Maria Ayerdi Kaplan. Who is she? And What Is Her Role In The Building Of Salesforce Transit Center?
Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan is developer of San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center, which opened August 12, 2018, and creator and first executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) – she worked on the project for over 18 years.
To say that taking the dilapidated former San Francisco Transbay Terminal through a painstaking political and funding process to become the Salesforce Transit Center was a herculean effort on Ms. Ayerdi’s part, would be the understatement of the century.
From developing the vision and strategy for the new Salesforce Transit Center, to advancing the Project and its associated development through regulatory approvals and financing at all levels of government, Ms Ayerdi-Kaplan did it all. Her efforts have generated praise from many quarters, and also created some enemies.
So, if you have come to this site looking for “Maria Ayerdi Kaplan,” or “Maria Ayerdi Kaplan Bio,” or “Maria Ayerdi Kaplan Divorce” (which is not true), or “Maria Ayerdi Kaplan Linkedin,” (which is true), or “Mark Zabaneh,” or “Robert Beck,” or “Tjpa Salesforce Transit Center,” or “San Francisco” or “Sidonie Sansom” or “Tina Frank” or “San Francisco Transbay Joint Powers Authority” or “Transbay Transit Center Transbay Transit Center Construction,” bingo, you’ve arrived at the right page!
Now, here’s the story…
Ms.Kaplan secured billions in funding from public and private sources and spearheaded the stakeholder processes that generated vast support for the Transbay Transit Center Project. It took a tremendous amount of courage, focus, and perseverance to bring the Project to fruition, and she had all of that, as the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has said. And along the way, Maria never forgot to help the local community of workers in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
This statement from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, presented when she retired in 2016 says it all:
And most notably, these words serve as testament:
“Where as, through your organizing and community skills you have brought consensus to the community and helped resolve problems in a timely and effective manner,
Where as, during your time as Executive Director, you have ensured that workers of the surrounding communities had the opportunity to work on the Transbay Transit Center,
Where as, during your time as Executive Director, you have ensured that workers be afforded a living wage with benefits, and an opportunity to participate in an apprenticeship,
Where as, during your time as Executive Director, you have ensured that veterans be afforded a chance at a living wage job and dignity in the workplace by embracing the Helmets to Hardhats program,
We therefore thank you for your partnership as well as your tireless leadership and perseverance over your tenure as Executive Director for the Transbay Joint Powers Authority and wish you the best in your future endeavors.”
The Salesforce Transit Center Journey Started In 1997 For Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan
It is the fall of 1997. Maria was working at UPS doing legal work and had created their own in-house law department at the regional office, located in San Ramon, California. Up until then, all legal work had been handled either by the corporate office in Atlanta, Georgia or by outside counsel. The legal department she created in San Ramon consisted of just one person, Ms. Ayerdi-Kaplan. She had been there for six years when she was asked to move to Atlanta. At the time, being asked to move to the corporate office was quite a promotion. However, she couldn’t make the move, so she started to look for work locally.
Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan remembered a law school professor saying to her once to be sure to knock on all available doors because you don’t have anything to lose and everything to gain and you just never know what will happen. Kaplan had read that Willie Brown, who was the Mayor of San Francisco at the time, ran the town and if a person wanted anything, a job, anything, he was the man to see.
Much has been made of the fact that Maria was employed by Willie Brown as Deputy Mayor, and as if she had no background before him, but the truth is, she had a rich resume as a corporate lawyer.
Moreover, a position like Deputy Mayor of San Francisco gives one a real chance to actually build a job for themselves, without worrying about some human resources bureaucrat standing in their way. The number one task of an aide to any big city mayor is to solve a problem the boss gives them. That’s what Maria did in the way of Salesforce Transit Center.
Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan Meets San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown
San Francisco Mayor Brown at the time had what was known as “Open Door Day” where any citizen could see him on any topic on a given Saturday. In order to get a ticket to one of those meetings you had to stand in line at 2 am in the morning in front of what was then City Hall at the War Memorial Veterans building because only about 17 tickets were available at any one time.
One morning Ayerdi-Kaplan decided she was going to take her law school professor’s advice and at 2 am she got in line with her tea thermos in the rain. At 7 am the doors opened, and she was given one of the coveted tickets. The following Saturday, with her resume in hand, she walked into Mayor Brown’s office and said she was looking for a job either in the District Attorney or Public Defender’s office and thought she would avoid the middle man and go straight to him. Brown remarked there was a hiring freeze in those departments. To which she somewhat jokingly responded, “that is ok, here is my resume, this is what I’ve done, and you can just make me deputy Mayor”. Willie Brown hired Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan on the spot and said she could be in charge of transportation work in his administration.
The Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan bio and Linkedin Profile shows she’s never worked in the public sector and as good fortune would have it, Mayor Brown was not a bureaucrat, he was a business man, a lawyer and a politician who mentored her on politics, lobbying, and everything you needed to know to get a project built in one of the toughest cities in the country, San Francisco.
That is one of the reasons why Kaplan strongly supported and encouraged mentoring, interning and hiring inner city youth from high schools and colleges while she was the Executive in charge of the Transbay Program. Ms. Ayerdi created very robust programs that required the Transbay Project contractors to hire youth in all areas involved in the project. She always believed it could make all the difference in a young person’s life to have good role models.
The Transbay Project was one of the first transportation projects assigned to Ms. Ayerdi. At the time, everyone was arguing over what to do with the run down former Transbay Terminal. There were developers who wanted to tear it down and build high rises and there were the environmental and transportation communities that wanted a new rebuilt Transit station. Lawsuits had been filed by the East Bay cities and bus riders against San Francisco and Caltrans and Mayor Brown said to Ms. Ayerdi, “here you go, take care of it.”
Stay tuned – click here for Part Two.