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Lyft drops $100k against SF tax to fund housing for homeless

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(Jessica Christian/2017 S.F. Examiner)

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/on-guard/

Ride-hail giant Lyft just dropped $100,000 to fight Proposition C, the ballot measure that would tax rich corporations to house 4,000 homeless San Franciscans.

Yes, you heard that right: Lyft, not Uber, is pushing back against “Our City, Our Home” in a big way, On Guard has confirmed.

It’s perhaps strange for a company whose CEO bragged to TIME Magazine in 2017 that his company is “woke,” and especially odd since the often-vilified Uber, which has weathered myriad recent scandals, confirmed to On Guard they’re not planning on donating for or against Proposition C. The Company That Travis Built is sitting this one out.

Uber and Lyft both fall into the crosshairs of Prop. C, which would impose a tax on San Francisco companies with gross receipts topping $50 million.

Long-time political consultant Jim Ross said San Francisco progressive Democrats have long looked at Lyft as the more ethical alternative to Uber. Now they might find themselves steering clear of the pink-themed ride-hail.

“I don’t think it does it in one fell swoop,” Ross cautioned, “but I think there’s a lot of progressives in San Francisco that might think twice now.”

Ross speculated Lyft may be opposing Prop. C to gain favor with influential business groups and stave off any future measures that would clamp down on the ride-hail industry. A recent report by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority found Uber and Lyft contributed to half of all The City’s new traffic congestion, making potential legislation to curtail ride-hails locally a distinct possibility, Ross said.

The donation joins Lyft with the likes of tech company Stripe, which has donated $400,000 to topple Prop C., and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who has infamously sparred publicly recently with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff over backing Prop. C. Dorsey now plans to spend $75,000 to fight the homeless measure, the New York Times reported Friday.

Lyft told me, in a statement, “We support Mayor Breed, Senator Wiener, and Assemblymember Chiu in implementing approaches that most effectively address homelessness,” referring to the elected officials’ stance against Prop. C.

Jim Lazarus, vice president of public policy with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, who is leading the fight against Prop. C, said the Lyft donation “means contributions we’ve been working on for a matter of weeks have been coming in. There’s more than Lyft, there’s a lot of companies that contribute on these reports and will show up.”

Those financial statements won’t be revealed at the San Francisco Ethics Commission until Monday, October 22, the next filing deadline. But multiple sources, including Lazarus, confirmed the Lyft donation went to the Chamber of Commerce general PAC Thursday, which primarily donates to the No on C campaign. He also told me total funding against Prop. C would total at least $2 million in Monday’s filings.

“We happen to believe, and a lot of donors to the No on C campaign believe, that over-taxation that is disproportionate can jeopardize jobs in San Francisco,” Lazarus told me. Mayor London Breed also came out strongly against the measure, trumpeting the same rationale — jobs, jobs, jobs.

SEE RELATED: Breed comes out against homeless tax measure Proposition C

Yet an economic impact report by the San Francisco City Controller cast doubt on those claims, finding the overall impacts to jobs would negligible, amounting to a 0.1 percent difference in The City’s job market and gross domestic product over the next 20 years. The controller also found the measure “will likely reduce homelessness.”

Up to 4,000 people homeless in San Francisco could be housed under the measure, and 1,000 new shelter beds would be built in the next five years.

SEE RELATED: Report: Tax measure would ‘likely reduce homelessness,’ cost some jobs

One person who believes in “Our City, Our Home” is Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, as he and Salesforce are backing Prop. C to the tune of $2.5 million.

SEE RELATED: Billionaires Benioff and Dorsey trade barbs over homeless measure — where else? — on Twitter

Benioff said over Twitter that he believes funding homelessness is “binary.” You’re either for the homeless, or you’re not. While tweeting a San Francisco Examiner article on Prop. C, he wrote, “Many people have asked me over the last 2 weeks what made me finally decide to support Prop C?”

Answering that question, he tweeted, “After reading the SF city controllers report, reviewing our current homeless crisis, & discussing it with our city’s homeless advocates/NGOs — I decided to strongly support Prop C.”

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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