Big Bang

written by Charley Goss

The ballot this cycle is (thankfully) much smaller than in previous years, with an emphasis on affordable housing.

If it feels like we’ve been in a never-ending election cycle lately, it’s probably because we have been. High-propensity San Francisco voters have approved or rejected 78 local and state ballot measures over four elections since November of 2016. Predictably, the heaviest ballot came that November in the Presidential election, with a whopping 48 combined local and state propositions.

Of note, since that time, San Francisco voters have considered a huge range of voters and candidates:

Voters have rejected taxes on soda companies, approved bans on flavored tobacco and will now consider allowing adults to use vapor and e-cigarette products.

In June of 2018, voters rejected a measure saying they wouldn’t covet professional sports teams in other cities.

Voters will have had the opportunity to vote for or against Mayor London Breed twice within 15 months (June 2018 and November 2019). As President of the Board of Supervisors, Breed was appointed when Mayor Ed Lee passed away in December of 2017 and elected in June of 2018 to fill out the rest of Mayor Lee’s term.

So while some reliable (and fatigued) voters might be excited to see a short, straight forward set of 5 ballot measures in November of 2019, there are lots of other “down ballot” races that will be incredibly important for SFAA members to pay attention to. And, after the ink finally dries on your ballot, we’ll see two more elections in the following twelve months, with voters hopefully coming back to the polls just fourth months later in March of 2020 for California’s Primary election and then in November of 2020. Below you can find an overview of what’s on San Francisco’s November 2019 ballot, with recommendations for SFAA members on many of the measures and races.

Prop A: Affordable Housing Bond—NEUTRAL

Proposition A is a $600 million Affordable Housing Bond, the largest in San Francisco history. The city is currently retiring some of its debt and bonds from years ago, and found that it had the ability to take on $600 million of new bonds without increasing property taxes on homeowners and housing providers. The Affordable Housing Bond will be used only for capital expenditures like constructing, developing, acquiring, improving, rehabilitating, preserving and repairing land and buildings. In developing support for the bond, Mayor Breed held working groups and meetings to determine, in general terms, how to allocate the proposed funding. In the final proposal, $150 million will be allocated toward public housing, $220 million for low-income housing, $60 million for moderate-income housing and housing preservation, $150 million for senior housing and $20 million for educator housing. Like previous bonds, the Affordable Housing bond allows for a 50% passthrough to residential tenants. The measure has the support of Mayor London Breed, the San Francisco Democratic Party, and all 11 members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, but the SFAA Board of Directors has not issued a recommendation on the measure, in part because some of the funds in the bond could be used for COPA, a new law which requires property owners to give nonprofit organizations the right of first offer and refusal on a multifamily property. To read the details of the COPA legislation, turn to page 34.


Prop B: Department of Disability and Aging Services—NEUTRAL

Among other things, the Department of Aging and Adult Services is responsible for programs and services for elderly residents, including assistance for individuals to age in place in their homes or in assistive living facilities and supportive housing. This proposed Charter amendment would change the name of the Aging and Adult Services Commission to the Disability and Aging Services Commission. It would also set forth qualification requirements for three of the seven Commission seats: one of the Commissioners would be required to be a person with a disability, one would be required to be 60 years or older, and one would be required to be a person who served in the U.S. military. This ballot measure would not impact property owners or the rental housing industry at all.

Prop C: Vapor Products—NEUTRAL

In June of 2019, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban the sale of vaping and e-cigarette products in San Francisco. Almost immediately, San Francisco e-cigarette company JUUL Labs, owned by Altria Group (Phillip Morris’ parent company) started collecting signatures to get the law changed. JUUL and Altria wrote Proposition C and have contributed handsomely to the campaign, which has raised $4.6 million ($4 million more than any other measure has raised) as of the writing of this article. You’ve undoubtedly seen advertisements and gotten mail about it, but a Yes vote on the proposal will: authorize the sale of electronic cigarettes and other nicotine vapor products in the city; partially overturn the 2019 law designed to ban vapor products not reviewed by the FDA and flavored vapor products; require additional licensing and permitting for businesses selling vapor products; enact additional age verification requirements; and enact rules regarding the advertisement of vapor products to minors. A No vote means that San Francisco’s current ban on vaping products will remain standing.

While it does seem ridiculous to ban flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes while there is flagrant and open intravenous drug use on our streets, the way in which these tobacco and nicotine companies have targeted children and low-income communities is truly objectionable. SFAA recommends a No vote on Proposition C.

Prop D: Traffic Congestion Mitigation Tax—NO

Proposition D was placed on the ballot with the support of all 11 members of the Board of Supervisors and Mayor London Breed. It proposes to place a business tax on Transportation Network Companies, or rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. Proposition D proposes a tax of 3.25% per passenger fare, and 1.5% per shared ride beginning in January of 2020. The tax would be dedicated to funding transportation operations and infrastructure to mitigate traffic congestion in the city. Half of the proceeds would go to the Municipal Transportation Agency for improving bus and rail service frequency and reliability; maintaining and expanding Muni fleet, improving reliability by fixing and replacing rails, overhead wires, infrastructure and traffic signals. The remaining half of proceeds would go to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority for pedestrian and bike safety infrastructure, physically protected bike lanes, traffic calming, traffic signal timing improvements, and maintaining existing pedestrian and bike safety infrastructure. This tax will likely be passed along to consumers. The SFAA PAC recommends a No vote on Prop D.

Prop E: Affordable Housing and Educator Housing—YES

Mayor London Breed had initially proposed a stronger version of a measure designed to streamline the approval process for buildings with affordable housing for teachers, but members of the Board of Supervisors decided to exert their power with some political gamesmanship, replicating the Mayor’s proposal and adding in one change that sounded good on its face but wouldn’t have actually added any extra units of affordable teacher housing. The Board of Supervisors went on to oppose the Mayor’s measure while placing their own on the ballot as Prop E. If approved, Prop E will reduce zoning requirements and restrictions for proposed housing development projects consisting of 100% affordable housing or educator housing. It will also require expedited review for 100% affordable or educator housing developments. While the city could be voting on a stronger measure, San Francisco’s review processes and restrictions are a significant impediment to both affordable and market rate housing developments. Despite what went on at the Board of Supervisors behind the scenes, the city should proactively work toward expediting the timelines and review criteria for all housing proposals in the face of California’s severe housing shortage. SFAA’s PAC recommends a “Yes” vote on Prop E.

Prop F: Campaign Contributions and Campaign Advertisements—NO

Prop F was placed on the ballot by Supervisors Gordon Mar, Sandra Lee Fewer, Hillary Ronen, and Rafael Mandelman. The ordinance would amend San Francisco campaign laws to prohibit Limited Liability Companies and Limited Liability Partnerships from making campaign contributions to members of and candidates for the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor and candidates for Mayor, and the City Attorney and candidates for City Attorney. The measure would also prohibit campaign contributions from any person with pending or recently resolved land use matters before the city, as well as expand the disclosure and disclaimer requirements for Independent Expenditure committee advertisements. While this proposal has been talked about by some of its proponents as a noncontroversial good government measure, it also has special restrictions for individuals with land use decisions before many city agencies and commissions, a restriction which disparately impacts the real estate and rental housing community. It’s unlikely that there will be a significant No on F campaign for this year.


Other Important Races

  • Mayor: London Breed
  • Board of Supervisors, District 5:
    Vallie Brown
  • District Attorney: Suzy Loftus
  • Board of Education: Jenny Lam
  • Community College Board: Ivy Lee
  • City Attorney:
    Dennis Herrerra (unopposed)
  • Public Defender:
    Manohar Raju (unopposed)
  • Sheriff: Paul Miyamoto (unopposed)
  • Treasurer: Jose Cisneros (unopposed)