I want to thank the voters of San Francisco for ensuring that Proposition D squeaked across the finish line to victory.San Francisco is officially the first city in the state of California to approve a per-ride surcharge on Uber and Lyft TNCs. It was a long two-year journey, but with the partnership of Assemblyman Phil Ting and Senator Scott Wiener, we were able to pass state enabling legislation and then craft a local measure that is projected to bring in $32 million annually to hire more Muni drivers and parking control officers, as well as install traffic signals, crosswalks, and bike lanes. Because it was a dedicated tax, Proposition D had a tough hill to climb with a two-thirds vote threshold requirement — but San Franciscans affirmed our desire for less-congested streets and investments in traffic enforcement and Vision Zero safety projects.
We also passed Proposition A, a record $600 million affordable housing bond collaboration between the Board of Supervisors and the mayor. Of particular interest are new dedicated categories to fund senior and teacher housing. In addition, the voters saw fit to pass Proposition E, the Affordable Homes for Families and Educators Now Initiative, which I co-authored with Supervisors Fewer, Haney, and Walton. It will streamline the approvals for affordable housing on public land, including SFUSD. Special thanks to the teachers’ union and affordable housing developers for their partnership.
SPEAKING OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING . . .
We finally broke ground on 125 units of below market-rate affordable family housing and childcare facilities at 88 Broadway and 735 Davis Street.
After hearings at City Hall, we also heard from hundreds of low-income seniors about the barriers to accessing city-subsidized affordable housing. District 3, in particular, has the highest concentration of low-income seniors, many of whom live in Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) hotels. So in this past budget cycle, President Norman Yee and I created a new low-income senior operating subsidy (SOS) program that will ensure that some of our neediest seniors get safe and stable housing that will allow them to comfortably age in place (including at 88 Broadway and 735 Davis Street). With the passage of Proposition A, we are also gearing up to create affordable housing in Chinatown, with additional funding from our sale of the 530 Sansome Fire Station.
VIBRANT NEIGHBORHOOD COMMERCIAL CORRIDORS
We all know that small businesses make up the backbone of a healthful, liveable neighborhood but are facing unprecedented challenges. Earlier this year, I worked with SFMTA to create a $5 million Small Business Construction Mitigation Fund, which is now accepting applications for small businesses impacted by large city capital projects, such as Van Ness BRT and Central Subway. Additional city support will include a Fisherman’s Wharf–North Beach–Chinatown express shuttle until the Central Subway can directly connect tourists. My office has also been working closely with local family-owned business Mollie Stone’s to finally activate the long-vacant former Lombardi’s Sports site in Upper Polk, and construction will start soon.
I also passed legislation to make it easier for restaurants and cafes to open quickly in the wake of business closures in North Beach. Family Cafe on Columbus Avenue is the first small business to benefit from this new law, and we welcome Jessica and Tadayuki Furui (and their use of reusable dishware!) to North Beach. I have also allocated funding to kick-start a renewed arts effort in North Beach, including a dedicated organizer for North Beach First Fridays, in partnership with the North Beach Business Association. If you have an artist or small business that wants to engage, please contact my office.
I am currently drafting a Small Business Fee Relief program after my staff reviewed a long list of fees that small businesses may be required to pay before they’re even open. And finally, I want to let you know you can expect another small business tool on the ballot this upcoming March 2020 election: a Commercial Property Vacancy Tax, which is the closest we can get to legislating commercial rent control. Especially in our beloved neighborhood commercial corridors, high rents are pushing out local mom-and-pop businesses. These evictions often lead to vacancies when the space can’t be filled. Last month, we gathered out in front of Caffé Sapore in North Beach to support Elias Bikahi and his family, who are being evicted without cause after operating their family cafe for 23 years. Over 100 community members, including State Senator Scott Wiener and Supervisor-elect Dean Preston, rallied against another eviction and vacancy. My vacancy tax is narrowly tailored to disincentivize bad actors, and is easily avoidable if property owners make good faith efforts to actively fill their spaces. Tax revenue would be dedicated to small business assistance.
WASHINGTON SQUARE REOPENING AND GREENING OUR CANOPY
Finally, I’d like to thank Rec & Park and the broad community of stakeholders who helped ensure the Washington Square Water Conservation project became the first city project in recent memory to finish early and on budget. As of this reading, we’ll have reopened one of the city’s three oldest historic squares with brand-new pedestrian pathways, irrigation, and tree plantings. Washington Square is the community’s living room. Also be on the lookout for the additional 35 trees in North Beach we funded in the budget.
Have a safe and joyous holiday, and see you in the neighborhood.