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SF mayor nominates gay man to SFMTA board

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Manny Yekutiel. Photo: Courtesy Facebook
Manny Yekutiel. Photo: Courtesy Facebook  

Mayor London Breed on Monday nominated a gay cafe owner to a seat on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's board of directors.

Manny Yekutiel, owner of the eponymous cafe and event space in the Mission district, was nominated by Breed October 5. He currently serves on the city's Small Business Commission and is a board member of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association.

"I'm excited and proud to nominate Manny to serve on the SFMTA Board of Directors," Breed stated in a news release. "I am confident in his ability to bring a fresh perspective to the board and represent the needs of San Francisco small businesses and residents alike. Manny knows how to bring people together and make sure everyone has a chance to share their diverse perspectives. He's a regular rider of public transportation in our city, and understands how critical Muni is to everyone in our city, especially our workers.

"In response to COVID, Manny has played a huge role in transforming Valencia Street into a space that supports our residents and helps businesses thrive, and I know he will bring that same energy and commitment to the board," the mayor added.

Breed had nominated Jane Natoli, a trans woman and bicycle advocate, to serve on the SFMTA board but the Board of Supervisors rejected her in August.

Yekutiel said he was "humbled and honored" to be considered.

"Mobility is freedom and it's my belief that a city like ours should aim to create access to that freedom to everyone, everywhere," he stated. "Our transportation system can and should do that. The relationship between our transport system, streets, workers, and small businesses has never been more important. I've seen first-hand how decisions made by the SFMTA, in the case of temporarily closing streets to cars, has given small businesses a fighting chance to survive this crisis. If given the opportunity to serve, I promise to be a fierce advocate for all San Franciscans and will bring my perspective and my passion as a small business owner to the board."

Manny's is known for its civic events space and engaging conversations on a range of topics. Yekutiel hosted a debate between out state Senate candidates incumbent Scott Wiener and Jackie Fielder on Saturday.

Manny's is also a restaurant whose kitchen is run by the nonprofit Farming Hope, which hires formerly homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals and trains them in the food skills needed to work in the restaurant industry. As part of Manny's programing, the release stated, Yekutiel has hosted public forums across a broad range of issues including recent conversation on COVID-19, racial justice, climate change, and transportation. He has interviewed gay SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin about transportation in San Francisco, facilitated a Cycling Town Hall, and has hosted conversations on congestion pricing with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

The Valencia Corridor Merchants Association worked with the city to close Valencia Street as part of the Shared Spaces program, an initiative created by Breed to help neighborhood businesses to share a portion of the public right-of-way for outdoor dining and other neighborhood retail activity. Yekutiel also served on the SFMTA 16th Street Bus Improvement Project Mitigation Task Force.

"Manny would finally be the fierce advocate small businesses need to represent us on the board of the SFMTA," said William Ortiz-Cartagena, Small Business Commissioner. "Not only does he see things from a small business owner perspective being a small business owner himself, everything Manny does and lives is through a lens of equity."

"Manny is an extraordinary leader who understands the importance of working within the community, for the community," said Gina Fromer, CEO of Children's Council of San Francisco. "He is someone who breaks down barriers for the greater good of San Francisco by bringing all of the various micro-communities together to think critically about the state of the city and beyond."

Yekutiel was raised in Los Angeles. He comes from a long line of small business owners; his grandparents owned a grocery store in Brooklyn and his father, who emigrated from Afghanistan, had a small business in Southern California selling tablecloths. Yekutiel is a graduate of Williams College, and was a public engagement intern focusing on the LGBTQ and Tribal communities under the Obama Administration. He currently lives in the Castro district in San Francisco.

Yekutiel's nomination is expected to be heard by the supervisors' rules committee, though a date has not been set. If he is approved for the SFMTA post, he would resign his seat on the small business panel, according to the mayor's office.

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