America in asking that
startup acceleration come into government.
And that I'm not afraid of using the words we need some
hackathon solutions to Muni, to the way we deliver
services, the way we buy things, the way we
We just need that advice, and we need that constant
push, if you will.
So I decided to bring that right into the mayor's office
through the innovation officer, and make that a
relationship at the top of where government
decisions are made.
And then you're going to be able to see these ideas as
they come out.
We'll test pilot some things.
And right off the bat, I use an example--
when I was at the conference of mayors
last week our SF Park.
If you've ever had a chance to use that, for those of you
that do drive, SF Park is one of our answers to traffic
congestion, in that I often say I used to do the dumbest
thing when I was youthful.
I used to drive around and look for parking, and I
thought I was smart enough--
I didn't realize I was competing with 10 others on
the same block, creating congestion, creating more
emissions, stalling Muni behind us, creating a little
more traffic for bicycling.
And realizing all of that, we have an application that
allows you, through the censoring process that we made
for the selected areas of the city where we have the sensor,
tells you all the parking spaces, tells you where
they're empty, tells you the price they are, in the garages
as well as on the street.
And we're about to launch that citywide, if we get the
funding for it.
But the test piloting of this for the last year has been
incredibly positive.
And it's that blend of technology helping us figure
out something like parking congestion.
Next round is kind of like Uber.
Where's my taxi?
Do I have to go to that corner?
Or can the taxis know where I am and come to where I need
them instantly?
These are the kinds of things that I think
we can figure out.
They're very customer oriented.
They're citizen oriented.
And we named SF City precisely because it's citizen
initiative for technology and innovation.
We need those ideas, and I am very willing to
open up not only data.
I want to be able to open up the way we manage and make
decisions in government so that we can blend
technological solutions to how we deliver services, whether
it's a homeless person or someone that needs shelter, or
whether it's medical care, or whether it's social services,
or public safety.
I think all of those can be exposed to high level
technology to get better service, because I have to
reduce government spending.
We're there at a critical point.
And I know some of you are going to ask--
26,000 employees for a 810,000 population.
Is this a little large?
I think we need to be smarter, and I've committed the next
two budgets are going to reduce yet further,
potentially at this point, probably through attrition,
the number of employees.
But we're going to make the employees that we do have
smarter and more both accessible, but also better
managers of their work plans through technology.
GRETCHEN HOWARD: I love hearing launching, iterating,
transparency, from the mayor's office.
It's not words that we've heard before.
So this is fantastic.
ED LEE: It's going to be more than words, because I've got
people now that actually can implement, and so we're not
afraid to do that.
We've got to be--
I think in the word of hackathon experimenting, I've
got to be able to try some things, and then be willing to
make the kind of mistakes that you make in acceleration, but
then move on.
All right.
AUDIENCE: Speaking of technological solutions, there
was actually Google Moderator, where
Googlers can vote on questions.
Last I checked, this was still one of the top
three voted on questions.
And before I ask this, I just sort of want to frame this--
I'm not American, I can't vote, so I didn't actually
have a horse in the last mayor's race.
But my question is this.
You had stated that you weren't
going to run for mayor.
You did.
You won.
And how do you plan to regain the trust of the Board of
Supervisors who you have to work with closely as mayor to
get things done when you broke that promise?
ED LEE: Well, I did change my mind.
So if a promise was made, that's been changed, and I
explained that already.
And actually, I have to tell you, if you asked me to
describe the mayor's relationship with the Board of
Supervisors since the election, we're moving
legislation along.
You saw America's Cup get unanimous thumbs up.
You got all the important legislation for job
creation are there.
I think we're having very healthy conversations, even
with people who competed with me.
I had John Avalos in the office yesterday, and we've
agreed as how we're going to-- and he knows I'm just as
strong of an advocate of local hire, and that's been one of
his pinnacle programs that he ran on, local hire.
Well, we're just as strong, and so based upon what we need
to get done for the benefit of the city, and improving the
city, I don't think the mayor's race is getting in the
way at all.
I think, in fact, people say it's water under the bridge.
Let's move forward.
Let's get an agreement on what we do to
improve life for everybody.
And everyone has come aboard on the whole theme of job and
economic stability, because whenever you say--
and I'll repeat again, I started as an
interim mayor in January.
Unemployment rate was 9.5%.
December, 12 months later, 7.6%.
You can't argue with numbers.
You can't argue with 17,000 more people got jobs because
we all stayed together.
Just three months of political battering shouldn't disturb
four years of willingness to work together with the board.
So I find David Chiu great to work with, I find John Avalos
great to work with.
Phil Ting is off and running something else, but he's still
good to work with as a tax assessor.
Not only are we getting along, I think we have in front of us
those critical issues we're supposed to be
working on as a city.
I said on that at our inauguration.
I'm not one to batter anybody, because again, I repeat, I'm
not really a politician.
But I am, and I want to be, the best mayor I can be.
And the only way you become, I think, the best mayor is you
work with everybody, and then you focus.
AUDIENCE: Just a really quick follow-up question.
Do you think you've regained their trust?
ED LEE: Well, I think, not instantly.
Trust is always something that you build and build around.
And so I believe that the things that I've worked with,
for example, with David Chiu in Chinatown.
We immediately said, let's do something for
Stockton Street merchants.
And I don't know if you knew this.
During the 10 days before Chinese New Year's, we both
agreed to do these parklets along Stockton Street to allow
the merchants to use it.
We both agreed to do that, and we both signaled our
willingness to work with each other.
We created the first car sharing on the street in his
district, and it took cooperation with the mayor's
office and him to be able to do that.
Projects that we both care about, and we build, and we do
together, and we share the credit for, and we also share
the blame for their failure.
That's how you build trust.
It's on those projects.
You don't ask for it.
You don't demand it.
You build on it, and that's the way we're doing it.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
Question from the middle?
On the subject of innovation and hackathons, et cetera, are
you familiar with the Code for America thing, or can you talk
at all about that?
It's something that Google has been sponsoring, and I think
this is the first year that it's going to be happening in
San Francisco.
ED LEE: Yes.
Well, we have talked to the director of Code America.
We invited her in, and we've made a starting agreement that
we're going to be working and exposing a number of different
departments, beginning not only with their data, but just
talking through how they operate.
And what Code for America and the signaling to some
innovating startup companies who would like to make this
something that they want to do as their startup companies is
take some of the challenges, hack out some ideas, and then
work on some solutions with us.
And then those departments will make the commitment to
implement those solutions, and see whether or not they can
actually get the results that we anticipate.
That's how we envision the Code for America to work with
us, and we're just literally starting that dialogue and
that relationship.
But we've already got things to paper.
We've got a meeting set up, and we've already made the
introduction of the director of Code America, to Jay Nath
as our chief innovation officer.
So he's going to be our liaison with Code of America,
and creating those relationships with the various
All right.
I think we have time for two more questions.
First of all, I'm a third generation local, and a 20
year homeowner here in the city.
And I have to say, thank you for running, because I voted
for you with more enthusiasm than a lot of mayors in the
past, let's say.
Now, having softened you up here--
ED LEE: OK, slap me.
AUDIENCE: The department of Rec and Park, and I ran these
numbers quickly, but my understanding is they've lost
more than 25% of their funding from the general fund over the
last I think it was five years at the same time that the
general fund has grown, I believe, by 20%.
Given your concern for quality of life in San Francisco, what
are your plans to support the department of Rec and Park?
ED LEE: Well, as you know, I've
worked with Phil Ginsburg.
He was the chief of staff in the first four years of Gavin
Newsom's mayorship, and we got along very well.
He exposed me to a number of park advocates in my previous
positions, and then we've kept that relationship very strong.
I usually honor those I've worked with in the past.
And while I won't say that Phil gets whatever he wants
when he walks in, he knows what's going on, and so he can
penetrate anything I say to get past it.
But we've all agreed, for example, the next parks bond
is something we both want to do.
And it's up for November.
We are putting together the details of that now.
It'll be a major bond, but it'll be one that reflects, I
think, the commitment that we have for families, for open
space, for children's programs.
It will be a serious amount.
We'll also be honoring the tax levels that we have in the ten
year capital infrastructure plan.
That's just one aspect.
The other part is, I'm a big supporter of he and Mark
Buell's approach towards public-private partnerships.
Because as they lost that 25%, they gained, I think, an
incredible amount.
And that's why I wanted to back them up on this play with
the botanical gardens, because we're now working on maybe for
residents, turning back and maybe making the Japanese tea
garden free for residents, because we've got corporate
sponsorships on that.
It's not giving away anything.
I don't understand how anyone in the city who's paying
attention to what we're doing can accuse us of giving
anything away, when the infusion of private dollars is
all about upping the quality for our residents, and making
it more affordable for everyone.
I approached that with Sharp Park.
I approached that with everything that we've done.
And so I think the public-private partnerships
are not only here to stay, they're here to grow with us.
The incredible amount of nonprofits and resident
leadership that we have for our neighborhood parks is--
I want to honor them, because I think that's so much a
reflection of what San Francisco's about.
And so you're going to see a good bond reflect, I think,
this attribute of our great lifestyle in San Francisco.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
GRETCHEN HOWARD: All right, last question for Mayor Lee.
AUDIENCE: All right.
Thanks for coming.
A lot of the topics you talked about today were about
bringing new talent, new innovation into the city.
My question was more on the lines of keeping it here.
My wife and I just moved up here a year ago with our
one-year-old daughter.
We live up on the hill in Noe Valley, and the other day
we're on our roof deck, and we're thinking, we want to
live here forever.
It's our favorite city.
It's awesome.
We've lived in a lot of places before.
But when we talked to a lot of our friends, and talk amongst
ourselves, the number one reason why people want to
leave the city has to do with education.
And as I understand it, correct me if I'm wrong,
there's a lottery system, and there's a risk that your kid
can get placed in a school across town.
Some of the non-English programs that have kind of
been rebranded under this Orwellian
Mandarin immersion programs.
And we're just trying to think of how we navigate this, and
how we can keep ourselves and our friends in town with what
seems to be a lottery system that was started with good
intentions, but leads to a lot of
mediocrity across the board.
ED LEE: Thank you.
That's probably very challenging, because also, the
school district's always being challenged.
And if you pay attention to what the state's doing, and
they're about to say if they can't figure out their budget
crisis, they put it down on the locals.
And guess what?
Education gets cut.
It makes it much more difficult.
Our city has an annual infusion of $30 million to our
school district.
Unlike any other jurisdiction in the whole state of
California, we didn't see layoffs
in our school district.
So I'm going to keep that tradition up, because I know,
and I truly agree with you, education
is absolutely critical.
That's why I put a big emphasis on employment
training with all of you here, because that's part of the
whole education thing.
That's the extended education that we need for your industry
to be successful.
The school districts are continuing to improve.
The last three years have always been performance
improvements, and I worked very closely with
Superintendent Garcia.
The previous board president, Hydra Mendoza, works for me.
She's my education advisor.
She's the board president.
Now Norman Yee has just taken over, and
he's the board president.
He'll be working closely with me.
In fact, we're meeting next week, and we're going to be
kind of on a very regular basis, how do we support them
and their constant improvement, not only in the
classroom, but their processes to get more parent involvement
in their schools.
I believe neighborhood schools has to be the key, because the
schools that have the parental involvement are the ones that
succeed the most.
They are also the ones where the parents go out of their
way to get private support for what the school can't do.
We need all of that.
It's no different in our parks.
Quality parks are where there's immediate neighbors
that are investing in it, and make it theirs.

GRETCHEN HOWARD: Just to clarify on that, when you say
neighborhood schools, that's not with the lottery system
today, that's not how it works.
Like, I live within walking distance of three elementary
schools, but the chances that my kids would actually get
into one of those three schools, even though location
is now part of the ranking, is minimal.
So how do you address that?
ED LEE: Well, statistically, 85% of parents are getting
their first choices.
Now, I don't know how true that is.
That's what's been reported to me.
And I won't get personally involved in that.
But that's what they're claiming is 85% first choices
are still there.
Now, there are schools that are specialty schools, like
immersion schools, that will not be in everybody's
neighborhood, and people will have to apply.
And it'll be an independent choice to go out of the
neighborhood to get into a school of your
choice in some instances.
We're trying to improve all the schools in each
neighborhood, so that you feel like you have a Lowell or a
Lincoln or a Washington that's good performing that the kids
and the teachers are all enthusiastic about the quality
of education in all of the neighborhoods.
And as we are doing that, hopefully it will lessen the
pressure on just focusing on a reputable school.
And that's what we're trying to do here, because everybody
wants their first choice, and there's just not
enough room for that.
So we had to have some level of a lottery
system that's there.
And I've heard the worst parts of those stories.
I've had parents crying in front of me, because they
believe their kids' future is about that one choice.
And we've got to get past that.
The only way you get past that is not by forcing them to
consider things, it's by really creating reputable
schools in their neighborhood.
And we have to do that more.
All right.
Well, please join me in thanking Mayor Lee.
It was a pleasure to have you here.
ED LEE: Thank you.
Thank you very much.
GRETCHEN HOWARD: I hope you come back again.
ED LEE: Thank you.
Thank you very much.