How to vote Pro-Housing in San Francisco this November!
aka The YIMBY Endorsements for November 2019
San Francisco Mayor: London Breed
District 5 Supervisor: Vallie Brown
YES on Prop A: Affordable Housing Bond
YES on Prop D: Traffic Congestion Mitigation Tax
YES on Prop E: Rezoning for Affordable Housing and Educator Housing
NO on Prop F: Campaign Contributions and Campaign Advertisements
District 5 Supervisor: Vallie Brown
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has a huge amount of power over housing policy. So, what have they done with it this year?
Pushing back against this has been Supervisor Vallie Brown, a powerful voice for housing for all. She grew up housing insecure, and knows San Francisco needs a lot more housing to live up to our values of inclusivity and access to opportunity. Vallie is endorsed by The SFChronicle, Mayor London Breed, State Senator Scott Wiener, and YIMBY Action!
Yes on Prop A: The Affordable Housing Bond
Proposition A is the biggest housing bond in San Francisco history! The bond is endorsed by basically everyone — and it will need everyone’s vote to pass the 66.6% threshold required for tax measures in California.
YIMBY Action was one of the sole voices advocating making the bond even bigger by raising property taxes. Bonds are backed by a parcel tax, and as one parcel tax phases out, the next one phases in, keeping property taxes in San Francisco low, especially on longtime homeowners. It’s worth noting that the reason this bond can be SO FREAKING BIG without raising property taxes is that new developments have created a bigger tax base, giving San Francisco the ability to leverage a bigger bond.
Prop A is a $600 million bond to construct, acquire, and preserve housing. It ends up being a pretty complicated funding source, so that everyone can say they supported a particular group. $220 million will go to low-income housing, $150 million for public housing, $150 million for senior housing, $60 million for middle-income housing and $20 million for educator housing.
Increasing funding for subsidized affordable housing is a core principle of YIMBY Action. We need an all-of-the-above strategy to solving the housing shortage!
Yes on Prop D: The TNC Tax
Proposition D would impose a tax on rides from transportation network company (TNC) or “rideshare” companies like Lyft and Uber. The funds will then go to transit, and hopefully improve this critical public infrastructure. Interestingly, it is funded largely by the TNC companies, in a deal that was worked out between the Board of Supervisors and the rideshare companies.
If Prop D passes, it will place a 3.25% tax for solo rides in gas vehicles and a 1.5% tax for shared rides (e.g. UberPool or Lyft Line) or rides in zero-emissions vehicles. Half the revenue would go Muni (SFMTA) to fund transit. The other half would go to the county transportation authority (SFCTA) to fund street safety infrastructure around walking, bicycles, and traffic signals.
Would it be nice if this was congestion pricing on all private vehicles? Sure. But we’re not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
A city with more homes and more residents requires better public transit, which is why YIMBY Action supports this measure!
Yes on Prop E: Rezoning for Affordable & Teacher Housing
It was a brutal fight to the ballot for this initiative, but it marks a small step forward in the housing conversation in San Francisco. This is a vital first step in our efforts to legalize affordable housing all over San Francisco.
Prop E would legalize and expedite the approval of affordable housing and educator housing on large residential parcels (greater than 10,000 square feet). The idea is to make qualifying projects legal and easier to build anywhere in the city — not just on the east side. New projects under this could ignore density restrictions, get certain exemptions to the planning code, and cut time in permitting. The goal is to reduce the need for Conditional Use Authorizations and make more of these projects exempt from Discretionary Review at the Planning Commission. All in all, projects would be approved or denied within 180 days (90 days if fewer than 150 units).
Unfortunately, Prop E is not well written. This proposition will require trailing legislation to make it actually work for any affordable or teacher housing projects. And thanks to CEQA, that trailing legislation will require a city-wide Environmental Impact Report, adding about year delay to any implementation.
Mayor London Breed proposed upzoning publicly owned parcels for affordable housing and teacher housing, adding height and density to ensure projects could get built. But the Supervisors countered with Prop E to confuse the public and kill off the Mayor’s upzoning proposal, making sure she didn’t get a win. The Supervisors also used Prop E as an excuse to withhold support for Mayor Breed’s Affordable Housing Streamlining Charter Amendment (based off YIMBY Action’s Ballot Prop from 2017). You can read more about the absurd affair on the Chronicle, Mission Local and the Examiner.
Taken all in all, it’s good to see all sides of the political spectrum compete to legalize building affordable housing everywhere. Prop E happened, in part, due to the hard work of YIMBY volunteers changing the conversation around housing. It was part of Sonja Trauss’s “Affordable Housing Everywhere” campaign platform, and YIMBYs like Chase, David, Elizabeth, Gabe, Julia, Nicholas, Sam, Theo, and Vadim made maps and websites to show the need for this policy. Check out https://www.legalizehousing.org/ for some of the work YIMBYs did to make this a reality.
YIMBY Action supports Prop E because it tries to allow more affordable housing and makes it ostensibly easier to build. Rezoning to legalize multifamily affordable housing across the city is a good step towards integrating our neighborhoods.
No on Prop F: Reporting Requirements from Hell
San Francisco has passed a lot of legislation in the name of “transparency” around elections, but never before has there been one with such an obvious anti-housing bent to it. Proposition F adds truly burdensome, unclear regulation for anyone building housing and people running for office, and does not meaningfully alleviate conflicts of interest. It’s complicated, it’s biased, and it lets NIMBYs off the hook.
In short: anyone who is building projects with 10+ homes would be prohibited from donating to candidates for Supervisor, Mayor, and City Attorney. Part one is a bit petty, but won’t have a huge impact. Home builders cannot buy influence with $500 contributions to supervisors. Ironically, this could push those donations to PACs, making things more opaque rather than less.
Part 1 would prohibit anyone with a “financial interest in a land use matter” from donating to candidates running for those elected offices. Any individual or officer of a company developing a project worth more than $5 million would be impacted. Nearly every building with at least 10 homes is worth more than $5 million.
Prop F exempts primary residences, so homeowners who are trying to remodel or develop their homes get a blanket exemption from these new limitations. Additionally, it does not impose limits on mega landlords who just collect rent; it only impacts people producing new homes.
Part 2 is where this starts to go off the rails. For anyone that has ever run a campaign, the idea of implementing the following disclosure requirements is a paperwork nightmare. This raises the cost of compliance for local campaigns substantially.
Prop F would increase the disclosure requirements for independent expenditure committees and ballot measure committees dramatically. In video and audio ads (and possibly phone calls), committees would need to disclose their top donors at the beginning of the recording, instead of the end. The scope of mandatory disclosures expands to include nested donations from PACs (eg “PAC #1” would be disclosed as “PAC #1, principally funded by Donor #1, Donor #2”).
Because top donors can change, because the donations from organizations that have donated to a campaign can change, and because of the existing backlog at the San Francisco Ethics Commission, the implementation of this is daunting. The Ethics Commission has so many sprawling rules that it can’t quickly enforce them. It took them 8 years to hit John Avalos with a fine from his 2011 mayoral campaign. Adding more rules like this will create more backlog and does not make politics more transparent.
Prop F senselessly burdens candidates and home builders for no tangible benefit, while giving a pass to homeowners who obstruct housing.
Mayor London Breed is running for re-election. She’s been fighting for better housing policy against incredible odds and she rocks.