Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, Developer Of Salesforce Transit Center: Part Five Of Her Story as told to Zennie62Media.
Part One > Part Two > Part Three > Part Four > Part Five > Part Six > Part Seven > Part Eight.
What became Salesforce Transit Center was very difficult because it had been studied and debated since at least 1967. By the time Maria Ayerdi Kaplan was put in charge of the Transbay Project in 1998, many observers didn’t believe a new facility would be built.
Fortunately for all of the San Francisco and Oakland Bay Area, Maria persevered and stayed the course against incredible odds. Ms. Ayerdi won over people from all walks of life with her vision of what a new station could do for the environment and quality of life and how the station could spur a new neighborhood with parks, housing, and community amenities.
Later, during the March 27th, 2013 groundbreaking for Salesforce Tower, the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said this:
“I want to begin by thanking Maria because she’s now on her third mayor and if you’re someone who’s heading up such an important project for the city and you have to transition every time a mayor comes in one has to appreciate the anxiety the twists and turns the foresight the confidence that she must continue instilling in her small staff but more importantly in the investor community because this is where it’s at.And if she doesn’t have a good story tell with a lot of confidence that her job is gonna be even harder and the economy did not help in the last ten years to make that story any better. So you know with that I want to just give a hearty thanks to Maria’s leadership for the last decade and a half of just putting this project and continuing her perseverance in the effort to make this Center happen.”
San Francisco City Hall was a great help to Maria during the administration of San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and the State of California and Federal governments were always supportive, thanks in large part to Senator John Burton, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Senator Diane Feinstein. And also groups like theGolden Gate Business Association,
Salesforce Transit Center Survived San Francisco Political Threats To Its Rail Transit Plan
There were many occasions when the Transbay Transit Center Project now called Salesforce Transit Center was doomed. Maria points to two times, in particular. The first time was in 2004, when a developer wanted to build what he was calling the “tallest residential tower west of the Mississippi” right on the curvature of the rail tracks as it approached the new Transit Center at 80 Natoma Street. The developer’s project would have killed the rail extension into the new Transit Center and in effect doomed the entire Project. With the help of the grassroots community, the unions, and organizations like San Francisco Tomorrow, however, Ms. Ayerdi presented a strong case to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who condemned the property owner’s tower site 11-0.
(Later, 181 Fremont Street, at 800 feet tall and part of the Salesforce Transit Center District, was built, and became the “tallest residential tower west of the Mississippi.”)
The second occasion came up when the TJPA needed to build the two underground rail levels as part of the first phase of the Project. There was a move to try to cancel the Transbay Transit Center Project by certain officials who argued that if funding was not found to build the rail levels as part of the first phase, the Center would end up being a “bus only” facility without rail and in that case not worth constructing.
Fortunately, there was a funding source available at the time from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). There was a lot of competition for that funding from rail operators and other transit agencies who were all actively lobbying for the ARRA money for their own agencies and against the money coming to Transbay. It was an incredibly heavy lift to secure the ARRA funding.
With the help of Senator Burton, Ms. Ayerdi secured $400 million from ARRA to build the rail levels of the new Transbay Transit Center as part of Phase One. The TJPA and the public saved over $100 million dollars building the rail levels as part of the first Phase of the Project.
The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) through the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) also granted the money because the rail part of the project (extending Caltrain from 4th and King St. up Second St. into the new Center) was environmentally cleared.
The Transbay Joint Powers Authority just needed to finish some supplemental environmental work requested by USDOT as one of the conditions of granting the $400 Million to the Project. The supplemental environmental work was completed by the time Ms. Ayerdi retired from the Project.
Unfortunately, shortly after Maria Ayerdi Kaplan retired from the Transbay Transit Center Project, certain individuals seized on the fact that she, the single greatest champion of the rail extension into the new Center, could no longer protect the Project and had the supplemental rail environmental work shelved.
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