Proposition A: City College Facilities Bond — Years of deferred maintenance have taken a toll on City College education facilities, and the City College Board of Trustees has placed this $845 million bond measure onto the ballot to fund safety and sustainability upgrades, including seismic retrofitting. The measure requires a 55 percent majority for adoption. Yes.
Proposition B: Earthquake Safety & Emergency Response Bond — As a waterfront supervisor who has been very engaged in our ongoing seawall resiliency and retrofit efforts, ensuring the city is ready for the next Big One is a top priority. I am co-sponsoring this $628 million bond measure to finance safety and efficiency upgrades at our fire and police stations, Department of Emergency Management 911 Command Center, and an expansion of our emergency fire-fighting water system on the west side of the city. This measure requires a two-thirds majority to pass. Yes.
Proposition C: Retirement Benefits for SFHA Employees Charter Amendment — Last March, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development forced the San Francisco Housing Authority to acquiesce to a city takeover after investigations revealed significant mismanagement and accounting issues by this quasi-federal agency. The several dozen remaining employees who transitioned to these new city jobs lost their accrued retirement and medical benefits. To ensure they can be covered for the time they’ve worked, we have to amend the city charter, which would take a simple majority to pass. Yes.
Proposition D: Vacant Storefronts Tax — We’ve all seen the uptick in storefront vacancies along our beloved neighborhood commercial corridors. From North Beach to the Castro to the Bayview, commercial property owners have inflated rents to levels that have led to the displacement of many longtime businesses. Some owners just decline to renew a lease or terminate it early, then leave the property empty for years.
The community and I recently stood with Elias Bikahi and his family at Caffe Sapore to entreat their absentee landlord not to evict the 23-year neighborhood institution over the holidays. It wouldn’t be the first time the community has fought to keep a favorite neighborhood business in place. We all remember holding a similar rally at Fog Hill Market after the property owner first Ellis Act-evicted the longtime rent-controlled tenants above the market, then gave Fog Hill Market their own eviction notice. Years later, the once-bustling little neighborhood hub still sits empty.
While the human cost of this kind of bad behavior is heartbreaking, landlord negligence also leads to neighborhood blight, like what longtime absentee landlords have allowed to happen to empty storefronts on the 500 and 700 blocks of Columbus Avenue. Familial disputes have also prevented consensus about how best to market and lease some of the most accessible and pristine storefronts along Columbus Avenue. The rest of the neighborhood then has to deal with the negative repercussions that come with boarded-up buildings, including attracting trash, graffiti, public safety issues, and decreased foot traffic. There are many reasons for this. Some landlords pay less in taxes on an empty property, and some have no incentive to lease their ground floor space when they’re generating significant revenue off of skyrocketing residential leases on upper floors. Of course, the retail economy has changed as a result of the “Amazon effect” and the convenience culture created by platform delivery models. I’m also very aware that local government has a role to play in making it easier to start a business in San Francisco, by streamlining the permitting process and making sure that we don’t burden new businesses with fees while they are waiting to open their doors. Much of this we’re already in the process of addressing legislatively.
In the meantime, Proposition D is our best opportunity to target bad actors and incentivize vibrant storefronts. It is a common-sense and completely avoidable tax, narrowly tailored to property owners who have inflated their rents and let their properties fall into blight and disrepair. It enjoys the unanimous support of the Board of Supervisors, the mayor, the San Francisco Democratic Party, and — most important — well over a dozen merchant organizations who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on this proposal. Yes.
Proposition E: Balanced Development Act — San Francisco’s housing crisis has been exacerbated with lucrative office development far outpacing the city’s affordable housing construction. Proposition E, which needs 50 percent plus one vote to pass, seeks to ensure balanced development by tying future office development approvals to San Francisco’s ability to meet state-mandated affordable housing goals. The Planning Commission approves a certain amount of office development every year, but those approvals are not contingent on whether or not there is enough housing to accommodate the increased workforce population. Proposition E would limit the amount of office space that could be approved by a percentage equal to the city’s shortfall in approving affordable housing development. The amount of affordable housing that should be approved would be based on current state mandates. The mayor originally introduced a countermeasure, but pulled it when it became apparent that Proposition E (the Balanced Development Act) was garnering widespread community support. Proposition E is a compromise measure that takes a reasonable approach to addressing our housing crisis by prioritizing housing for people ahead of corporate cubicles. Yes.
Remember to vote before or on March 3, and thank you for your consideration of these ballot measures.