2016 San Francisco Ballot Initiatives

This is a big ballot, with 25 local issues for San Franciscans to vote on, and another 16 state ballot initiatives as well.

There are good reasons to vote for and against each of these initiatives. We have tried to give you our opinions and also responsible opinions from those who disagree with our recommendations.  In some cases it is difficult to find credible recommendations on one side or another, and we don’t want to resort to showing you campaign websites, so some arguments will be missing.

Thank you for caring enough to do your research this year and vote.  Good luck!

A – School Bonds – Should San Francisco issue $744 million in bonds to repair San Francisco Unified School District facilities and improve information technology and food preparation systems?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You have seen the dilapidated condition of San Francisco’s public schools and District offices, and agree they need more money to fix them.  You are more than happy to let your landlord pay for this.  You feel so lucky to be a homeowner in this city that you are willing to pay a little more to fix the schools.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You know the School District’s history of wasting bond money and don’t want it to continue without more significant reform.  You think the City should be able to fit this into a $9.6 billion budget.
  • More Info:  Background by SF Public Press, San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

B – City College Parcel Tax –  Shall San Francisco raise the $79/year parcel tax on property units to $99/year, and extend this tax for 15 years to support City College of San Francisco?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You want to help CCSF maintain its accreditation and keep serving its 60,000+ students. You want CCSF teachers, who earn $60-90k/year, to get long-delayed raises.
  • Reasons to vote no:  The original parcel tax was supposed to bail out CCSF, and you really don’t like tax creep.  You don’t want to keep supporting an inefficient and sprawling group of 11 campuses across the City.  You don’t recognize schools other than Stanford, your alma mater.
  • More info.  Wikipedia on CCSF, The San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

C – Loans for Affordable Housing – Shall San Francisco issue $260.7 million in general obligation bonds to purchase and improve buildings in need of safety upgrades in order to convert them into affordable housing?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You understand that a city is safer if all of its police and firefighters don’t have 90-minute commutes to work, and your children might learn more if their teachers didn’t have to take BART from Concord each morning.  You would like your children to be able to live here, too.  You believe that San Francisco’s government has shown a real knack for managing its finances well.  A few more Hyundais in Whole Foods parking lot might let your Range Rover stand out better.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe private developers will do a better job of building affordable housing if the City just uses its zoning laws and building permit process more intelligently.  You don’t want to use public funds to buy real estate at the top of the market.  You don’t like the part of the initiative that actually reduces developer requirements to build more affordable housing – isn’t this a shift of money from the public to wealthy developers?  $260 million would buy a lot of commuter buses.
  • More info.  San Francisco Chronicle (recommends a Yes vote), Governor Brown’s perspective, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

D – Rules for Vacancy Appointments – People the mayor appoints as temporary replacements to elected members of city government could serve a maximum of 5 months in their positions before the city conducts a special election to fill their position, and the temporary replacements would not be able to run in this election.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You would like to reduce the power of San Francisco’s Mayor. You believe there should be no compromises on giving voters the power to decide who fills elected positions.  You really, really like special elections, and don’t mind spending hundreds of thousands of dollars extra each year to make them happen.  You remember a certain mayor who said he would serve temporarily and not run again.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You understand that most people can’t name all the people running for mayor or their local supervisor, making special elections for school board members a total waste of time.  Was that mayor who promised not to run really so much worse than the others who wanted the job?
  • More info. San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

E – Who Must Maintain Street Trees and Sidewalks – Shall the city spend about $19 million per year to take over responsibility for maintaining trees and sidewalks?  Private property owners are currently responsible for this maintenance.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You are a private property owner and you want to save money.  You don’t think it’s right for the city to make individuals pay for maintaining public trees when they aren’t allowed to choose or replace these trees, or to make them pay for sidewalks damaged by trees they are not allowed to remove.  You think voters should micromanage the city’s budget to keep elected officials from making even moderately difficult decisions.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You know that private property owners are doing just fine in San Francisco, and would like them to share some of their winnings with the rest of us.  You have seen the job San Francisco has done with maintaining its streets, and believe property owners will do a better job with the trees and the sidewalks.  You’ve seen the city’s projected budget deficit.
  • More info.  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, San Francisco Examiner says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

F – Youth Voting in Local Elections – Shall San Francisco lower the voting age from 18 to 16 years old?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes: You want to get people involved in democratic politics as early as possible.  You believe today’s 16-year-old is much more mature than the average 18-year-old of only a couple of decades ago.  If 13-year-olds can carry Kalashnikovs in Zaire, why can’t 16-year-olds vote in San Francisco?
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that voting is a serious matter that requires more experience and responsibility than most 16-year-olds have.  You remember that San Francisco voters have rejected this twice, and for good reasons.  You think voting is an exclusive club and you just don’t want to admit new members before you have to.  If the Board of Supervisors is for it, you’re against it.
  • More info:  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

G – Police Oversight – Would rename the Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) as the Department of Police Accountability (DPA), and would give this agency access to specific records and documents to let them review San Francisco’s use-of-force incidents and policies.  Would shift agency’s budget authority from the Police Commission to the Mayor.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that the police have too much power to hide or block investigations into their mistakes and any bad officers on the force.  You believe that independent oversight must be truly independent, and letting the police commission set the budget for an oversight agency is a bad idea.  You got a speeding ticket once, so anything that makes a cop’s job tougher is fine with you.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You think San Francisco’s police are doing a fine job, so why mess with a winning formula?  You don’t like the provocative name of this agency.  You believe that police should be able to handle their own discipline, with a minimum of civilian oversight.  You believe that current OCC members are unprofessional and poorly trained, and don’t want to give them more power until they fix this.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, SPUR says vote Yes, Background from SF Public Press, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

H – New Office of the Public Advocate – SHall the city create a new elected public office, Public Advocate, with a support staff of 25 employees, to review city programs and citizen complaints?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that the mayor’s office does not already fill this function, or that creating a slightly different version of the mayor’s job will make San Francisco’s government work better.  Finally, a ballot issue that falls outside of the responsibilities of our elected officials.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that the city has 820,000 critics already, and they all work for free – why pay 26 people to be critics without either the responsibility or authority to fix problems?  You believe the mayor and the supervisors have enough problem getting things done, and more people won’t make their work any easier.
  • More info: San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote NO, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

I – Funding for Adults with Disabilities – Should San Francisco allocate at least $38 million per year from the general fund – with scheduled increases – to pay for services for seniors and adults with disabilities?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You have some idea about how difficult it is to be disabled or old, and you want us all to offer as much help as you can.  You believe that our elected officials are incapable of making even routine decisions like this one.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You don’t want voters to micromanage the city’s budget when they don’t have enough information to make individual funding decisions.  You understand that today’s $38 million budget is tomorrow’s $380 million disaster.  You have seen the results of San Francisco’s spending over $240 million annually on the homeless.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote No, Freedom Socialist Party says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

J – Funding for Homelessness and Transportation – Would allocate an initial $50 million per year (increasing over 24 years), to homeless services and transportation.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You see a lot of homeless on the streets, and not enough MUNI buses, and you would like to make sure that San Francisco spends more to address both of these problems.  You are concerned that a No vote would cause city government to stop fixing MUNI and San Francisco streets.  You want to make sure that any new sales tax revenues from Proposition K go to address homelessness and transportation.
  • Reasons to vote no:  These are the kinds of issues you elect supervisors and mayors to solve, and you know that if voters do the budget allocation then you can never hold elected officials responsible for the results.  You are really tired of being asked to do the job you are paying your supervisor to do.  You don’t think of homelessness or public transportation as problems in San Francisco.
  • More info:  San Francisco League of Conservation Voters says vote Yes, SPUR says vote Yes, background from SF Public Press, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

K – Sales Tax Increase – Shall San Francisco’s sales tax be raised by 0.75% to make a new sales tax rate of 9.25%?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You have seen the City’s projected budget deficit, and the city’s decrepit streets, and you’re happy to pay a higher sales tax to boost city tax revenues by $150 million per year.  You do all your shopping out of town, so this won’t affect you at all. Los Angeles’ sales tax is 9% – Beat LA!  Beat LA!
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that city government needs to control its spending, and passing a new tax won’t help.  You plan to buy a new Bentley next year, and you don’t want to have to pay an extra $2,500 for it.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, SPUR says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

L – MTA Appointments and Budget – Increases the power of board of supervisors to appoint members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), and makes it easier for the board of supervisors to reject SFMTA members chosen by the mayor.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that the SFMTA will function better if the board of supervisors have more power over it.  You have no idea how the SFMTA functions, and you don’t really care, but you like reading about political infighting and this could generate a lot of it.
  • Reasons to vote no: You think the supervisors have enough veto power to keep the mayor from packing SFMTA with incompetent cronies.  You think the supervisors would only make worse selections if given the chance.  You don’t like voting in changes to the city charter just to satisfy some obscure political power struggle.  Wasn’t the SFMTA formed to be outside of politics?
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, background from SF Examiner, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

M – New Housing and Development Commission – Would create a new Housing and Development Commission to oversee two new departments (Economic and Workforce Development, and Housing and Community Development)

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You would like to see housing and workforce issues analyzed by new, dedicated agencies.  You would like to see the mayor’s office distribute more of its power to the board of supervisors.  You would like to see the Mayor’s Office of Community and Housing Development abolished because you’ve never heard of it, or because you worked there.  San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission hasn’t been as entertaining as you expected it to be.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You have had contact with the Mayor’s Office of Community and Housing Development, and it seems to work well as it is.  You believe that having a lot of people in charge of something important means nobody is in charge.  You don’t understand this issue well enough to get dragged into a City Hall power struggle.
  • More info:  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote No, San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Yes, Background from SF Public Press, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

N – Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections – Would let non-citizen parents and guardians of students enrolled in the San Francisco Unified School District vote in school board elections.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that non-citizens with a direct stake in San Francisco’s public schools might vote on public school issues more carefully than the city’s overall population of voters, so they should be allowed to help pick the school board.  You are concerned enough about the current state of San Francisco’s public schools to bend a few traditional voting rules.
  • Reasons to vote no: You are concerned that the complexity of identifying and vetting these non-citizen voters would be a costly distraction for the city’s election process.  You don’t want to establish any precedent for letting non-citizens vote in American elections.  You already voted against this – twice – and haven’t seen anything that would change your mind.
  • More info: San Francisco Examiner says vote No,  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, Mission Promise says vote Yes (and claims that the Board of Education agrees), Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

O – Office Development in Candlestick Point / Hunters Point – Would exempt office development projects in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point from the city’s annual limit of 950,000 square feet of new office space approvals.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You are looking for smart ways to build economic opportunities in two lagging neighborhoods without using public money.  You want to reduce the cost of office space in San Francisco.  You own land in these neighborhoods and want to cash in.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You are concerned about gentrifying some of most affordable neighborhoods left in the city.  You believe that city agencies are in a better position than voters are to make these types of decisions.  You distrust Lennar so much that you will vote against anything that will benefit them.
  • More info: Background from SF Public Press, SPUR says vote Yes, San Francisco Tenants Union says vote No, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

P – Competitive Bidding for Affordable Housing Projects – Would require three competing proposals be submitted to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development for any affordable housing projects proposed for city-owned property.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You are concerned that San Francisco will give away city property to cronies or incompetent developers.  You are willing to slow down the disposal of city property for the chance of getting more from it.  You want the throw up any roadblock you can to city government or affordable housing.  You are a small developer and you want some slim chance of developing affordable housing on city property.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe San Francisco is doing enough to find the best possible deals for city property, and you don’t want to add a bureaucratic obligation. You want to move as quickly as possible to develop more affordable housing here.  You understand that legislators won’t be able to improve the process set by Proposition P without another cumbersome ballot initiative.
  • More info:  San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, the arguments from Mission Local, SPUR says vote No, background from SF Public Press, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

Q – Prohibiting Tents on Public Sidewalks – Would prohibit the use of tents on public sidewalks, and would require the city to offer temporary shelter before removing tents.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You are so sick of San Francisco’s sidewalk tent encampments that you will take any opportunity, to have them removed.  You want to make sure that no tent is removed without offering its residents a place to stay.  Somehow you believe both of the first two things without recognizing the conflict between them.  You believe that San Francisco’s government still doesn’t take tent camps seriously.  You are a commissioned salesperson for REI.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You pay legislators and their staff to enact laws about these matters, and you are pretty sure that they can do it better than Proposition Q does.  You don’t want to let a tent remain just because temporary shelters are full.  You have seen the police remove encampments, and believe that San Francisco’s government has finally understood how upset residents are with tent encampments.  You work for REI, but you are not paid a commission on the tents.
  • More info: San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, background from SF Public Press, Ron Conway says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

R – Neighborhood Crime Unit – Should San Francisco’s police department be required to create a unit consisting of at least 3% of all sworn police offices dedicated to preventing crimes harmful to neighborhood safety and quality of life?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes: You believe that SFPD won’t take property crimes seriously until they are forced to.  You believe that putting officers in a unit defined by a ballot initiative will change they way they do their work.  You do a lot of meth and want to lower the odds of getting caught.  If you can pass Proposition R your next ballot measure will allot 10% of the police force to putting on bake sales to reduce your property tax.
  • Reasons to vote no:  If you don’t know the SFPD’s current org chart you’re pretty sure you shouldn’t be deciding how to change it.  You would rather organize a community meeting to express neighborhood priorities, then let your supervisor and the cops figure out the right solution.  You’re worried that the NSA will tell SFPD how you voted and you will live in fear for the rest of your life.
  • More info: San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote No, San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote No, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.  Very difficult to find credible sources in favor of R.

 

S – Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds – Would allocate all of the 8% base tax on hotel rentals to programs supporting the arts and family homeless services.

 

T – Restricting Gifts and Donations from Lobbyists – Would require lobbyists to identify, when they register to lobby, which city agencies and officials they plan to lobby.  Would prohibit lobbyists from making campaign contributions or gifts to city officials they are registered to lobby, and would prohibit them from bundling campaign contributions.

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You will take any opportunity to remove money from lobbying activities, and to restrict the power of wealthy special interests.  You do want undue influence over local politics, but all you have to offer is a really good brownie recipe.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You are a political incumbent in San Francisco.  You are a property developer and need every bit of leverage you can get to build 70 storeys in Noe Valley.  You can’t imagine that money would ever influence the angels running San Francisco’s government – shame on the authors of this initiative!
  • More info: SPUR says vote No, San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes (with very odd arguments), Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

U – Affordable Rate Housing Requirements for New Developments – Would increase the income level required to qualify a household for affordable housing, to 110 percent of median income.

 

V – Tax on Distributing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages – Shall all soda and sugary beverages sold in San Francisco be taxed at the rate of 1 cent per ounce?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You think the city should use taxes to encourage healthy diets.  You know you are subsidizing health care for San Francisco’s low-income residents, and you would like to reduce the cost of this program.  You just realized it’s not a ‘grocery tax,’ and now you’re angry.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You get enough ‘nudging’ from your family, and don’t need it from local government.  You love soda, but that extra few cents on each serving would just put it out of reach.  You still believe it’s a grocery tax.  You’re an unethical dentist.
  • More info:  San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

W – Increase Real Estate Transfer Tax on $5 Million+ Properties – Shall San Francisco add increase the tax on the sale of houses and property worth over $5 million, depending on sales price, to a maximum new tax rate of 3%?

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe anyone selling property worth this much can afford to lose a little more to taxes.  You agree that the city can use the revenue, and better that the money comes from landlords than from parking tickets or MUNI fares.  You believe it’s a necessary step toward outlawing private property altogether.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You understand that 70% of San Franciscans are renters, and think it is wrong to exploit this majority to seize private property.  You believe that San Francisco’s government should focus on operating more efficiently instead of just raising taxes and fees.  You are lucky enough to have a home here, and Proposition 13’s tax protections aren’t good enough.  It’s a long ballot, and at M you resolved to vote No on everything else.
  • More info: San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters says vote Hell Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, SPUR says vote No (but for more silly reasons), Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

X – Space for Arts, Small Business and Community Organizations – Would require developers to provide space to replace any locations zoned for neighborhood arts, small businesses or community services of certain sizes, for any of these displaced by a development project in the Mission or South of Market neighborhoods.

  • Recommend: No
  • Reasons to vote yes:  You believe that real estate developers are making so much money in San Francisco that they should be forced to subsidize artists, small businesses and community organizations in these neighborhoods.  You want to start one of these community service organization things, and this might help, or not, you’re not sure, but you sure as hell can’t draw.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You don’t care much about imposing obligations on developers in these good times, but you worry that this will stop responsible development when the bubble bursts.  You think that San Francisco has too much red tape as it is.  Even if you did want to keep artists in San Francisco, you are concerned that everyone will claim to be one of these organizations if the initiative passes, and real artists will see no help.  Anyway, you sure as hell can’t draw.
  • More info: San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote Yes, SPUR says vote No (this time with good reasons), San Francisco Chronicle says vote No, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

 

RR – BART Safety, Reliability and Traffic Relief – Should BART issue $3.5 billion of new bonds to upgrade tracks, tunnels and control systems?

  • Recommend: Yes
  • Reasons to vote yes:  As much as you hate voting for bond issues, you agree that BART is an essential service badly in need of upgrades to tracks and stations.  You commute by BART, and you know how dingy it has become.  You commute by car and would love the extra room created by BART increasing its train frequency from 23 to 30 trains per hour.  You’ve never met a bond issue you didn’t love.
  • Reasons to vote no:  You believe that these bonds will be unnecessary if BART’s management makes reasonable efforts to control its labor costs. You think BART riders should pay for any system upgrades.  You live and work in San Francisco and would like to reduce competition for your job here.More info: San Francisco Bay Guardian says vote Yes, San Francisco Chronicle says vote Yes, Official San Francisco Voter Guide.

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