Doing Business with the SFMTA

Important Information:

SFMTA Contract Compliance Office

Contract Compliance Office Implementation Activities

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is committed to providing a level playing field with regard to contracting and employment opportunities with third-party vendors. The Contract Compliance Office (CCO) of the SFMTA establishes goals and evaluates bids and specifications to identify potential barriers to participation by Small Business Enterprises (SBEs), Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs), and Local Business Enterprises (LBEs). The CCO monitors contracts to ensure that commitments made in the bidding and proposal process are realized as the contract proceeds. The bidding process still provides a formidable obstacle to many small businesses that have the technical ability to perform the work but lack some of the administrative skills needed to obtain and manage an SFMTA contract.  CCO can help overcome this obstacle. 

With regard to employment, the CCO also oversees prime contractors' efforts to employ economically disadvantaged individuals, monitors certified payroll, and conducts site visits to ensure that contractors meet minority and women hiring goals, pay prevailing wages, and comply with all Federal, State, and local employment requirements.

SFMTA Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Policy Statement

The SFMTA is committed to a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program and Small Business Enterprise Program for the participation of small businesses and DBEs in its contracting opportunities, in accordance with the federal regulations. It is the policy of the SFMTA to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of race, color, sex or national origin in the award and administration of Department of Transportation (DOT) assisted contracts. It is our intention to create a level playing field on which Small Businesses and DBEs can compete fairly for contracts and subcontracts relating to our construction, procurement and professional services activities.

SFMTA DBE Liaison Officer

Virginia Harmon
One So. Van Ness Avenue, 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

CCO Implemented Programs and Additional Information

Small Business Program
DBE Certification
SFMTA Employment Program
Central Subway Project Page


The CCO conducts ongoing outreach events to inform small businesses about opportunities on SFMTA projects and prepare small businesses to participate on SFMTA projects. Outreach topics include:

  • Certification
  • Upcoming contracting opportunities
  • Meet the Prime Contractor
  • Employment opportunities
  • Contracting requirements

Contract Compliance Office
One South Van Ness Avenue, 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415.646.4891

Small Business Programs

The SFMTA implements three small business contracting programs on its contracts. The funding source determines which small business participation program applies.

  • If a project receives funds from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), SFMTA will implement the Small Business Enterprise/Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (SBE/DBE) Program.
  • If a project is funded with monies from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), SFMTA will implement a DBE program according to requirements of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which is charged with administering the federal program in California for FHWA.
  • If an SFMTA contract is locally funded, the SFMTA will implement San Francisco's Local Business Enterprise (LBE) Program in accordance with Chapter 14B of the San Francisco Administrative Code.

Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Program for FTA-funded projects

On its projects funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the SFMTA establishes Small Business Enterprise (SBE) participation goals as well as goals for African American-Owned Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) on construction contracts and Woman Owned-DBEs on construction and professional services contracts. The SBE/DBE Program defines an SBE as a for-profit, small business concern with a three-year average gross revenue not exceeding the thresholds established by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The SBE/DBE Program is implemented in accordance with the federal DBE regulations at 49 CFR Part 26. For more information about the SBE/DBE Program, see SBE/DBE FAQs.

Businesses that want to participate as SBEs must be either verified eligible by SFMTA or certified in one of the following programs:

  • As a DBE under the California Unified Certification Program (CUCP). The SFMTA is a CUCP certifying agency (DBE certification)
  • As an LBE in the San Francisco Local Business Enterprises Program. LBEs are certified by the Contract Monitoring Division (LBE certification)
  • As a Small Business certified by the California Department of General Services (Small Business certification)

If you are not certified under one of these programs and wish to apply for verification of eligibility, please contact the CCO at 415.646.4891.

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program for FHWA-funded projects

This program is implemented according to Caltrans’ policies and procedures in accordance with the Federal regulations at 49 CFR Part 26. SFMTA establishes Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) participation goals on its contracts funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

San Francisco Local Business Enterprise (LBE) Program for locally funded projects

The program is implemented under San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 14B. Firms certified under the City’s LBE Program qualify for a bid discount as a prime bidder/proposer or to meet the subcontracting/subconsulting requirements on projects.

DBE Certification

The SFMTA is a certifying member of the California Unified Certification Program (CUCP). We provide Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certifications to qualified businesses in accordance with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulatory requirements. Businesses meeting the minimum requirements that are located in San Francisco and Marin counties may submit applications to the SFMTA. New Certifications are processed through the SFMTA web-based portal B2GNow (California Unified Certification Program (

Minimum Requirements

  1. The firm must be at least 51% owned by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The socially and economically disadvantaged individual must be a U.S. citizen (or resident alien). Any individual in the following groups is presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged: Black American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian-Pacific American, Subcontinent Asian American, or Women.
  2. The firm must be an independent business, whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own it.; the firm must not be tied to another firm in such a way as to compromise its independence and control.

The socially and economically DBE owner(s) must possess the power to direct or cause the direction to the management and policies of the firm and to make day-to-day, as well as long-term decisions on matters of management, policy and operations.

  1. Only operational for-profit “Small Business Concerns,” as defined by the Small Business Act and Small Business Administration (SBA) regulations may be certified. DBE applicants are first subject to the applicable small business size standards of the SBA.

Depending upon the nature of work performed, a firm (including its affiliates) must not have annual gross receipts over established thresholds as periodically updated and determined by the SBA (DBE/ACDBE Size Standards | US Department of Transportation). Depending on the type of work the business performs, other size standards may apply.

  1. The Personal Net Worth (PNW) of each socially and economically disadvantaged owner must not exceed the DBE program’s limit posted on 
    - or -

Any individual found to be socially and economically disadvantaged on a case-by-case basis by a certifying agency pursuant to the standards of the U.S. DOT 49 CFR Part 26.

It is not necessary to apply at more than one agency. If your firm meets the criteria for certification, it will be entered into the Database of DBEs for all U.S. DOT grantees in California. Only firms currently active and certified as eligible DBEs may participate in the DBE programs of U.S. DOT grantees of California. 

You can get more information and complete an application for the California United Certification Program (CUCP) through CalTrans. If you have questions about the DBE Certification program process you may contact our Intake team at 415-646-4891.

Steps to Certification

  1. Application – Applicant submits completed application and supporting documentation.
  2. Investigation – SFMTA Contract Compliance Office (CCO) staff reviews documentation submitted by applicant, conducts a physical or virtual on-site visit at applicant’s place of business, during which they interview the applicant and may interview the applicant’s employees. The on-site visit is audio and/or video recorded. The CCO staff will prepare an on-site visit report, which is used in its determination of eligibility.
  3. Determination – After conducting a thorough review of the applicant’s documentation and information obtained during the on-site visit, CCO staff will determine if applicant meets the requirements set forth in DOT 49CFR, Part 26.
  4. Certification – A certification letter is emailed to the applicant. The applicant business is listed in the CUCP online directory. If the applicant is denied certification, there is a 12-month waiting period before reapplication.

SFMTA Employment Programs

SFMTA implements three employment opportunity elements: 1) Employment Training Program, 2) Construction Element, and 3) First Source Hiring Program. All three elements benefit socially- and economically- disadvantaged individuals. The Employment Training Program is based on non-construction contract fees. The construction element is guided by 41 CFR 60, Executive Order 11246, the Davis Bacon Act, California Labor Code and California Code of Regulations. The First Source Hiring element applies to construction and non-construction and is guided by San Francisco’s First Source Hiring Ordinance.

Employment Training Program

  1. The SFMTA requires all consultants to comply with the SFMTA’s Employment Training Program that fosters employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged individuals. San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development recruits, screens and refers candidates to consultants for Trainee opportunities through one of the community based organizations or any of the Career Centers that are affiliated with the Office of Economic Workforce Development.

The intent of the Employment Training Program is to provide technical training and job opportunities in a professional office environment for socially- and economically- disadvantaged individuals through the duration of the contract. In hiring prospective trainees, consultants comply with non-discrimination provisions pursuant to local, State and Federal laws. Consultants hire a minimum number of professional service trainees in the area of the consultant’s expertise based on their project’s fees (see sample table below). One Trainee position lasts for a minimum of twelve-months for full-time positions and twenty-four months for part-time positions.

Number of Trainees

Project Fees To Be Hired
$0 – $499,999 0
$500,000 – $899,999 1
$900,000 – $1,999,999 2
$2,000,000 – $4,999,999 3
$5,000,000 – $7,999,999 4
$8,000,000 – $10,999,999 5
$11,000,000 – $13,999,999 6

Construction Element

All SFMTA construction projects are subject to the Davis Bacon Act and California Labor Code 1771, which requires prevailing wages; the higher of Davis Bacon or California Labor Code rates apply.

Additionally, SFMTA implements the federal requirements of 41 CFR 60-4 and Executive Order 11246, which state that all contractors and subcontractors, which hold any federal or federally assisted construction contract in excess of $10,000, must make a good faith effort to employ minorities and women evenly on each of its projects. The hours of minority and female employment and training must be substantially uniform throughout the length of the contract and in each trade. The transfer of minority or female employees or trainees from Contractor to Contractor or from project to project for the sole purpose of meeting the Contractor's goals shall be a violation of the contract, the Executive Order and the regulations in 41 CFR part 60-4. Currently, the minority participation goal is 25.6% and the female participation goal is 6.9%.

SFMTA also implements the California Labor Code 1776, 1777 and California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 230.1. The Labor Code regulations state that contractors must submit accurate certified payroll reports; to willfully violate the codes constitutes a misdemeanor and the contractor is subject to having their ability to perform on a public work contract revoked for up to three years. The Code of Regulations states that contractors shall employ registered apprentice(s), as defined by Labor Code Section 3077, during the performance of a public work project in accordance with the required one hour of work performed by an apprentice for every five hours of labor performed by a journeyman.

To assist contractors in meeting the aforementioned hiring goals and requirements, SFMTA works with OEWD’s City Build Program to recruit, train and refer candidates who meet the specific needs of contractors. Applicants interested in construction-related employment opportunities should access the City Build website (CityBuild | San Francisco (

First Source Hiring

The First Source Hiring Ordinance (FSHO), which falls under the authority of OEWD, applies to construction and non-construction projects. The OEWD City Build Program monitors compliance with FSHO on construction-related opportunities. The OEWD Business Services team monitors compliance with FSHO on non-construction related opportunities. If the non-construction contract is valued at more than $50,000, then the First Source Hiring Program (Admin. Code Chapter 83) may apply. Generally, this ordinance requires contractors to notify the First Source Hiring Program of available entry-level jobs and provide the Workforce Development System with the first opportunity to refer qualified individuals for employment.

The SFMTA Employment Training Program also coordinates with FSHO to help locate qualified candidates to meet the requirements of the Employment Training Program.

First Source Hiring Program information can be found here: Comply with the First Source Hiring Program | San Francisco (


Why does the SFMTA set Small Business Enterprise (SBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goals on its contracts funded by the Federal Transit Agency (FTA)?

On May 9, 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision in Western States Paving Co. vs. Washington State Department of Transportation, et al. (9th Cir. 2005) 407 F.3d 983. The court upheld the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) DBE regulations on their face; however, the court struck down the Washington Department of Transportation's (WSDOT) DBE program as unconstitutional. The court held that WSDOT's DBE program was not narrowly tailored because it was not based on evidence of discrimination in the Washington State marketplace. The court also suggested that a remedial program, such as the DBE program, is only narrowly tailored if it is limited to those minority groups that have actually suffered discrimination.

Specifically, the court noted that WSDOT had not conducted adequate statistical studies to establish the existence of discrimination in the highway contracting industry. Further, the court found that WSDOT's calculation of the capacity of DBEs to do work was flawed because it failed to take into account the effects of past race-conscious programs on current DBE participation. According to the court, the disparity between DBE participation on contracts with and without race-conscious goals did not provide any evidence of on-going discrimination. Finally, the court noted that WSDOT did not present any anecdotal evidence of discrimination. Since this decision was issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, it applies to all states comprising the Ninth Circuit, including California.

In response to the Western States Paving decision, on March 23, 2006, DOT issued guidance concerning the federal DBE program that applies to grant recipients, such as SFMTA, in states within the Ninth Circuit. This guidance provides that if a recipient does not currently have sufficient evidence of discrimination or its effects, then the recipient must meet its annual overall DBE goal solely through race-neutral measures.

In November 2015, the SFMTA completed a Disparity Study. The study showed statistically significant underutilization of Woman-Owned businesses in construction and professional services contracts and African American-Owned businesses in construction contracts. On January 19, 2017, the U.S. DOT approved the SFMTA’s request for a waiver to implement DBE contract goals based on the atudy’s findings.

What is the SBE/DBE Program?

To achieve our annual goal and in accordance with the Western States Paving decision, the SFMTA has implemented a Small Business Enterprise/ Disadvantaged Business (SBE/DBE) program for its contracts that are funded by the Federal Transit Administration, an operating administration of DOT. The purpose of this SBE/DBE program is to encourage greater participation by small, disadvantaged firms in public contracting. For smaller contracts or subcontracting opportunities, the SFMTA may establish an SBE Set-Aside, which can only be fulfilled by an eligible SBE firm.

How can I participate in the SBE/DBE Program?

Small business firms may qualify for this program through SFMTA’s verification process or enrollment in the State of California's Small Business Program, the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program, or the San Francisco's Local Business Enterprise (LBE) program.

How can I get my business certified as a DBE?

A firm can become a DBE through the California Unified Certification Program (CUCP). SFMTA, which is a certifying agency for the CUCP, performs a comprehensive review and analysis of applications to determine the ownership and control of firms that apply for DBE certification. Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria set forth in the federal regulations at 49 CFR Part 26 in order to attain DBE certification.

Applications are carefully reviewed by the Contract Compliance Office to confirm that all required documents have been submitted. Please see the list of documents that must be submitted in support of a certification application. An on-site visit is conducted for all applications.

What are the advantages of becoming certified as an SBE or DBE?

Becoming certified as an SBE or DBE will expose your firm to work opportunities on SFMTA FTA-assisted projects. Becoming certified as a DBE will offer your firm opportunities to participate on Federal Highway Administration- (FHWA) assisted contracts. When responding to a solicitation, contractors must provide evidence that they will fulfill the SBE and DBE participation goals on FTA-funded projects or that they will meet the DBE participation goals established on FHWA-funded projects, or have made good faith efforts to do so. A contractor can only receive credit toward achievement of such goals if the firm is certified as an SBE or DBE.

Note: DBE certification can open opportunities to work on DOT-assisted transportation projects with agencies other than the SFMTA.

Will obtaining a certification assure me of getting contracts and subcontracts?

No. Certification does not guarantee work to any certified firm. Although certification enhances a firm's exposure to prime contractors and the business community, the firm still must market itself, its personnel and its services.

How are SBE/DBE participation goals established for specific contracts?

The SFMTA sets goals on contracts that have subcontracting opportunities; thus, not every contract will have a goal. Some of the factors that are taken into consideration when setting a goal include, but are not limited to, the type of work involved, potential subcontracting items and availability of SBE or DBE firms.  The SBE/DBE participation can be credited toward goal achievement on the prime or sub level.

Where can I find information regarding SFMTA procurement opportunities?

To find current SFMTA contract opportunities, visit the SF City and County Supplier Portal.

Does the general contractor have any responsibility in the SBE/DBE Programs?

Yes. All bidders/proposers must either meet the SBE and/or DBE participation goal established on the contract or demonstrate good faith efforts to do so. Once work begins, the successful bidder/proposer is required to fulfill its commitments to its listed SBE and DBE firms.

How can suspected abuse of the SBE/DBE Programs be reported?

Abuse should be reported to the SFMTA Contract Compliance Office at 415.646-4891. Written reports of suspected abuse may be submitted to:

Contract Compliance Office
One South Van Ness Avenue, 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

Contact Information
Regina Chan (Senior Contract Compliance Officer)
Mindy Lee (Senior Contract Compliance Officer)
Keith Moorehead (Contract Compliance Officer)
Todd Senigar (Senior Contract Compliance Officer)
Naomi Steinway (Contract Compliance Officer)
Preston Tom (Senior Contract Compliance Officer)
Nichole Truax (Senior Contract Compliance Officer)