Hey! Surely you're looking for our November 2022 Pissed Off Voter Guide - this is the voter guide from 2020!
- Jump to our voting cheat sheet. See below for all of our research and analysis.
- Not local to SF? Jump to our CA State Proposition cheat sheet.
Vote early at the COVID-safe City Hall Voting Center in front of Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. 10/31 and 11/1: 10am-4pm; 11/2: 8am-5pm, 11/3: 7am-8pm.
Drop off your ballot at City Hall or at any of these eleven sites around town. 10/31 and 11/1: 10am-4pm; 11/2: 8am-5pm, 11/3: 7am-8pm. Dropping off your ballot means you don't have to worry about the Post Office delivering it in time.
Mail your ballot if you can't drop it off. You don't need a stamp, but make sure you sign the envelope and it's postmarked by Election Day.
11/3: Election Day! Polls open 7am-8pm. If you’re in line by 8pm you can vote! Let’s stand in line together! You can also drop your ballot off at any polling place on Election Day.
Where’s your polling place? Check sfelections.org, call 311, or just go vote at City Hall.
Did you forget to register? You can still vote! Go to City Hall or your polling place and tell them you want to "register conditionally and vote provisionally!"
People with Felony Convictions Can Vote! You can still vote as long as you’re off parole. Don’t let the Man disenfranchise you.
Youth can (almost) vote! If you’re 16 or 17, pre-register and your registration will automatically be activated when you turn 18.
The People Strike Back!
President: Joe Biden
US Representative, District 12: No Endorsement
- US Representative, District 14: Jackie Speier
State Senate, District 11: Jackie Fielder
State Assembly, District 17: No Endorsement
- State Assembly, District 19: No Endorsement
Board of Supervisors, District 1: Connie Chan
Board of Supervisors, District 3: Aaron Peskin
Board of Supervisors, District 5
#1 Dean Preston
#2 Nomvula O'Meara
#3 Daniel Landry
Board of Supervisors, District 7
#1 Vilaska Nguyen
#2 Myrna Melgar
Board of Supervisors, District 9: Hillary Ronen
Board of Supervisors, District 11: John Avalos
Board of Education (4 Seats)
Community College Board (4 Seats)
- Prop 14: Borrow Money for More Stem Cell Research: NO
- Prop 15: Tax Huge Corporations’ Properties to Fund Schools and Communities: HELL YES!
- Prop 16: Repeal 1996 Ban on Affirmative Action: YES
- Prop 17: Allow Parolees to Vote: HELL YES!
- Prop 18: Allow 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primaries: YES
- Prop 19: Close a Big Property Tax Loophole, Open Two Small Ones: YES
- Prop 20: Roll Back Criminal Justice Reforms: HELL NO!
- Prop 21: Let Cities Expand Rent Control: HELL YES!
- Prop 22: Screw Over Lyft & Uber Drivers: HELL NO!
- Prop 23: Regulate Dialysis Clinics: YES
- Prop 24: Phony Consumer Data Privacy: NO
- Prop 25: Replace Money Bail With Something Even Worse: NO
- Prop A: Bond for Health, Homelessness, Parks, and Streets: YES
- Prop B: Powerwash the Corrupt DPW & Create a Dept. of Sanitation and Streets: YES
- Prop C: Allow Non-Citizens to Serve in City Government: HELL YES!
- Prop D: Hold Sheriffs Accountable for Use of Force and In-Custody Deaths: YES
- Prop E: Open the Door to Defund the Police: HELL YES!
- Prop F: Tax Big Business, Help Small Business, Make $$$: HELL YES!
- Prop G: Let Youth Vote in Local Elections: HECK YEAH!
- Prop H: Poorly Designed Small Biz Permitting Overhaul: RELUCTANT NO
- Prop I: Tax Luxury Property Sales & Help Apartments Become Co-Ops: HELL YES!
- Prop J: Parcel Tax Do-over for SF Teachers: YES
- Prop K: Let the City Build Its Own Affordable Housing: HELL YES!
- Prop L: ‘CEO Tax’ on Companies That Pay Unfair Wages: HELL YES!
- Prop RR: Regressive Sales Tax to Save Caltrain: CONFLICTED YES
Dear San Francisco,
We know how hard it is to stay hopeful under smoky skies. There is soooo much to be pissed off about. Our weapons feel puny: protest signs, social media posts, flimsy face masks. But as Octavia Butler reminds us: “The weak can overcome the strong if the weak persist.”
On the national level we’re facing the most important election in our lifetimes. But don’t forget about the state and local stuff. This ballot brims with ways to raise money for our communities, rein in cops, and expand voting rights. No matter what happens nationally, we will still be here fighting to keep the City healthy, just, and equitable. So spread the word and don’t despair! There’s plenty of magic still in this City. Let’s team up to save it.
President: Joe Biden
It has always been our goal and our honor to be your decoder ring for local politics. We almost never weigh in on national issues, but when we see outright fascism, we have to stand up and speak out. The current regime has crossed that line many times over, and the damage affects us all. When the League published our first guide, the culture war was about gay rights and reproductive health. Now that war has expanded, BIPOC and immigrant families are on the front lines. ICE raids have become fully militaristic, peaceful protests are met with systematic police violence, and that violence is condoned and sanctioned all the way to the highest office in the land, where it’s amplified through an online network of venomous nativists who are slowly drifting from “own the libs online” to “kill the libs in real life.” We’re seeing white supremacist incidents weekly, we’re seeing child soldiers and racist cops kill innocents and be venerated, and we’re seeing people, including the president, casually ignore hundreds of thousands of American deaths in the Covid pandemic.
Our best hope to pull back from the brink is to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, both of whom we’ve had our share of disagreements with. This was a decision we wanted to avoid, but it’s the right decision for the moment. While our Californian votes for President don’t matter in the Electoral College, they send a message via the popular vote: fascism is not welcome in this country.
Congress, District 12: No Endorsement
Here’s what we wrote about Nancy Pelosi in our March 2020 voter guide, and not much has changed since then. If you’d like details on why we don’t support her, read on:
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 of nonsense that doesn’t represent our values.
While we appreciate the political stances of Pelosi’s challenger, Shahid Buttar, we at the League believe the personal is political. Given the various summer 2020 revelations about Buttar’s campaign management and personal conduct, he does not have our endorsement.
Congress, District 14: Jackie Speier
In March 2020 we wrote this to explain our continued support for 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.
State Senate, District 11: Jackie Fielder
The California state legislature is a fucking embarassment. What’s the point of having Democratic supermajorities in both the State Assembly and State Senate if they’re so sold out to lobbyists that they can’t pass legislation to take badges from dirty cops, legalize duplexes on single family lots, tax oil extraction, etc.?
There has never been a State Senator like Jackie: an indigenous Latina Democratic Socialist who fought Wall Street polluters at Standing Rock, organized the SF Public Bank Coalition, and stood up to the cops’ reckless taser policy (2018’s No on H campaign). We love her new proposal for an Indigneous Wildfire Task Force to reintroduce native land stewardship methods that kept California thriving for thousands of years before our colonizer forefathers messed it all up. In the March Primary she showed she’s running a serious campaign that rattled the incumbent, Scott Wiener. He’s considered a liberal in Sacramento, and he’s good on issues like transportation and LGBTQ rights. But his ugly history of blocking police reform in SF and shilling for developers over tenant rights made him the most divisive politician in the City. Vote Jackie Fielder for State Senate!
Most of the folks reading this guide will already know why we don’t support State Senator Scott Wiener. But here’s the background we provided in March, along with a new addition: a timeline of his support for racist police and systemic injustice.
Scott Wiener is the incumbent State Senator, who we have major issues with.
Wiener was hella divisive on the San Francisco Board of Supervisor (see our 2016 take on him). He got on our good side with some issues like LGBTQ rights, 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.”
Wiener’s shameful history enabling police violence and criminalizing poverty
Lots of Wiener’s supporters are real mad about Fielder challenging him. We’re real mad at everyone who dismisses his history on policing as “a few bad votes.” We can’t overstate how Wiener was the SFPD’s strongest champion and the worst impediment to reform during a time when cops murdered multiple black and brown San Franciscans. Let’s review his bullshit, shall we:
- 11/2/10: Scott Wiener is first elected Supervisor. A major plank of his platform was supporting Prop L, which narrowly passed and outlawed sitting or lying on the sidewalk. His first victory in his quest to criminalize homelessness!
- 11/5/13: Wiener passes an ordinance to outlaw sleeping in parks.
- 3/21/14: Alex Nieto killed in Bernal Heights Park by SFPD who shot at him 59 times.
- 7/25/14: Wiener leads the defeat of an ordinance to expand electronic monitoring as an alternative to jail. Because SF's jails weren't overcrowded, he wanted to keep non-violent offenders locked up.
- 12/16/14: Wiener votes against John Avalos's nuanced resolution in support of the Ferguson Action coalition that described SFPD's history of violence and misconduct. It was later revealed that the Police Officers Association pressured Wiener and other Supes to oppose it.
- 2/26/15: Amilcar Perez Lopez shot in the back by plainclothes SFPD officers.
- 6/23/15: Wiener passes a resolution stating that SFPD’s 1,971 minimum staffing level is too low and police staffing should be increased based on the City’s population. SF youth packed the Board chambers and literally turned their backs on Wiener in protest!
- 12/2/15: Mario Woods killed by the SFPD, shot 29 times by five officers at close range who had him surrounded.
- 4/7/16: Luis Gongora Pat killed by the SFPD, shot while sitting on the ground, 28 seconds after the cops got out of their car.
- 4/19/16: Wiener votes against a resolution in support of Mark Leno’s bill to give the public access to records of police misconduct. The ACLU says the California Police Officers Bill of Rights is one of the most restrictive in the country. Even states like Texas, Kentucky, and Utah make records of police misconduct public!
- 5/19/16: Jessica Williams killed by the SFPD. Chief Greg Suhr finally resigns.
- 7/2016: Wiener votes against a proposal to put a portion of the SFPD budget on reserve until the department demonstrated that it was making progress on several reforms including its Use of Force policy, and its processes for hiring and disciplining officers. Wiener continued to oppose this even after John Avalos reduced the amount of the budget reserve from $200 million to $20 million!
- 11/16: Just like his 2010 campaign for Supervisor, Wiener’s 2016 campaign for State Senate was largely based on criminalizing poverty. He co-authored and campaigned on Prop Q, a cruel, duplicative, and arguably unconstitutional law to outlaw homeless encampments, and Prop R to create a special police unit focused on aggressive panhandling, property crime, obstructing sidewalks, etc. (Q passed, R failed).
- 11/18: Wiener supports Prop H that would have removed the Police Commission’s ability to regulate police use of tasers. Even after the Mayor and Chief of Police came out against it, Wiener stood by the POA.
During these years, and especially since 2014, a lot of us pushed hard to reform the SFPD, but for years we failed. Every step of the way, Wiener had the POA’s back. Has Scott Wiener ever asked himself if he could’ve done something to save the lives of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez Lopez, Mario Woods, Luis Gongora, and Jessica Williams? We have.
We’re glad that Wiener has finally come around to supporting police reform in Sacramento. But he still has a lot of amends to make for his awful record.
We’re excited to support a badass progressive challenger who is the opposite of Wiener in so many ways. Vote Jackie Fielder for State Senate!
State Assembly, District 17: No Endorsement
Here’s what we wrote in March about David Chiu:
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 rent 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. I mean, C’MON, even Senator Feinstein and Congresswoman Pelosi endorsed Prop C! 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. The narrowness of the win led to years of legal challenges from conservatives, who claimed it should have needed 66%. We finally won those cases this year, which freed up hundreds of millions of dollars for our homeless neighbors—but that delay was unconscionable, and we lay that at David Chiu’s door.
Starchild is a write-in candidate who won the primary. A fixture of SF ballots for decades, this leader of the local Libertarian party qualified for the General Election thanks to 56 people who wrote in his name.
No endorsement for State Assembly D17.
State Assembly, District 19: No Endorsement
And here’s our March write-up about Phil Ting:
Incumbent Phil Ting is running for his 5th term. 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 is mediocre. 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.
SF Board of Supervisors
Every two years, San Francisco elects half of the members of the Board of Supervisors, the legislative branch of City/County government. In 2020 we’re voting for the Supes from the six odd-numbered Districts. Supervisors write legislation, negotiate with the Mayor to pass the budget, appoint commissioners, and provide constituent services.
Why is the Board important?
Under our “strong mayor” charter, progressives need at least eight votes at the Board to stand a chance against the City Family political machine. The status quo of evicting families and feeding the City to the rich is not working. We need to win all six of these BoS races if we want to protect vulnerable communities from displacement and Mayor Breed’s budget austerity.
Note: Local races for office in San Francisco use “instant runoff” or “Ranked Choice Voting.” In Supervisor Districts where there was one clear progressive choice, our membership endorsed only one candidate. In Districts where there were multiple good candidates, our membership voted to rank our endorsements. Because District 7 will almost certainly be decided by ranked choice voting, we urge you to rank both of our endorsed candidates, Vilaska Ngyuen and Myrna Melgar.
SF Supervisor, District 1: Connie Chan
This race pits Connie Chan, the chosen successor to the District’s progressive outgoing Supervisor, against the Mayor’s candidate Marjan Philhour. Chan is a thoughtful progressive who knows her stuff. She has years of experience as a public servant in San Francisco government. She’s worked as a legislative aide to Supervisors Sophie Maxwell and Aaron Peskin, worked at Rec and Park and City College, and even worked for Kamala Harris when she was District Attorney. Prior experience as a legislative aide has helped other new Supervisors hit the ground running. Aides-turned-Supervisors like Hillary Ronen, John Avalos, and Katy Tang (even if we disagreed with her a lot) all came into office knowing the rules and procedures and got down to business.
Those of us who know Connie personally agree that she is super smart, compassionate, friendly, funny, and has seemingly endless energy. Her answers to our questionnaire overwhelming line up with our previous endorsements. And she wrote in our questionnaire: “If elected I will represent every resident in District 1...But I also understand that my job as Supervisor is to represent those who are vulnerable and often ignored by the rich and powerful.”
Philhour is running as an establishment moderate, with the backing of the Mayor, the Real Estate industry and the right half of SF’s political spectrum. She’s appealing to the homeless-hater voter, which is not surprising. Back in 2016, she supported the cruel, unconstitutional, and ineffective Prop Q to seize homeless people’s tents without offering them a real alternative.
Philhour lost to Sandra Lee Fewer in 2016, and there’s a laundry list of reasons why we didn’t support her then:
- She supported the Realtors’ awful Props P & U that would have devastated affordable housing.
- She flip-flopped on Airbnb’s awful ballot measure to write its own regulations cannibalizing rental housing.
- Republican venture capitalist billionaire Ron Conway spent ~$700k in an independent expenditure campaign to get her elected, marshalling money from law enforcement and massive real estate developers.
- She was endorsed by the racist, bullying, Republican-supporting Police Officers Association, who kicked down thousands of dollars in contributions.
Philhour didn’t answer our questionnaire, so we don’t know where she stands on a lot of the issues we care about. Let’s hope we never find out how she votes as a Supervisor. Vote for Connie Chan in D1!
SF Supervisor, District 3: Aaron Peskin
Aaron is a long-time Supervisor who uses his deep knowledge of the City’s codes and bureaucracies to problem-solve and root out corruption. His long list of endorsers speaks to his ability to work with diverse stakeholders and get shit done: all of the Supervisors, Mayor Breed, and even Senator Feinstein.
A prodigious legislator, he’s authorized in-law units, wrote the tax on Uber and Lyft, banned government use of facial recognition technology, and much more. He’s full of good ideas AND he can make them happen—like the vacant storefront tax and requiring landlords to provide heat. During COVID, he’s advocated for more testing in SROs, stopped a Muni fare hike, helped small businesses by deferring taxes and fees, and cracked down on delivery companies’ fees they charge to restaurants. Dang.
He’s got a couple of moderate challengers, but nobody can hold a candle to what Peskin has accomplished for his district. He’s a keeper!
SF Supervisor, District 5, #1: Dean Preston
Last November District 5 held a special election for Supervisor. We rallied behind badass tenants’ rights lawyer Dean Preston and were thrilled at his victory. Dean was the founder of Tenants Together, the first real statewide tenant advocacy organization that has done an amazing job bringing San Francisco-strength tenant protections to cities up and down the state. Dean also ran as an out-and-proud Democratic Socialist of America. That rabble-rousing crew of anti-capitalist, anti-fascist corsairs has burst onto the political scene in the past few years, and Dean’s office now acts as a gangplank to carry them onto the treasure galleon of uptight, normie City Hall! Arrr! We’re boardin’ ye!
In Dean’s one short year in office, he’s banned evictions related to COVID, championed real solutions to homelessness, authored the awesome Props K and I to authorize affordable housing and tax corporations to pay for it, and he just reinstated rent control for the Midtown Park Apartments in the Fillmore. Dean has been a transformative thinker, collaborative legislator, and a champion for renters on the BoS. Let's keep him there for a full term.
Preston’s opponent is Vallie Brown, who he narrowly beat last year. See our write-up from last year for details on why we’re not supporting her.
SF Supervisor, District 5, #2: Nomvula O’Meara
We love Nomvula’s bio. It talks about how she’s overcome homelessness and now works as an organizer for ACCE, a rad statewide organization supporting low-income tenants and homeowners, and serves on the Executive Board of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Club. She’s running on a platform of a “Black Agenda For A Better, Blacker San Francisco” that includes creating a Black New Deal, defunding the police, promoting science and education, and making affordable housing a right, not a privilege. We endorsed her for DCCC in March 2020 but did not endorse her in her previous run for District 5 Supervisor in November 2019. During that race, she actually endorsed Dean #1 and herself as #2. We’re happy to support her this time around with our #2 endorsement.
SF Supervisor, District 5, #3: Daniel Landry
A long-time activist with deep roots in the Fillmore and Bayview-Hunters Point, Daniel has lived the struggles of those neighborhoods. His family was displaced from the Fillmore in the 1970s by the racist Redevelopment Agency. He has a long history of fighting for police reform, housing, and environmental justice. He’s a previous member of Brothers for Change who has served on the Hunters Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board and the Western Addition/Fillmore Community Policing Relations Board.
Back in 2007, he showed City Attorney Dennis Herrera how his gang injunctions were a joke. Herrera’s legal eagles had issued an injunction against members of the Knock Out Posse. But Landry, a reformed gang member, showed up at the press conference, to tell Herrera that he was a founder of the KOP gang, which actually stood for Kings Original!
Landry also helped organize an unsuccessful recall of District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell in 2010 because she wasn’t taking on sketchy developer Lennar and the responsibility-dodging Navy hard enough. He’s someone who has been doing the good work for the right reasons for many years without looking for fame or personal advancement His political positions line up with the League’s and we are proud to give him our #3 vote.
SF Supervisor, District 7, #1: Vilaska Nguyen
Vilaska is a Deputy Public Defender who burns with the fire of equal justice for all. He's a first-time candidate, but his political analysis is right on- gained through years of experience as a felony trial attorney defending San Franciscans. He's fought against the racial bias of the courts, police, and district attorneys, and has run legal clinics with community orgs to expunge criminal records so people can get housing, jobs and services.
Vilaska and the League are on the same page. He supports reforming San Francisco's "strong mayor" charter, calling for split appointments to civilian oversight commissions, bringing the Housing Authority under the Board of Supervisors, and appointing department heads outside of the “City Family”. He supports progressive revenue measures- this election's Props I and L, and future legislation to tax tech company IPOs. He's also the only candidate to call for a Navigation Center in fancy-pants District 7. Vilaska will be a steady vote for the 'radical progressive' faction of the board represented by Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen and Dean Preston - who have all endorsed him.
He’s also got momentum- he is the only candidate in D7 with a field campaign, has almost all of the #1 endorsements from progressive organizations, and polls show him tied with the moderate favorite. He’s a “Catholic dad” who is uniquely positioned to do well in the conservative areas of District 7, even as he calls for social housing and racial justice. Vilaska would be the first Vietnamese American elected to the Board.
We haven't had a public defender on the board since Matt Gonzalez, and we trust this attorney to lead on much-needed police reform on day one. Vote Vilaska!
SF Supervisor, District 7, #2: Myrna Melgar
Myrna’s resume is bursting with great experience: she’s worked on affordable housing in the Mayor’s office under Gavin Newsom, directed the Jamestown after-school center in the Mission, helped run the Mission Economic Development Agency, was a legislative aide to Supervisor Eric Mar, and served on both the Building Inspection and Planning commissions! Some progressives are wary of the fact that Mayor London Breed and the YIMBYs endorsed Myrna, but we’ve known her for years from progressive campaigns around the City going back to the Avalos for Mayor campaign in 2011. We trust she shares our values, and we know she’s ready to hit the ground running if she’s elected.
Vilaska and Myrna are the clear choices in this crowded field. Please rank both of them on your ballot and leave off the other candidates!
SF Supervisor, District 9: Hillary Ronen
We endorsed Hillary’s successful bid for this seat four years ago. She’s running unopposed, and we’re happy to support her again.
Hillary has been a warrior on the Board of Supervisors: for affordable housing and to protect vulnerable communities from displacement and City budget austerity. She also helped create Free MUNI for Youth. During COVID, she has been a champion for the hard-hit Latinx community and has called for additional health, safety, and sanity supports for working parents.
Along with Supervisor Matt Haney, she wrote and passed the Mental Health SF bill, a vital step in public health and criminal justice reform. Imagine! Treating "criminals" with mental health resources instead of violence. Funding social workers and psychiatrists instead of propping up the white supremacist police. Keeping people out of our crowded prisons, under COVID or after it. City-covered Mental Health services are our SF values made real. Like Rent Control or Legal Weed or Gay Marriage, they are progressive policy dreams that the City has tended, watered, and let bloom as an example to other cities. We hope Mental Health SF will be fully implemented so our neighbors who need help can get it, and other cities can follow suit.
One critique we have is that she continues to take contributions from the Deputy Sheriff’s Association (but not the Police Officers Association), arguing that the DSA has been supportive of progressive causes like Prop D (to create civilian oversight of the Sheriff's department) and Mental Health SF. While we agree that the DSA is light-years better than the awful POA, we think in this era where we’re finally getting serious about closing jails and defunding the police, our leaders need to reject all money from law enforcement.
Still, we trust Hillary to be a hard-working, passionate champion for the issues we care about, and we’re happy to support her re-election. Vote Ronen!
SF Supervisor, District 11: John Avalos
John was a progressive leader during the two terms he served in this seat, from 2008-2016. SF’s rules allow him to run again after taking four years off. Thank gawd, because Avalos is exactly the kind of leader we need to tackle so many of 2020’s challenges and opportunities:
- The City budget is in tatters from the pandemic: Avalos chaired the Budget committee through the two worst years of the great recession, where he managed to cut fat from the police and fire departments and preserve the social safety net.
- California is on fire and the climate catastrophe is upon us: John led the effort to create CleanPowerSF (our 100% renewable electricity alternative to PG&E), championed funding for Muni and biking, passed stronger regulations on Bay Area oil refineries, and shut down a City-owned oil well in Kern County (WTF was that all about??).
- Police violence is motivating unprecedented movements to defund the police: When the San Francisco black and brown communities rose up against police violence, Avalos was their biggest ally in City Hall. Did you read our huge list above of all the times Scott Wiener’s enabled the SFPD? Every step of the way, Avalos was there pushing back. He even tried to tie the SFPD’s budget to their progress on implementing reforms. He’s the man we want in City Hall to help defund SFPD.
- Inequality has never been worse: Avalos always brought the conversation back to socioeconomic equity--particularly how District 11 (the Excelsior, OMI, and Crocker Amazon) never got its fair share of resources. He succeeded in getting Muni, Rec and Park, and the Children’s Fund to do binding equity analysis that guided their resources.
Avalos also accomplished a ton for District 11, which many San Franciscans don’t even know is part of the City. He led the approval of the first two major affordable housing projects in the District: one right at Balboa Park BART Station and one next to the Safeway on Mission. He secured state and local funding to convert the earthquake-shuttered Geneva Car Barn into a youth arts center. He recruited SF Credit Union to come to D11, spruced up McLaren Park, cleaned up Balboa Park BART, and a bunch more.
We could go on about other cool stuff he’s done, but we’ll leave you with this: John Avalos is real. He’s authentic and trustworthy in a way few politicians are. He’s an English major turned social worker turned union organizer who speaks in Bob Dylan quotes, Game of Thrones jokes, and obscure movie references. He rides his bike like a joyful teenager. And his office in City Hall was always an open sanctuary for the community groups and organizers and rabble rousers fighting for change.
When he ran for Mayor in 2011, his campaign was the most fun and inspiring many of us have ever seen. Help us bring that energy back to City Hall in 2020! Vote Avalos!
Avalos is running against incumbent Ahsha Safaí, a phony, do-nothing house-flipper, who Avalos beat when they both first ran in 2008. Unfortunately for District 11, Safaí ran again in 2016 and won by 413 votes. (Every vote counts!)
Safaí is a do-nothing: Besides his bad votes and endorsements, Safaí hasn’t accomplished that much. The contrast between the COVID response in the Mission versus the Excelsior and OMI is pretty damning. The Mission has conducted ground-breaking studies and offered support for its vulnerable communities, with mass testing at BART stations. We're glad community groups have hustled to make testing available one day a week at Crocker Amazon park and on Broad Street in the OMI, but the hard-hit District 11 needs more. Why can't Safaí get large-scale testing at Balboa Park BART or on Mission Street, where vulnerable essential workers need it?
We LOLed at his recent slick mailer with a big headline about an ordinance freezing rent hikes because of the pandemic. Safaí didn’t write that ordinance, Peskin did! Safaí only co-sponsored, and five other Supes sponsored it before him. In fact, he hasn’t passed an ordinance of his own since September 2019. Legislate much?
Safaí is a phony. Back in 2008, Safaí worked for Gavin Newsom, and he talked, dressed, and acted like a mini-Gavin. (Check out his pensive, pinstriped, hair-gelled glamour shot from a Chronicle puff piece). But when he came back to run again in 2016, he switched up his image to be a mini-Avalos! He dressed more casual and talked about working families, but we weren’t fooled.
Safaí flat out lied to the District 11 Democratic club claiming that he supported June 2018’s “Baby Prop C” to tax office buildings for childcare. In fact, he supported the competing Prop D that had a poison pill to kill off the tax for childcare.
Safaí is a house-flipper. He bought a house that was in foreclosure in 2005, and sold it less than a year later for a profit. The woman he bought the house from sued him for fraud, saying she was “frightened and intimidated” into accepting an unfair offer. Last year he bought a property in probate court, and the real estate company he used turned around and donated $5,600 to Safaí’s campaign a month later. He’s been involved in a number of questionable real estate deals over the years and made most of his money as a consultant for landlords and developers. No wonder nearly half of his campaign funds come from the real estate industry!
While Avalos has led on holding police accountable, Safaí was endorsed by the Police Officers Association, took their money, and rewarded them in 2018 by derailing a resolution to limit the cops’ ability to drag their feet on reforms.
While Avalos is a climate champion, Safaí tried to get the City to pay for his parking space, has failed to divest SF’s retirement fund from fossil fuels while sitting on the Retirement Board, and has taken at least $7K from gas station companies.
Geez, it’s exhausting trying to keep up with all of Safaí’s nonsense.
One last thing: Avalos’s list of endorsers is strangely missing several of our allies. Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, and Norman Yee endorse Safaí. Bevan Dufty, Matt Haney, and Rafael Mandelman all helped Safaí get the Democratic Party’s #2 endorsement. What’s up with that? We suspect it has to do with political alliances and cliques more than policies, which sucks. Come on gang, we can't feed D11 to the development wolves.
Vote John Avalos for District 11 Supervisor!
City College Board of Trustees
City College is hanging on by a thread. It’s vital that we elect qualified trustees to the City College Board with both the institutional experience to defend City and roots in the City community to hold them accountable. For (lots) of details, read on.
The City College Board provides oversight over CCSF and its $315M annual budget, including budget approval, hiring and firing the Chancellor, setting curriculum and facilities policies, and negotiating with faculty and staff unions.
There are seven seats on the Board of Trustees, and four spots are being voted on this election. Trustee elections are “citywide,” not divided into districts. All SF voters can mark four candidates from the list, and then the top four vote getters receive the seats.
Two of the trustees sitting in the four contested seats have chosen not to run (Ivy Lee and Alex Randolph), so there are only two incumbents in this race. Those progressive incumbents, Shanell Williams and Tom Temprano, both have their eyes on higher office—but their performance over this last term (presiding over brutal class cuts and not adequately vetting terrible ex-Chancellor Mark Rocha) has led the CCSF faculty union AFT2121 to not endorse them this time around, though they had endorsed them in 2016.
Which leads us to a tension we’ve noticed when it comes to these Citywide ‘at large’ races, for College Board and School Board. They are often used as a “stepping stone” into politics for activists who want to build their campaigning and fundraising muscles and earn some name recognition. That can lead to a run for Supervisor, which in turn can be a springboard to state positions, or a long career in City government.
We’re not sure how to feel about that. On the one hand, progressive rising stars do need a way to break into the political scene. On the other hand, these are important positions in their own right, and the Boards have real work to do with actual people that are affected by their decisions. Our educational systems deserve to be run by real people who are invested in them, not enthusiastic climbers who are looking for the exit before they’re even elected.
Plus, while supporting a progressive up-and-comer for a Board is a huge opportunity for the communities to whom these candidates are accountable, there’s also the risk that once they win, candidates will be swept up in the temptations of power and money the City Family has to offer. They could become another sell-out politician delivering more of the same- brutal economic injustice and a legacy of corruption that has plagued City Hall for 150 years.
So it’s always a bit of a Faustian bargain when progressives promote candidates for School Board and College Board. Strategists who see the Board of Supervisors as the best hope for justice in this city sometimes end up throwing these vital institutions under the bus. Our City College and SFUSD communities are outraged at the perceived inability of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Education to address their districts’ massive funding and administration issues. So why are we still jumpstarting candidates’ careers if they aren’t solving these Boards’ problems? Shouldn’t our disappointment with the recent performance of the City College Board of Trustees lean us away from supporting any incumbents?
Part of the issue here is that these Boards actually have limited power. In the case of College Board, City is being starved of resources because of funding formula fights happening at the state level, as Governor Newsom continues Governor Brown’s crusade to convert the state’s community colleges to centrally administered junior colleges. But maybe if our progressive incumbents Williams and Temprano weren’t planning to run for higher office, they would be less focused on building their political relationships, and a bit more radical in exercising their levers of power.
Anyway, the tension we’re describing has led to the existence of two competing “slates” for these four open College Board slots: one set of four candidates endorsed by AFT2121, who represent the “kick out the incumbents” side, and a competing slate supported by progressive forces in City politics who are developing leaders and strategically building long term power.
It was a tough choice for us, but we ended up supporting some candidates from both slates. Ultimately, the League believes that both Temprano and Williams can learn from the concerns that have been raised about their work during their first terms. We trust them to use what they’ve learned on the job so far, to be a bit more bold, and to work toward more transparency (which would help their upward political trajectories too).The two fresh candidates we’re supporting are deeply invested in the City College community, and endorsed by the faculty union.
We’re hopeful that this board will work with the community to vet and hire a new Chancellor, pursue progressive revenue, and avoid class cuts—particularly for the most high-needs students. Let’s make a world-class education available to all San Franciscans!
Tom is a former Harvey Milk Club President, DJ, and bar owner, who now works as a Legislative Aide to Supervisor Mandelman representing District 8. He’s an incumbent, currently Vice President of the Board, and a voting member of the League!
Part of the discussion at the League endorsement meeting was the desire to elect candidates that were ready to engage in tough policy discussions and votes, and proactively initiate policies versus rubberstamping staff recommendations.
On the one hand, Tom has supported policies put forward by the Board of Supervisors, including Supervisor Kim’s Free City College initiative and Supervisor Mar’s 10 year Free City funding commitment. On the other hand, trustee meeting minutes confirm he mostly just votes to uphold staff recommendations, and when fellow trustee Ivy Lee was taken to task for challenging Chancellor Rocha’s outrageous upper-administrative raises coupled with class cuts, he and his colleagues left Trustee Lee to duke it out with the Chancellor on her own. Ultimately, the entire CCSF Board eventually realized that Trustee Lee was right and the Chancellor needed to go. They were united in firing Rocha and Tom supported Ivy’s request to hire an independent Controller. He also supported inclusion of the Southeast and Evans campus projects into the City College Bond priority list... though none of these things were able to garner him the AFT2121 endorsement, since they feel he’s more interested in being a career politician (see our intro above). We understand their concerns, but we’ve known Tom a long time. We’ve seen how hard he works and cares, we slept in Dolores Park with him to protest Scott Wiener’s bullshit, and we’re confident he will excel in his second term steering City College.
Anita Martinez is a Chicanx City College educator and administrator of 28 years! Her experience as the former Dean of Students Affairs, a former Human Services Commissioner and the former President of AFT2121 just might be the cocktail of gravitas, nuts & bolts knowledge, and maturity that the Board has been missing.
As a student labor organizer, she pushed her Department to strike in order to ensure that San Francisco State University establish a School of Ethnic Studies and an Educational Opportunity Program. Don’t be fooled by her “Retired” ballot designation—Martinez is very much engaged on City College issues big and small. And at a time when our entire nation is in the throes of a massive racial justice reckoning, we think it’s time to get an experienced educator who is passionate about equity (and not about running for higher office) into the mix!
City College Board of Trustees: Aliya Chisti
Aliya Chisti is a young policy analyst and former educator who is parlaying her current work as the City’s Department of Children Youth & their Families (DCYF) coordinator for the Free City College program into a bid for the Board. Born and raised in San Francisco and a product of SFUSD, Aliya did her college thesis on free higher education and would be the first Muslim woman to be voted into elected office in San Francisco. She is also the former Legislative Aide to Supervisor Malia Cohen and a graduate of Emerge, a program which trains women to run for higher office. So while she’s endorsed by local moderate politicians we haven’t supported (Prosecutor Suzy Loftus and Supervisor Ahsha Safaí), she is also endorsed by AFT2121 and other local progressive educators of color. We’re thrilled to support a Frisco kid who has direct experience administering the Free City College program. Chisti is genuinely passionate about empowering student voices, improving budget transparency and championing workforce development and wraparound services on campus!
City College Board of Trustees: Shanell Williams
That’s Madame President to you! Shanell is the current President of the Board, and was elected to her seat in 2016. Shanell also brings the unique perspective of having been elected to the Student Trustee seat by City College students back in 2013-2015. Like Tom Temprano, the League had concerns with this incumbent’s conflict avoidant approach to tackling tough budget and class cut votes, but she has stepped up her leadership game recently. She recommitted to ensuring the successful programming of the CCSF Facilities Bond, improving financial controls and diversifying the CCSF faculty. Ultimately, the League felt Shanell’s leadership during the accreditation crisis and first-hand experience as a born-and-raised Black San Franciscan and City College student give us hope that her second term will pay off for CCSF’s future.
Vote Tom Temprano, Anita Martinez, Aliya Chisti and Shanell Williams for City College Board of Trustees!
SF Board of Education
School Board is a tough (unpaid) job, and we need committed candidates who will fight for equity while shepherding the District through COVID and an ongoing budget crisis. But first, some basics.
The Board of Education is composed of 7 Commissioners, elected citywide to four-year terms. Four of the seven seats are being voted on in this election. Just like CCSF Board, all SF voters pick their four choices and the top four vote getters receive the seats. Also like CCSF, two of the incumbents are not running, in this case Stevon Cook and Rachel Norton.
Why is the School Board important?
The School Board sets policy for SF public schools, which serve 54,000 students—the vast majority of whom are students of color. The commissioners we elect are responsible for seeing that SFUSD lives up to its core values: Student centered, Fearless, United, Social justice, and Diversity driven. They oversee a $1B annual budget that still leaves most schools inadequately funded, and they make decisions about policies on everything from policing to public art. The challenges facing the Board of Education in this coming term include COVID-19, a funding shortfall, a mandate to rename schools, and a new enrollment process
Regardless of whether you have a child enrolled in SFUSD, if you’re a voter, you have the honor and responsibility to improve ALL kids’ learning. We’re collectively creating the experience that students have eight hours a day, day in and day out, for over ten years of their lives. These youth are our neighbors and will forge the future of the city!
SF Board of Education: Kevine Boggess
THIS GUY! You know a candidate is the real deal when the community has been drafting him for hella days. Kevine has been on the ground crafting education policy that interrupts the school-to-prison pipeline, organizing parent access to Board of Education meetings and empowering student voices as the Policy Director at the respected non-profit Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth. He is a Black father committed to the hard work of combating systemic racism and inequity in our schools. We don’t deserve him —but our kids do!
SF Board of Education: Matt Alexander
Matt Alexander is the co-founder and principal of the progressive June Jordan School for Equity. Matt has been a champion for smaller class sizes, suspension reforms, and parent engagement. He gets the budget, he gets governance and he will be a superstar on the Board of Ed.
SF Board of Education: Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez is an OG, and the League has been supporting him since he first ran for the Board of Ed as a queer Latino Green Party member. He’s now the President of the Board, and his years of experience as a teacher, principal, and union organizer have directly influenced the District’s COVID-19 response.
Mark also has a track record of working his ass off to get more $$$ for SFUSD by working with the Board of Supes to throw the district some bones when they can, and putting funding measures on the ballot. Sometimes, even our progressive school board members have had a kind of “what can we do, we’re broke!” attitude, but Mark isn’t willing to stop there. We need his tenacity and leadership for at least a few more years!
SF Board of Education: Alida Fisher
Alida Fisher is one of the most visible advocates for special ed and disabled students in SFUSD. Alida is a former foster parent and the parent of children with disabilities. In the course of their 13 years in SFUSD, she has become an expert in the rights, processes, laws, and systems that are supposed to serve our disabled and special needs students. This also makes Alida an expert in how those systems repeatedly fail our students, their families, and their dedicated educators.
Anyone who regularly attends Board of Ed meetings knows Alida; she gives public comment more than once at every meeting because she knows how every facet of district policy can affect this vulnerable population. Not only that, she has personally sat with hundreds of SFUSD families through their IEP process. Her questionnaire responses also convinced us that she's got the chops to take on whatever comes before the Board with dignity and equity in mind. We are thrilled to support her and know she will deploy her expertise enthusiastically on the Board.
Whatever you do, don’t vote for Michelle Parker, a well-connected political activist who is co-founder of the moderate SF Parent PAC. This slush fund has funnelled tens of thousands of dollars from the Police Officers Association, Maximus Realty and indicted former Building Commission president Rodrigo Santos towards Parker’s favored candidates—including her own School Board campaign in 2016. No thanks.
Vote Kevine Boggess, Matt Alexander, Mark Sanchez and Alida Fisher for Board of Education!
BART Board of Directors
BART District 7: Lateefah Simon
We supported Lateefah Simon in her successful bid for this seat in 2016. Her career record of fighting for racial justice convinced us she’d be an amazing advocate on the BART Board, and she has been. Over the last four years, Lateefah has been a vocal champion against policing in practice and in the BART budget; helped lead on labor negotiations; convened a women’s safety listening session to hear from women of color and women workers on the safety issues they encountered on BART; and has championed homeless services across the BART system. She is now President of the Board and we are happy to support her re-election effort!
BART District 9: Bevan Dufty
We didn’t always agree with Bevan back when he was a moderate on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (before you whippersnappers were born). But he really seems to have hit his stride in this role.
He’s been an advocate for homeless services and the Ambassador program (which is part of BART’s attempt to shift resources away from policing). He’s secured additional resources for elevator attendants and custodial training and certification in a partnership with Urban Alchemy, a program for formerly homeless or system-involved folks. And he stood his ground when moderate SF politicians tried to undermine the affordability of a housing project planned on BART property. We’re amped to endorse him here. Vote Dufty!
California State Propositions
- Prop 14: Borrow Money for More Stem Cell Research: NO
- Prop 15: Tax Huge Corporations’ Properties to Fund Schools and Communities: HELL YES!
- Prop 16: Repeal 1996 Ban on Affirmative Action: YES
- Prop 17: Allow Parolees to Vote: HELL YES!
- Prop 18: Allow 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primaries: YES
- Prop 19: Close a Big Property Tax Loophole, Open Two Small Ones: YES
- Prop 20: Roll Back Criminal Justice Reforms: HELL NO!
- Prop 21: Let Cities Expand Rent Control: HELL YES!
- Prop 22: Screw Over Lyft & Uber Drivers: HELL NO!
- Prop 23: Regulate Dialysis Clinics: YES
- Prop 24: Phony Consumer Data Privacy: NO
- Prop 25: Replace Money Bail With Something Even Worse: NO
Prop 14: Borrow Money for More Stem Cell Research: No
We’ve got too many qualms and questions to endorse a “Yes” vote here. We don’t think it’s fiscally responsible to issue $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds to fund this research, because it’s an ongoing program. Bonds are paid off with interest over many years, so they should only be used for capital-intensive projects that last a long time like parks, affordable housing, and subways. Prop 14’s use of bond funding to pay the salaries of researchers is like taking out a mortgage to pay your weekly grocery bill—That’s no way to run a budget!
Also, the times they are a-changin’ since California first passed a bond for stem cell research in 2004. Back then, George W. Bush was inflaming the culture wars by scaring red states about stem cells, and we responded by passing Prop 71, the Californians-will-fund-this-if-the-Feds-won’t bond. Stem cell research is important, but is it urgent enough that we need to pay for it with a bond that’s like charging it to the state’s credit card? We don’t think so.
We also have concerns about the lack of oversight and transparency here, and it’s unclear if the state will own the intellectual property created as a result of this funding, or if the private research companies will own it. Overall, we aren’t down. No on Prop 14.
Prop 15: Tax Huge Corporations’ Properties to Fund Schools and Communities: Hell Yes!
Woo hoo, Schools and Communities First! This is the California property tax change we’ve all been waiting for: it will tax the top 10% of commercial property owners (corporations) based on the current market value of the property they hold, not the value from way back when they bought it.
Remember 1978’s horrible Prop 13, that capped property taxes and crippled the state’s education system? Under that rule, annual property tax is 1% of the property’s value. The “value” is defined as the sale purchase price, reassessed annually…but the annual increase is capped at either 2% or the inflation rate, whichever is lower. In most places in California, property value has skyrocketed since 1978 - it’s gone up way more than 2% a year. That means we are decades behind in collecting a reasonable amount of money to pay for all the things we need - schools, infrastructure, social services, etc.
Prop 15 to the rescue! If this passes, the state would tax commercial and industrial properties based on their market value. Corporations with less than $3 million in holdings in CA are exempt (that makes up around 90% of all businesses in the state, so this really is just going after huge corporate landowners - think Chevron, Disney, and Trump).
This change will bring an estimated $8 - $12 billion annually for the whole state (Around $500 Million for San Francisco and $35 million for SFUSD!). 60% goes to local governments and special districts, and 40% goes to school districts and community colleges. (Here’s a handy fact sheet with the breakdown of where the money would go in SF.)
This prop was put on the ballot with a record-breaking 1.7 million signatures, and is supported by everybody who knows what a nightmare the current tax structure has been for our state: teachers’ unions, labor unions, local governments, health care organizations, and elected officials including Governor Newsom. It’s only opposed by anti-tax groups and big property owners. Economists have been studying this for years, and have debunked the false claims that residential properties or small businesses who rent from corporate landlords would be impacted.
Despite the hugely positive impact this prop would have, it’s polling as barely squeaking through, so help us make sure it passes by voting HELL YES on Prop 15 and spreading the word!
Prop 16: Repeal 1996 Ban on Affirmative Action: Yes
Prop 16 reverses 1996’s Prop 209, which “prohibits the state from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” Prop 209 was supported by rich, white, conservative Republican men (surprise), and stalled all efforts to bring more equity into government and education. It harmed Black, Latinx, and Native American admission rates to the UC system, as well as their earning power afterwards. Yuck. Luckily, we have a chance to right the wrong in November. Getting rid of this language in the CA Constitution will enable the state to pass legislation around race-conscious justice efforts, or even reparations! Yes on Prop 16.
Prop 17: Allow Parolees to Vote: Hell Yes!
This is a slam dunk. Twenty other states allow parolees to vote, and California should be next!
Parole is a great alternative to incarceration in theory, but in practice it’s actually a driver of mass incarceration. Some figures suggest “about half” of folks exit parole successfully, with many returning to prison due to technical violations of supervision conditions. And, no surprise, Black and Brown Californians are overrepresented in the parolee population. Since the idea of parole is to reintegrate returning citizens, restoring voting rights at this stage of the process is a logical reform. We think those most affected by the system should be part of re-envisioning it.
Democracy needs everybody and voter disenfranchisement sucks, particularly when it disproportionately affects Californians of color. While we wish that California had gone the way of DC, Maine, and Vermont and reinstated voting rights to everyone, even the currently incarcerated, we’ll take this as a stepping stone. Hell Yes on Prop 17!
Prop 18: Allow 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primaries: Yes
If someone will turn 18 by the time a general election comes around, it only makes sense to empower them to have a say in what happens in the primary. Youth engagement fuels our democracy and progressivism.
Critics of this prop seem to think that human brains plop into existence on our 18th birthday, but maturation is a process. Any 17-year-old invested enough to vote in a primary election is just as capable as they will be a few months later for the general. In fact, there’s been a movement to build out and reward more comprehensive civics education in California public schools, and this ballot measure is a brilliant complement to that.
In order to build a healthy and robust democracy, we need to support more engagement, especially from younger voices. About half the states in the union already allow those who will be 18 by the general election to vote in the primary, so we will be in good company if Prop 18 passes. Yes to more youth engagement, Yes on Prop 18.
Prop 19: Close a Big Property Tax Loophole, Open Two Small Ones: Yes
This one is a doozy.
To understand Prop 19, we have to start with three existing California props: 1978’s Prop 13 (which only allows property taxes to increase by 2% annually, unless ownership of the property has changed through a sale, and a lot of things don’t count as a sale), 1986’s Prop 60 (which allows seniors and people with severe disabilities to transfer their current property tax assessment to a cheaper, replacement home in the same county, once), and 1988’s Prop 90 (which was an upgrade to Prop 60: it allows the lower tax assessment to transfer to another county, but only if that county agrees to take the lower assessment). Prop 13 was passed by conservative anti-tax fanatics. Props 60 and 90 were more understandable - they were passed to give some flexibility to folks who needed to downsize and wanted to take their low tax rate with them.
The way that Prop 13 defines “change in ownership” is super relevant here- there are tons of reasons why a change in ownership wouldn’t actually require reassessment, under the current law. For one: a transfer of a residence from parent to child (solidified by 1986’s Prop 58), or grandparent to grandchild (solidified by 1996’s Prop 193), currently does not count as a “change in ownership”, which means that the child/grandchild can continue to pay taxes on the value of the house based on when it was first purchased by the family member, plus a modest annual increase of the far-less-than-market-appreciation 2%. This has not kept pace with real estate values, and actually provides a disincentive to sell. If I live in my family home that my parents bought in 1985 and transferred to me in 2013, I’m paying way less property tax on it than I would on any similar house currently for sale, particularly if that house is somewhere like San Francisco, where properties (and their property taxes) have appreciated 160% in value since January 2000.
Annnyway, Prop 19. It tightens some loopholes around which properties are allowed to keep their inherited taxable value. Right now, if I inherit a house with a taxable value of $300,000 but an actual value of $1.3 million, I still only pay taxes on its value of $300,000, adjusted up by 2% every year. I get to use that $300,000 taxable value even if it’s just a vacation home, or I use the house as an investment property and charge market-rate rent. Under Prop 19, a few things would change. Prop 19 would allow inherited properties to still use the lower historical taxable value...but only if the property is used as a primary residence, and as long as the extra value added to the house by appreciation hasn’t exceeded $1 million (adjusted for inflation).
Let’s go back to our example. Say Prop 19 passes. Assuming I use the house as a primary residence, I would still pay taxes on just the original $300,000 value. But if the house was worth $1.4 million, I would pay taxes on $400,000 instead: $300k for the original taxable value of the home, and $100k for the appreciation over $1M ($1.1M of appreciation - the $1M you get “for free”). However, if I use the house as a second home or an investment property, it would be reassessed completely, and I would pay property taxes based on the market value.
To recap: this closes the loophole that allows investors, landlords, and zillionaires with multiple homes to pay token taxes on inherited property, but it still protects anyone using inherited properties as primary residences. So far, we’re sold. Big loophole, closed.
Prop 19 also expands the categories of people who can use the Prop 60/90 portability for replacement homes, to include folks who have been victims of wildfires or other natural disasters. Ok, sounds good.
But then it opens two new loopholes. Remember the Prop 60/90 one-shot ability for qualified folks to transfer their lower tax assessment? Well, Prop 19 increases that from once to three times. It also opens up the ability to transfer those tax assessments across county lines with no limitations, and allows them to be transferred to homes with greater value than someone’s current home, with an upwards adjustment to account for the increase. These two loopholes potentially create a scenario where people are transferring lower property tax values to counties who, without this additional portability, would get more property tax from someone else just buying the property outright.
So we’re skeptical about that part. It’s nice to help Grandma move from her oversized empty nest to a cute apartment in the big city without losing her tax benefit, but three times seems a bit much. There’s probably a bunch of San Francisco grandmas with empty nest houses that Prop 19 could motivate to move closer to family and free up some housing in the City.
Overall, our members decided this was good policy. That puts us on the same side as realtors, which might be a first for us. But in this case, it’s a win-win: realtors win because more people moving houses means more houses being bought/sold, and we all win because closing the loophole on vacation homes is expected to raise way more in property taxes than the expansion of portability.
Where will this extra money go? 75% of it will go into the California Fire Response Fund (20% of the amount will go to staffing fire suppression within the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the rest will go to the Special District Fire Response Fund), and 15% of it will go into the County Revenue Protection Fund, to help offset the negative gains within counties that might come from lower property tax values being ported into those counties. No qualms with giving more money to staff the Forestry & Fire departments.
Close the vacation/investment home loophole, raise more money for firefighters, Yes on Prop 19.
Prop 20: Roll back Criminal Justice Reforms: No
In 2011 the US Supreme Court ruled that CA’s overstuffed prisons violated the US Constitution. Since then, state efforts to ease overcrowding, plus progressive pressure to end the War on Drugs and bring reason and compassion to sentencing, have begun to dismantle our vile prison-industrial complex. Prop 20 is the bad guys striking back. :(
It nixes the recent reforms, will toss more nonviolent offenders in prison, and make it harder to get parole. Why? Sadly, this was put on the ballot by the prison guard union out of fear that a fairer system means fewer guards. We love unions and all, but Prop 20 is bullshit fear-mongering. We say Hell No on Prop 20!
Prop 21: Let Cities Expand Rent Control: Hell Yes!
Prop 21 would allow CA counties and cities to extend rent control to any rental housing that’s at least 15 years old and owned by a landlord who owns three or more units. Currently in San Francisco, rent control doesn’t apply to properties built after 1979. That arbitrary date makes no damn sense.
It would also allow cities to implement what’s called “vacancy control,” so that when a tenant vacates a unit, the landlord is limited to increasing the rent no more than 15%. Currently, landlords can jack up the rent as high as they want when a tenant moves out. That creates huge pressure for landlords to force out long-time tenants.
Prop 21 would also allow San Francisco to expand rent control to apply to single-family homes, if the landlord owns three or more units.
Prop 21 tackles the same awful legislation that 2018’s Prop 10 sought to repeal, Costa-Hawkins, but Prop 21 is a more measured amendment instead of a full repeal
Most California renters spend over 30% of their income on housing. For some, it’s worse than that: a third are forking over 50% of their pay to their landlords! Prop 21 is a first step to reign in outrageous rent hikes and keep people in their homes. Hell Yes on Prop 21!
As for all the scaremongering from rent control’s haters, we think their arguments range from overblown to flat-out bullshit. Let’s talk about the economists, shall we?
Are you concerned with what economists say about rent control?
Unfortunately, lots of economists like to hate on rent control. Let’s take a look.
Argument #1: Economists say if we remove restrictions on rents and housing construction, the efficiencies of the free market will eventually make housing more affordable. They acknowledge our housing crisis, but say expanding rent control will discourage developers from building more housing, because it might not be as profitable. Sooo they’re saying the way to lower housing costs is to make sure developers and landlords can raise rents as much as possible?! Maaaybe that would work out over a 30-50 year timeframe, if you let developers and landlords maximize their profits, they’d eventually build enough housing that rents would come down. But we doubt it: as soon as their financiers see that rents are stabilizing or dropping, they’ll stop funding new construction and invest in something else. Meanwhile, another generation or two of working class folks will be displaced by skyrocketing rent increases.
Economists studied what happened when Cambridge, MA repealed rent control in 1995. This City Watch LA article links to a lot of that research. Tl;dr it wasn’t good. While new construction increased some, rents skyrocketed—in both previously regulated and unregulated units—evictions increased by 33% and 40% of residents in previously rent controlled units moved out.
The reality is that out-of-control rents in urban California are making landlords rich and prompting developers to build as much housing as they can. Nobody is proposing that rent control should apply to newly constructed buildings—instead the debate is how long to wait for it to kick in: 20 years? 30 years? There are much bigger factors that determine if housing developments pencil out: the skyrocketing costs of materials and labor, zoning restrictions on where and how much housing can be built, and how much affordable housing they’re required to build. The effects of rent control is decimal dust compared to all of that.
Argument #2: Economists say rent control encourages landlords to convert rental units to condos or tenancies-in-common. A recent Stanford study of rent control in SF said this was the most damaging part of rent control, because it led to a 15% decrease in the supply of rental housing. But let’s think about that. Rent control is a policy to stop speculators from making housing too expensive. Condo conversion is a way speculators profit by getting around rent control. If our policy goal is to keep housing affordable, the solution is NOT to throw out rent control because there are loopholes. The solution is to plug the loopholes! And that’s exactly what tenant advocates in San Francisco have done over the past two decades, limiting the ability to convert units to condos or to demolish, merger, or convert existing housing.
Similarly, opponents argue that rent control motivates landlords to keep units off the market. When studios in SF start around $2K/month, we don’t understand why anyone would keep a unit off the market. They’re friggin’ goldmines! But if that is still a widespread problem, again the solution isn’t to get rid of rent control. Let’s try educating landlords, and if that doesn’t work, let’s tax or regulate vacant units.
Argument #3: Rent control should be means tested. “Means testing” means rent control should apply only to low-income tenants. But if we did that, it would create huge incentives for landlords to evict and/or not rent to low-income tenants so that they could charge higher rents. As the Haas Institute study puts it, “there is no more reason to limit the benefits of rent control to the lowest-income tenants than there is to limit the benefits of public utility regulation to only the lowest-income users of electricity and water.” The lack of means testing also increases the overall economic benefit of rent control: by limiting rent increases on middle and upper class tenants, it puts more money in their pockets to spend on other stuff instead of lining the pockets of their landlords. Economics!
We appreciate the value economic brings in analyzing public policy challenges, but just a reminder that economics is not a hard science—it’s a social science that has been shown to be subject to bias. And we know that expanding rent control isn’t a magic wand that will solve the housing crisis. Of course we need to build a lot more housing. But rent control is a crucial tool for providing stability in our housing, and it’s a key piece of creating a society where housing is less of an investment and more of a human right.
Not convinced? Want to geek out some more? Okay, dig away:
- Presentation from Sasha Perigo to YIMBY Action on 2018’s Rent Control Measure
- U.C. Berkeley Haas Institute: Opening the Door to Rent Control
- USC Study: What Are the Impacts of Rent Control?
- U.C. Berkeley economist: The Case for Preserving Costa-Hawkins
- Stanford: The Effects of Rent Control Expansion on Tenants, Landlords, and Inequality
- CalMatters Podcast: contrasting views on rent control
Prop 22: Screw Over Lyft & Uber Drivers: Hell No!
Last fall, the CA Legislature found their spines and passed AB5, a bill to protect gig economy workers by defining them as the employees they obviously are, instead of the ‘independent contractors’ their bosses pretended they were. Surprise - that pissed off companies whose business model was built on exploiting their workers. So Lyft, Uber, InstaCart, Doordash, and Postmates all teamed up to obscenely bankroll this Prop ($181 million so far) which would overturn the law.
AB5 should not be overturned! It was a historic bill that changed the way workers were classified. AB5 created the presumption that workers are employees unless the business can prove an “ABC” test otherwise. If they can show the worker falls under all three sections of the ABC test they can be categorized as an independent contractor.
(A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.
(B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
(C) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.
These app-based companies claim they’d go out of business if they had to treat their workers fairly...which is what old timey industrial tycoons said about the 8-hour workday. They also claim it would take away workers’ ability to choose their shifts. Anyone who has ever worked a restaurant job knows that’s utter bullshit.
Prop 22 would let the companies rip drivers off with massive amounts of unpaid labor. Drivers would only be paid for time while they have a passenger in a car or when they’re making a delivery (they call this “engaged time”). They get nothing at all while they’re driving to pick someone up, waiting for a ride, etc., which could be up to half of their time!
The janky pseudo-health care benefit that Prop 22 offers is also tied to this rip-off concept of “engaged time:” Drivers only get the benefit if they log more than 25 hours a week of “engaged time,” so they could log 40+ hours of total work and still not get the benefit. And what is that benefit? It’s a subsidy that’s only 82% of the statewide average cost for Covered California. That’s not a health care benefit!
The U.C. Berkeley Labor Center added it all up, and Prop 22 guarantees only $5.64/hour! There is a massive amount to be pissed at in this proposition. For more, check out:
- Joe Eskenazi from Mission Local scathing takedown of it
- Gig Workers Collective’s FAQ on why Prop 22 is awful
Like Juul’s 2019 “Vaping for the Children” measure, massively overcapitalized companies want to spend infinite amounts of money to write their own laws. This legislation sets the absurdly high bar that it can only be changed by a law that passes with the support of seven-eighths of the state legislature. Aaaaand… that law would have to be “consistent with and furthers the purpose” of the legislation. Wtf does that even mean!?!
The largest survey of on-demand workers in the country shows that for most app-based rideshare drivers, this isn’t just a gig, it’s a full-time job. Most drivers work over 35 hours a week. When you calculate true expenses, including wear and tear on their cars, mileage reimbursement, paid and unpaid time, a substantial chunk of this workforce is estimated to earn less than SF’s minimum wage. 20% of drivers earn $0 after expenses.
Lyft, Uber, InstaCart, Doordash, and Postmates have spent more money on this self-serving bullshit than on any proposition in CA history. Fuck off, fatcats. Hell No on Prop 22!
Prop 23: Regulate Dialysis Clinics: Yes
Two years ago, healthcare worker union SEIU-UHW West attempted to protect patient rights at the ballot box with Prop 8: Regulation of Kidney Dialysis Charges, which would have capped the industry’s obscene profits and prohibited refusing services to clients based on their insurance coverage. Unfortunately, Prop 8 went down hard 60%-40% thanks to Big Dialysis firms DaVita and Fresenius spending $111M to defeat it (a mere fraction of their billions of dollars of profit).
Prop 23 is round two of this showdown: instead of trying to cap profits or calling for refunds to patients, this time SEIU-UHW West has focused on patient care and clinic closures. Big Dialysis has reduced labor cost by replacing skilled nurses with technicians, leading to increased hospitalization rates and reduced survival rates. This proposition requires minimum staffing of at least one licensed physician per site. Clinics would not be able to refuse care to patients covered by Medi-cal/Medicaid or Medicare. Closure of clinics would require state approval and patient notification. And clinics would be required to report infection-related data to state and federal governments, with penalties for not reporting on infections that patients receive while undergoing dialysis.
There is a provision for exemptions of the minimum staffing requirement where there are no available physicians, which is crucial during the pandemic and blows holes in the opposition argument that this prop will cause a doctor shortage in hospitals.
Some critics see the ballot box as off-limits to unions, while they turn a blind eye to corporate lobbyists who fund state lawmakers by the millions. This seems myopic to us. If progressive unions like SEIU-UHW West are able to launch effective electoral campaigns on behalf of workers, it’s good for the progressive movement. Labor is an important part of the coalition that is reforming CA’s tax structure this election with Prop 15, “Schools and Communities First”, and we are happy to support this union-backed ballot initiative. Vote Yes on Prop 23.
Prop 24: Phony Consumer Data Privacy: No
Prop 24 overhauls the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which was hailed as the strongest in the nation when it was passed in 2018, but turned out to be littered with loopholes. It was put on the ballot by a real estate millionaire with the Bond-villain name of Alistair Mactaggart, who has taken on the cause of championing data privacy because nobody else is. We commend him for that, but we can’t support Prop 24. Turns out data privacy is hella complicated when our lives run through the data centers of mega-corporations with business models based on exploiting our privacy!
Prop 24 does lots of wonky things:
- Consumers can prevent businesses from sharing their personal information or get them to correct inaccurate info, but it puts the burden on us to protect our privacy, instead of on the companies to get our permission to share our stuff.
- Creates the California Privacy Protection Agency with a $10M/year budget to enforce the law. Currently the Attorney General is responsible for enforcing our data privacy, and our milquetoast AG Xavier Becerra says he only has the resources to enforce a couple of cases a year. Maybe this new agency, starting from scratch,can do better than the Department of Justice, but is that enough funding to take on Facebook, Google, and all the other data pirates out there? (Spoiler: they will be outgunned by big tech and take on only smaller companies)
- Companies have to get permission from youth over age 13 to share their info, and they have to get permission from a parent or guardian to share info of youth under 13. (psst: how ‘bout you just stop sharing kids’ data instead?)
- Exempts companies that buy, sell, or share data on fewer than 100,000 consumers households. Currently, the CCPA applies to businesses peddling data from 50,000 or more consumers or devices.
- Most of Prop 24 wouldn’t kick in until 2023, although the new agency would be created January 1, 2021 and start on developing regulations.
- The state legislature could modify Prop 24, but only if the amendments “further the purpose and intent” of it. Expect lots of legal fights on what that means.
We have lots of concerns about this:
- It fails to protect vulnerable communities by forcing them to file paperwork to protect their personal data from predatory Silicon Valley companies.
- It exempts credit reporting agencies.
- It’s heinous to allow companies to offer “pay for privacy” schemes where they can offer discounts to consumers who let them sell their data. And they can charge you for the value of your data if you care to opt out!
- It weakens protections for biometric data like DNA and faceprints with a loophole for retaining your personal info for security, fraud, and ‘system integrity’ purposes
- Law enforcement agencies can ask businesses to retain data on “suspects” for 90 days without a warrant. Any guesses what communities they’ll be using this on?
It was put on the ballot before 2018’s CCPA even went into effect, so these “necessary improvements” are just shots in the dark with no real data to back them up.There’s probably a lot more to be concerned about. Data privacy geeks are fighting over what a lot of the wonky details mean...and there’s definitely a lot of wonky details that data privacy geeks can fight over the meaning of. Our brains hurt trying to figure it out. When that happens, we try to look to experts, and that’s also a good argument for opposing it.
Opponents include ACLU, Color of Change, and Media Alliance are all against it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation doesn’t officially oppose it, but they have a lot of concerns. We don’t see any organizations we trust as experts on data privacy in the list of supporters. And it’s pretty telling that the big companies that are responsible for the most massive privacy violations haven’t contributed a cent to try and defeat it.
So basically, whether or not Prop 24 passes, our data privacy rights are still fucked, and we have zero confidence in our lobbyist-loving state legislature to fix it. Maybe Mr. Alistair Mactaggart will take another shot at getting it right. If he does, we hope he brings in some more experts. And whatever happens, it’s increasingly clear we need to get organized and educated on how to fight for our right to data privacy. Vote no.
Prop 25: Replace Money Bail with Something Even Worse: No
Money bail punishes the poor and keeps innocent people in jail before trial. Prop 25 hijacks the movement to end this injustice and proposes to replace money bail with even more injustice: increased incarceration power for judges, biased "risk algorithms," and more funding for law enforcement. We seriously hate to be on the same side as the bloodsucking bail bond industry that put this veto referendum on the ballot...but Prop 25 will actually put more innocent people in jail, and we cannot support it.
With 12 million people arrested annually in the United States and packed court schedules, judges are biased towards efficiency. They have historically set high bail, knowing that it will coerce a guilty plea from those who cannot afford to get out of jail any other way. With Prop 25, the same judges who were detaining people pre-trial with money bail can now detain them without bail. So much for presumption of innocence! (Oh, by the way, pre-trial incarceration doesn’t work. It destabilizes lives and causes more crime).
The scariest thing about Prop 25 are these shady “risk algorithms” used to determine if someone should be incarcerated pre-trial in lieu of money bail. These algorithms use “science” and statistical probability to deprive individuals of due process. These algorithms have no transparency, no accountability, and no recourse for challenging one’s risk score once it is calculated. But don’t worry: the risk algorithms are tooootally not racist—but they do rely on racist inputs like arrest history, employment history, residential stability, and education levels. They also include fuzzy metrics like “risk of re-arrest” and include unproven accusations. They place people into risk categories with no clear definitions and no limits as to what factors they can consider, allowing secretive risk-profiling companies to peddle algorithmic profiling that LA county estimates would double their pre-trial prison population.
As if these two injustices weren't enough, at the last minute the probation officers' union leaned on the State Assembly to amend this legislation with even more fucked-up shit. Local independent pre-trial diversion programs—designed to keep folks from getting caught up in the system—would all be put under the control of law enforcement (read: more $$$ for police WTF!) So criminal justice reform-minded voters supporting this are actually voting to increase funding for law enforcement.
These concerns aren't speculative. We can look at what happened after money bail was removed from federal courts with the 1984 Bail Reform Act. 35 years later, the percentage of folks detained before trial has tripled, and they are disproportionately poor and people of color. Money bail is terrible, but pre-trial detention is the root problem that puts innocent people in prison. And reforming money bail by expanding pre-trial detention is no reform at all.
Advocacy organizations we trust such as Human Rights Watch, JusticeLA and Silicon Valley De-Bug are sounding the alarm on Prop 25 and demanding alternatives that protect the constitutional rights of Californians. The criminal justice reform movement is stronger now than when this bill was originally written three years ago, so the range of what is politically possible has opened up:
- California Judicial Council could easily implement a $0 statewide bail (they already did this from April to June to lower jail populations at the start of COVID).
- “Progressive Prosecutors” can follow District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s lead and choose to never seek money bail (though this weapon of mass incarceration is still left on the table for future DAs)
- The California Supreme Court could uphold the Appeals Court “Humphrey Ruling,” removing the money bail schedule entirely (see sidebar below).
If Prop 25 does not pass, it's an opportunity to go back to the Legislature and try again. We can't support any bail reform policy that doesn't protect the constitutional guarantees of due process and presumption of innocence for people caught up in the criminal justice system. Pre-trial incarceration should be decided on an individual basis, not on some statistical bullshit that reflects the biases of the police and the judges. Prop 25 will put more innocent people in jail. Vote No.
San Francisco has been an innovator in Money Bail (for better and for worse).
San Francisco Invents Money Bail
Bail has been around since the Magna Carta to provide for a conditional release from jail. Later Anglo-Saxon “sureties” only required an ability to pay in case of flight, with no money changing hands pre-trial. In 1898 the first commercial bail bondsman set up in San Francisco and the era of “pay money to get out of jail” began. Over a century later, San Franciscans burn $32 million annually in non-refundable bail premiums to the for-profit bail industry—a tragic extraction of wealth from poor people and communities of color.
San Francisco Strikes Down Money Bail
The moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, but sometimes it needs a little help. Help arrived in 2018 with the unlikely case of Kenneth Humphrey, a San Francisco retiree accused of stealing $5 and a bottle of cologne from a neighbor in his housing complex for seniors at risk of displacement. Humphrey was arrested and held in SF County jail on $350,000 bail before trial. Humphrey's public defenders, the late Jeff Adachi and current District Attorney Chesa Boudin, argued that their client was overcharged and the excessive bail violated his 14th Amendment right to due process. The state Court of Appeals agreed, and that victory changed the game in California. The court found “a defendant may not be imprisoned solely due to poverty” in what is now known as the Humphrey ruling.
The bail schedules that judges use to set bail were found unconstitutional and unlawful as they did not consider a defendant's ability to pay. Judges were ordered to consider non-monetary alternatives to bail. Attorney General Xavier Becerra withdrew an earlier objection and did not appeal the ruling. The California Supreme Court immediately halted the ruling in May 2018 to review the case, after which the Prop 25 legislation was passed by the legislature. As of August 2020, the California Supreme Court is still reviewing the case, but has decided that one aspect of the ruling is binding (judges must consider ability to pay). We hope that the Supreme Court will uphold the full Humphrey ruling to protect the constitutional rights of Californians and set a precedent for other states to do away with money bail entirely.
To go even deeper on money bail, we recommend checking out District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s “Chasing Justice” podcast episode Bail: The Criminalization of Poverty.
Prop A: Bond for Health, Homelessness, Parks, and Streets: Yes
Prop A is a $487.5 million Frankenstein bond, but thankfully it stitches together (almost) all good stuff:
- $207 million for housing and facilities for people experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, and substance abuse problems
- $239 million for parks, open spaces, and recreational facilities
- $41.5 million for improving streets, curb ramps, and plazas
Prop A is a general obligation bond that is paid off by the City’s property taxes. Landlords can pass through up to 50% of their property tax increase to their tenants. We still think that’s bullshit considering all of the tax deduction and other benefits property owners get, but thankfully (and thanks to Supervisor Peskin) tenants can now apply to the Rent Board for a financial hardship exemption on these rent increases. The Tenants Union has helpful info on this process.
Want more specifics on where all the money will go? Prop A’s website is nothing but fluff, but this report from the City’s Capital Planning Committee does a good job breaking it down. Some highlights:
Health and Homelessness:
- $147M to build or acquire 250 permanent supportive housing beds and 75 shelter beds. A main target will be acquiring existing housing that can provide exits from homelessness. The pandemic will likely drive a lot of small neighborhood boutique hotels out of business. We're also seeing a lot of privately owned Single Room Occupancy buildings being sold. These are both golden opportunities to create new housing with in-house supportive services to help people get off the street.
- $60M for mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities, like a new centralized Behavioral Health Access Center, psychiatric skilled nursing facilities, residential treatment facilities, and detox and sobering facilities.
Parks and Open Space: This section has a much more detailed spending plan with a bunch of individual parks identified. We like how a lot of the money is focused on the parts of town that need open space and quality amenities the most: $30M for Gene Friend Rec Center in SOMA, $29M for India Basin in the Bayview, $25M for Japantown Peace Plaza, $15M for Crocker Amazon fields and $6M for McLaren Park in the Excelsior, $10M for Jackson fields in Potrero, etc. The other big pots include:
- $14M for sustainability and climate resiliency projects
- $9M for playgrounds
- $6M for a “Community Opportunity Fund” of projects nominated by community groups. This is something to keep an eye on—both for opportunities to help parks in need and to keep an eye out in case Rec and Park tries to let projects with wealthy donors jump the line.
- $1M for trails and $600K for community gardens.
Roads, curbs, stairs, etc:
- $31.5M for street resurfacing. This is our beef with Prop A! Streets should be repaved every 5 to 20 years. This bond will be repaid over 30 years. That’s bad fiscal policy. Would you take out a 30-year mortgage for a house that will only last 5 to 20 years? Back in 2011 we were convinced to support an “emergency” bond for street resurfacing because the streets were in such bad shape. The City has been good about regularly funding this since then. But really the solution we need is the state and feds to pitch in more money for our streets like they used to. Grr.
- $5M for curb ramps prioritized based on their condition, geographic equity, and input from the disability community and City staff.
- $5M for plazas and structures like stairways, retaining walls, guardrails, pedestrian overpasses and underpasses, tunnels, bridges, and viaducts.
Backstory: In 2006, the City adopted a policy to only issue new bonds as our old bonds were paid off, to avoid any overall increase to property owners’ taxes. Since then, all but one of the City’s bonds have passed. (Check out this cool chart that shows our bond history going back to 1958!)
The City has a bond schedule for future elections that tries to balance all of our competing needs for big capital projects: a $500M bond for transportation is planned for June 2022, $220M for public health in November 2023, etc. This plan can be hotly contested between the various interests in the City. This bond was originally planned to be all about parks and open space, but the pandemic jostled those plans. We’re glad the Supes went off-script a bit and addressed the urgent need to expand housing to address homelessness and facilities for mental health and substance abuse treatment. Vote Yes on Prop A.
Prop B: Powerwash the Corrupt DPW & Create a Dept. of Sanitation and Streets: Yes
For years, we’ve been pissed about the sus culture of San Francisco government where contracts, appointments, and jobs flow to people loyal to the Willie Brown-Gavin Newsom-Ed Lee-London Breed political lineage that has held on to the Mayor’s office since 1996. It’s long been clear that loyalty is more important than competency if you want to be a cog in the ‘City Family’ political machine. So we were not surprised at all when the feds busted Mohammed Nuru, the longtime Director of Public Works, for bribery and steering City contracts to his cronies. It’s a damning indictment of the City’s own auditors and watchdogs that it took the feds to figure this out, when everyone knew Nuru was a shady political fixer way back in 2011 when Lee put him in charge of DPW.
Prop B will at long last bring some oversight and sunshine to DPW. Here’s what it does:
- Splits DPW in two: a new Department of Sanitation and Streets would clean our streets and sidewalks. The Department of Public Works would build our streets and other big public projects.
Creates public commissions to oversee these two departments and appoint their directors. Two seats would be appointed by the Mayor, two by the Board of Supervisors, and one by the City Controller.
- For the Sanitation and Streets commission, one of the Mayor’s appointees would have to be a small business owner, one of the Supes appointees would need experience in urban forestry, urban design or environmental services, and the Controller’s appointee would need experience in financial audits.
- For the Public Works commission, one of the Mayor’s appointees would have to be an architect, one of the Supes appointees would have to be an engineer, and the Controller’s appointee would need experience in financial audits.
- Requires the Director of Sanitation and Streets to have relevant training or experience.
- Requires the Director of Public Works to have “technical training or management experience in engineering or architecture.” (As opposed to, say, experience in forcing City employees to campaign for Gavin Newsom!)
Do you want to geek out on DPW’s organizational structure? Check out this report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst. Prop B’s changes would kick in July 1, 2022 to give the City time to prepare the transition, and budget for the upfront costs after the pandemic is over. The Supes could also delay implementation of parts of Prop B if they need to, and they could modify or eliminate duties of the Sanitation and Streets Department with a supermajority vote. The City Controller estimates it would cost between $2.5 and 6 million a year to implement these changes. Considering how much money was wasted and stolen by Nuru’s corruption, we think this is a smart investment. Vote yes on Prop B for a cleanup on aisle DPW!
Prop C: Allow Non-Citizens to Serve in City Government: Hell Yes!
Prop C removes the citizenship requirement to serve on SF commissions. The City has over 100 boards, commissions, and advisory bodies. San Franciscans with interest and expertise sit on them, providing oversight and input on everything from the Airport to the Urban Forest. But non-citizens are barred from serving on them, even though they live here and pay taxes like everyone else. Non-citizens can’t even serve on the Immigrant Rights Commission under current law! If it passes, San Francisco would be the first U.S. city to allow undocumented residents to serve on commissions.
Weirdly, there was another Prop C in 2001 that sought to allow the City to make exceptions to the citizenship, age, and residency requirements for all City boards, commissions, and advisory bodies. It was put on the ballot by Matt Gonzales in 2001 to be on the mongo 2002 primary ballot. It totally tanked at the polls. Why did it fail...because people are racist? Let’s fix that bullshit with a Hell Yes on C!
Prop D: Hold Sheriffs Accountable for Use of Force and In-Custody Deaths: Yes
Because SF is both a County and a City, we have both sheriffs and police. The sheriffs run the jails, provide security for many City government buildings, and serve warrants and evictions. Back in the day, the Sheriffs were the “good cops” in town. Former Sheriff Mike Hennessey was widely considered the most progressive sheriff California’s ever had, and he built a culture of compassion and rehabilitation. The Sheriff’s department didn’t have a string of controversies like the SFPD, and unlike the Police Officers Association, the Deputy Sheriffs Association wasn’t racist, bullying and Republican-supporting.
But shit has gone downhill since Mike retired. Deputies have been accused of everything from beating inmates and running inmate fight clubs, to sketchy destruction of evidence about those fight clubs, to in-custody deaths, unjustified shootings, and allegations of sexual assault.
Prop D aims to start holding them accountable by establishing a civilian Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board, as well as an Inspector General’s office to investigate complaints and crimes. The oversight board would have seven members: four appointed by the Board of Supervisors, three by the Mayor.
Our main complaint is we wish Prop D were even stronger. Neither the oversight board nor the inspector general would be able to discipline or fire deputies, which is the only thing that matters to dirty cops.
Also, we’re not so sure that “reform” is the answer to law enforcement violence and harassment. San Francisco’s Police Commission is considered a national model for civilian oversight, and how’s that working out for us? So we’ll go along with Prop D as an interim step, but the City needs to get serious about closing the jails, defunding the cops and sheriffs, and transitioning to unarmed public safety responders and non-carceral alternatives to the prison-industrial complex. Vote Yes.
A couple of fun facts:
- Mike Hennessey was the last civilian Sheriff in California. The Deputy Sheriffs Association was so freaked out when he was elected, they got a law in Sacramento requiring Sheriffs elected after 1986 to be sworn peace officers.
- Hennessey was almost selected as interim Mayor after Gavin Newsom left office, but then-Supervisor Bevan Dufty called a recess to go huddle with Gavin and then came back and switched his vote from Hennessey to Ed Lee. Thanks a lot, Bevan. :/
Prop E: Open the Door to Defund the Police: Hell Yes!
So this is fucking bizarre: the minimum number of uniformed police in SF is set in the City Charter at precisely 1,971. That’s like the US Constitution saying we always need exactly 1,971 musketmen. Whether you want to Defund the Police, Reform them, or Reimagine them, we’ve got to get this out of the Charter first. Prop E deletes that weirdly specific number, so that the number of cops in the City will be set through the regular annual budget process, like every other City staffing decision.
Prop E also requires the Chief of Police to submit a report every two years on how many police officers they think we should have. We’re not wild about this provision, because if you ask a police chief how many cops they need, what do you think they’re going to say? MOAR COPS! But the Chief’s report would be non-binding. The Police Commission would hold a hearing on it, but it’s the Mayor and Board of Supervisors who control SFPD’s purse strings. We assume this provision was included by the author, Board President Norman Yee, as a political consideration to argue that he wasn’t looking to (cue threatening music) defund the police. (Also, Yee drafted this measure well before the latest activism got #DefundThePolice trending.)
Anyway, when this passes, we call on the Supervisors to draft reports on the minimum staffing levels we need for all of the non-gun-carrying parts of public safety: crisis intervention teams, social workers, paramedics, etc. And those reports should compare the cost of all of these different types of employees. Because not only are cops paid a hell of a lot, they get to retire at age 50 with a full pension, which makes them hella expensive to the City in the long term!
We say Hell Yes on Prop E, and then let’s get real about defunding the police in 2021.
P.S. Where the heck did that oddly specific 1,971 minimum staffing number come from? Nobody friggin knows! Indivisible SF did an amazing deep dive on this. It was written into the City Charter by June 1994’s Prop D (PDF). The number hails from a 1979 consent decree by Officers for Justice against the SFPD for racial and gender discrimination in hiring. But even that decree doesn’t explain where that number came from!
P.P.S. Bonus deep cut: listen to Judge LaDoris Cordell’s history lesson of SFPD’s 79-year history of misconduct and racial discrimination!
Prop F: Tax Big Business, Help Small Business, Make $$$: Hell Yes!
Prop F is a progressive hot-rod tuneup for SF’s business tax! It cuts taxes on small businesses while bumping up the tax on profitable industries like biotech, finance, insurance, real estate, and tech (though the increases will be delayed if the recession continues). That adds up to an extra $100 million a year to support our City.
The best part is, it generates that money through changes that make the tax more progressive:
- Reduces registration fees for businesses with less than $1 million in gross receipts.
- Increases the small business exemption for the tax from $1.17 to $2 million.
- Lowers taxes on businesses with less than $25 million in these less-profitable industries: retail, Manufacturing, Arts, Entertainment, Recreation, Accommodations, and Food Services.
Increases taxes on more-profitable industries in steps between 2022-2024.
- Biotech, Financial Services, Information Technology, Insurance, and Real Estate and Rental and Leasing Services
- The 2023 and 2024 increases would be delayed by one year if there was a downturn in the economy.
- Fully eliminates the payroll tax. SF has been gradually switching from a payroll tax on business to gross receipts tax. Eliminating the payroll tax will make taxes simpler for businesses and eliminates a disincentive to hiring more people.
But wait, there’s more: Prop F would also “unlock” about $560 million from June 2018’s “Baby Prop C” tax on commercial rents! ($430M of that would go to childcare and early educators, the rest would go to the general fund.) That money is currently stuck in limbo because of bullshit legal challenges on whether that prop needed to get more than 50% (which it did) or more than 66.6% (which it didn’t). What’s Prop F’s neat trick for “unlocking” that money? It says that if the courts throw out the 2018 ballot measure, the tax on commercial rents will be bumped up to offset it. That means that whatever happens to those legal challenges, the City will get to break open that piggybank just in time for parents to go back to work (we hope)!
The City’s gross receipts tax was first initiated back in 2012 when Mayor Ed Lee was deep in the pocket of Republican angel investor Ron Conway, who won the lobbying battle against the old school Chamber of Commerce to get a lower tax rate for tech compared to the traditional downtown businesses. We’re glad to see that getting straightened out with Prop F’s increase on tech. John Avalos was also in the mix on those negotiations and pushed Mayor Lee to increase the overall revenue from the tax by $50 million per year. These tax schemes are notoriously complicated, and we urge our leaders to keep a close eye on them and bring them back to the ballot when they need tweaking again.
Prop F was a compromise between the Mayor, who wanted a lower tax rate that brought in the same amount of revenue as the existing gross receipts tax, and progressive Board members who wanted to generate an extra $150 million a year. While we wish we were getting that extra money, we appreciate them working out a compromise so we have a united campaign for this crucial measure. Vote Hell Yes on Prop F!
Prop G: Let Youth Vote in Local Elections: Heck Yeah!
U.S. law sets the voting age at 18...but that only applies to Federal and State elections. Prop G would authorize 16 and 17 year olds to vote in SF contests like Supervisor and Mayor. High school is a way better time to introduce people to voting. Their lives are way more stable and structured than when they’re 18, and voter education can be part of their high school curriculum. Research shows that when people vote in the first election that they're eligible for, they’re much more likely to become lifelong voters (gold star!).
Some haters like to argue, “why should we lower the voting age to 16 when the smoking age is going up to 21?” Because growing up is a gradual process! You don’t magically become an adult at 18 or 21. Neurologists call it cold and hot cognition. Cold cognition is unhurried, calm decision-making, like voting. Research shows no difference in cold cognition between 16- and 18-year-olds. Hot cognition is rushed decisions with lots of emotions, like when you’re peer pressured to do keg stands at a party. Research shows 16-year-olds suck at that. Science!
Youth are taxpayers with a unique perspective on our City, and it’s time for politicians to start listening to them—especially considering how they’ve been leading the way at so many recent local protests and global movements. We tip our hats to the Zoomers! Vote Heck Yeah on G!
Prop H: Poorly Designed Small Biz Permitting Overhaul: Reluctant No
The pandemic is decimating our small businesses, and while Prop H would do some things to help new businesses open, we have so many questions about this unvetted, 100-page ballot measure, we just can’t support it. This was one of the two props we debated longest (Prop RR being the other) with some of our members supporting or saying we shouldn’t make an endorsement.
It’s notoriously hard to open a small business in San Francisco. Why is that? Well, the Planning Code and other codes that business owners have to navigate are like a tangled cord drawer. Our Planning and Building Inspection departments don’t get along, and the permitting process involves an alphabet soup of other departments. Supposedly the City will soon be opening a “One Stop Permit Shop” at Mission and Van Ness that will finally get all those departments together in one office and on a unified software platform. Let’s hope that works out. We’re also glad that Prop F will give small businesses a break by lowering their taxes.
Prop H aims to help new small businesses by taking a machete to the Planning Code. It...
- Requires City departments to process new business applications within 30 days.
- Removes limits on restaurants and bars in neighborhood commercial districts.
- Allows restaurants (and many other types of businesses from movie theaters to animal hospitals) to get their permits “by right,” meaning neighbors would not have the ability to raise concerns at the Planning Commission.
- Also allows restaurants to add outdoor patios “by right,”
- Allows restaurants and cafes to also offer WeWork-style shared co-working office space for rent.
- Eliminates the requirement that new businesses notify neighbors of their application.
- Allows restaurants to offer table service in parklets. This is currently prohibited, because parklets are supposed to be public space, and waitstaff offering table service makes them feel more private than public.
- Waives additional fees when department errors result in additional reviews.
- Allows Pop up retail to open for up to 60 days in vacant spaces. Previously they could only do this in occupied commercial spaces.
- Locks in all of these changes for three years, after which it could be modified legislatively.
Some of that is great. Some of it is pretty sus. We have soooo many questions!
Why does this measure only impact new businesses, not all of our existing businesses that are getting hammered by the pandemic? Why do we need to remove limits on the number of restaurants on a corridor when so many restaurants are closing? When every office is closed, why do we need to allow restaurants, coffee shops and bars to rent WeWork-style co-working spaces? Profiteers have been trying for years to convert retail spaces into more-profitable office space in neighborhoods like the Mission and Chinatown, which would drive up rents and hurt neighborhood-serving small businesses.
Why does the Mayor need this measure to get business permits processed in 30 days? All the departments that handle those permits (Planning, Building Inspection, Fire, DPH, etc.) report to her. Couldn’t this expediting be accomplished by an executive order? If those departments need more staff to make this happen, why didn’t the Mayor add them in the budget she just signed?
Why hasn’t the Planning Department analyzed this measure? Any time an ordinance is introduced that amends the Planning code, the Planning Commission has 60 days to weigh in on it. The department staff, who are experts in this stuff and issue these permits, always write a detailed analysis that explains all of the jargon and background, and makes recommendations. The only official “analysis” is this super high-level slide deck. :( Prop H’s website also lacks any real substance. The only deep dive we’ve found from a proponent is this uncritical twitter thread.
Why should we remove “non-profit” from the definition of “Social Service or Philanthropic Facility?” What are the implications for treating for-profit philanthropies or social services the same as non-profits? Is it a good idea to remove the cap on the number of financial services providers on a street? Will landlords there be less likely to rent to a neighborhood-serving store in hopes that something like JP Morgan will pay higher rent?
Whew, like we said, this thing raises a lot of questions!
The biggest question of all is, why do we have to vote on this? Nothing about this legislation requires going to the voters. In fact, rumor has it that the Board of Supervisors was ready to pass the good parts of Prop H in exchange for it being pulled from the ballot, but the Mayor’s Office rejected the offer. Five Supervisors from across the political spectrum are supporting Prop H (Haney, Mar, Ronen, Safai, and Stefani). There must have been a compromise available to get it one more vote at the Board. If they had made that work, we wouldn’t have had to wrassle with all this fine print, and the ordinance could already be in effect.
TLDR, we’re pissed off that voters have to decide on this complex measure without any analysis from the experts at the Planning Department. Ultimately, while we like that Prop H streamlines the permit process for small businesses, it removes too much community input for us to be comfy with it. We call on the Mayor and Board of Supervisors to work this out. At a time when the pandemic is decimating small businesses, our city deserves thoughtful and community-vetted solutions that can streamline the permit process without steamrolling over resident concerns. Vote No.
Prop I: Tax Luxury Property Sales & Help Apartments Become Co-Ops: Hell Yes!
Prop I Increases the tax someone pays when they sell a property for more than $10M—but of course, very few people sell properties for that much. This’ll hit the corporations playing Monopoly with big office buildings. Between Prop 13’s limits on property taxes and the state preventing us from creating a local income tax, this “real estate transfer tax” is pretty much our best option for taxing the 1%.
The tax on properties that sell for between $10 and 25 million would increase from 2.75% to 5.5%, and for properties that sell for $25 million or more that tax bumps up from 3% to 6%. The City Controller estimates this will bring in nearly $200 million per year (!!!), although this will likely vary a bunch from year to year.
This one was authored by Supervisor Dean Preston. Money from Prop I would be deposited in two accounts: one designated for COVID-related rent subsidies and one for a Social Housing program. Technically, though, the City won’t be required to spend the money on those things, because if they were, that would bump the threshold for this to pass up from 50% to 66.6% (eff you, Prop 218!).
Critics argue that Prop I will make it more expensive to build new housing, but because it only kicks in for properties over $10M, we don’t buy that. We’re not gonna shed any tears if penthouse dwellers have to cough up! There are situations where Prop I could hit developers who buy a parcel to build condos, or if they sell a whole, newly built condo tower to someone else to handle the individual sales. SPUR points to an interesting study that recommends lowering this transfer tax on residential property. We could be open to that in the future. But the reality is, the vast majority of this tax revenue will be coming from corporations. Between 2010 and 2016, residential properties would have only contributed 13% of the revenue to this tax (data from this report).
Prop I also has a cool twist: the tax doesn’t apply to rent-restricted affordable housing. That’ll give co-ops or the City an edge against speculators in bidding wars for apartment buildings! This ties into the City’s new “Community Opportunity to Purchase Act” that requires sellers of certain apartment buildings to give non-profit housing organizations first crack at buying them. Smart thinking, Dean. Let’s Vote Hell Yes on Prop I!
Prop J: Parcel Tax Do-over for SF Teachers: Yes
Back in June 2018 we voted to pay SF teachers more by adding a $320 property tax to each property in SF. That was called Prop G and passed with 61% of the vote (the League endorsed it!) But an anti-tax zealot immediately sued, saying that it needed 66% of the vote based on a restriction in the CA Constitution. The legal wrangling is ongoing and it’s not clear who will win - in the meantime the City is collecting the money but can’t spend it. So Mayor Breed decided to leapfrog the whole mess and just try to pass another version of the tax, this time aiming to achieve the 66% threshold. Why would this one get 66% when the other one only got 61%? Well, according to the full text there are a few small differences:
- This one is $32 less, $288 per ‘parcel’, so homeowners would see their tax bill actually decrease.
- This one exempts property owners 65 and older, so the “But what about Grandma??” argument is moot.
- This one can be reduced in the future by a 2/3rds vote of the Board of Supervisors.
It’s so frustrating when we pass these things and then nothing happens. We think the hope is that watering down the 2018 ballot measure will make it more palatable and allow it to get to 66%. In fact, it’s possible this was 3D chess all along, and the City Family knew the 2018 one wouldn’t pass legal muster, but they pushed it through in order to make passing this one politically feasible (it “lowers taxes!”)
Anyway, we believe in paying teachers more...and especially in the COVID era, SFUSD and the whole City budget is in deep trouble. Vote yes on Prop J.
Prop K: Let the City Build Its Own Affordable Housing: Hell Yes!
This allows the City to build 10,000 units of affordable housing, which will help families stay in SF. For some reason (cough cough racism), voter approval is required for this under Article 34, an archaic zoning restriction added to the State Constitution in 1950 by segregationists and real estate agents.
Prop K’s author, Supervisor Dean Preston, plans to create a new “Social Housing” pilot program, where affordable housing would be owned by the City instead of by non-profits. Residents would have a range of incomes to help financially sustain the program, while the average tenant would earn less than 80% of the area median income.
Admittedly this prop is just the first hoop. There are more to jump through before we have Social Housing, with funding being the biggest hoop of all. But we have to start somewhere, and if Prop K succeeds, it will build momentum for funding Social Housing in San Francisco.
And while Prop K doesn’t create any funding itself, Preston also wrote revenue measure Prop I, and his intention is for half of Prop I’s money to go to building new Social Housing authorized by Prop K. That could be about $100 million per year.
Vote Hell Yes on Prop K to make SF’s rental market more affordable!
Prop L: ‘CEO Tax’ on Companies That Pay Unfair Wages: Hell Yes!
This idea has been kicking around for awhile, we’re stoked to see it finally on the ballot! Prop L would slap a hefty tax on companies where the CEO (or highest paid executive) makes 100x the average salary of the company’s workers in San Francisco. Brilliant!
How does it work? It increases the tax on a company's revenue in the City on a sliding scale based on how outrageous the CEO’s salary is or how little they pay their workers. If the ratio is 100:1, they pay an extra 0.1%. If it’s 200:1, they pay an extra 0.2%, and so forth, up to an extra 0.6%.
Interestingly, this would not impact tech companies or financial services, because their workers are too well paid. It will mostly snag big retail and hotels that exploit low-paid workers in our expensive City. The Controller estimates it would raise between $60 and $140 million per year. That wide range is because this is a brand new kind of tax and it will hit only a few businesses. Would they pull some shenanigans in how they pay their CEOs to avoid paying it? There’s only one way to find out!
Curmudgeonly retired judge Quentin Kopp complained that this was a “blatant attempt at redistribution of wealth.” ...sign us up lol. Vote Hell Yes on Prop L!
Prop RR: Regressive Sales Tax to Save Caltrain: Conflicted Yes
Prop RR is a one-eighth cent sales tax in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties to keep Caltrain alive. It will last for 30 years and bring in about $100 million a year. Caltrain currently has no dedicated source of funding beyond passenger fares. As a result, Caltrain passengers fund a higher percentage of the budget than any other rail commute line in the country, and Caltrain’s budget was super rickety even before the pandemic hit.
We had a long debate about this one. We’re not fans of sales taxes. They’re regressive, meaning the rich and poor pay at the same rate, and while rich folks don’t notice, poor folks need every penny. We’re a little more inclined to support San Francisco sales taxes, because they bring in revenue from commuters and tourists. This regional tax doesn’t have that same benefit in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Plus, some of us were hesitant to support a regressive tax to fund a train system that brings a lot of well-paid employees to super profitable businesses.
So...what if we didn’t pass this? What would be so bad about Caltrain shutting down?
- A big increase in congestion on the freeways and carbon emissions. From Friends of Caltrain: "If Caltrain were shut down, it would take the equivalent of 2-3 extra lanes on Highway 101 to carry the extra rush hour traffic.... 80% of the ~40,000 daily trips are made during the peak hours (6-9AM and 4-7PM), which equates to ~5300 passengers per hour. A freeway lane can carry about 1500 vehicles per hour. So Caltrain today is equivalent to 3 freeway lanes with an average vehicle occupancy of 1.2. It could easily double that if the proper capital improvements are made.
- Caltrain is in the middle of a $2B electrification capital project that will increase capacity by 50% and reduce the travel time from SF to SJ from 60 minutes to 45 minutes! That would have a transformative effect on the west side of the bay. This tax is crucial to support the operating costs of those enhancements, and it would suck to shut it all down before that could happen.
How can we justify a regressive tax on folks in SF who mostly don't use Caltrain?
- The sales tax would free up $15.6M/year that SFMTA currently pays to Caltrain. Muni ridership is majority low and very-low income.
- Caltrain recently increased their discount for low-income riders from 20% to 50%.
- As of 2016, 16% of Caltrain passengers have household income <$50K and 28% are less than $75K. (23% have >$200K!)
What was all that nonsense about power struggles between the Board of Supervisors, SFMTA, and the Caltrain board?
- Disagreements about Caltrain governance have been brewing for years.
- Caltrain apparently did a shit job of shepherding this through the political process in San Francisco, and/or San Francisco leaders weren’t prepared for it, which led to a lot of last-minute votes about putting it on the ballot.
- Ultimately officials from the three counties agreed to support the tax after the governance issues were resolved in a separate resolution by the Caltrain Board. From KQED:
- Among the changes sought by San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez—both of whom serve on the Caltrain board—is the power to hire and fire the agency's CEO.
- The resolution will also incorporate language limiting use of the sales tax proceeds pending enactment of the governance changes—due by Dec. 31, 2021—and provide for immediate retention of counsel and auditor independent of SamTrans.
So the League gives Prop RR a conflicted yes. This system is too important to shitcan. But it’s gonna be a nailbiter—to pass RR needs over 66.6% in each of the three counties!
But we have a message for Caltrain: get your shit together! Hire some people who understand the politics of your counties, listen to the voices who want a more accountable Caltrain CEO, and next time, get your campaign plan lined up ahead of time. Where the hell was your outreach to progressive groups who love public transit but hate regressive taxes?!
We also have a message for the Bay Area Council (lobbyists for the Bay’s biggest corporations): the next time you’re cooking up a big Regional Measure to fund transportation—or housing or anything else—in the Bay, don’t even think about a large sales tax. We’re begrudgingly supporting this small sales tax. We begrudgingly supported the regressive RM3 to increase bridge tolls. Now it’s time for your fat cat corporations to pony up for transportation!
Meet the SF League of Pissed Off Voters
We're a bunch of political geeks in a torrid love affair with San Francisco. The League formed in 2004 with the goal of building a progressive governing majority in our lifetime. Our contribution is this voter guide: a secret decoder ring for SF politics. All of us lucky enough to enjoy the San Francisco magic owe it to our City to fight to keep it diverse, just, and healthy.
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