sf.citi Voter Guide: March 2020 Election in San Francisco

This election, San Francisco residents will have a number of important decisions to make in the March 3, 2020 election. The main one, of course, is selecting a presidential nominee in the Presidential Primary Election. Narrowing the scope down to the local level, San Franciscans will also be tasked with deciding on five important ballot measures.

Haven’t looked into any of these ballot measures yet? sf.citi has you covered. In true sf.citi tradition, we present our March 2020 Voter Guide, an easy-to-digest overview of the five San Francisco ballot measures you will see at the ballot, plus an explanation of where sf.citi stands on each one. Whether you work for an sf.citi member company or not, we hope you find our recommendations helpful as you navigate San Francisco’s March 2020 election.

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 3rd, or better yet, apply to have a ballot mailed to your house.

City College Retrofit

Prop A: City College Job Training, Repair and Earthquake Safety Measure
Sponsored by: City College Board of Trustees President Alex Randolph, Vice President Tom Temprano, Board Members Brigitte Davila, Ivy Lee, John Rizzo, Thea Selby, Shanell Williams, and Bryan Daley

Notable Opposition: San Francisco Republican Party

If passed, what will Prop A do? This measure would provide $845 million in bonds to fund much-needed renovations and retrofitting for San Francisco City College (CCSF) campuses and ensure these sites are safe, productive learning environments. The College Board of Trustees determined that through this bond CCSF must:

  • Make necessary seismic retrofit and earthquake safety improvements
  • Improve outdated, unsafe, or ineffective electrical and plumbing infrastructure in City College facilities
  • Repair buildings that leak or flood during heavy rains
  • Replace failing infrastructure systems at risk of catastrophic failure and address deficiencies that represent significant hazards to students, faculty, staff, and the public
  • Better prepare students for well-paid local science, technology, and arts related jobs
The timeline for construction will span over the course of ten years and projects will be completed incrementally.

Talk to me about the $$$: This measure would allow CCSF to borrow $845 million in bonds, resulting in increased property taxes at an estimated tax rate of 1.1 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Annual audits will be conducted to ensure funds are being administered appropriately and would require taxpayer oversight from a Citizens Bond Oversight Committee.

sf.citi Recommendation: Yes
Acting as an integral part of the City’s education system and workforce development pipeline, CCSF serves 65,000 students ranging from recent high school graduates to senior citizens. Now more than ever, it is vital that we invest in preparing local students to remain competitive for 21st-century jobs. This bond would allow CCCSF to grow and modernize programs, attract new students, and, most importantly, provide much-needed renovations and maintenance to its buildings. At sf.citi, we support expanding opportunities like this one for local students to receive affordable, high-quality education.

Note: This measure needs 55 percent approval to pass.

Earthquake Emergency Response

Prop B: Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond, 2020
Sponsored by: Mayor London Breed, Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Catherine Stefani, Gordon Mar, Ahsha Safai, Vallie Brown

Additional Notable Supporters: Supervisors Norman Yee, Aaron Peskin, Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen, Rafael Mandelman, and Shamann Walton, San Firefighters Local 798 President Shon Buford, Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Assemblymember Phil Ting, and San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu

Notable Opposition: None currently listed

If passed, what will Prop B do? This measure would pass a $628.5 million bond to fund essential updates to San Francisco’s emergency response facilities and infrastructure, enabling emergency personnel to respond effectively and efficiently to a citywide crisis.

Talk to me about the $$$. The $628.5 million emergency response bond is divided accordingly: $153.3 million to renovate, expand, and seismically upgrade the City’s aging Emergency Firefighting Water System, $275 million to strengthen, improve, and rehabilitate neighborhood fire stations and replace the firefighter training facility currently located on Treasure Island, $121 million to make seismic, safety, and operations improvements to district police stations and City-owned Police Department support facilities, $70 million to upgrade or replace critical City-owned disaster response facilities to assure the City can deploy aid, provide shelter, and coordinate emergency response activities, and $9 million to expand the 9-1-1 Call Center to provide more dispatchers, new technologies, and increased efficiencies.

sf.citi Recommendation: Yes
This is the latest proposal from the City to help fulfill its Ten-Year Capital Plan, which aims to build a more resilient and vibrant future for the residents, workers, and visitors of San Francisco through continued investment in capital facilities and infrastructure. sf.citi recommends voting “yes” to protect us and future generations of San Franciscans by generating the funds necessary to improve the City’s emergency preparedness facilities, resources, and services.

Note: This measure needs a two-thirds supermajority to pass.

Retiree Health Care Benefits

Prop C: Retiree Health Care Benefits for Former Employees of the San Francisco Housing Authority
Sponsored by: Mayor Lond Breed, Full Board of Supervisors

Notable Opposition: None

If passed, what will Prop C do? This measure would provide several dozen former San Francisco Housing Authority (HA) workers with retirement benefits through the creation of a Retiree Health Care Trust Fund. Qualifying individuals would include those employed on or after March 7, 2019 and before March 1, 2021, without a break in employment. After the San Francisco Housing Authority collapsed in early 2019, the City, at the request of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, assumed responsibility for some of the HA’s administration. The City subsequently proposed this measure to ensure former HA employees who found another City job received their retirement medical benefits despite the agency’s unraveling.

sf.citi Recommendation: Yes
Health care costs for retired City employees are shared by the City, retirees, and City employees. However, the HA is a local government agency separate from the City and therefore not entitled to the same retiree benefits. Prop C would make retiree health care coverage available to former HA employees based on their years of service and date of hire despite the shortcomings of their former employer. As sf.citi supports fair retiree benefits for deserving City staff, we advocate for the passage of this measure.

Vacancy Tax

Prop D: Vacancy Tax
Sponsored by: Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, Shamann Walton, and Matt Haney

Additional Notable Supporters: Mayor London Breed, State Senator Scott Wiener, Assemblymember David Chiu, Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Catherine Stefani, Gordon Mar, Dean Preston, Norman Yee, Rafael Mandelman, and Ahsha Safai, Small Business Commissioners Kathleen Dooley, Sharky Laguana, William Ortiz-Cartagena, and Miriam Zouzounis

Notable Opposition: San Francisco Small Business Owner Ben Matranga

If passed, what will Prop D do? This measure would impose a fee on landlords whose storefront has been empty for more than six consecutive months in San Francisco’s 40 commercial corridors. The fee would vary depending on the size of the space and how long it has remained empty. It should be noted, however, that not all landlords presiding over empty storefronts would be charged under this proposal. The measure includes exemptions for landlords who apply for and obtain permits from the City, are hurt by a disaster, or are making improvements to the property.

Talk to me about the $$$: After six months of a vacancy, the tax begins at $250 per linear foot of storefront in year one, increasing to $500 per linear foot if the property remains vacant into year two, and then doubling to $1,000 per linear foot for all subsequent years. The City Controller estimates that the tax would generate between $300 thousand and $5 million annually, all of which would go to the Small Business Assistance Fund (created by this measure).

sf.citi Recommendation: Yes
As the City faces an epidemic of empty storefronts, including some neighborhoods experiencing vacancy rates of over 20 percent, Supervisor Aaron Peskin decided to take action. Advocates of the vacancy tax tout this measure as a way to fill empty storefronts and inject life back into neighborhoods. Having a healthy environment for small businesses is integral to a thriving city. As a fierce supporter of small business, we fully back this measure as a way to combat blight and ensure the vibrancy of San Francisco’s commercial corridors.

Note: This measure needs a two-thirds supermajority to pass. The measure would be implemented in January 2021.

Limits on Office Development

Prop E: Limits on Office Development
Sponsored by: Tenants and Owners Development Corporation (Todco)

Additional Notable Supporters: Supervisors Norman Yee, Sandra Lee Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Dean Preston, Matt Haney, Rafael Mandelman, and Hillary Ronen, Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos, Former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano

Notable Opposition: Supervisor Catherine Stefani, Small Business Commission President Stephen H. Adams, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Rodney Fong, and UA Local 38 Business Manager Larry Mazzola, Jr.

If passed, what will Prop E do? This measure would place a moratorium on new commercial real estate if state-mandated affordable housing goals are not met. The idea builds upon Prop M, a 1986 measure that capped the amount of office space San Francisco is able to approve to build each year. To take this a step further, Prop E would lower the amount of office space that the City can approve by a percentage equal to any shortfall in meeting state-mandated affordable housing goals, also known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation.

This measure would also grandfather in current office projects underway and even expedite their construction, therefore allowing these projects to sidestep the restrictions in place from Prop M.

Talk to me about the $$$. Technically, Prop E does not have any monetary triggers. It could, however, have major monetary repercussions. Learn more in our recommendation below.

sf.citi Recommendation: No
The issue of affordable housing is one of the most pressing crises facing San Francisco. While sf.citi has repeatedly supported policies and ballot measures that increase affordable housing in San Francisco, we believe Prop E will have unintended consequences.

By limiting the amount of office development, many have expressed concerns that Prop E would significantly reduce the City’s affordable housing funds. Due to linkage fees — which the Board of Supervisors voted to increase last year — new office development projects generate a substantial amount of funding for affordable housing in San Francisco. The San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development estimated that over the next 20 years, Prop E would cut anywhere from $600 million to $900 million in affordable housing fees paid by offices and reduce property taxes by between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.

Additionally, according to a recent report by the City’s Chief Economist, the economic impact of this measure would result in an 8.5 percent reduction in the City’s GDP, a 5.8 percent decrease in the overall City population, and a nearly 8 percent loss in the number of jobs — all within the next 20 years. With no job growth, diminishing economic output, and a significant reduction in the number of small and medium-sized companies, some have speculated from this report that Prop E could be a recession starter.1

sf.citi supports a collaborative solution to housing and encourages City leaders to prioritize the development of new housing policies without intentionally limiting the City’s growth. For these reasons, sf.citi recommends “no” on Proposition E.

1 Said, Carolyn. “SF Economist: Prop. E Office Limits Would Slash Jobs, Hurt Incomes.” San Francisco Chronicle, 27 Jan. 2020,