SF transportation tax leading in unofficial returns

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday November 9, 2022
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Muni and many other transportation and infrastructure projects could be jeopardized if Proposition L, currently trailing, does lose. Photo: Cynthia Laird
Muni and many other transportation and infrastructure projects could be jeopardized if Proposition L, currently trailing, does lose. Photo: Cynthia Laird

Billions of dollars in federal matching funds for transportation and infrastructure projects in San Francisco likely will be available as Proposition L, a sales tax extension, was leading in early returns Tuesday night and increased its lead since then.

Prop L needed 66 and 2/3% to pass. Preliminary returns from the Department of Elections showed it at 71.37% as of November 15. The department still has more ballots to count.

Championed by gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who is also chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, Prop L renews the one-half cent transportation sales tax that has been in place since 1989. In a guest opinion in the Bay Area Reporter last week, Mandelman stressed that it's not a new tax.

The stakes could be high, Mandelman noted, as federal and state matching grants for a number of projects could be redirected elsewhere if the tax isn't renewed. San Francisco voters narrowly rejected a $400 million bond for Muni in June, further hamstringing local transportation projects.

Money from Prop L will repair and repave roads, and reduce congestion for emergency vehicles so that they can respond quickly and save lives. It will pay for the installation of crosswalks, traffic signals, and bulb-outs to protect pedestrians and construction of new protected bike lanes, Mandelman noted. It also dedicates new funding to the paratransit system that has been overburdened during the COVID pandemic.

"I am even more excited Prop L appears to be passing," Mandelman, who easily won a second term Tuesday, told the Bay Area Reporter. "It's critically important for a number of transportation investments we need to make in the next few years."

Other local measures

It was a mixed bag in the other local ballot measure races. The figures below are from November 10 update from the elections department.

Proposition A passed easily. It restored a cost of living increase for some retired city employees who had it taken away in 2011. It was leading with 64.58% of the vote, according to unofficial returns.

City voters decided to revert San Francisco Public Works back to one entity, after voting two years ago to move the streets and sanitation division into its own department. Proposition B was leading with 74.73% of the vote. Under Prop B, separate oversight commissions for public works and streets and sanitation will remain. The streets commission will set street cleaning policy, while the public works commission will provide transparency and critical guardrails against corruption, proponents noted.

Mayor London Breed opposed Proposition C, but voters decided they wanted an oversight body for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which had 66.68% of the vote, according to unofficial returns. This measure will establish a commission that would hold public meetings, investigate department activities, and set clear goals for success, according to proponents. 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.

Propositions D and E were the dueling affordable housing measures on the ballot. Voters were rejecting both, with Prop E receiving 54.63% no votes, and Prop D trailing with 51.42% no votes, unofficial returns showed. Breed was in favor of Prop D, which supporters maintain will make it easier and faster to build affordable low- and moderate-income housing. It removes bureaucratic roadblocks and requires prevailing wages and health care for workers.

Prop E, sponsored by Supervisors Connie Chan and Aaron Peskin, was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors, though it was not a unanimous vote. Chan and Peskin maintain their measure would result in more affordable housing, but opponents noted it contained poison pills that would prevent new construction.

Unlike Prop L, Proposition F, the 25-year extension of a parcel tax to fund library services, needed only 50% plus 1 to pass. It was winning with 82.55% of the vote. Voters have twice approved similar measures. 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.

Proposition G passed with 77.14% of the vote. It would provide up to $60 million a year from existing city funds to programs that improve academic success and social/emotional wellness for students. Dubbed the Student Success Fund, 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.

Voters want to combine the city's off-year elections and approved Proposition H to do that. The measure, supported by Supervisor Dean Preston, was leading with 71.15% of the vote in early returns. Under Prop H, the elections for mayor, sheriff, district attorney, city attorney, and treasurer would move to presidential election years, starting in 2024. Proponents argued it would greatly increase voter participation.

Propositions I and J were mixed, according to early returns. Prop I, which was losing with 64.5% no votes, would bring back vehicles to a portion of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park and undo a compromise reached by Supervisor Gordon Mar and Breed closing the Great Highway to vehicles on weekends. Breed sponsored the JFK Drive legislation that was approved by the Board of Supervisors banning cars on 1.5 miles of the road, which has become a popular destination for walkers and bicyclists.

Prop J, dubbed Safe Parks for All, was ahead with 62.23% yes votes. It would reaffirm the aforementioned car-free Golden Gate Park Access and Safety Program passed by the Board of Supervisors in April.

Proposition M, which would have taxed owners who kept their homes vacant, was winning with 53.85% of the vote.

Proposition N was passing with 74.58% of the vote. Breed is the main proponent of the measure that improves 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. 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.

Proposition O, an additional parcel tax for City College of San Francisco, was trailing, according to early returns, with 36.09% in favor and 63.81% opposed. This only needed 50% plus one to pass, and would have created 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. The money would have been used for student programs such as basic-skills needs, workforce development, and academic success, according to the voter guide.

This story was updated November 15 with new figures from the Department of Elections.

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