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Our trip to State Capitol found a speed camera champion; AB 645 clears its first hurdle 12-0

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Last night, the California Assembly Transportation Committee passed AB 645 by a vote of 12-0 – a strong start for the bill Walk SF is sponsoring to allow speed safety cameras to be piloted in six California cities including San Francisco.

And AB 645 has a new co-author: Assemblymember Mike Gipson (District 65 in Southern California).

At the hearing, Assemblymember Gipson said, “That’s how I define success: no more people dying.”

That’s exactly why we brought a bus of 30 people to Sacramento last week to talk with legislators about the life-saving speed cameras. Speed safety cameras are a proven technology used in 100 cities nationwide, but are not yet legal in California. With speed as the #1 cause of severe and fatal crashes here in San Francisco and statewide, we need every possible solution to #SlowOurStreets.

With our large crew, we were able to break into groups and fan out across the State Capitol. By the end of the day, we’d met with 11 legislators’ offices and visited 109 more, having impromptu conversations at many of these drop-ins. Most legislators’ offices had known nothing about AB 645, but many were very receptive after talking.

I was in the meeting with Assemblymember Gipson – and I’ll never forget what happened.

When the door for Assemblymember Gipson’s office swung open last Wednesday, the staff member was surprised by how many of us there were. We had a meeting scheduled with staff, not Assemblymember Gipson.

“I’m sorry, we don’t have an office big enough for all of you,” the staff member said. He ushered us to an open area next to some cubicles, where we gathered in a circle. We couldn’t have known how strategic this ended up being.

I had barely finished my intro of why we were at the State Capitol talking about AB 645 when a door burst open. Assemblymember Gipson, in his signature bowtie, stepped right into our circle.

Assemblymember Gipson quickly started shaking hands with all of us. Then I gave Joe Martinez, a member of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, the look we’d developed in our earlier meetings. The ‘go for it’ look.

Joe looked down at the photo in his hands: his son Paul. Joe started talking about Paul. Paul was an artist and basketball player who loved his church and his dad Joe, a single parent.

As Joe told about the night a speeding driver fatally hit Paul going 54 MPH in a 40 MPH zone in Fresno, Assemblymember Gipson stared at Joe with such intensity that we all noticed. This meeting felt different suddenly.

We soon learned why. Assemblymember Gipson shared that he had lost his three-year-old son to a hit-and-run driver many years ago.

You could feel this shift in the room: the immediate connection and understanding that passed between Joe and the Assemblymember – and then Liz Chavez.

Liz, also a member of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, shared about her little girl Aileen, who was just five years old when she was hit and killed by a speeding driver in San Jose.

“People think you’ll get over it,” Liz said to Assemblymember Gipson, her voice breaking. “You don’t. Every day I have to live with it.”

“Sign me up for this bill,” said Assemblymember Gipson. “I want to co-author it.”

I witnessed such pain and courage in that meeting – a meeting that Assemblymember Gipson wasn’t even going to be in. And now we had a new champion for speed cameras.

What’s next for AB 645

We’re thrilled that AB 645 got unanimous support in the Transportation Committee. Its next stop is the Privacy Committee. Despite careful crafting of the bill by Assemblymember Friedman to address privacy concerns, this will be a bigger hurdle than the Transportation Committee.

But we met with many offices of Privacy Committee members last week, and are following up with them now in preparation for their vote. AB 645 will be heard in the Privacy Committee on Tuesday, April 25 (unfortunately, you cannot call in for this hearing).

More from our trip to Sacramento last week, including big thanks

Here are some photos and moments from our day in Sacramento.

I’m so grateful to everyone who gave an entire day – a very long day at that – to speak out for solutions to slow our streets. I’m especially thankful to the members of Families for Safe Streets who had to share their stories multiple times throughout the day, and their commitment to preventing others from suffering as they have.

Thank you to Walk SF members for your financial support of our #SlowOurStreets campaign.

Do you support Walk SF’s work to win solutions to address dangerous speeds? Donate now.

Banner image from meeting with Assemblymember Gipson by Marta Lindsey