Lateefah Simon forced to vacate BART board after moving outside her district

Lateefah Simon vacated her seat on the BART Board of Administrators Wednesday after the agency determined she no more time resides in the district she represents — inspite of assurances she suggests she gained from BART officials that her transfer stored her within just district boundaries.

Simon presided above the BART Board of Administrators through the height of the pandemic and represented BART’s District 7 that contains BART’s Richmond stations, Berkeley’s Ashby station and a part of North Oakland’s MacArthur station. Simon told The Chronicle in a phone job interview Thursday early morning that she consulted with senior BART officers prior to shifting very last 12 months from her Richmond residence to an apartment sophisticated adjacent to the MacArthur BART station.

At the time, Simon was acquiring dying threats and other harassing messages — some of them laced with racist and misogynistic slurs — which includes an incident in which she located urine on her doorstep in North Richmond.

A BART spokesperson said Thursday that the company could not affirm whether an agency formal experienced given Simon that reassurance, nor could the company find any prepared evidence supporting Simon’s claim.

Simon prepared to join Thursday’s Board of Administrators meeting remotely right before acquiring news from BART officers within just the very last week that her household lies “a stone’s throw” exterior her district line. Her departure was briefly acknowledged at the starting of Thursday’s meeting.

“I’m devastated,” Simon explained in a phone connect with from Selma, Ala., the place she is commemorating the 57th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday civil rights march.

In a afterwards assertion, Simon mentioned, “Before relocating, I informed best BART officials and sought their input, and was assured that the making is inside of District 7. I would not have moved my loved ones in any other case.”

Ahead of shifting, Simon reported she had many conversations with senior BART officials who served her execute a conflict-of-interest memo, because her residence is section of a transit-oriented advancement on the agency’s land. Simon presented a document to The Chronicle to show she experienced reviewed the move with prime BART workers.

Legally blind, Simon said she opted to move into an apartment elaborate across the avenue from MacArthur station for the reason that, “as a visually impaired particular person, to be capable to walk across the street and accessibility transit — it is the most effective factor in the environment.”

Simon shared illustration of MacArthur station with board Director Robert Raburn, in accordance to a map of BART’s district boundaries. Simon’s district integrated the station, itself, while Raburn’s district covers the portion east of northbound State Route 24 that contains the station’s entrance plaza, parking garage and flats constructed on BART assets.

Alicia Trost, BART’s main communications officer, claimed that the company final 7 days questioned Simon to give her handle after “it arrived to our attention that there was a residency discrepancy.” The deal with Simon gave, which is throughout the avenue from the State Route 24 boundary, produced it apparent she no lengthier resided in the district she represented, Trost mentioned.

Trost said the agency simply cannot validate no matter if a dialogue concerning BART officials and Simon about the go took position because the BART staff considered to have been involved is on leave.

The threats that prompted Simon’s move appeared to be connected to operate she experienced accomplished on law enforcement reform. She has been outspoken calling for a new investigation into the 2009 lethal capturing of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station by a transit officer. Simon also efficiently pushed for BART’s ambassador method, in which the agency deploys uniformed civilian officers to help with protection and tackle some obligations customarily assigned to sworn law enforcement.

Simon’s election in 2016 was considered by some as a altering of the guard that steered the agency’s Board of Directors towards social concerns and a far more progressive bent. Her colleagues elected her board president in December 2019. Months afterwards, the start of a pandemic spiraled the agency into a combat for survival immediately after ridership plummeted by 94% in spring 2020.

Many board administrators were being surprised by the information of Simon’s departure. They credited her for encouraging steer BART for the duration of its most tumultuous interval and lobbying for the monetary support from the federal federal government that has largely sustained BART due to the fact the pandemic.

“It’s been by way of my leadership that hundreds of thousands and thousands of dollars came to the district during COVID,” Simon mentioned.

As a widowed mother who rides BART day-to-day, she introduced the standpoint of transit-dependent riders seldom represented on the BART board, quite a few board directors reported.

BART board President Rebecca Saltzman, who urged Simon to operate in 2016, said, “We are a better agency since of Lateefah’s contribution.”

“She was president in the course of most likely the most difficult calendar year in BART’s history when the pandemic hit. The way she introduced our board and team alongside one another, and administration and labor unions, to weather the disaster and provide in a big total of federal funding, it was actually amazing,” Saltzman said.

Board Director Janice Li described Simon’s departure as “a massive reduction for the BART board,” noting that she is now the only particular person of coloration on the authorities entire body. During the pandemic, lower-money people of color who don’t personal automobiles have accounted for a developing share of BART’s ridership, in accordance to a 2020 buyer satisfaction study.

“Lateefah often spoke up for small-profits people, folks with disabilities, Black riders,” Li explained. “To get rid of that voice is considerable.”

District 7 voters will decide Simon’s everlasting alternative in a forthcoming election. The Board of Administrators has 60 days to appoint a substitute to fill the vacated seat in the interim.

Bevan Dufty, a BART board director symbolizing a San Francisco district, stated Thursday that Simon “sought the guidance of a district formal and was certain that her go retained her within just District 7, which she so ably represents. This guidance was erroneous, and below we are these days.” He hoped Simon would take into account shifting again within just the district and apply to be appointed to the seat she vacated this 7 days.

“People who have recognized and labored with Lateefah started to watch BART in a different way mainly because of her presence on this system,” Dufty said.

Rachel Swan and Ricardo Cano are San Francisco Chronicle employees writers. Email messages: [email protected], [email protected] Twitter: @rachelswan, @ByRicardoCano

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