Voters narrowly reject SF Muni bond

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 8, 2022
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A $400 million general obligation bond to help San Francisco's struggling Muni system fell short at the ballot box Tuesday. Photo: Cynthia Laird
A $400 million general obligation bond to help San Francisco's struggling Muni system fell short at the ballot box Tuesday. Photo: Cynthia Laird

Transit advocates were disappointed Wednesday after Proposition A, a $400 million general obligation bond for San Francisco's beleaguered public transit agency, was narrowly rejected by voters, while most other ballot measures appeared to be passing, according to unofficial returns.

Prop A, the Muni Reliability and Street Safety Bond, required a two-thirds majority to pass. Unofficial returns showed it falling short by 3%, garnering only 63.3% of votes.

After plummeting from a high of more than 700,000 riders per weekday in February 2020 to a low of just over 100,000 in April that year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has struggled since the start of the COVID pandemic to lure riders back. To be sure, they are returning, but it's been slow going and even now, weekday ridership is lower than pre-pandemic levels, reaching a high so far of just under 400,000 riders last April.

Prop A, which had the unanimous support of Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors, was intended to help the transit agency get back on its feet by allowing the City and County of San Francisco to issue general obligation bonds to fund improvements such as increasing reliability, safety, and frequency; reducing delays; improving disabled access and equity; increasing subway capacity; and improving pedestrian, bicycle, and traffic safety. There are many other goals as well, such as improving Muni's deteriorating bus yards and redesigning streets and sidewalks.

Transit advocates were upset by the loss although, at press time, Breed — not giving up entirely — is "still waiting for more votes to come in," according to the mayor's communications aide Jordan Wilson.

"Anyone and any club that went No or No Position on Prop A should be ashamed," tweeted queer transit advocate Janice Li, who's an elected member of the BART board of directors.

Propositions B, E, and F were attempts to fight corruption.

Prop B would revamp the city's Building Inspection Commission. It passed with 58.9% of the vote, early returns showed.

The vote came four months after Mohammed Nuru, the former director of San Francisco Public Works, pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge. His arrest in 2020 touched off a wide-ranging corruption scandal. Prop B would change the structure of the Building Inspection Commission by removing designated industry seats and allowing qualified members of the public to serve instead. Three seats would require subject matter expertise, much like the Historical Preservation Commission. Nominees would also be required to go through a public hearing process, while the mayor would have the power to hire or fire the director, providing greater accountability, according to proponents' statements in the voter guide.

Prop C, which would place new restrictions on recall efforts in San Francisco, and Prop H, which sought to recall embattled progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin, are detailed on page 1. [LINK].

A new Office of Victim and Witness Rights and legal services for domestic violence victims will be created under Prop D, which passed with 60%, early returns showed. Faced with recalling a district attorney who, many felt, wasn't doing enough for victims of violent crimes, Prop D passed with almost the same number of votes that brought down Boudin.

The new office would establish a one-year pilot program to provide free legal services for domestic violence victims starting July 1, 2023. The Board of Supervisors will determine subsequent funding through the city's budget process. Currently, victims must navigate a maze of bureaucracy through several departments, proponents argued, which Prop D would streamline.

Voters passed Prop E, which deals with behested payments, with 66.8% of the vote, preliminary returns showed. Behested payments are donations solicited by a public official to benefit either a government agency or a private organization. Prop E will amend the city's existing law with two additions: members of the board could not seek behested payments if the board had approved a beneficiary's contracts; and the board can only amend the behested payments law if the city's Ethics Commission approves proposed amendments by a majority vote and then the Board of Supervisors approves them with a two-thirds vote.

Voters approved Prop F, which addressed garbage collection and disposal, by the largest margin of any of the propositions on the ballot, 67.4%, early returns showed.

For nearly a century, Recology — a private company that provides refuse services — has held the monopoly on trash and recycling pick up in San Francisco. Prop F will restructure membership of the Refuse Rate Board, change the process by which rates and regulations are set, and implement rules governing how future changes are made. The city controller will assume new duties as the refuse rate administrator. Most recently, it was revealed that Recology was allowed to overcharge customers by up to $200 million and agreed to refunds.

Voters were inclined to expand leave for public health emergencies. Prop G was approved with 60.7% of the vote, early returns showed. Prop G requires private employers and the city to provide paid leave to employees for public health emergencies. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place Prop G on the ballot and stated in the voter guide that the COVID pandemic revealed massive gaps in protections for essential workers and increased wildfires are causing more unhealthy air quality days each year. Such emergency leave would kick in during any public health emergency. Notably, the measure was rejected by voters in the city's highest income ZIP codes, election results showed.

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