Mayor Ed Lee’s $350 million bond slated for the June ballot has undergone last-minute changes with the removal of $54 million for an animal shelter that will now go toward fire stations, homeless shelters and health centers.
The last-minute change has raised concerns among some animal advocates. In addition, the cost of the bond itself is drawing concerns from small property owners.
Last week, the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee amended the bond to include the changes. The committee is expected to vote Wednesday on the amended bond, which would require approval by the full board to go on the June ballot.
Supervisor Katy Tang expressed concerns last week about the amendments.
“I had wished that any changes would have come a little earlier in the process as we were working on developing the capital plan,” Tang said.
After years of neglecting San Francisco’s infrastructure, city leaders decided to start long-term planning in 2005 by requiring a 10-year capital plan as part of the annual budget for the fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
Tang said she had a “huge concern” over the animal shelter being removed from the bond, while noting it was removed from a previous bond as well.
The City says it will still pursue the animal shelter at a later time using in-house borrowing, known as certificates of participation, although the project would cost taxpayers $35.9 million more.
Funding the shelter through the bond would cost $95.5 million with debt service, but with certificates it would cost $131.4 million, according to an analysis of the proposal from budget analyst Harvey Rose.
Sally Stephens, chair of the dog advocacy group SF DOG, said last week she was “very disappointed to hear that [the bond funding] had been pulled at the last minute.” She suggested the “last-minute changes” were contradictory to the concept of long-term planning.
The bond would require two-thirds voter approval. City officials say, in general, emergency and public health needs poll better than animal needs.
“The Mayor’s Budget Director, Kate Howard, and Board President, London Breed, requested that the [Capital Planning Committee] amend the bond to remove the Animal Shelter to make room for what they considered to be more pressing needs,” said Brian Strong, director of the CPC.
The bond proposal is being met with opposition from some small property owners. Josephine Zhao, co-founder of BetterHousingPolicies.org, which represents small property owners, said last week, “I have a problem that it is on the shoulder of property owners and only 50 percent can be passed through.”
Property owners can pass on 50 percent of the bond costs to tenants.
Zhao called on the board to allow for 100 percent of the bond’s cost to be passed through to tenants. She also called for the bond to include an additional $25 million to pay for street tree care, which in recent years has been foisted onto small property owners.
As previously reported by the San Francisco Examiner, the bond would invest $192 million into seismic upgrades at San Francisco General Hospital, $30 million in the Southeast Health Center and $40 million for a new Fire Department Ambulance Deployment Center.
Instead of the animal shelter, the bond would allocate $20 million for improvement of community health centers, $20 million for homeless shelters and $14 million for fire stations.