What’s the story behind props A-L
Hi there! Look’s like you’ve stumbled on my post about the propositions currently up for vote in San Francisco. I read the whole voter guide so you don’t have to (but you really should read that big 200 page pamphlet…), and will try and summarize the question, highlight a few key comments, and add some commentary and my vote and confidence in that vote.
The very Orwellian-sounding “Ballot Simplification Committee” has very kindly prepared a digest for each local measure, which is what most of the voter guide is made up of.
Now, in general the proposition system seems problematic—and there is lots of opposition to it—as a way to pass new legislation for the city. I think that is the reason that my feeling on lots of these initiatives was that they were good high level ideas, but likely not very good laws. For many of those, it also seemed to be very difficult to hypothesize on the long-term macro effects of some very targeted laws.
Ok, let’s start. Here’s a summary. Details below. The “tldr;” of the whole “tldr;”— if you will.
Prop X: Summary Title — My Vote [Confidence Level]
Prop A: $500 Million Transportation Bond — Yes [6/10]
Prop B: Muni Charter Change — No [4/10]
Prop C: Children’s Fund/Education — Yes [7/10]
Prop D: Health Benefits for 50 People — Yes [7/10]
Prop E: Sugary Drink Tax — Yes [6/10]
Prop F: Allow Dogpatch Construction — Yes [8/10]
Prop G: Anti-speculation Tax — Yes…? [3/10]
Prop H: No Lighting at Golden Gate — No [6/10]
Prop I: Renovation of Golden Gate — Yes [6/10]
Prop J: Minimum Wage Increase to $15 — Yes [7/10]
Prop K: Nonbinding Affordable Housing Policy — No [4/10]
Prop L: Policy Regarding Transportation Priorities — No [6/10]
Prop A: San Francisco Transportation and Road Improvement Bond — Yes
The Question: To construct, redesign and rebuild streets and sidewalks and to make infrastructure repairs and improvements that increase MUNI service reliability, ease traffic congestion, reduce vehicle travel times, enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety, and improve disabled access, shall the City and County of San Francisco issue $500 million in general obligation bonds, subject to independent citizen oversight and regular audits?
This one seems to be a Prop to get more money to invest in improving muni, bike lanes and transportation safety. This seems to be the type of thing a bond should be for and these things definitely need considerable improvement, so overall it seems like a good idea.
However, $500 million does seem like quite a lot, and my skepticism that this money is used to successfully to make noticeable improvements is quite high.
Advocates say, “Prop A will bring San Francisco’s aging transportation
infrastructure into the 21st Century without raising
taxes.” However, my thought is that this money may bring SF’s transportation infrastructure somewhere to 1985, maybe. I actually think transportation is a huge and important issue and would much rather vote for an even bigger bond that tries to do something interesting to try and really improve public transportation here. Muni is a very broken system, and I’d mostly be curious and hopeful that it would work.
Fun fact from the legal text: it has been estimated it will cost $10.1 billion to improve the Street and Transportation System.
The taxes issue here is a he-said/she-said where the advocates state it doesn’t raise taxes and the opponents state it does. The Controller—who seems to give a balanced view throughout the guide—says it won’t affect taxes, so my thought is that the effect on taxes is will be to raise it some small amount.
There’s an interesting point from the rebuttal which states: “Instead, the Bond language uses the phrase: “Projects to be funded under the proposed Bondmay include but are not limited to…” And that is giving a virtual blank check to the SFMTA!” You know, this seems like a very reasonable argument. Why doesn’t it specify this?
In summary, I’m a yes with lots of skepticism!
Prop B: Adjusting Transportation Funding for Population Growth — No
The question: Shall the City amend the Charter to increase the amount the City provides to the Municipal Transportation Agency based on increases in the City’s population, with such funds to be used to improve Muni and to improve street safety?
Interestingly, the only rebuttal here comes from one guy who writes crazy things throughout the voter guide, which is a bit concerning. A key problem that I was only able to uncover with more research was that this is one of those measures that in order to spend money for it, money needs to be taken away from something else. I’m not sure what that something else is. The SF chronicle is also against this one, and I’m a no as well.
Prop C: Children’s Fund; Public Education Enrichment Fund; Children and Families Council; Rainy Day Reserve — Yes
The question: Shall the City amend the Charter to support services to children, youth, and their families by extending the Children’s Fund for 25 years and
increasing its funding; extending the Public Education Enrichment Fund
for 26 years; creating an Our Children, Our Families Council; and dividing
the existing Rainy Day Reserve into a City Rainy Day Reserve and a School
District Rainy Day Reserve?
This one seems to be a good thing, I believe in supporting education, and it is also supported by all of the members of the Board of Supervisors.
As a note, the opposing argument is from the Libertarian party and is a satire literally enclosed in <satire> (HTML-style tags). An excerpt: “Dear me, where’s your faith in government? Aren’t you a loyal, bleeding-heart constituent who always votes “yes” on any measure we kick down to you that has the word “children” or “schools” in the title?”
Lots of good groups are the sponsors of the paid arguments-for, and there are no paid arguments against. I think this should be a yes vote.
Prop D: Retiree Health Benefits for Former Redevelopment Agency and Successor Agency Employees — Yes
The question: Shall the City amend the Charter to make retiree health care benefits available to certain employees of the former San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and the Successor Agency?
This seems to resolve a technicality so about 50 people can get their health benefits. Other sources confirm that this is a really small amount and should get passed. It is supported by all the supervisors. I’m not sure why the Controller says that “In his opinion…it would have a significant impact on the cost of government…. The proposed amendment could affect the status of up to 50 people.” Seems to me something is off about the scale of that comment.
The opposition is written by this one crazy guy who keeps showing up, Dr. Terence Faulkner, J-D, who is making Gold Rush references.
I think it’s a yes vote, and I’m also surprised this needs to go to a city-wide ballot. It’s probably more trouble to try and understand the whole thing than the total cost.
Prop E: Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages — Yes
The question: Shall the City collect a tax of 2 cents per ounce from the distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages to fund health, nutrition, physical education and active recreation programs?
So what happens with this one? Lots of drinks get taxed a decent amount, and the proceeds to to fund health and nutrition programs.
The controller estimates it will generate $35 million to $54 million annually. With the current 837,442 population of San Francisco that’s $42- $64 per person. It’s also 1.75 billion to 2.7 billion ounces. That’s about 100 million 16 oz. cokes.
Now this is a really tough one, and is exemplary of many classic political issues. The issues at stake here are government paternalism, regressive taxes, and affordability.
The main supporters are medical and health advocates (American Heart Association and California Medical Association) and they cite that “Cigarette taxes significantly reduced smoking, a soda tax will reduce consumption of sodas and other sugary beverages that are driving the diabetes epidemic.”
The Libertarian party rebuttal sums up the paternalism argument succinctly as: “More government attempts to run our lives.” They also explain it isn’t just sodas, but also juices, ice teas, and sports drinks. Depending on how you feel about government paternalism, that would likely affect your stance on this proposition. I don’t think the tax here is extreme enough to be construed as the government “running our lives.”
I find the diabetes argument very strong, and I think the additional funding for school nutrition and physical education programs is a positive point.
The arguments against center mostly on affordability, arguing that in addition to making beverages more expensive, they also make groceries in general more expensive as this tax is spread across other items. I don’t think the 2 cents per ounce tax tips the scales on affordability though it does make things slightly more expensive.
F: Pier 70 — Yes
The question: Shall the City increase the height limit for new buildings on the 28-acre development site in the Pier 70 area from 40 feet to 90 feet; and shall it be City policy to encourage the City to proceed with public approval
processes, including environmental review, for this mixed-use project, and
encourage parks, housing, cultural space, and job creation for this site?
Basically there is this 70 acre vacant lot in the Dogpatch. They want to start improving on it and this just makes the height limit for building from 40 feet to 90 feet (pst, there’s already a 90 foot historical building there).
The components of the plan are to make parks, rec areas, new residential units, restore and reuse historical structures, preserve the artistic community, build new office space, make parking improvements, and new jobs.
The controller says it does not affect the cost of government.
It is supported by the biggest list on the book, including the Mayor, and the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association. There’s really no arguments against it in the book. I think it’s a yes vote.
Prop G: Additional Transfer Tax on Residential Property Sold Within 5 Years of Purchase — Yes?
The question: Shall the City impose an additional tax of between 14% and 24% on the total sale price of certain multi-unit residential properties that are sold within five years of purchase or transfer, subject to certain exceptions?
This is a very controversial proposition on a very important topic. Essentially the goal is to prevent speculation, and evictions caused by this behavior by adding a very hefty tax to the sale of properties owned for less than five years. The idea is to stop people from “flipping” these buildings by making a strong disincentive to do so. There are key exceptions from this tax such as if you live in the building, so the idea is that regular people living in their own home don’t get hurt, but the speculators just buying and flipping places do.
I think I’m voting yes, but I find this one very complicated.
My main worry is that it won’t do the thing it is trying to do, and may even have the opposite unintended consequences. I think people have identified a key problem, but it feels this proposition is legislating a very specific symptom, and it’s quite unclear what the long-term macro effects on the housing market will be.
Both sides start with an agreed upon point: properties are too expensive. The argument in favor says driving this is the flipping of properties, which I’m not sure is right. The opposing argument there, however, seems much more sound: “Prices have been trending upward for decades, the natural result of constricting supply via anti-development policies while demand increased.”
Also there are curious exceptions, such as: why are properties with 30 or more separate residential units exempt here?
It also seems strange that it taxes the full sales price rather than the profits on the transfer.
I think it’s a yes vote because I hope it is narrow enough to stop evictions (it seems what may be needed is a change to the Ellis Act?), but I think it’s unclear.
Prop H: Requiring Certain Golden Gate Park Athletic Fields To Be Kept As Grass With No Artificial Lighting — No
The question: Shall the City be required to keep natural grass at all athletic fields in Golden Gate Park west of Crossover Drive and to prohibit nighttime sports field lighting in these areas?
There’s a weird thing going on with H and I. Also if they both get approved they are conflicting. I’m not sure what the full backstory is but H is for keeping natural grass and not allowing nighttime sports lighting. There’s a strange comment from the controller saying that it could prevent a planned renovation.
I’d vote no on H. This is one of those that seems weird to need to be voted on by an entire city.
Prop I: Renovation of Playgrounds, Walking Trails, and Athletic Fields — Yes
The question: Shall the City allow renovations to children’s playgrounds, walking trails and athletic fields if such renovations, which could include installing
artificial turf or nighttime lighting on athletic fields, would double their
anticipated usage and if an environmental impact report has been certified?
It doesn’t sound so crazy to me to make improvements to allow more people to use the parks. The mayor supports it.
The rebuttal claims Proposition I is “poorly drafted,” and I’m not sure how valid that is. However, on the H vs. I issue here, I’d do no on H, yes on I.
Prop J: Minimum Wage Increase — Yes
Shall the City gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour
by July 1, 2018, with further increases based on inflation?
You should vote for this. It brings minimum wage from $10.74/hour or 22,400/year to $15/hour which would be $31,200 year.
Prop K: Affordable Housing — No
The question: Shall it be City policy to help construct or rehabilitate at least 30,000 homes by 2020, more than 50% of which will be affordable for
middle-class households and more than 33% of which will be
affordable for low- and moderate-income households, and secure
sufficient funding to achieve that goal?
Seems like a good idea, but in researching it more, it also seems like it doesn’t do much. This seems to just make something a policy. I’d go with a no-vote.
Prop L: Policy Regarding Transportation Priorities
Shall it be City policy to change parking and transportation priorities?
The text of this one seems more like a complaint than a productive law. It seems to set some policy around parking meters and work on building parking garages, and doesn’t seem completely coherent to me. The idea seems to be to advocate for car-owners rights rather than just public transportation. I think this is a no-vote.