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The 2019 San Francisco voter guide

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A housing-specific cheat sheet for the November SF election

Illustrations by Alyssa Nassner

While most of the country will take a break from the ballot box this year, San Francisco is less than one week away from an off-year election, scheduled for Tuesday, November 5.

Not as raucous as the hullabaloo of national election years, but there are some big-ticket housing and transit issues at stake on Tuesday, with the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in city revenues for affordable housing and Muni on the line.

For voters unsure what to expect when stepping up to the ballot, here’s a quick cheat sheet for next week of housing- and transit-specific items.

Proposition A

What’s the proposal?

Proposition A would authorize the city to take out $600 million in bonds and put the money toward the construction, development, acquisition, and preservation of housing affordable to “extremely-low, low, and middle-income household.”

A quarter of the total sum would go toward rehabbing public housing. Another quarter would go toward housing for seniors. Note that this proposal needs two-thirds of the vote to pass.

Who’s behind it?

In July, the SF Board of Supervisors voted 10-0 to put the bond measure up for a vote, after Mayor London Breed introduced the plan in January. (Supervisor Shamann Walton was excused from the vote, but was a cosponsor on the measure.)

Arguments for Proposition A

Backers tout Prop. A as a way to fund affordable housing without raising taxes or fees. Supervisor Hillary Ronen this week promoted the bond as a way to stop “nibbling around the edges” of the housing crisis and instead juice the city’s housing development plans with a huge influx of resources all at once.

Breed said after the board vote, “Building more housing requires a wide range of solutions” and praised the bond plan as a way of diversifying revenue for construction.

Arguments against Proposition A

The official voter guide rebuttal to Prop. A, written by the Libertarian Party of San Francisco, argues that the bond will not directly make housing more affordable and persists that SF should encourage private development by eliminating regulations instead.

Proposition D

What’s the proposal?

The city proposes taxing rides from ride-hailing apps, like Lyft and Uber, 1.5 percent on shared rides and 3.25 percent on solo rides. The estimated $30 million generated annually by the tax would go toward Muni and other transit improvements. The fee would stay in place until the 2045.

Like Prop. A, this too requires a two-thirds margin at the ballot box.

Who’s behind it?

The SF Board of Supervisors voted Prop. D onto the ballot unanimously in July. Perhaps surprisingly, both Lyft and Uber say they, too, support the tax hike (the companies could, if they wanted, offset the cost by raising rates).

Arguments for Proposition D

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who authored the measure alongside Mayor Breed, called it a simple tool for mitigating the effects of ride-hailing technology on local traffic, pointing out that cities like Portland and New York City have already implemented similar charges.

Arguments against Proposition D

The San Francisco Republican Party’s rebuttal to Prop. D criticizes the measure for spending too much on implementation. The local GOP group also argues that ride-hailing companies will raise prices to pass the fee cost on to consumers and that the city should fund transit out of the existing budget.

Proposition E

What’s the proposal?

Prop. E would allow the city to build teacher housing on land zoned for public use—current zoning laws disallow residential construction on city properties. Prop. E would also mandate that the Planning Department to prioritize and expedite its review of proposed affordable housing projects.

Who’s behind it?

The Board of Supervisors never actually voted on Prop. E. Four board members—Sandra Fewer, Matt Haney, Aaron Peskin, and Shamann Walton—qualified it for the ballot with a special proposal to the Board of Elections.

Arguments for Proposition E

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer writes,“Proposition E will create numerous opportunities for 100 percent affordable housing projects citywide, without the need for lengthy rezoning processes.” Says also that since the proposition applies only to city-owned properties, the city would be able to ensure that eventual development stays affordable for educators.

Arguments against Proposition E

Patrick Monette-Shaw, a columnist for the Westside Observer, argues that it’s inappropriate to turn over public lands for what is essentially private use. He claims that the city already had opportunities to build teacher housing, but it failed to take advantage of them.