State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has lost his latest push for aggressive state intervention into the Bay Area transportation planning agency's $170 million use of bridge toll money to buy and renovate a large San Francisco office building.
On late Monday the Assembly Transportation Committee rejected the senator's bill, which would have forced the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to seek a judge's approval of the contentious 2011 purchase.
DeSaulnier argues the real estate deal was an illegal use of toll proceeds and has been trying for months to overturn it.
As chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, he secured an earlier collegial 32-2 vote on the Senate floor in favor of his legislation.
But his Assembly counterparts sided with MTC Vice Chairwoman and Orinda Councilwoman Amy Worth. In her testimony in Sacramento, she called the bill an "unwarranted intrusion into the local decision-making process."
Worth voted as a commissioner against the San Francisco location but said the process under which it was selected was open and proper. She also questioned whether public agencies should be asked to file lawsuits against themselves.
The commission plans to move from its Oakland offices and join with as many as three additional regional agencies in the 500,000-square-foot former U.S. Post Office at 390 Main St. in San Francisco. Oakland and East Bay leaders are vehemently opposed to the shift, calling the new site too far from BART and less accessible for them. Disabled rights activists and residents with impaired mobility who attend meetings or have business with the agencies also said it would be extremely difficult for them to travel to the new location south of Market Street and half a mile from BART.
Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, expressed what appeared to be the general sentiment on committee, saying he understood DeSaulnier's reasons behind the bill but didn't find them sufficient.
DeSaulnier's only yes vote came from Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who reminded the committee of its oversight responsibility for tolls paid on state-owned bridges. The second Contra Costa representative, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, voted no.
Despite the loss, DeSaulnier vowed to keep up the pressure.
He is waiting for State Auditor Elaine Howle's expected August release of her analysis.
If the auditor concurs with the Legislative Counsel Bureau, which concluded in May that the transportation's agency exceeded its legal authority, the senator said he may introduce another bill in January.
"The committee called it bad precedent to intervene in local control, but it is also bad precedent for a public agency to knowingly break the law and have the legislature do nothing," DeSaulnier said after the hearing. "But if the audit is as critical as I think it will be, I will consider my options next year."