Editorial: SF ballot prop endorsements

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday October 5, 2022
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San Francisco ballot measures include the car-free future of JFK Drive, left, street cleaning, and funding for Muni and the public library system. Photos: SF Parks Alliance, Cynthia Laird
San Francisco ballot measures include the car-free future of JFK Drive, left, street cleaning, and funding for Muni and the public library system. Photos: SF Parks Alliance, Cynthia Laird

With 14 propositions on the San Francisco ballot, it's a long one this year. Measures include everything from housing to whether vehicles should be allowed on certain roads to funding for City College of San Francisco and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Below are the Bay Area Reporter's recommendations.

Proposition A: Supplemental Cost of Living Adjustment; Retirement Board Contract with Executive Director. YES. This one is easy. It restores the cost of living adjustment to those retired city workers who had it taken away in 2011. The retirees — about 4,400 — impacted by this situation are generally older, including many above the age of 75. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place this on the ballot. Vote Yes on Prop A.

Proposition B: Public Works Department and Commission; Sanitation and Streets Department and Commission. YES. Several supervisors and Mayor London Breed support this cleanup of a measure voters passed two years ago to take sanitation and streets out of Public Works and create a separate department. The problem, as proponents state in their ballot argument, is that an analysis by the city administrator found it will cost $6 million in the first two years and $10 million every year after that to run the new bureaucracy with no funds going to actual street cleaning. Prop B will keep streets and sanitation in Public Works but maintain the two commissions. The streets commission will set street cleaning policy while the public works commission will provide transparency and critical guardrails against corruption, proponents noted. This makes sense to us; the city should be spending public works funds on actual projects and programs — like graffiti removal and street cleaning — not another bloated, redundant office. Vote Yes on Prop B.

Proposition C: Homelessness Oversight Commission. YES. This was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing does need some oversight. A series of articles earlier this year in the San Francisco Chronicle detailed issues with the agency, such as people fatally overdosing in city-funded hotels and the number of homeless people in the city actually increasing since HSH was created in 2016. The department's budget is now $672 million but conditions for many unhoused people have not improved. This measure would establish a commission that would hold public meetings, investigate department activities, and set clear goals for success. Commission appointments would be split between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors and include vetting by the board's rules committee, like other commission nominees. Prop C is a start to the city finally having some oversight measures in place for the hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds spent on homeless services. Vote Yes on Prop C.

Proposition D: Affordable Housing, Initiative Petition. YES. This is one of two similar measures on the ballot but the only one that will actually see affordable housing built. It will make it easier and faster to build affordable low- and moderate-income housing, according to proponents. It removes bureaucratic roadblocks and requires prevailing wages and health care for workers. By streamlining the approval process, affordable homes can be built for teachers, nurses, firefighters, small business owners, and nonprofit workers. We recall that earlier this year the Board of Supervisors killed a housing project on a vacant parking lot that would have provided 495 units, with 24% of those affordable. The state has announced that the city must redo its housing element with a realistic plan to create 82,000 units of housing by 2030. Prop D would help meet that goal. It is supported by Mayor Breed, gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, and trans D6 supervisor candidate Honey Mahogany. Vote Yes on Prop D.

Proposition E: Affordable Housing, Board of Supervisors. NO. Don't be fooled. Supervisors Connie Chan and Aaron Peskin put this on the ballot to counter Prop D. Yet, it is filled with poison pill provisions that would actually prevent new construction, opponents noted. It subjects 100% affordable projects to stringent environmental review — exactly what killed the project at 469 Stevenson Street (the empty parking lot) — thus making it harder to build affordable housing. Vote No on Prop E.

Proposition F: Library Preservation Fund. YES. This is another easy one. Voters have twice approved this fund and proponents, including the mayor and Board of Supervisors, are seeking a 25-year renewal with no additional taxes. San Francisco property owners already pay two and a half cents per $100 assessed valuation and that will continue to be collected and set aside for the library system. The measure will require that the main library and all 27 branches stay open and increase the minimum number of hours; maintain library infrastructure; and provide a consistent source of funding. Vote Yes on Prop F.

Proposition G: Student Success Fund — Grants to the San Francisco Unified School District. YES. This measure provides up to $60 million a year from existing city funds to programs that improve academic success and social/emotional wellness. It does not raise taxes. It allows individual schools to apply for grants up to $1 million while requiring participation from parents, teachers, community members, and staff. Such programs could include academic tutoring, math and literacy coaches, arts and science programs, mental health programs, and nonprofit partnerships. This seems like a good idea, especially since so many students fell behind during remote learning in the early years of the COVID pandemic. Vote Yes on Prop G.

Proposition H: City Elections in Even-Numbered Years. NO. We're not convinced this measure is needed to increase voter participation, as proponents maintain. San Francisco traditionally has very good voter turnout, as witnessed by the three elections held this year alone (a recall, a special election, and the primary). We also think that media coverage of local races, like that for mayor, would be overshadowed by attention spent on presidential elections. That would be a grave disservice to voters. We don't think elections are burdensome on voters or that fewer elections are better than more elections. People who are regular voters are going to cast their ballots whenever an election is, and newcomers are always welcome to register to vote. Vote No on Prop H.

Proposition I: Vehicles on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Drive and the Great Highway. NO. Like the dueling housing measures, this is one of two dealing with JFK Drive. During the early years of the COVID pandemic, the Great Highway was closed to vehicles at the suggestion of District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar to provide miles of new open space for residents and visitors to walk and bike. The change has been transformative, Mar told us. When schools and businesses reopened in 2021, Mar and Breed worked to reopen the Great Highway to vehicles on weekdays and maintain it as a weekend promenade. This compromise has largely been successful. Prop I would change that and reopen the Great Highway to vehicles everyday.

Regarding JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park, Breed sponsored legislation that was approved banning cars on 1.5 miles of the road, which has also become a popular destination for walkers, bikers, and bicyclists. Prop I would change this too, bringing back vehicles to this stretch of JFK Drive. We think the car-free portion of JFK Drive and car-free weekends on the Great Highway have been a huge benefit to residents and visitors alike. Vote No on Prop I.

Proposition J: Recreational Use of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. YES. This measure, dubbed Safe Parks for All, affirms the car-free Golden Gate Park Access and Safety Program passed by the Board of Supervisors in April, making JFK Promenade a permanent, safe, and accessible space. Vehicles would not be allowed, but shuttle service runs every 15 minutes connecting park goers to all major attractions and Muni. Vote Yes on Prop J.

Proposition L: Sales Tax for Transportation Projects. YES. Like the library measure, Prop L extends an existing portion of sales tax (0.5%) for 30 years to fund transportation improvements. Proponents argue that Prop L is necessary for the city's economic recovery. The money will be used for road and sidewalk repair, pedestrian safety, Muni buses, and to strengthen paratransit services, among other projects. The expenditure plan was created by a coalition of community members from across the city to ensure equity in every neighborhood. The mayor and Board of Supervisors support Prop L, as do first responders, Muni drivers, advocates for pedestrian safety, and the chamber of commerce. Vote Yes on Prop L.

Proposition M: Tax on Keeping Residential Units Vacant. NO. While we know there is a shortage of housing in San Francisco, taxing property owners who keep their homes vacant isn't an answer. Proponents argue that safeguards are in place to prevent neighbors from ratting each other out, but we still see lots of problems with this. The Board of Supervisors and planning commission should be approving housing projects that would provide many more units at all affordability levels. Vote No on Prop M.

Proposition N: Golden Gate Park Underground Parking Facility; Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority. YES. Mayor Breed is the chief proponent of this initiative that would improve accessibility to Golden Gate Park for people who depend on driving by giving the city more flexibility over parking rates and management of the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse parking garage. Currently, Breed states in the voter guide, the parking rates are high and the garage sits empty most of the year. Under Prop N, the city could subsidize parking rates for visitors with disabilities and those who are low-income. It would also transfer jurisdiction from the concourse authority to the Recreation and Parks Department, ultimately repealing Prop J that was passed by voters in 1998. Vote Yes on Prop N.

Proposition O: Additional Parcel Tax for City College. YES. This measure only needs 50% plus 1 to pass and would provide critical funding for cash-strapped City College of San Francisco. This is a temporary 20-year tiered parcel tax, with higher rates for commercial properties; homeowners would pay $150 a year or $75 per unit for two or more residential units, according to the voter guide. City College has seen declining enrollment for years, partly due to its financial situation, and this revenue would help restore classes that have been cut. Students of all backgrounds benefit from City College's programs and workforce training. Vote Yes on Prop O.

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