Mayor: 1-2-3, Anyone But Ed Lee!
1) Francisco Herrera
2) Stuart Schuffman
3) Amy Farah Weiss
District Attorney: No endorsement
City Attorney: Dennis Herrera
Sheriff: Ross Mirkarimi
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
Board of Supervisors District 3: Aaron Peskin
Community College Board: Tom Temprano
PROP A: Borrow $310M For Affordable Housing - Yes
PROP B: Minor Fix of Parental Leave for City Employees - Yes
PROP C: Track Spending by Expenditure Lobbyists - Yes
PROP D: Mission Rock Development - Yes
PROP E: Over-the-top Requirements for Gov’t Meetings - No
PROP F: Enforceable Regulations on AirBnB-Type Rentals - Yes
PROP G: PG&E’s Dirty Energy Power Grab - No
PROP H: Honest Clean Energy Labelling for CleanPowerSF - Yes
PROP I: Pause New Luxury Housing in the Mission - Yes
PROP J: Help Preserve Legacy Businesses - Yes
PROP K: Use Surplus City Property for Affordable Housing - Yes
This Pissed Off Voter Guide is brought to you by the League of Pissed Off Voters. We've been making these voter guides for the last 19 SF elections to help educate our friends and peers on the issues, excite pissed off progressive voters, and remind sellout politicians that we're paying attention.
Mayor: 1, 2, 3! Anyone but Lee!
Francisco Herrera is a longtime Latino artist and activist who believes in using music, art, and popular education to make SF better. Co-founder of the Day Laborer Program, he’s always on the right side of immigration, neighborhood, and social justice struggles.
Stuart Schuffman (AKA “Broke-Ass Stuart”) is using his mayoral run to raise awareness about SF politics, including specific issues like corruption. We’ve been fans for ages and are happy to see him stepping into politics!
Amy Farah Weiss is a neighborhood activist whose “YIMBY” rallying cry urges progressives to quit nay-saying and work towards development that we DO want.
Mayor Ed Lee is a friggin disaster!
His first election was marred by voter fraud and illegal campaign donations. Lee has been part of the Willie Brown machine for decades, and that machine continues to run City Hall for the benefit of their friends and allies. He has dropped the ball on funding for transit, bikes, and pedestrian safety. Worst of all, he does whatever his angel investor funders want. His biggest funder is Ron Conway, a Jeb Bush-loving Republican who stands to profit off his early investments in Airbnb and Twitter thanks to Lee. Gross!
Board of Supervisors District 3: Aaron Peskin
This ain’t Aaron Peskin's first rodeo. Aaron was on the Board 2000 to 2008, where he was a skilled legislator who pushed back on Gavin Newsom’s bullshit, and he’s proven to be a crafty negotiator. When the Mayor turned his back on the Flower Mart, Aaron stepped in and negotiated a deal that will preserve space for the flower dealers when the new owner redevelopments the place with office space upstairs. Aaron led the No Wall on the Waterfront campaign, which is why there’ll be more affordable housing at Pier 70 and Mission Rock. Some people are trying to say he’s “anti-development” and will oppose building new housing. But that’s silly when you consider he was President of the Board that rezoned the Eastern half of the city, which led to all of the construction cranes we see around town.
The current D3 Supervisor, Julie Christensen, was appointed by the Mayor and always votes the Mayor’s way. She was the swing vote against a small pay raise for nonprofit workers who provide important services like health care, child care, veterans services! When the City is flush with cash from the economic boom, it's unconscionable to vote against a small bump in pay for those low-paid workers. She was also the swing vote against strengthening the City's short-term rental regulations. If she had voted for David Campos's proposal to make the City's regulation of Airbnb enforceable (or worked out a compromise between the proposals from Campos and the Mayor), Prop F would've never been on the ballot! :/
We need Aaron to stand up to Ed Lee!
Sheriff: Ross Mirkarimi
We’re voting for Mirkarimi because we need a strong, independent, progressive Sheriff. His opponent Vicky Hennessy is part of Ed Lee’s “city family” who we don't trust to stand up to the Mayor and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association to continue with badly needed reforms. Plus she’s made some transphobic remarks.
We’re proud of how Mirkarimi has stood to xenophobic critics of SF’s Sanctuary City policy in the wake of the senseless murder of Kathryn Steinle. Hennessy would rescind the ban on communicating with ICE, which would undermine Sanctuary City. Mirkarimi supports establishing a civilian oversight board to deal with officer misconduct. Hennessy wouldn’t commit to that.
Under Mirkarimi, San Francisco’s jail will soon become the first in the nation that will house transgender inmates based on their prefered gender. Hennessy answers to our questionnaire about that were evasive and unclear.
We’re not a cheerleader for the Sheriff’s Department. They’ve seen a string of scandals lately, like the tragic death of Lynne Spalding at SF General when deputies failed to find her in a stairwell, and the insane case of deputies forcing inmates to fight in “cage matches” in the jail. But the department has improved their security plan at General, and Mirkarimi called in the FBI to investigate the cage match bullshit.
Then there’s the elephant in the room: the messed up incident on NYE 2011 in which Mirkarimi argued with his wife and bruised her arm. He was charged with domestic violence and the Mayor attempted to remove him from office. We called for Mirkarimi to be reinstated because that was in line with our belief in rehabilitation and justice system reform.
Back then we said we were painfully disappointed in Mirkarimi’s actions. We asked him to own up and use his experience to help reform how we treat domestic violence in San Francisco, with an eye toward how heavy-handed enforcement can harm families and immigrant communities. If he’s re-elected, we want to see more from him on that effort.
We also sought to empower Eliana Lopez and avoid using the system to disempower her in the name of politics as suggested by Myrna Melgar in her SF Bay Guardian Op Ed.
District Attorney: No endorsement
Incumbent is running unopposed :/
One of Gavin Newsom’s last actions as Mayor was to appoint George Gascon as D.A. We thought it was messed up to have the Chief of Police become D.A. We also were pissed about Gascon’s support for the hateful and ineffective “Sit-Lie Law” and his refusal to oppose the death penalty.
Since then, we’ve been a little suspicious of what a skilled politician Gascon has become and how he quickly comes up to get his name in the paper related to the hot issues of the day. But we respect his support of 2014’s Prop 47 that reduced most nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors.
City Attorney: Dennis Herrera
Herrera is running unopposed. While the lack of competition frustrates us, we decided to endorse him. This is from our guide in 2013: A truly progressive City Attorney would have more guts to stand up to the fat cat companies who get way too many breaks in this town. Nonetheless, Herrera has done good things like support gay marriage, protect workers who were getting ripped off on health coverage, try to save City College, and go after Nevada for patient dumping. On the other hand, we’re hugely opposed to his use of gang injunctions, which disproportionately criminalize youth of color.
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
Cisneros is running unopposed. While the lack of competition frustrates us, we decided to endorse him. This is from our guide in 2013: Instead of putting the City’s money in crappy big banks, the Treasurer should be setting up a municipal bank. Cisneros has done some good stuff (work against predatory payday lenders, enact financial literacy initiatives, even ask banks to improve their policies) but he doesn’t seem ready to take the big step of setting up our own bank to compete with the corporate goliaths.
Community College Board: Tom Temprano
Tom Temprano is a community college success story and has a plan for tackling the enrollment challenges and revitalizing City College. Plus, he’s a familiar face in progressive San Francisco - a small business owner, party host and DJ, and past prez of the Milk Club, a club that shares the League’s values. He’s served for four years on the SoMa Stabilization Fund Community Advisory Committee, is a founding member of the Mission-Bernal Merchants Association, and is a founding board member of the recently formed Liberal Voter Project. We’ve slept overnight in Dolores Park with Tom protesting the criminalization of homelessness, campaigned for progressive candidates together, and danced to 60’s soul - all in one weekend!
This endorsement was a really tough choice for us, because one of the other candidates, Wendy Aragon, is a League member who we endorsed in last year’s election, in which she just missed scoring a seat. We love Wendy and she would be awesome on the City College Board, but unfortunately there’s only one seat open this year. We’re going with Tom, primarily because we’re excited by the enthusiasm he’s bringing to the race and to progressive local politics in the City.
PROP A: Affordable Housing General Obligation Bond - HELL YES
Prop A was put on the ballot by the Mayor and a unanimous vote of the Board of Supes. We think it should be $1 billion, but Mayor Lee wasn’t willing to ask voters to increase property taxes (progressives pushed him to bump up his original $250M proposal). It borrows $310 million to “construct, develop, acquire, and preserve housing affordable to low and middle-income households”. This $ can (in the case of housing for the lowest-income folks) be used to acquire federal matching funds. It can be spent on a few different things: direct construction of affordable housing; the purchase of existing rent-controlled rental stock (that otherwise would disappear into the maw of evict-notice-wielding developers) through programs like the SF Land Trust; repairing public housing; and supporting middle income rental and ownership support programs, including the special one for teachers.
This is a compromise between the $500 million bond that the progressives on the BoS wanted and the $250 million bond that the conservative wing of the Board and the Mayor originally proposed. The powers that be have pretty much admitted that the bump-ups in the amount (and the fact that the Mission is specifically noted as a funding recipient) were a result of vigorous public protest, including this summer’s Mission Takes City Hall demonstration. The ostensible reason that the Mayor originally wanted a lower amount was so that the repayment of the bond would not necessitate a rise in property taxes - originally he insisted that $250 million was the highest we could go. A City office promptly reported that we could probably, in fact, go bigger without raising taxes, and so pressure from the Board and public resulted in this bigger bond.
The League tries to be skeptical about borrowing: it feels free, but it’s not really, since we end up paying so much in interest. But we think this type of borrowing is appropriate for long-term investments like housing--as opposed to 2011’s bond for street resurfacing bond. Those streets will need to be repaved again before we’re finished paying off the interest on the bond! :/ Displacement & the housing crisis are devastating the communities that make SF special. Our city is losing existing affordable housing almost as fast as it’s creating new units. All of us know someone who has been evicted or is currently fighting eviction. So we’re on board for Prop A. And since it’s a compromise bond with the backing of most of the politicians and groups in the city, it’ll certainly garner over 50% “Yes” votes.
But here’s the thing. Because of arcane political rules that deliberately make it hard for SF to raise money, this Prop needs more than a majority to pass. It needs a two-thirds majority: 66.66%! Very similar bonds were on the ballot in 2002 and 2004, but neither of them quite cleared that high bar :/ So spread the word: Yes on A!
PROP B: Enhancement of Paid Parental Leave for City Employees - Yes
This one’s pretty simple. As it is now, City employees get three months of parental leave if they have a kid...but if two City employees have a kid with each other, they have to divvy up the three months between them. This updates City policy to clarify that if two employees both want to take parental leave for the same kid (born or adopted), they get three months each.
Also (and this part applies to all City employees), currently, all an employee’s accrued leave zeros out when they take parental leave, including their sick time. Prop B would change it so their vacation still get used up, but they get to keep a week’s worth of sick leave. In other words, if they had saved up a bunch of sick leave before taking parental leave, a week of it it will still be available when they get back.
We say yes - it’s weird to penalize people for having kids with other City employees. Oh, and a side note: we admit that the City’s generous parental leave policy makes some of us in the private and nonprofit sectors envious. Still, rather than succumbing to that envy and tearing down our public servants for the living wages they’ve secured, we believe in harnessing that energy to fight for respect and healthy compensation for all of us!
PROP C: Expenditure Lobbyists Ordinance - Yes
NOTE: This law existed until 2010 and then disappeared in a regulatory shuffle; this proposition brings it back, and prevents it being “streamlined” away again
This Prop adds a new type of lobbyist. In addition to the traditional “contact” lobbyist who is paid to meet or communicate with City staff/electeds to advocate for something, this adds “expenditure lobbyists”. These are likely to be institutions: organizations or businesses that spend money urging others to contact City staff or electeds. So if you are a corporation and you print and send a mailing urging the public to call their Supervisor about something, you’re an expenditure lobbyist and so you need to register, pay a $500 fee, and report all your lobbying every month. Other areas (like other cities, and the state capital for California-level stuff) already require this.
This requirement applies to labor unions and non-profits as well - but communications to their own dues-paying members don’t count. So the Bike Coalition emailing its own members doesn’t count as this kind of lobbying, but a union buying a bus ad asking people to email Mayor Lee would.
Overall, though, this Prop should impact corporate slush funds way more than it will bother the good guys. The data we have from before 2010 showed PG&E & other behemoths vomiting cash into this kind of lobbying (see below). Furthermore, Tim Redmond of 48hills makes the point that this won’t negatively affect progressive forces because it is primarily about sunlight: unions, and real activist groups like Causa Justa, don’t hide their efforts to influence City Hall - they show up on the front steps with megaphones, wearing matching t-shirts. The bad guys, however, funnel money into fake civilian groups (‘astroturf’ organizations), and it’s those that we need to see the $ flow to.
Larry Bush from Friends of Ethics, who is a League ally and proponent of this Prop, wrote on 48hills that this is basically about identifying corporate-funded shills:
“We’ve all seen AstroTurf in action as well as media and mail campaigns urging us to contact elected officials to back their position. There is nothing inherently wrong in doing that. It can even be said to energize voters to pay attention to decisions being made at City Hall. What we believe is wrong is to hide how much is being spent, who is spending it and who is being contacted — the type of information normally reported in lobbying.
We know that this type of lobbying involves far more spending than hiring a lobbyist to talk to the mayor or supervisors. In just three months in 2009, PG&E spent $5,000 on direct lobbying but $65,792 in “expenditure lobbying.” The anti-public power group spent no money on contacting city officials but $58,110 on “expenditure lobbying.” AT&T spent $10,000 in direct lobbying contacts but $67,786.97 in “expenditure lobbying.””
One other fiddly detail that means this Prop is unlikely to snarl any good guys in red tape: the requirement to register as a lobbyist only kicks in once you’ve spent $2,500 in a single month. Staff time is taken into account by multiplying hours spent by the staff member’s salary. Since any communication that’s low cost (say, $1,000 worth of flyers, designed with four hours of staff time from $30/hr staff and passed out by volunteers, or an email blast written by an unpaid neighborhood association leader) isn’t going to cross that threshold, those organizations would never have to register or report. Even once an organization does count as an expenditure lobbyist, if they’re a non-profit, they still have to register and report monthly, but their $500 fee is waived. So that’s a nod to low-budget activist orgs that rally people to affect local politics.
PROP D: Mission Rock - Yes
“Mission Rock” is the realtor name for the huge new neighborhood that the Giants want to build on the 28 acres of “Seawall Lot 337 and Pier 48,” which is currently the parking lot across McCovey Cove from the ballpark.
The development would include:
- 1500 housing units
- 1.3 million square feet of office space
- 160 thousand square feet of retail and “arts/innovation/maker” space
- 3100 parking spaces
- 8 acres of open space
The reason we're excited about Prop D is because 40% of the units will be affordable to a wide range of income levels! This is a huge victory for Prop B from June 2014 that requires voter approval for increasing height limits on port property. Check out the history of the project:
- Back in 2013, they planned to only make 15% of units affordable. :/
- After Prop B passed, they came back with a plan for 33% affordable. That was good enough for the Mayor, but not for progressives.
- After Supervisors Jane Kim and John Avalos threatened to put a competing proposition on the ballot, they upped it to 40% affordable! Now pretty much everybody is on board. Yay!
Here's the mix of income levels for the affordable housing:
- 2% of units affordable to residents earning 45% of the area median income (AMI)
- 10% of units affordable to residents earning 55% AMI
- 4% of units affordable to residents earning 90% AMI
- 17% of units affordable to residents earning 120% AMI
- 7% of units affordable to residents earning 150% AMI
Also, because it’s Port property, the Giants are only leasing the land, which means these all have to be rental units. The Giants also have to justify to the State Lands Commission that the Port will get a better deal out of this than what they currently get for the parking lot.
- This would be the first project to meet 2014 Prop K’s goal of 40% of units being affordable.
- The proposition only raises the heights for the project. All of the details of the project will still go through the regular approval process.
- The Giants have promised that all of the service jobs in the project will be union jobs!
- In order to make 40% of units affordable, the Giants want to use their payment to the Jobs-Housing Linkage Fee, which otherwise would’ve gone to the City’s affordable housing fund to pay for some other project down the road. This shouldn't become a precedent for other projects to use that fee unless they provide at least as much affordable housing.
- The area lacks a realistic transportation plan to handle all the new development. The Giants say they’re committed to working on that, but we want to see them put their money where their mouths are.
- We’d like to see more housing and less office space.
- The Giants need to commit to rearranging the 240-foot towers to minimize shadows on the open space.
- Even though they're doing some legitimate preparation for sea-level rise, we worry that the whole fucking waterfront will probably be underwater in 100 years.
But overall we say the 40% affordable housing makes this development worth it. Vote Yes!
PROP E: Requirements For Public Meetings of Local Policy Bodies - No
Prop E is billed as a “make democracy more accessible using the power of the intertubes!” kind of thing. But the devil is in the details. When you get down to it, it’s going to be hugely expensive and may actually *reduce* civic participation. In addition, it could create a bureaucratic clusterfuck and allow corporations and Fox News types to carpetbomb meetings with pre-recorded public comment.
First, the cost. Prop E requires full implementation in six months, without any identified funding source. According to the City Controller, it would generate additional costs of at least $2.5 million in the first year: $1.7 million to upgrade and expand the necessary sites and equipment, and at least $750,000 a year in ongoing costs for staffing. But the total costs are unknown and could be greater than that.
So what do we get for our money? Well, Prop E would require every board and commission to take pre-recorded and live remote comment for every meeting. This could be cool, in the sense that it would allow the disabled, or folks who can’t take time off work, to record a comment and submit it online instead of trudging to the meeting. But it also means that if you make the effort to show up to give public comment at City Hall, you have to ‘get in line’ along with video commenters who may or may not even live in SF. What if Fox News decides to urge their viewers to swamp an SF meeting with comments? Or PG&E creates a “video comment creation station” at their corporate HQ & records dozens or hundreds of videos? The gov’t meeting is obliged to show them all!
Prop E also creates an online petition process for creating time-set agenda items (‘time-set’ means that a topic must be discussed at a particular time, so for instance, a meeting from 12 - 3 might have a time-set item that must be discussed at 2pm). This is tricky because policy body staff and the Clerk of the Board must also adhere to a variety of state and local noticing requirements like the Brown Act. In other words, they have to notify the public ahead of time what the meeting schedule will be. Multiple agendas for every meeting will mean overtime for clerks and commission staff as well as confusing the public who will make plans based on posted agendas that are later revised by petitions.
And when you combine those two provisions, things get worse. Increasing the volume of comments plus mandating certain items as time-set means you might still be playing video comments from the last topic when you approach the time that’s been set for another. Do you stop, switch, and then go back later? But then what if there are in-person commenters too? Do they just wait? It’ll be a huge mess.
We’re in favor of making government more accessible, but this legislation is too flawed to actually do that. We say no.
PROP F: Short-Term Residential Rentals - HELL YES
Prop F would regulate short-term residential rentals, especially those listed via Airbnb, VRBO, and similar sites. You’ve probably heard lots of scary things about Prop F... because Airbnb has spent $8 million on advertising against it. That’s right, $8 million all from Airbnb! Our rule #1 in evaluating ballot measures is 99% of the time, you want to vote against big money. Airbnb isn’t spending $8 million because they care about our City, they’re doing it because they profit off of apartments being rented out as unregulated hotels.
There’s some history on this one, so bear with us!
Last year, then-Supervisor David Chiu (who’s campaign for Assembly was largely funded by Airbnb investors), proposed and passed a short-term rentals ordinance that progressives (and even some moderates) criticized as being unenforceable and a giveaway to Airbnb. The League (that’s us!) filed an Ethics complaint against David Chiu and his political consultant, 50+1 Consulting, because Airbnb was also paying 50+1 at the time (to do “expenditure lobbying”) and we saw this as a conflict of interest.
Key parts of the Chiu ordinance:
- Created a 90-day cap for unhosted rentals (in which the owner is gone at the time of the rental, so it’s basically a hotel), but did not limit hosted rentals (more of a “I’m here but you’re staying in my spare bedroom” kind of thing).
- Hosting platforms (like Airbnb) were not required to provide data. (WTF?)
- Hosting platforms could list rentals that weren’t registered with the City. (WTF?)
Unsurprisingly, that ordinance has been a flop:
- Less than 10% of listings have registered with the City.
- AirBnB and other sites continue to list thousand of unregistered listings.
- Flagrant violators continue to list multiple units that they don’t live in, which could otherwise house permanent residents.
- While the City has issued a handful of fines, housing activists have reported tons of violator, but the City doesn’t have enough staff to track each of them down under the current hard-to-enforce regulations.
This year, Board Members David Campos (a progressive) and Mark Farrell (a conservative) each proposed competing amendments to Chiu’s ordinance. Farrell’s eventually passed. It raised the cap to 120 days for unhosted rentals. It also originally had some enforcement provisions...but at the last minute the Mayor’s (who’s campaigns have been largely funded by Airbnb investors) new appointee, Supervisor Julie Christensen, gutted them. As a result, platforms still don’t have to provide data on their rental listings and aren’t required to take down listings that aren’t registered with the City.
In reaction to this, housing activists transformed Campos’ amendment into a ballot measure, to let voters have a crack at it - and that’s how we got Prop F.
Prop F would give some teeth to the City’s short-term rental program. It would:
- Establish a 75-day cap for both hosted and unhosted rentals. Aligning the two caps allows the Planning Department to enforce the ordinance via monitoring of the public listing data on the platform website. Currently, since there’s no cap for hosted rentals, hosts can avoid the unhosted rental cap by simply claiming that all their rentals are hosted! Short of sending someone round to peer in the windows and see if the host is sleeping there each night, the Planning Department is helpless to tell if they’re lying.
- Require hosting platforms to provide data on their listings.
- Prohibit hosting platforms from listing rentals that aren’t registered with the City.
- Prohibit short-term rentals of in-law units.
- Increase the number of notices the City sends to neighbors when units are registered on a platform like Airbnb, and require a notice to be posted on the building.
We’re furious that housing built to provide people a place to live is being used as hotel space instead. Airbnb’s ridiculous ad campaign would have you believe that it is *helping* the affordability crisis by allowing beleaguered hosts to earn extra money...but the poorest homeowners in the City are often using their space to house displaced or down-on-their-luck relatives and friends, not renting extra bedrooms on VRBO. And it’s documented that many landlords are now pulling their properties off the rental market altogether and slapping them on Airbnb instead. Poof! Magically, they can charge twice as much, there’s no rent control or pesky permanent tenants to deal with, and San Francisco loses another affordable home. We’re amped about any legislation that helps SF keep track of what’s happening, collect the hotel tax it’s owed, and measure the effects of short-term rentals on the housing crisis in the City.
Folks who follow the rules and occasionally Airbnb their apartment have nothing to fear from Prop F. But if we’re serious about addressing the housing crisis, Prop F is critical piece of the puzzle. Yes on F!
Are you still not convinced? Here are a couple of other great takes on it:
- A lawyer explains why Prop F is perfectly normal and reasonable legislation
- A tenants rights advocate explains why Prop F is so important for San Francisco renters
PROP G: Disclosures Regarding Renewable Energy - No
This prop was put on the ballot via a signature gathering campaign paid for by IBEW 1245, the union that represents PG&E line workers. It would limit what kinds of power San Francisco's soon-to-roll-out Community Choice Aggregation program (CleanPowerSF), could label as “Renewable” or “Green House Gas” free electricity.Current state laws delineate three categories of renewable energy. This ballot measure would change the rules so we could only count one of the three as renewable. So what does that mean?
When CleanPowerSF rolls out, it will serve as a competitor to PG&E here in the City. (Sign up now at CleanPowerSF.org and tell them you heard about it from the League!) Every household will get to choose whether to buy power from PG&E or from CleanPowerSF - and as you might expect, there will be a barrage of marketing from both sides to sway customers. If this Prop passes, then the City’s marketing materials would not be able to refer to such things as roof-top solar as “renewable” or “GHG free” energy. Prop G also only allows the city to count large hydro from Hetch Hetchy as GHG free, which means all other large hydro would not count.
While the city would still report its GHG free and renewable generation number to the state using the state standards, they would be forced to report a different set of numbers to the residents and businesses of San Francisco. CleanPowerSF would be the only program in California to have such restrictive standards...and PG&E, free to use the less restrictive standards in its own ads, would gain a marketing advantage.
How much would this actually change the numbers on the brochures that everyone would see? Let’s take PG&E’s current power mix as an example. If measured by the California standards, it’s 54% renewable/GHG free. If tallied using the rules in this ballot measure, it’s 22%. Yikes!
Interestingly, IBEW 1245 used its members’ money to collect signatures to put this on the ballot...but has now pulled its support for its own measure! They, like us, are now urging voters: No on G, Yes on H!
PROP H: Clean Energy Right to Know Act - Yes
After Prop G slimed its way onto the ballot, Supervisors Avalos and Breed hatched their own measure to counter it, and it was launched onto the ballot by a unanimous vote of the Board. Prop H cancels out Prop G: it says that SF will follow all the state laws on how to count renewable and GHG free energy. That will allow San Franciscans choosing where to buy their power to fairly compare the energy mixes offered by PG&E & CleanPowerSF, since both will be using the same standards.
If both G & H pass, but H passes with more votes than G, it will ‘win’ and cancel it out. No on G, Yes on H!
PROP I: Mission District Housing Moratorium - Yes
(If you're concerned about Prop I because you think we need to build more housing, please check out take on the complications of supply and demand with luxury housing.)
This is the same legislation put before the Board of Supervisors in June that garnered overwhelming community support, displayed during seven hours (!) of public comment. It failed at the Board by a 7-4 vote. It was then revised into a ballot proposition and garnered 15,000 signatures in just three weeks!
Prop I affects only the Mission District (Chavez to 101, Guerrero to Potrero). It would pause, for 18 months, the development of any new housing projects over 5 units (and the demolition or conversion of existing units), except for 100% affordable projects.
The Mission has been transformed in recent years, and the only new housing that’s been built there has been insanely unaffordable to almost all San Franciscans. At the same time the neighborhood has experienced displacement that has ravaged its rich ethnic, economic, and job base. Thousands of Mission residents - as well as small businesses serving the community, nonprofits, and cultural organizations - have been forced out by the increasingly high rents associated with market-rate development. This measure is intended to ameliorate the problems caused by the City’s failure to meet affordable housing goals in the Mission District.
In addition to the pause, Prop I requires the City to develop a Neighborhood Stabilization Strategy and propose for adoption appropriate legislation, policies, programs, funding, and zoning controls to enhance and preserve the stock of affordable housing in the Mission District.
Check out this list of endorsers! It’s like a who’s who of neighborhood activists:
ACCE, Calle 24, Cultural Action Network, Latino Cultural District, Casa Sanchez, Centro de Independencia Económica de Mujeres y Jovenes, HOMEY, Latino Voter Project SF, Our Mission NO Eviction, SF Low Rider Council, PODER, Living Wage Coalition, Pacific Felt Factory, Plaza 16 Coalition, SF Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, SF Latino Democratic Club, Mission Neighborhood Centers, MEDA, Mission SRO Collaborative, TODCO, SF Green Party, The Women’s Building
Opponents of the measure? The SF Association of Realtors and Supervisor Scott Wiener - who so effectively plays the part of the League’s arch-enemy that we are contemplating buying him a dashing but evil vampire cape, and who will be writing the official opposition statement for this Prop!
Frederick Douglass said “power concedes nothing without a demand.” The community tried asking for affordable housing, but the Mayor and developers ignored us. Prop I is our demand. Hopefully the moratorium will put pressure on the for-profit developers to sell to the non-profit developers or the City.
But what about supply and demand?
Urban free marketeers love to Sanfransplain to us how to fix San Francisco’s housing problem. The argument goes, “if we just build enough housing supply, it will decrease demand and rents will come down.” If we build more housing for rich folks, that will make more room for upper middle class folks, and eventually that will make room for middle class folks, and eventually working class folks, right? Yeah, we understand that theory, but we don’t think it’s that simple.
Because what happens when you add a bunch of rich people to a neighborhood? The extra disposable income they bring to the neighborhood creates demand for more service industry jobs, which increases the demand for affordable housing! So maybe those new condos on Valencia open up apartments for a few upper-middle class folks to be able to afford the Mission, but it leads to more service industry workers having to commute from Vallejo to low-wage jobs in the Mission! It’s gotten so bad, businesses can’t find workers to take retail and restaurant jobs in the City.
The City studied this effect back in 2007 in a nexus report and found that to balance out the impact of building new market-rate condos, 30% of them would have to be made affordable! But the City only requires 12% of units in new projects to be affordable--and that was back in 2007 when they assumed the average condo cost $580,000!!
Check out this essay from People Powered Media for more debunking of the hope that market rate developers can solve our housing crisis.
We totally get it that we need to build more housing, but we have to stand up to the developers and make a serious, long-term plan that prioritizes what’s best for the City--not just what’s best for developers bottom line. Here’s our outline of a plan:
- Let’s build a 100,000 new housing units.
- But instead of letting developers build them in the most expensive parts of town, let’s figure out how to incentivize more new housing in the outer neighborhoods where it will be a little more affordable. If we can give twitter a tax break, can we give a tax break to developers who build 33% affordable housing in the Richmond or Excelsior districts?
- And for every new unit we build, let’s take an existing unit permanently off the market. Make them into co-ops or land trusts, or put a deed restriction on the building that says it will always be rental housing and it can never be sold or refinanced. That’s going to take big funding: more housing bonds, a progressive parcel tax, a carbon tax, etc.
- And then all we need to do is radically overhaul our transportation network because we just increased our population by 25%! (The City’s population has basically been flat from WWII until a few years ago.) The San Francisco Transportation Authority did a fancy simulation of what traffic would look like if we built 50,000 new housing units. Their paper on that is called “Preventing Carmegeddon in San Francisco’s Rapidly Densifying Core.” It says the only hope to prevent total gridlock is to do “congestion pricing,” which means charging people to drive downtown. We’d also have to virtually stop building new parking garages, charge more for existing parking, and then make big investments in Muni, bike, and pedestrian projects to make San Francisco truly Transit First.
Lots of folks seem to want to do #1 and hope that the rest magically work themselves out. That’s an overly simplistic, Sim City-style approach to growing the City, and we think it’s a recipe for an overcrowded, broken city of millionaires. If we’re serious about building a future San Francisco that maintains some economic and cultural diversity, we have to tackle growth, affordability and transit all together.
PROP J: Establishing the Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund - Yes
So there’s already a thing in the City called the Legacy Business Registry - the BoS established it earlier this year to “recognize that longstanding, community-serving businesses can be valuable cultural assets of the City.” This Prop makes it a little tougher to get into onto that list (it adds advisory reviews by the Historic Preservation Commission), but it adds a way for those businesses to get Preservation grants when they are at risk of displacement.
Grants would equal $500 per full-time employee employed in San Francisco, up to $50,000, with priority given to businesses deemed to be at an immediate risk of displacement. There would also be grants available to commercial landlords who give Legacy Businesses a “unicorn lease” of 10 years or more (or extend an existing lease to at least 10 years). Landlords would receive $4.50 per square foot up to $22,500.
The measure was put on the ballot by the Sups. Campos, Avalos, Kim, and Mar, and has broad support from heritage and business groups. Also, the Registry can include nonprofits! It does spend some money, but we think it’s worth it to help preserve the character of our City. Yes on J!
PROP K: Surplus City Property Ordinance - Yes
This is a tad complicated, so stick with us and we’ll break it down.
The Way It Is Now:
San Francisco has a policy of using real estate the City owns but doesn’t need (“surplus property”) to build affordable housing. If the property isn’t suitable for housing, it can be sold and the proceeds used to build affordable housing elsewhere in the City. Under the current policy, affordable housing is housing that is affordable to households earning up to 60% of the area median income (AMI).
Every year, City departments are required to identify surplus property. The City transfers the property to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, which then determines if it’s suitable for affordable housing. If so, the City solicits applications from nonprofit organizations serving the homeless to build affordable housing on the property. Some property is exempt: City property controlled by the Recreation and Parks Commission, the Port, the Airport, the Public Utilities Commission, and the MTA.
- expand the allowable uses of surplus property to include affordable housing for a range of households, from those with very low income (the homeless and those earning under 20% of the AMI) to those with incomes up to 120% of the AMI;
- in surplus property developments with 200 or more units, allow mixed-income projects that include affordable housing for households earning up to 120% of the AMI, housing for middle-income households earning up to 150% of the AMI and housing with no income limitations;
- expand the annual process for identifying surplus property with specific reporting dates, public hearings and oversight by the Board of Supervisors;
- prohibit the City, without prior approval of the Board of Supervisors, from taking any actions to sell surplus property for 120 days if the Board of Supervisors is considering developing this property for affordable housing;
- require that at least 33% of the total housing units developed on surplus property sold by the City be affordable— with at least 15% of rental units affordable to people earning up to 55% of the AMI and 18% affordable to people earning up to 120% of the AMI (note: this means we get affordable housing ‘twice’ - we sell the property and use that money to build affordable housing, and in addition, whoever we sell it to, when they build, is required to build at least one third affordable housing).
- make it City policy to ask all other local agencies, such as school districts, to notify the City before selling their extra property in San Francisco and give the City the opportunity to buy it for affordable housing.
Finally, it would allow the Board of Supervisors to waive the requirements of this law for other public purposes, such as creating facilities for health care, child care, education, open space, public safety, transit and infrastructure.
Whew. Prop K is pretty wonky, but it’s a good idea. Overall, it increases the availability of land for the construction of affordable housing, and increases transparency and clarity around the process so the public can have a more informed conversation about how it gets used. Yes on K!
That’s it for this year. If you find yourself amped up about any of this, get in touch with us! We’re always excited to meet new friends. Let’s meet up, get a drink, and pass out voter guides!
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I’m all for both a lot more building and building in parts of San Francisco that are currently low density, but these arguments for Prop I are totally incoherent. If anything, these are arguments against Prop I because it would probably open the door to similar moratoria elsewhere in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
One of the key arguments being made for Prop I is that it will help prevent gentrification (a claim that has been fairly extensively disproved by City-led economic analysis). But even if we were to grant that new housing would exacerbate gentrification in the Mission, then wouldn’t it follow that we should be discouraging new housing in the less expensive parts of town?
The more affordable parts of San Francisco are more affordable because there is lower demand relative to the housing supply in those areas—often because, for one reason or another, fewer people find those areas to be highly desirable. If more housing existed in the places people most wanted to live, those areas might be more affordable, too. Referencing the well-established concept of supply and demand isn’t “Sanfransplaining,” it’s just explaining. The same way saying that vaccines don’t cause autism isn’t “medsplaining,” or saying that the Earth goes around the sun isn’t “astrosplaining.”
Most people who argue for an increased housing supply fully understand that the problem is nuanced; they typically also just happen to think that one of the most fundamental solutions to a housing shortage is to create more housing. If you don’t think supply and demand applies to housing, then please Sanfransplain why dilapidated shacks in San Francisco go for more than some mansions in Detroit. Disagreeing with someone’s argument doesn’t automatically make them condescending—but creating an oversimplified straw man version of their position just might come off that way.
If the City votes to ban new housing in the Mission, it seems likely that other neighborhoods will try to follow suit. Just look at the packed meeting that happened just last night where people came out to protest higher density in the Sunset. Proclaiming that we should put a temporary ban on new housing in one neighborhood, while demanding that other neighborhoods happily accept housing is the height of hypocrisy.
That’s a bit of an extreme reaction. Forever banning the sale of private property seems overly draconian, even for SF. Placing sensible limits like a 10 or 15 year freeze on selling after purchasing a property would disincentivize flipping a property without completely stripping owners of their property rights.