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Voters Effectively Double San Francisco Affordable Housing Rates

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For now, at least

While many votes remain uncounted, these preliminary results are solid enough to tell us what’s winning in yesterday's primary election. San Francisco voters approved every single ballot measure on Tuesday by double digit margins, some with serious punching power when it comes to reshaping San Francisco’s housing and land policies.

Affordable Housing: More than two thirds of voters said yes to Measure C, which is good news for the Board of Supervisors and locals who like to stump for affordable housing, and potentially irksome news for developers.

The measure grants city legislators the power to raise or lower the minimum requirements for affordable housing development. Right now the bar is 12 percent for most developments over 10 units, but in April the board voted to more than double that if voters gave them the thumbs up yesterday.

Before developers rend their garments in despair, note that the 25 percent figure isn’t final, and the city says it will study to find the happy medium that wrings out as much working class housing as possible without scaring off development altogether. Anyone who has played with UC Berkeley’s housing policy tools knows how tricky that can be.

Seismically Safe Ambulances: Assuming no more joyrides, San Francisco voters apparently want their ambulances to stay in action, as more than 78 percent voted to build a seismically upgraded ambulance barn for the fire department. The other 22 percent presumably like to live dangerously.

Park Love: We already have some of the best parks in the nation, but funding wibbles and wobbles every year depending on property values, so 60 percent of voters yesterday approved a funding minimum for the park upkeep.

Save the Bay (Annually): We love the bay. The bay is somewhat ambivalent about us, though, since we keep dumping junk in it. The parcel tax approved yesterday should raise about $25 million a year to fund bay cleanup. That 77 percent of people in a city of renters approved a new parcel tax is probably not surprising, but it’s only $12 per parcel for homeowners, and given what’s happened to property values lately they can probably cover it.

Overall turnout was about 40 percent (or 185,000 people): 126,000 Democrats, 13,000 Republicans, leaving almost a quarter of voters spread among other parties.

Presidential nominees were the biggest draw, with 85,000 votes for Hillary Clinton, 67,000 for Bernie Sanders, and a little over 7,000 for Donald Trump. Also, 5,345 people showed up to vote for Republican candidates who have long since dropped out of the race.