- PDF of our print voter guide - print it and bring it to the polls!
- Jump to our voting cheat sheet. See below for all of our research and analysis.
President: You make the call!
- US Congress, District 12: Shahid Buttar
- US Congress, District 14: Jackie Speier
State Senate, District 11: Jackie Fielder
- State Assembly, District 17: No Endorsement
- State Assembly, District 19: No Endorsement
DCCC Assembly District 17 (East side of town)
DCCC Assembly District 19 (West side of town)
Li Miao Lovett
Kelly Akemi Groth
- Superior Court Judge, Seat 1: Maria Evangelista
- Superior Court Judge, Seat 18: Michelle Tong
- Superior Court Judge, Seat 21: Carolyn Gold
- Prop 13: $15B School Bond: YES
City & County Propositions
- Prop A: Bond for Crumbling City College Facilities & Vocational Training: YES
- Prop B: Earthquake & Safety Bond: YES
- Prop C: Give Former Housing Authority Employees Benefits: YES
- Prop D: Tax on Leaving Storefronts Empty: YES
- Prop E: Force Office Developers to Care about Affordable Housing: HECK YEAH!
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Flashback: November 2019 Election: Progressive Wins on Housing and Criminal Justice Reform
We’re still floating high on winning everything we endorsed in the last election for the first time ever in the history of the Pissed Off Voter Guide! And it only took 15 years.
Grassroots victories like District Attorney Chesa Boudin's show that San Francisco is at the vanguard of criminal justice reform. The SF Public Defender’s Office has been on the frontlines of the fights for Sanctuary City and Ending Cash Bail on a shoestring budget. Now that we have a former Public Defender for District Attorney, we’ll see what’s possible with progressive control of a better-funded arm of San Francisco’s public safety apparatus.
Tenant champion and District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston won in November by a razor-thin margin of 187 votes. He has less than a year to rack up some policy victories before he is up for re-election later this year in the November 2020 general election. He’s already asked Muni to delay their expected fare increase with an eye towards his campaign promise of making public transit free and rallied with tenants of corporate landlord Veritas to try and protect their enormous stock of rent-controlled housing that is being sold off.
In short, San Francisco’s last election was about Housing and Criminal Justice reform, and-- surprise! so is this one.
March 2020 Election: Four Months Later and Three Months Early
This March 2020 election will be California’s first “Primetime Primary.” Our state’s Democratic Party-controlled legislature moved our primary three months earlier, in an attempt to set the agenda of the presidential race. Electoral tweaking like this provides us with yet another demonstration of the law of unintended consequences
Every warm-blooded activist in SF has been conscripted as a campaign staffer for the 114 candidates running in this election, half of whom are vying for 24 seats on the Democratic County Central Committee. Many candidates filed papers at the last minute and there’s been a mad dash to show viable fundraising numbers by the end of the year.
For the League of Pissed Off Voters, this election cycle has been on fast forward. We started our endorsement questionnaire process the weekend after the November 5th election, researched 78 candidates, and analyzed responses from 50 questionnaires to make this - our 25th voter guide! Whew!
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We're super excited about the possibility that, for the first time in our lifetimes, the Democratic nominee for President will be a progressive champion who can defeat not only the Fascist-in-Chief, but also the corporate neoliberal wing of the Democratic party, the billionaires, the insurance companies, etc.
Bernie Sanders has the most League support-- many of our members feel strongly that he’s the only candidate we can trust to fully tackle the crises of capitalism and climate catastrophe. He’s been a policy badass since before we were born, and we love his vision of a grassroots revolution fueled by young people, people of color, re-activated activists, and first time voters. That's 100% in line with our goal of building a progressive governing majority in our lifetime by cutting through the political bullshit that makes people give up on voting.
Elizabeth Warren also has member support. Warren backs big, bold changes like a wealth tax and tackling the climate crisis; she thinks capitalism can be regulated by breaking up the corporate monopolies and taxing the hell out of the billionaires. Her “I’ve got a plan for that” approach speaks to the longing in our policy geek hearts for ambitious legislative fixes to the many complex issues we face.
Though none of our members are excited by the other candidates, we keep reminding each other that ultimately, the supporters of the Other Democrats are not our enemy. The fascists are the goddamn enemy.
Some of our members thought we should dual endorse Sanders and Warren to promote progressive unity over the corporate Dems. Some of us thought we should just stay out of endorsing for President and focus on what we know best: the nitty gritty of San Francisco politics. No camp got a majority, so you make the call!
Congress, District 12: Shahid Buttar
Shahid Buttar has our endorsement. Shahid is a global activist acting locally-- a Stanford-educated constitutional lawyer, an Occupy poet and MC. Of all of the challengers we’ve supported for Pelosi’s congressional seat, Shahid is the most qualified. Check out his inspiring story and seriously impressive resume along with his badass platform. Shahid fought in court for marriage equality and in the streets against imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s running for Congress as a Democratic Socialist to bring SF’s federal representation into alignment with our progressive electorate. He will be a clear voice in Congress for SF values-- Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and an end to forever wars, all movements that incumbent Nancy Pelosi is on the wrong side of.
Do you support Nancy Pelosi? Do you hate Republicans? Can we please ask that you still vote for Shahid Buttar in the March primary to make sure he’s in the top two that gets on the November ballot instead of one of the Republicans? Because in November, San Francisco voters should be deciding between Pelosi and a progressive challenger--the SFGOP is a minor party that should have to work harder to get on the ballot!
Nancy Pelosi is the incumbent, and also the Speaker of the House of Representatives. We go back and forth on whether to evaluate her from a local SF perspective or from a national perspective. While it’s rad that she’s birddogging Senator McConnell to expand voter registration and access and make Election Day a holiday, it’s a drag that she’s primarily focused on national politics and absent from SF’s needs. She’s been shamefully AWOL on the Hunters Point Shipyard radiation controversy. She eventually called for “oversight of the oversight of the oversight,” which is, uh… not very reassuring.
She’s the most powerful woman in Congress, and maybe the world. We give her props for holding that motley bunch of Democrats in line, but the closer we look at her record, the more pissed off we get about her representing our City:
- She pushed to strip out key provisions of a drug pricing bill.
- Her attacks on “the Squad” are hella problematic, empowering Trump and his goons’ death threats.
- She’s supposed to be a master tactician, but:
Her hands-off approach to impeachment and aggressive oversight of Trump enabled him and let him off the hook:
- She took way too long to go after Trump’s tax returns and other court battles that won’t be decided before the November 2020 election.
- She essentially dismissed E. Jean Carroll’s credible rape allegation against Trump. #metoo, Nancy?
- Her failure to have the House authorize the emoluments lawsuit about Trump profiting off of foreign governments just led to it getting thrown out in courts on a technicality.
We don’t claim to be experts in national politics. We get that it’s wicked complicated and nuanced and unavoidably icky, but damn, that’s a long list--a lot of nonsense that doesn’t represent our values.
Agatha Bacelar is a Brazilian Latinx immigrant with an impressive resume who Vice questionably compared to AOC. She’s done lots of groundwork, but we don’t see her having the movement roots that made AOC so formidable. Is she serious? We’re not sure if she’s just getting the word out about her dad’s open source product, Liquid Democracy. Or maybe she’s positioning herself for 2022, when Pelosi is rumored to be stepping down? If so, that’s kinda naive, because almost every two-bit current or former San Francisco elected official has been clocking this seat for years, and it’ll be a Game of Thrones-esque bloodbath whenever Pelosi steps down. IF she ever steps down. We’re not holding our breath. That’s why we’re voting for Shahid Buttar for Congress!
Congress, District 14: Jackie Speier
Jackie Speier has progressive cred, supporting the Green New Deal and asking Caltrain to develop underused land to provide affordable housing. Speier co-chairs the Democratic Women’s Caucus where she’s bringing #MeToo to Congress. She co-sponsored a crackdown on tax-payer funded settlements for Congress members charged with sexual harassment. Speier introduced legislation to remove the ratification deadline from the Equal Rights Amendment. (Momentum is building to implement the ERA as the courts are becoming more conservative through conservative judicial appointments.) Speier brought Courtney Wild, a survivor of sexual abuse who testified against Trump’s predator buddy Jeffrey Epstein, to the 2020 State of the Union. We are proud to endorse her.
Speier is being challenged by Eric Taylor, a researcher with roots in the Occupy movement and Ralph Nader's 2008 campaign who is running a campaign focused on making legislation open source, changing campaign financing, and and expanding representation by uncapping the size of Congress.
Oh, and there are also some Republicans running for these state and federal races, but the League has a policy of not wasting our time researching Republicans. Sorry y'all!
State Senate, District 11: Jackie Fielder
Jackie Fielder is an indigenous Latinx Democratic Socialist who fought Wall Street polluters at Standing Rock and racked up statewide policy wins organizing the SF Public Bank Coalition. She ran 2018’s No on H campaign against police corruption and is formerly unhoused. Jackie has proposed ambitious platforms on housing, economic and social justice, and a Green New Deal for California. We’re proud to endorse her grassroots campaign that has quickly racked up endorsements, volunteers, and fundraising dollars. Jackie offers a credible, progressive alternative to divisive developer-shill Scott Wiener.
Scott Wiener is the incumbent State Senator, who we have major issues with.
Wiener was hella divisive on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He got on our good side with some issues like Muni, biking, and nightlife. But he also led the charge in criminalizing homelessness, carried the water for the awful Police Officers Association, and repeatedly sided with the real estate industry over tenants and affordable housing. From our San Francisco perspective, the fact that he ranks as one of the most progressive State Senators says more about the dismal state of Sacramento politics than it does about his “progressiveness”.
Vote Jackie Fielder for State Senate!
About SB50, Scott Wiener’s signature bill that would “upzone” (allow taller and more dense housing on) broad swaths of California considered “transit rich” or “job rich.” Here’s an awesome summary in chart form (PDF). It’s as ambitious as it is divisive. The League has been talking about the need to build tons of dense housing in SF since 2014. But housing policy is hella complicated. Upzoning super-valuable Cali land requires nuanced, enforceable protections for San Francisco families facing eviction from gentrification. The original version of this bill (known as 2018’s SB827) included essentially no tenant protections. Tenant and affordable housing advocates have had to drop what they were doing and fight for improvements to SB50 for two+ years. The way Wiener disregards and disrespects these advocates (he’s refused to meet with tenant organizations on SB50) is an example of how Wiener has divided so many people across the state. No wonder it’s failed to pass three times.
Wiener basically dropped a giant displacement bomb on us, and then he and his supporters tarred anyone who talked back as being “anti-housing.”
A lot of opposition to SB50 comes from exclusive zip codes like Marin and Beverly Hills where folks are freaking out about affordable housing or apartment buildings. A lot of those folks sound hella racist, and we’re not here for that. We’re totally down with eliminating single family home zoning and forcing exclusionary suburbs to build their share of new housing. But we stand with the organizations fighting to make sure SB50 protects tenants and vulnerable communities and prioritizes housing for the neediest. We agree with Jackie Fielder, SB50 authors need to be better allies of tenants, low-income people and people of color.
Want to go deeper in the weeds on SB50?
- Housing equity groups on what’s improved in SB50 and what still needs fixing
- Alliance for Community Transit LA’s proposal for affordable housing requirements in SB50
- California Tenant & Housing Justice Groups Oppose Scott Wiener’s SB 50
- The NIMBY Principle
- Drunk Housetory: The Tale of SB827 & SB50 (a fun one)
State Assembly, District 17: No Endorsement
Incumbent David Chiu is running unopposed, again. He was first elected to the Assembly in 2014. The term limits allow him to serve up to six two-year terms, meaning he could be there until 2026. Our views of Chiu vary depending on if we’re judging him by San Francisco standards or Sacramento standards. Compared to the rest of the (largely questionable) Democrats in Sacramento, he’s clearly on the progressive end of things. But here in SF, he usually sides with the real estate and corporate interests. Chiu is almost always on the opposite side of our endorsements in contested SF elections. He backed London Breed instead of Jane Kim and/or Mark Leno, Sonja Trauss instead of Matt Haney, Suzy Loftus instead of Chesa Boudin, etc. etc.
He was an early supporter of SB50 and has apparently been AWOL from the efforts by housing justice advocates to improve SB50’s affordability requirements and limit its potential to contribute to gentrification and displacement.
He did notch some solid legislative wins last year:
- AB1482: a statewide cap on some types of rental increases
- AB 857: allow local governments to apply for public banking charters
But ultimately, all of that is still overshadowed by his inexcusable opposition to November 2018’s Prop C, “Our City Our Home,” a ballot measure designed to tax San Francisco’s largest corporations to fund solutions to homelessness. Even worse, Chiu, Scott Wiener, and London Breed all made a show of opposing Prop C on the same day. Were they holding hands to build up the courage to carry the water for their corporate funders? Were they trying to make the biggest press splash possible? Probably both. Either way, Prop C ended up with 61% of the vote. It supposedly needed a simple majority, so we won anyway, right? As it turns out, there’s a (sketchy) legal case to be made that Prop C should have needed 66.6% due to California’s infuriating anti-taxation rules, so conservatives have mounted legal challenges to it. Implementation is paused while that court case drags on, and several hundred million dollars are rotting in a bank account instead of deployed to help our homeless neighbors. We lay that at David Chiu’s door. No endorsement for State Assembly D17.
State Assembly, District 19: No Endorsement
Incumbent Phil Ting is unopposed, again. Sigh. Unlike David Chiu, Ting usually backs the same candidates we do. He supported Mark Leno (but not Jane Kim), Matt Haney, and Chesa Boudin. Like David Chiu, he’s considered one of the most progressive members of the Assembly. But judging by our high San Francisco standards, his track record makes us go, “meh.” We haven’t seen any dramatic or transformative legislation from him. He does a lot on electric cars, which are...fine, but not gonna solve our climate or transportation crises. As best we can tell, he’s been AWOL on the efforts to improve SB50. No endorsement.
Democratic Party County Central Committee (DCCC)
Every two years, Democrats elect committee members to their local governing body, the Democratic County Central Committee. These members vote on the “Official San Francisco Democratic Party” endorsements for local candidates and ballot measures.
Why is the DCCC important?
The DCCC sends out a well-funded “Official SF Democratic Party” slate card that will be hugely influential in the November 2020 Election when Democrats will turn out in record numbers to Dump Trump.
That means a lot of progressive San Francisans who don’t know about the nuances of SF’s “progressive Democrat” vs. “moderate Democrat” local elections will simply vote the Official Democratic Party slate, thinking they’re voting for progressives. But if more moderates get onto the DCCC, that Official Democratic Party slate will be full of corporate neoliberals for four years, which is double-plus-ungood for the SF Board of Supervisors.
The League DCCC Strategy
We are endorsing a mix of elected officials with name ID and up-and-coming activists who have pledged to keep local Democratic Party endorsements progressive, so that housing, climate, and economic justice can stay center stage into November 2020. Our endorsements are largely based on their responses to our questionnaires. They don’t all agree with us all the time, but we think this is a solid bunch.
DCCC Assembly District 17
David Campos, Hillary Ronen, Matt Haney, Jane Kim, Shanell Williams, and John Avalos are progressive (current and former) elected officials we can count on to endorse the right candidates.
Gloria Berry and Kevin Ortiz are Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and Latino Democratic Club activists looking to be brought into the party leadership.
Frances Hsieh, Peter Gallotta, Honey Mahogany and Nomvula O’Meara are badass progressive Democratic Party activists.
Chris Christensen and Anabel Ibañez are active in, and accountable to, their progressive labor unions (ILWU and UESF).
DCCC Assembly District 19
Gordon Mar, Mano Raju, Faauuga Moliga and Janice Li are progressive elected officials we dig who have the name recognition that is key to winning these elections.
Queena Chen, Kelly Akemi Groth, and Leah LaCroix are activists from the Rose Pak Dem Club, DSA and Black Young Democrats who are looking to bring new perspectives to the party.
A.J. Thomas, Li Miao Lovett and Keith Baraka are active in, and accountable to, their labor unions (IFPTE, AFT2121 and SF Firefighters).
Sneak Peek: November 2020: The Board Needs to Stay Progressive
This November’s general election will redefine the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors, with huge opportunities in two closely-contested districts. Mere months ago, tenants’ rights attorney Dean Preston won his District 5 Supervisor election by 187 votes without the DCCC endorsement. As he is technically finishing out London Breed’s four year term, he must run for re-election in November. Moderate “City Family” candidates are already lining up to challenge our favorite Democratic Socialist Supervisor.
Former Supervisor John Avalos will run for his old District 11 seat against incumbent Ahsha Safaí, a real estate developer who is also running for DCCC. In his time on the Board, Avalos wielded the City’s arcane budget processes to advance equity and fight displacement. If he takes back his seat, the Board gains a powerful leader who will spearhead climate and public bank efforts at City Hall.
Who We Didn’t Endorse: The Other Elected Officials
These elected officials are part of the Social Justice DCCC Democrats slate that includes most of the folks we endorsed, but our members didn’t support them, because….
Rafael Mandelman does not have our endorsement. We worked for 12 damn years to get Supervisor Mandelman elected, and he has sorely disappointed us by endorsing his former nemesis, Scott Wiener, and selling out to the Mayor on homeless sweeps, oversight of homeless services, and conservatorship. Apparently he’s now calling himself a “center left liberal,” but we hope we can pull him back from the dark side, and withholding endorsements is one way we keep candidates accountable to our progressive values.
Shamann Walton does not have our endorsement. Supervisor Walton is an effective progressive legislator on the Board. He’s led on protecting youth from tobacco and closing Juvenile Hall, and we’re excited to see his proposal for reparations. But the DCCC is all about endorsements, and his endorsements have not been in line with ours--Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Vallie Brown, and Suzy Loftus for District Attorney. Our members said no thanks.
Former Supervisors Bevan Dufty, Sophie Maxwell, and Carole Migden are nice enough, but we worry about their endorsement history. Migden supported London Breed for Mayor against her nemesis Mark Leno. Incumbents Maxwell and Dufty, who were historically swing votes on the Board we never knew if we could count on, both voted to endorse Suzy Loftus for District Attorney in the November 2019 election.
Who We Didn’t Endorse: The Corporate Neoliberal Slate
A group of moderate elected and appointed officials have banded together with a bunch of first-time candidates into what we’re calling the Corporate Neoliberal slate. This slate is eerily similar among all of the City Family-backed Democratic Clubs. The ethics filings show a web of organizations (United Democratic Club, Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club, Mobilize and Organize Slate) that share the same treasurers, board members, and political consultants. Since clubs have no contribution limits, they are accepting thousands of dollars from the likes of SF Association of Realtors and David Chiu to mail slate cards for their candidates who are then able to stay under the voluntary DCCC $500 contribution limit.
Funny story: back in 2016 the “United Democratic Club” was called the “Robert F. Kennedy Democrats” when they spent nearly $1 million of tech, real estate and other corporate money to promote moderate candidates and the awful Prop Q to criminalize homelessness! RFK’s family was so pissed, they sent them a cease-and-desist letter, so they rebranded as the “United Democrats.” In 2018 the United Dems continued to funnel tech money through shadowy state PACs into SF elections, and we expect more of the same confusing sketchy money shenanigans in 2020. We tried to research this new “Mobilize and Organize Slate”, but they haven’t filed any contribution paperwork in a clear violation of election law.
Most of them didn’t respond to our questionnaire, so we’re not sure what to make of their politics. But we can speculate on the public officials below:
- Newly elected Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, who we blasted in our last voter guide for having no plan or apparent interest in addressing the awful pattern of misconduct among Sheriff deputies.
- Ahsha Safai is a real estate developer who also happens to be the elected Supervisor for District 11. Safai seems to actually live in AD-17, but he recently switched his voter registration to an unoccupied investment property across the highway in AD-19, which is probably not electoral fraud as long as nobody from the Secretary of State notices.
- Vallie Brown and Suzy Loftus are two former Mayor London Breed-appointed officials who did not win their first elections for their offices.
- Mary Jung is the lead lobbyist for the SF Association of Realtors and was the DCCC chair during the Dark Times of 2012-2016 when progressives were at war with the local Democratic Party. She has name recognition and has spent $100k in an election cycle where most candidates spend $20k-$30k.
Where do we want the Democratic Party to go from here?
Some of us are Democrats and some of us have written the party off. We all agree, though, that to keep up the fight for housing, the fight against climate change, and the fight against Wall Street billionaires, we need an activist Democratic Party that tries to save democracy--not sell the City to the highest bidder. Here are some electoral reforms we’d like to see come out of our local Democratic Party:
- Limit ex-officio rights to vote, which would remove a huge 8 vote moderate bloc against progressive endorsements, and lower the stakes of DCCC elections to make room for party activists.
- Switch to District Elections for the DCCC, if we elect members to the DCCC by the City’s 11 Supervisoral districts instead of our 2 Assembly districts, this would shift these elections into focused neighborhood affairs, instead of these sprawling half-city behemoths.
- Enact legally binding campaign contribution limits for DCCC races and close other campaign finance loopholes. Did you know that candidates for county central committees of political parties are not required to file ethics statements after February 15th? The DCCC race will be the only contest on the ballot where we won’t know who paid for the campaigns until July!
- Use the Democratic Party’s fundraising machine to extend the franchise to young folks and undocumented immigrants, not raise treasure chests for entrenched incumbents.
SF Superior Court Judges
Three open judge seats are an opportunity to balance the court’s current concentration of anti-tenant corporate attorneys and former prosecutors who favor traditional “tough on crime” sentences. In the face of mass incarceration and mass displacement, we need progressive freedom fighters to bring criminal justice reform and housing equity to the bench in San Francisco.
Superior Court Judge, Seat 1: Maria Evangelista
Maria Evangelista grew up in SOMA, a block away from the jail where she has defended clients for 14 years as a Deputy Public Defender. Evangelista is a daughter of undocumented farmworkers and works in the collaborative courts, fighting for diversionary programs as alternatives to incarceration. She is endorsed by the Democratic Party, most of the Board of Supervisors, and SF La Raza Lawyers Association.
We did not endorse Evangelista’s opponent Pang Ly. Ly is a commissioner at the SF Superior Court who previously litigated civil cases for asbestos liability. Ly has a compelling personal story of arriving in the United States by boat as a child refugee and enduring poverty to become a financial success. Ly is a millionaire and wrote herself a $100,000 check for this campaign. That and the thousands of dollars that sitting judges have contributed to Ly have led to her shocking fundraising total of $160k-- exactly $100k more than her opponent-- which makes it very hard to endorse her. She's also endorsed by the Republican Party- gross!
Vote Maria Evangelista for SF Superior Court Judge, Seat 1!
Superior Court Judge, Seat 18: Michelle Tong
Michelle Tong is an experienced criminal trial lawyer and a champion for restorative justice. She has defended thousands of felony cases over 16 years at the Public Defender's Office. Her background in eviction defense and domestic violence support gives us confidence that she will bring real justice for real people facing the legal system. She's endorsed by the Democratic Party, almost all of the Board of Supervisors, and District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
We did not endorse Tong’s opponent Dorothy Chou Proudfoot. Proudfoot does not live in San Francisco and prior to being appointed to the Rent Board by Mayor Ed Lee, spent 20 years as a prosecutor in Marin County pursuing high conviction rates with the District Attorney’s office. She's endorsed by Scott Wiener, David Chiu and the Republican Party. Fun fact: Proudfoot is her husband's Scottish surname.
Vote Michelle Tong for SF Superior Court Judge, Seat 18!
Superior Court Judge, Seat 21: Carolyn Gold
Carolyn Gold is the godmother of rent control. She’s a veteran tenants’ rights attorney who has trained thousands of lawyers in landlord-tenant law and runs "Tenant Right to Counsel” to provide free lawyers to San Franciscans threatened with eviction. She’s endorsed by the Democratic Party, most of the Board of Supervisors, former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, and the SF Tenants Union. Gold is the independent voice we need on the bench during this brutal housing crisis.
We cannot endorse Kulvindar "Rani" Singh. Singh does not live in San Francisco, but has been a prosecutor in the SF District Attorney's office for 20 years. She’s endorsed by 23 sitting or former SF judges and has raised thousands of dollars from them. Though she was rated “exceptionally well-qualified” by the SF Bar Association, there’s a cringeworthy video of Singh's meltdown at the Democratic Party endorsement meeting that tells another story about her lack of judicial temperament. Upon realizing that she would not get their endorsement, she flipped out on the Democratic Party for “being political”. Prosecutors really don’t like to lose!
Vote Carolyn Gold for SF Superior Court Judge, Seat 21!
Why do we elect judges, anyway?
If a judge retires before their 6 year term is up, the Governor gets to appoint a replacement. If they retire at the end of their 6 year term, the voters get to elect a new judge in an open election.
Only 5 of the SF Superior Court's judges have been elected - the other 45 were appointed by California governors. There's an argument that electing judges produces better outcomes for criminal justice reform. But as the Supreme Court has shown us, it turns out that a more important predictor is the judge's background - what did they do before being appointed?
Of the 50 judges on the SF Superior Court bench, 76% of them are former prosecutors or former corporate attorneys. Prosecutors and corporate attorneys represent “the state” or corporate entities- not real people. Of the remaining 24% of judges who represented people and their families, only 6 represented clients as defendants, mostly former Public Defenders.
Elections are an opportunity to put Public Defenders on the bench, especially during this time of housing crisis and police shootings. The Superior Court has been terrible on housing and incumbency advantages protect judges with outdated perspectives on mass incarceration and criminal justice reform. Our vote for criminal justice reform candidates and housing justice candidates will deliver more equity to our communities, whereas ignoring the judicial races means the status quo successor candidates win, perpetuating eviction of families, racial sentencing disparities, and mass incarceration.
San Francisco has a chance to end the Prosecutor-to-Bench pipeline. Criminal Justice Reform and Housing Reform voices could be elected to the bench, against all odds, if we band together and do the work to get Maria Evangelista, Michelle Tong and Carolyn Gold elected.
Prop 13: $15B School Bond : Yes
Warning - this is called Prop 13, but is not the 1978 Prop 13 tax law (you know, the reason we can’t have nice things). It’s unfortunate this school bond has the same number (more on that later).
State Prop 13 is a general obligation bond that would raise $15 billion to mostly upgrade educational facilities in public K-12 schools, community colleges and the UC and CSU systems. If passed, it would be the largest school construction bond in state history.
The $15 billion would be broken down into $9 billion for pre-schools and K-12, $4 billion for universities, and $2 billion for community colleges. The measure would empower districts placing bond measures in their communities to raise the limit of taxable property for K-12 schools from 1.5% to 2.0% and for community colleges from 2.5% to 4.0%. If a district passes its bond measure, the state would provide matching funds for modernization and construction of facilities on a need basis. This would depend on scoring districts based on the per-student bonding capacity and the percentage of high needs students. Schools that score high on these indexes would get 65% of state matching funds. Included would be a five-year affordable housing plan and a five-year school construction master plan.
The numbering of the initiative as Prop. 13 is likely to confuse voters. Some might see this as a continuation of the 1978 anti-tax measure or as a repeal. More potential confusion might arise with the appearance on the November ballot of Schools and Communities First’s measure, which aims to reform 1978’s Prop 13 by changing how taxes are assessed among business and residential properties.
Our suggestion? When a Proposition becomes famous (or infamous, as in this case) and is often referred to in public discourse despite the passage of time, California should “retire” its number so it doesn’t show up on the ballot again. Why not? It’s not like we’re going to run out of numbers :D
City & County Propositions
Prop A: Bond for Crumbling City College Facilities & Vocational Training: Yes
This is an $845 million bond that will provide much-needed moolah for City College’s crumbling facilities (plus some vocational training). You may have seen that video of water pouring down the stairs of Batmale Hall, or heard stories about students crowded into 80 year old buildings with no heat. This bond would allow for building upgrades, improved security, job training, seismic retrofitting, clean energy upgrades, and lots of other good (and necessary!) projects.
City College feels like the heart and soul of San Francisco - serving more than 65,000 students in 11 campuses across the city. Most students are there for classes like ESL or vocational programs that can turn someone’s life around. Others are there to sing in a musical, learn upholstery, or take prerequisites for a new degree or career shift. Multiple transfer programs link SF youth to 4-year college opportunities. AND YOU GUYS, IT’S ALL FREE!!! Just imagine what City College could be if its facilities matched the amazingness of its students, teachers, and staff.
As far as bonds go, the Board of Trustees has done a nice job of crafting this one. None of the money can go to administrator salaries, the state has to keep their hands off the money since it’s coming through a local measure, and there’s an oversight committee to watch how the money gets spent. There were some initial reports that a huge chunk of the money would go to a new fancy performing arts complex, but those plans have been scaled back so they can address the most essential improvements first.
It only needs 55% of the vote to pass, so let’s go get it! Vote Yes on Prop A!
Prop B: Earthquake & Safety Bond: Yes
Oh yay, another bond! This one is $628,500,000 for construction, acquisition, improvement, renovation, and seismic retrofitting of::
- the Emergency Fire fighting Water System (including building 30 new water-storing cisterns!) $153.5 million
- Facilities and infrastructure for firefighting (neighborhood fire stations, training facilities) $275 million
- Police (for emergency preparedness - neighborhood stations and other) $121 million
- 911 call center $9 million
- Disaster response facilities and infrastructure $70 million
This bond is projected to raise $40 million annually through 1.5-cents per $100 of assessed property value. It was put on the ballot by Mayor Breed and Supervisors Fewer, Stefani, Mar, Safai, and Brown (but all of the supes support it). It needs a ⅔ vote to pass.
With climate catastrophe in the form of fires now “the new normal” and a catastrophic earthquake being a possibility any day, we’re fine to support this bond to keep our fire stations and other infrastructure in tip-top shape. A lot of these programs and facilities support general emergency preparedness too, which we like.
Things we’re not crazy about:
It is possible for landlords to pass 50% of the cost of this bond on to their tenants through rent increases, BUT new legislation by Supervisor Peskin allows people to apply for a hardship exemption for all tenant pass-throughs.
A few Leaguers argued we should oppose this because it will likely retrofit fire stations we no longer need. This story sets the wayback machine to 2004, when the City Controller reported that the City didn’t actually need the same number of fire stations we had back when fire engines were pulled up the hills by horses. With SF having so few fires and so many fire stations, we could close a few stations (3-5 out of 42) and save $13 million/year without affecting response times. Well, the fire fighters union promptly freaked the fuck out and put a proposition on the 2005 ballot requiring that all 42 stations be fully staffed 24/7/365 in perpetuity. (See SPUR’s take opposing it.) Of course 2005’s “Prop F for Firehouses” won, because everybody loves firefighters.
That led to a big spike in overtime for firefighters while the rest of the City was dealing with painful budget cuts. This is part of a pattern of problematic entitled behavior by the firefighters union, including fighting against street safety improvements, that takes advantage of their privileged status as public heroes. Basically, the firefighters union are bullies and they get away with it because everybody loves firefighters. We love them too, but we also love nurses, EMTs, social workers, and all the other municipal heroes that don’t get those massive OT checks. :/
Also, some of us aren’t wild about spending our hard-earned bond money on retrofitting police stations, because, well, the SFPD is a shitshow.
But are those good enough reasons to oppose this? Most of us think these emergency preparedness improvements in the land of earthquake faults and fires are too important not to support. In particular, our folks on the west side are excited about getting emergency water storage cisterns on their side of town! So Vote Yes on Prop B!
Prop C: Housing Authority Retiree Health Benefits: Yes
This is one that makes you go, “Why the hell are we voting on this? Isn’t this what we pay the Board of Supervisors to figure out?!” But Prop C is a charter amendment, and any edit to the City Charter has to go to the voters--even to change a punctuation mark.
This measure would give employees of the San Francisco Housing Authority the same retirement health care benefits as other City employees receive. The City Controller’s analysis says we’re talking about literally 24 employees!
The back story is that the Housing Authority, which manages public housing in the City, used to be an independent entity. But it was a mess for decades, and after its director was fired for retaliation and discrimination and a $30 million budget shortfall was uncovered, the feds told San Francisco, “either you take over this mess, or we will.”
So we did, and now Housing Authority employees have the same retirement benefits as every other City employee. But there are 24 workers who predate the City takeover, and they currently don’t get credit for those years of work when calculating their retiree health care. That’s just not fair.
Workers who started with the Housing Authority before 2009 would be eligible for the more liberal benefits that were in effect back then. Workers who started after 2009 would be much less likely to get health care as retirees. (They’d have to work at least 20 years and not take another job after they leave the City.) The Controller estimates the total cost to the City over the life of their retirement would be $80,000 for each of these retirees. If half of these workers become eligible, that’s less than $1 million spread over two decades.
We say that’s a fair price to pay to treat workers equally. And besides, once we have Medicare for All, the City shouldn’t need to pay for health care for its retirees anymore!
(Side note: guess who was on the Commission overseeing the Housing Authority when a lot of this mess went down? Ahsha Safai, who’s now on the Board of Supervisors. Way to fail up, Ahsha!) Vote Yes on Prop C!
Prop D: Tax on Leaving Storefronts Empty: Yes
Prop D imposes a tax on commercial landlords who leave ground floor storefronts vacant for too long in certain districts of the City. Finally, a broken windows theory that punches up! We think property owners have a responsibility to the public to use their land to benefit society, rather than sit on it for speculative gain. We’ve heard horror stories of landlords demanding outrageous rents for storefronts--especially on happening streets like Valencia, Haight, and Columbus--and then just letting the space sit vacant in hopes that someone will eventually pay it. Some landlords would rather wait years to land a huge payday (maybe from a chain store or marijuana dispensary that can afford it) instead of renting a business that will improve the street. Many of them own their buildings outright, already make tons of money off the apartments upstairs, and pay tiny property taxes thanks to Prop 13. That all sucks!
How it works: the tax kicks in after a storefront has been vacant for 6 months. For the first year, the tax is $250 per linear foot of the storefront. If the space is vacant for two straight years, the tax goes up to $500/linear foot, and then $1,000/linear foot if it’s vacant for three or more years. Considering that your average storefront is 25 feet wide, these taxes should get the landlords’ attention!
There are a bunch of exemptions:
- It only applies to about 40 “neighborhood commercial districts.”
Properties would be exempt for:
- Six months after they applied for a conditional use permit,
- One year after they applied for or received permits to do repairs or construction, or
- Two years if there was a fire or other natural disaster.
By a 2/3rds vote, the Board of Supervisors can amend or repeal this tax without going back to the voters--except they could only lower the tax rate, not raise it. We think that’s good to allow for this new and complicated concept to be tweaked after we see how it plays out.
Our only problem with this one is that we wish it was stronger! Supporters say they did it this way on purpose--the exemptions are legitimate reasons why a space can’t be leased. But we’re worried sketchy landlords could use these as loopholes to avoid the tax.. Unfortunately this tax is so narrow it will probably only affect a few deadbeat landlords who have kept multiple storefronts empty for years. But it’s a good first step.
Retail vacancies are becoming an epidemic across the City, and the causes and solutions to them seem complicated. Jobs in retail are down 12% since 2001 and 8% since 2015 even while the rest of the economy is booming. The “Amazon effect” of everyone buying stuff online is definitely part of the problem. The City’s permitting process for small businesses is complicated and time-consuming. We give Mayor Breed and former Supervisor Vallie Brown props for their small biz streamlining ordinance, and hopefully the City’s new one-stop permit center will help when it (hopefully?) opens later this year.
But there’s no doubt that landlords seeking outrageous rents are a big part of the vacant storefront problem. Prop D is supported by the Mayor, all eleven members of the Board of Supervisors, and a whole bunch of small businesses. (See all the paid arguments for it.)
And the cherry on top? The money from the tax would go to a Small Business Assistance Fund! Because the tax revenue is dedicated for a specific purpose, this measure requires 66.6% to pass. Vote Yes on Prop D!
Prop E: Force Office Developers to Care about Affordable Housing: Heck Yeah!
Prop E aims to make downtown office developers feel the pain of SF’s housing crisis and motivate them in their bulging pocketbooks to help. Every year SF misses its own targets for building affordable housing, while simultaneously approving tons of new office buildings, which increases our need for housing even more! Prop E would throttle down the approval of those office projects by exactly the percentage that we missed our affordable housing targets by in the previous year. That will give real estate interests a stake in meeting The City’s goal.
Back in 1986, voters passed Prop M that capped the amount of large office towers that can be built in the City at 875,000 square feet per year. (Small office projects under 50,000 sq.ft. are exempt.) Any unused capacity is rolled over to the next year. We never hit the cap until the economic boom kicked off in 2012, leading to an explosion of new high-paying jobs and new office towers. Almost all of the rolled-over office space capacity from the 90s has been used up by this building boom. Meanwhile, we continue to fall short of our affordable housing goals. :/ Prop E says if we only build half of our affordable housing goal in a year, the cap on office space for that year would also be cut in half.
A handful of proposed projects in Central SOMA are grandfathered in because they include significant affordable housing components, provide subsidized space for nonprofits, or provide other benefits.
And future projects would be given a powerful new incentive: if they include enough affordable housing, they could “jump the line” on other projects in getting approval under that annual office space quota.
Lastly, Prop E would change the criteria that the Planning Commission evaluates when deciding whether to approve proposed new office towers to give priority to projects that include affordable housing.
It’s hard to overstate just how much money people are making in commercial real estate and leasing office space. (Actually, it’s mostly corporations and hedge funds that are making the money, not people!) They’ve been swapping downtown office towers like monopoly properties. Office rents have doubled since 2012. Industry analysis shows new office towers are fully leased while they’re still under construction. Tech companies like Salesforce, Uber, and Google have found a lucrative side hustle in locking in long-term office leases, and then subleasing them to other companies as the market goes higher! All of these are side effects of our super-turbocharged economy that has seen the total number of jobs in the SF Metro area grow from 900,000 to 1.2 million. We absolutely need to siphon more of this office space money into addressing the housing crisis. Thankfully Matt Haney recently increased the affordable housing fee on new office towers. That’s a great compliment to Prop E, which will make office developers get serious about helping with the housing crisis. Vote Heck Yeah on E!
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