Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Hetch Hetchy plan
goes down the drain


Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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San Francisco voters chose not to drain Hetch Hetchy reservoir and to support City College through a parcel tax, among other measures, preliminary election results showed this week.

As of Tuesday night, November 6, Proposition F was being defeated by a vote of 77.41 percent to 22.59 percent. The measure would have mandated San Francisco to develop a plan to eliminate the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which provides water to San Francisco and other Bay Area cities, and return Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy Valley to the National Park Service to be restored. The plan also would have led to the adoption of efficiency practices such as waste filtration, water recycling, and conservation.

"We had a very broad coalition of No on F supporters, and we're very heartened by the fact that San Franciscans saw through the deception that really was at the forefront of this campaign," said P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for the Save Hetch Hetchy, No on F campaign.

He said the measure's proponents "tried to sell voters on a bill of goods all about water recycling, which is a good thing, to try to hide the fact that it was really about draining Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which is a bad thing."

An email blast from the Prop F campaign indicated that their side had trouble grappling with what appeared to be a clear victory for opponents.

"Did we win or lose? You decide," the subject line said.

Mike Marshall, executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, said in the message that even though the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration Initiative didn't pass, "we accomplished much of what we set out to do."

"For the first time ever, San Franciscans were asked to imagine a different future that would increase their water security and reverse the damage the city has done to Yosemite National Park," Marshall said.

He added that Restore Hetch Hetchy would spend the next two years leveraging its new support, in tandem with "multiple legal strategies ... to advance the cause of water reform in [San Francisco] and environmental restoration in Yosemite."

Local voters also chose to save City College of San Francisco, the beneficiary of Proposition A. The measure authorizes a $79 tax on each parcel of residential and commercial property in the city for eight years. As of Tuesday night, Prop A was winning 72.48 percent to 27.52 percent. The community college has been facing serious leadership and financial problems.

Rafael Mandelman, whom preliminary election results showed had been elected to the school's board this week, cheered Prop A's apparent passage.

"It makes a huge difference," Mandelman said. "It shows San Franciscans really love our public schools."

Mayor Ed Lee backed the proposal, along with several other propositions that were headed to passage, based on preliminary results.

Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said the passage of measures such as Propositions C, the housing trust fund, and E, the gross receipts tax, are examples of "what he campaigned on" in terms of ensuring housing for all and creating jobs.

"He is very pleased" because the consensus building and collaboration work the mayor's done in the last year "have really paid off," she said.

Proposition C, a Charter amendment that Lee proposed with support from the Board of Supervisors and others, was passing by a vote of 64.82 percent to 35.18 percent as of Tuesday night. The measure creates a Housing Trust Fund that replaces the redevelopment agency, which was eliminated by Governor Jerry Brown.

With their support of Proposition E, voters approved a gross receipts tax. San Francisco has been the only city in California that imposes a tax on payrolls. Prop E replaces the payroll tax with a graduated business tax based on gross receipts. The measure appears to have won 70.56 percent to 29.44 percent.

Proposition B, which is known as the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond and was passing by a vote of 71.98 percent to 28.02 percent, authorizes the city to borrow up to $195 million by issuing general obligation bonds to fund repairs and improvements to local parks and open spaces.

Currently the mayor, sheriff, and district attorney are elected in November of one year, and the city attorney and treasurer are elected in November of a different year. Proposition D consolidates off-year municipal elections with all those positions running in the same election. Unofficial vote tallies showed that measure winning 83.2 percent to 16.8 percent.

Finally, voters also weighed in on Proposition G, making it city policy to oppose "corporate personhood." The measure was passing by a vote of 80.7 percent to 19.3 percent. Supervisor John Avalos proposed the measure, at least partially in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United decision.

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