Statement from Mayor London Breed Opposing Proposition C

Mayor London Breed announced her opposition today to Proposition C, the $300M tax to fund additional homelessness services. She released the following statement:

“Addressing the homelessness crisis on our streets is my top priority. My administration is dramatically increasing the number of shelter and mental health beds. In the last few months we have opened 50 new permanent supportive housing units, and 125 new navigation center beds, and invested one million dollars to stabilize board and care facilities for 350 individuals at risk of homelessness plus an additional $60 million in new homelessness services. Just this week I announced a commitment to opening 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020.

We are opening new navigation centers, with three more coming in the next six months, which will provide an additional 229 beds to help homeless individuals off the streets. With the help of Senator Scott Wiener, we are expanding our conservatorship laws to help those on the street who cannot help themselves. We are using our new ONE service management system to centralize individuals’ needs assessments and coordinate services to keep people housed. And I am partnering with our state legislators and neighboring regional leaders to create more housing and increase homelessness funding.

We all recognize the crisis on our streets; we see it every day. So I understand why Proposition C sounds appealing, and I know those who support it are well-intentioned. But as Mayor, I must weigh more than popularity and good intentions. I must consider the long-term impacts on our City, and thus, upon lengthy analysis and consideration, I cannot support Proposition C.

1. Proposition C lacks accountability.

The City needs to audit the $300+ million we are already spending on homelessness. My administration is at work on that now, and until the audits are done, we don’t actually know how much or what type of new homelessness funding is needed. Yet Proposition C does not audit the money the City already spends. It does not include a detailed spending plan for the $300M in taxes it seeks to add, nor regular audits of that money, nor adequate public oversight over how it’s spent.

Our homelessness spending has increased dramatically in recent years with no discernible improvement in conditions. Before we double the tax bill overnight, San Franciscans deserve accountability for the money they are already paying.

This is especially true since the Proposition C’s new taxes will decidedly harm our local economy. The City Economist’s report estimates that Prop C will cause up to a $240 million loss from our city’s GDP every year for the next twenty years. And the report could not even quantify the risk that concerns me most: the inevitable flight of headquarter companies — and jobs — from San Francisco to other cities in the Bay Area, or other states. We cannot afford to lose even more jobs for middle class San Franciscans, the jobs in retail, manufacturing, and services that are most likely to flee the City under Proposition C.

2. Proposition C could make our homelessness problem worse.

Our next Governor Gavin Newsom is right: By dramatically increasing our homelessness spending without working with neighboring counties, Proposition C could put us in the untenable and expensive position of funding services for residents from other counties. Homelessness is a regional and statewide crisis requiring a statewide solution, which is one of the reasons why I’m supporting California Proposition 1 that will invest $4 billion statewide in housing for veterans and working families, and California Proposition 2 that will authorize $2 billion statewide for housing for homeless individuals suffering from mental illness. San Francisco cannot solve homelessness simply by writing ever-larger checks itself. There is a limit to what we should — and can — spend. We need to work with neighboring counties and the leadership in Sacramento to bring new state, and ideally federal, money to the table.

3. Proposition C will likely make it harder to fund homelessness services.

If it passes, Proposition C will likely immediately become part of an ongoing lawsuit to invalidate it and similar signature-driven tax measures passed earlier this year. This means San Francisco won’t be able to access any Proposition C funds, even as voters understandably expect us to start deploying them immediately. Worse, the lawsuit could go on for years, preventing us from even moving forward similar homelessness funding measures. The City could be left balancing its budget with a $300M unknown baked in.

This risk could have been prevented if Proposition C’s authors had participated in an inclusive public process, as has been the hallmark of major successful measures such as 2012’s Proposition C for affordable housing or the $15 minimum wage in 2014. Proposition C had no collaborative stakeholder meetings at City Hall, no hearings at the Board of Supervisors, and no independent economic analyses — until only a few days ago.

Prop C does not audit the homelessness funds we are already spending nor provide stable legal footing for its own funds. It puts the cart before the horse and then sends both down a dead-end street.

We need more housing; we need more mental health beds and services; we need to get better at deploying the resources we have and investing more resources where most effective. We need a consensus homelessness measure, funded by business, built on data, with reliable funding and accountability for its use. Unfortunately, Proposition C is not that measure.”