BART, an Agency in Dire Need of Oversight

On June 21, 2019, pursuant to State Senator Steve Glazer’s SB1488, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Harriet Richardson from among three candidates selected by the BART Board to be BART’s first Inspector General (IG). The job calls for the IG to oversee and report upon BART activities and expenditures. What BART apparently didn’t anticipate was that Ms. Richardson would actually attempt to do her job. But the cat was soon out of the bag.

On July 7, 2022 the Alameda County Grand Jury released scathing 8-page report on how BART was treating its State-appointed IG, detailing how BART’s management and Board of Directors have aggressively interfered with, resisted and undermined the work of the IG. Anyone whose watches how BART goes through money will well understands the need for an independent BART IG. So what’s next? Will things get better?

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Unless the State Legislature steps up and changes the currently perverted selection process, not a chance. Unless BART’s Inspector General’s office is permitted to fulfill its responsibilities as clearly set forth in SB1488, to identify and prevent “fraud, waste and abuse”, as well as to take steps to strengthen internal controls and accountability, things at BART are likely to continue on their present course.

Ms. Richardson’s 4 year term is up next June. As things stand the Governor will then select from 3 prospective candidates submitted by the BART Board. So all the Board has to do is make certain that none of the three are wave-makers. It is not hard to discern who would benefit from a compliant IG willing to permit a continuation of current practices. Think consultants, contractors, suppliers, unions, real estate developers, fare evasion advocates, and special interests generally. Left entirely out of the process are a.) the taxpayers and b.) the BART riders.

4 thoughts on “BART, an Agency in Dire Need of Oversight

  1. I am new to your organization but my city has some big issues with BART, Caltrain and CaHSR, especially CaHSR and their sadly approved EIR/EIS for the SF to SJ reach. CaHSR’s plans for Millbrae will someday turn 8+ acres of Millbrae (total 3.2 sq miles, mostly hills) into a surface parking lot. In the meantime they leave us with vacant buildings set to be demolished to build TOD mixed use housing that are full of the unhoused turfed by BART and Caltrain and SFO every evening. Is your group working on this travesty and arrogance of transportation agencies? Ann Schneider, Councilwoman, Former Mayor, City of Millbrae.

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  2. Dear Councilperson Schneider:,

    BATWG often comes down all over public Bay Area agencies that display arrogance, insularity, deception, incompetence and perhaps most of all, an obsessive unwillingness to admit error and change course when necessary. Rail transit is needed to give people comfortable alternatives to driving, but the affected lands must be protected. You mention 8+ acres and then talk about 3.2 square miles. 3.2 square miles would equal 2048 acres. If you could provide some information about where the affected lands are, and what is planned for them, one of our West Bay engineers could take a look…

    Gerald Cauthen, for BATWG

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    • Sorry about the confusion of 8+ acres vs the size of our small city. Millbrae, is about 3.2 square miles, most of it hilly and major portions owned by SFPUC and SFO and unavailable for development. Our population is 23,000 and growing as we have many new large apartment developments in the works on El Camino and around our multimodal train station.

      So a loss of 8+ acres by our train station may not seem much if the City is San Jose or Oakland or San Francisco to us is a huge loss for both economic development and building housing.

      We had already approved a large mixed use project, consistent with our 1998 Millbrae Station Area Specific Plan, that includes office space CaHSR could use, and 488 housing units, 15% low low affordable with no government subsidy. This project was also going to build four floors of below ground parking to accommodate BART/Caltrain parkers and depending longer term CaHSR travelers. CaHSR Board of Directors just approved an EIR/EIS for the reach that will take 8+ acres by our station to turn it into a surface parking lot. They are also adding more passing lanes when the County was promised no passing lanes (Millbrae just doesn’t count). With this approval, no project can get funding. This existing area has buildings that have been empty for almost a decade awaiting the Serra Station Mixed Use development.

      CaHSR believes this is the easier option for gaining approval of their EIR/EIS. In their document then freely admit that the City of Millbrae and the Millbrae School District (and the San Mateo Unified High School District) will lose as they will remove 8+ acres from the property tax roles. This will reduce city, school district and special district revenues. But per CaHSR EIR/EIS documentation, Millbrae should accept this loss for the greater regional good.

      They do not take into account the housing we are required to try to build, the loss of commercial income and income generated by new residents shopping and eating in Millbrae. Nor do they care about the loss of regional funding cities get based on per capita. And the loses go on and on and on.

      BART, SFO, Caltrain, even adjacent cities dump the unhoused into Millbrae and into this area of empty buildings where we have become a haven for drug addicts as we now find needles given freely in San Francisco and Millbrae is a safe place for them to use drugs. Clarification, we have not designated Millbrae as a safe for drug use zone. We do not want this but BART will not help and continues to push this problem onto us, as does Caltrain and SFO.

      As long as CaHSR refuses to work with the City to come up with a way forward, and the City worked with the developer, Serra Staion, and CaHSR to come up with 3 other plans, then our station area, our heart will continue to be a drug den, and reek of human excrement, none of this cleaned by BART or Caltrain, or if so on a very infrequent basis, leaving Millbrae to suffer and for visitors to avoid us.

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  3. I know this article is about BART. We would dearly love it if BART would take responsibility for the unhoused they allow onto trains and not turf them into Millbrae. We’ve spent $150,000 so far in a project with San Mateo County Health and the NGO LifeMoves to pay for LifeMoves Counselors to be at the Millbrae BART station from 5 to closing 5 nights a week to speak with the unhoused pushed off the trains and try to connect them with various forms of assistance. Great project but none of the unhoused claim Millbrae as home, so we the money that would have been used to purchase electric fleet vehicles is going to pay for a problem BART will not fix, nor take responsibility for. And of course, none of cities in San Mateo County who have BART stations have a chance of becoming a BART board member. Taxation without representation and BART like San Francisco treats us like a colony, we are chafe under their feet.

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