I’m a self loathing gentrifier: a 2015 San Francisco voting guide

Our city is a hot mess and it’s time to unfuck it.


If you’re a techie, you’re probably feeling a lot of frustration and apprehension about what’s going on in SF, the place you moved to because you thought you’d be making the world a better place with technology.

Hostility towards the tech industry is understandable as the city’s income gap has surpassed New York’s, affordable housing has all but disappeared, and lousy pro-tech advocates muck things up in city hall. I’m talking about Ed Lee, Ron Conway, and the major tone deaf PR fuck ups from companies like AirBnB and Uber. So I’ve put together my thoughts as a concerned tech worker so you can vote to make SF a better place to live for all.

San Francisco has a lot of problems, but it’s still one of the best places to live in America.

This past Thursday night I got to choose between a writing club, a film festival, an art installation, and a dance party/mayoral fundraiser, all after work and within walking distance from my house. It’s crazy how stupidly easy it is to be involved in local politics, art, and music while I get to have the job of my dreams.

So I feel especially grateful, and especially guilty, that the city’s offerings are so plentiful for me when so many are struggling to afford to stay in the city or find a roof over their head.

If you follow this guide, this is the San Francisco you are hoping for

  1. SF should be an affordable place to live for people from all economic strata
  2. SF should be a national leader in progressive policies; we should be innovating ways to help the homeless and economically underserved, not treating them as criminals
  3. SF should be a leader in green energy, reducing carbon emissions, and leading the US into a car free future
  4. SF should reserve the right to revoke corporate charters and ban companies from operating within city limits when companies willingly break the law
  5. SF should have a world class public transit system, not reliant on private personal transit that caters only to the wealthy
  6. SF should be an inclusive community that treats everyone with dignity. We need to uphold San Francisco’s legacy as a sanctuary city, not just for illegal immigrants, but for the LGBTQ, African American, and Latino communities and anyone in need of a safe space to be themselves.

Voting Guide TL;DR

Mayor: 1. Amy Farah Weiss 2. Francisco Herrera 3. Stuart Schuffman
Sheriff: Vicki Hennessy
CC Board: Tom Temprano
Supervisor District 3: Aaron Peskin
Strong YES: A, B, D, H, I, J, K
Moderate NO: C
Strong NO: E, F, G

Vote 1–2–3 to Replace Ed Lee! Amy Weiss, Francisco Herrera, & Stuart Schuffman

Aaron Duffy

Ed Lee is a moderate business focused mayor, neither Satan nor Jesus. He’s done some decent things in the past 5 years, like backing Supervisor Jane Kim’s tenant rights legislation and pushing for the minimum wage increase, which will be a paltry $15 in 2018. But in the same span of time, San Francisco has outpaced New York in income disparity and almost nothing from the tech and real estate booms that Lee takes credit for has gone to locals or those in need.

Lee’s crowning achievement is the redevelopment of the mid-Market corridor.

His plan was to build over a thousand new residential units and offered massive tax breaks to tech companies—$56 million for Twitter alone—to move to the city center and in return those companies would invest in community programs while the wealth trickled down to the city’s streets and coffers. So far the deal has netted $3.4 million for the city and a Danish company, Zendesk, is leading the tax break recipients in community welfare programs. As rousing a success as that sounds, the new housing developments are amongst the most expensive in the city and only an average of 12% of the units are affordable while homelessness has increased to record levels. The part that really irks me is that tech companies would have moved to SF anyway, as explained here and here, so all the fancy tax breaks are completely unnecessary.

That’s why you should vote in a new mayor that will treat affordable housing as the humanitarian crisis that it is.

Amy Farah Weiss is the best candidate, with a wealth of non profit experience in housing and clean energy. She has an outstanding pro-affordable development and sustainable jobs platform you can read more about on her campaign website or watch here. She’s also a part of a coalition of candidates trying to replace Ed Lee under the easy to remember jingle of Vote 1–2–3 to replace Ed Lee! Your second and third choices should be Francisco Herrera and Stuart Schuffman, who also have good policy ideas but less experience. Making sure we have a better mayor for the next 4 years is the most important thing you’ll be voting on in this election so don’t forget: Vote 1–2–3 to replace Ed Lee!

Dear God, vote NO on these terribly written propositions!

There are two ways for laws to get passed in San Francisco, propositions and ordinances. Propositions are submitted by the public and can only be modified with another ballot proposition. Ordinances are proposed and voted on by the Board of Supervisors and can be amended. That’s why a poorly written proposition is way more dangerous than a poorly written ordinance. A loophole in a prop is huge because it can’t be closed up easily, while weak ordinances can be amended until they work, granted you have a good Board of Supervisors.

The mother of all San Francisco political debates: Vote No on Prop F!

Unhosted full unit short term rentals via insideairbnb.com

If you care at all about affordable housing you probably want to vote yes on Prop F, but you shouldn’t because it’s terribly written. I wanted to when I first heard about it because affordable housing is the most important issue facing San Francisco and thousands of people are being forced to leave. Of the estimated 30000 vacant units in SF, 7000 units are listed on AirBnB alone, 3600 of which are unhosted full unit short term rentals. That’s 12% of all vacant units rented out for unhosted short term rentals!

Prop F turns neighbours into the police and goes after regular people trying to make rent while companies make billions.

The biggest problem with Prop F has to do with enforcement. Prop F allows anyone living within 100 feet of an alleged AirBnB to sue the suspected host even if the city has found no wrongdoing. Successfully winning a case could net the plaintiff $30,000 or more, so bringing suits has the potential to be very lucrative. Even if the case is dropped it could result in a few thousand dollars in legal fees just for the defendant to prove they did nothing wrong.

(f) If the Director determines no violation has occurred, the Director shall, after consultation with the City Attorney, notify the complainant/Interested Party and respondent and shall dismiss the complaint. The complainant/Interested Party may, after notification of the Director’s determination to dismiss a complaint, bring a civil action in an appropriate court against the respondent or any person or any entity that assisted the respondent. A prevailing complainant/Interested Party shall be entitled to an award of actual damages, attorneys fees and costs and special damages of not less than $250 and not more than $1,000 per violation per day.

Law enforcement should be left to the authorities, mainly the police and the Office of Short-Term Rental Administration and Enforcement, not neighbours who may be biased by other incidents. The other thing that really gets me is putting the blame on the host while hosting services continue to operate with almost no penalty. $1000 a day in fines is likely to send more than a few people to our already over crowded jail, or worse, out on the street, but that’s nothing for a company like AirBnB that makes over $1000 per minute.

We just passed new legislation 3 months ago, not nearly enough time for it to start working effectively.

Prop F also ignores the fact that enforcement of the existing law is starting to work and the city is rapidly making it easier for hosts to register and pay their share of taxes and adhere to the law. Within the first month of the latest AirBnB ordinance revision the city had already registered 20% of AirBnB hosts and received $155,000 in fines from the worst abusers.

Instead of completely ignoring the existing ordinance process and passing Prop F, which will need another 3–6 months to start effective enforcement, we should improve the existing ordinances taking the best ideas from Supervisor Mark Farrell’s and David Campos’ original proposals which would do most of what Prop F promises without the poorly written enforcement mechanism.

What would a good AirBnB law look like in my opinion?

  1. A 90 day cap on all short term rentals removing the distinction of hosted and unhosted rentals
  2. Only primary residents of a unit may offer it for short term rental
  3. Hosting services should collect taxes and require users to comply with San Francisco’s ordinances. Companies should be fined for allowing people to break the law—it’s a company’s responsibility to make sure that a person that signs up on their website doesn’t break the law by normally using the website.
  4. Enforcement should be reserved for government authorities. Fines for hosts not in compliance should be tiered by income level, while companies should be penalised up to 5% of monthly revenue for non compliance or risk a partial or complete ban on all transactions within San Francisco. If you think this corporate fine scheme is impossible the EU is already doing it.

Join me in voting No on Prop F and supporting the continued effort by our Supervisors to improve the existing ordinances. If you want to read more about Prop F there’s more than enough information here to make an informed decision.

These other props are terrible. Vote NO on them, too!

Vote NO on Prop C
Does the Council of Community Housing Organizations sound like a lobbyist? How about the San Francisco Human Services Network? These local non-profits that are some of the most important and impactful organizations working to make San Francisco a more affordable, better place to live for those most vulnerable will be required to register as expenditure lobbying groups because of Prop C. Prop C makes no distinction between companies that donate $8 million to a campaign versus a local neighborhood organization that donates $3000. Yes we need to improve our lobbying laws, but Prop C is not the solution.

Vote NO Prop E
I support the idea of Prop E and think San Francisco public meetings should be recorded and distributed on the internet, but this prop is so poorly written that it would cost the city an unnecessary $1.7 million for live streaming technology that should cost a fraction of that. Disclosure: I work at a live streaming company and know that this estimate is way above what it should be. In addition, the proposition doesn’t explain enough in its implementation strategy for how online video testimony could be efficiently incorporated in public hearings or how online submissions would come from San Francisco residents.

Vote NO on Prop G
This ballot measure is so bad the writers have pulled support for their own legislation in favour of Prop H. Enough said.

Affordable Housing is the biggest issue in SF, Vote YES on these no brainers!

Votes YES on Prop A
More money for affordable housing. Vote Yes, duh!

Votes YES on Prop D
A massive development project on an empty parking lot with 30–40% affordable housing, not great but we need it now. Amy Weiss has pledged that new developments on public land should have at least 50% affordable housing and I agree, but this development plan is so close to approval that you should vote Yes!

Vote YES on Prop I
The mission is one of the worst effected neighborhoods—over 20% of latinos have left the mission for more affordable neighborhoods in the past 10 years. Prop I will only affect luxury development, there is no moratorium for affordable housing units. And of the 1220 units currently in development only an estimated 85 would be delayed by the moratorium. We need to push city hall to increase the affordable housing rate from the paltry 12% requirement to at least 50% for all new development and this moratorium will allow the next mayor and Board of Supervisors to establish better development legislation.

Vote YES on Prop J
Prop J sets up a a fund to aid historic San Francisco businesses in keeping up with rising rents. Definitely a YES!

Vote YES on Prop K
Only in San Francisco could a family of four making $150000 a year need housing assistance, but that’s the state of the affordable housing crisis. Prop K ups the limits on affordable housing so it’s a no brainer, Vote Yes!

Don’t forget to vote on November 3rd!

It’s up to us to fix San Francisco. Voting is helpful, but that doesn’t mean politics ends at the polls. If you really want San Francisco to improve, be an active member in the community. You can start by following these organizations on Twitter or Facebook to keep up to date on how the city is changing:

  1. Curbed SF
  2. 48 Hills
  4. SF League of Women Voters
  5. SF Bicycle Coalition
  6. SF Tenants Union
  7. VanishingSF
  8. SFist
  9. CityLab

If you have comments or questions, want to discuss some of the ideas expressed, or just need to leave some hate please tweet @derekfidler

I’ll also be taking live questions right here Friday at 1:30