SF supes reach tentative agreement on how to spend $181 million in ‘windfall’ money

On Guard column header Joe

By golly, people, we’ve got agreement.

Maybe.

For weeks now city officials have been camped out behind their respective bully pulpits trumpeting their thoughts, desires and wishes for how a more flexible $181 million portion of $415 million in “windfall” tax money from the state should be spent.

It’s been ugly. But now it seems the members of the Board of Supervisors are at least on the cusp of compromise with one another.

The Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund money, as its called, is seen as the golden goose to cure all of our ills — and like a kid at Christmas, everyone wants a dang pony.

Only in this scenario, every option is something real, vital and gravely important.

Mayor London Breed wants to use the windfall for homelessness and affordable housing, The City’s most dire crisis. Some on the Board of Supervisors want to use the windfall to wean San Francisco off of the deadly, wildfire-sparking Pacific Gas & Electric Co. by buying up infrastructure. Other supervisors think the windfall money should pay teachers, who are struggling to stay in our ever-expensive city.

So what’s the answer? All of them get funded. Kind of. Sort of. It’s complicated.

Even as I write this, the negotiations are ongoing between the supervisors. “It’s a moving target right now,” said Supervisor Vallie Brown. She ain’t kiddin’.

To my understanding, Supervisor Sandra Fewer is exercising her negotiating muscles and had helped the quarrelsome supes reach a tentative plan as of 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

While some of it is still in play, what’s in place now will see the most flexible, and largest, portion of the ERAF windfall money go to affordable housing and homelessness.

For now, the grand compromise will see about $111 million go to affordable housing: $40 million for small site acquisitions, helping The City buy up vitally needed land for affordable housing, $48 million for the Mayor’s Office of Housing to develop affordable housing, $9 million for public housing upgrades in Sunnydale and Potrero Hill, and $14 million for The City to acquire already existing affordable housing.

The small site acquisitions may be a sticking point — Breed’s proposal only has about $21 million slated for the program, versus the supervisors’ $40 million. Supervisor Gordon Mar also said the program would deeply help the Sunset District provide much needed housing.

“Affordable housing is a top priority for my constituents” in addition to education, he said. “The small sites program is an extremely important affordable housing strategy for the Sunset and other westside neighborhoods.”

Roughly $45 million will go to homelessness and health support related to homelessness: $15 million toward supportive housing for the formerly homeless, $15 million toward new emergency homeless shelters, $6.4 million toward expanding navigation centers and $9.4 million toward health recovery beds.

This is another point of contention between the supervisors’ proposal and the mayor’s, who would prefer to fud 300 units of single-room occupancy housing for the homeless over four years with her $30 million supportive housing proposal. The supervisors’ proposal cuts that in half, funding it for two years instead.

A different pot of cash, the “rainy day” reserve fund, will go toward paying educators, and our energy independence will be paid for by yet another part of the overall $415 million ERAF funding that was previously thought untouchable.

SEE RELATED: Muni forced to cut funding for accelerated train purchase in favor of solar power, merchant bailout fund

It was previously thought the supervisors could only spend $181 million of the overall $415 million windfall, with the rest dedicated to “set asides” that must go to particular city departments. But some creative bookkeeping will actually see some of that set-aside funding, like Muni’s untouchable $38 million, spent on energy infrastructure instead of purely on buying new trains.

Same goes for the Public Library, according to public documents. Breed’s ERAF windfall proposal would see $9 million slated for a green space on Fulton Street and the replacement of a “seismic moat” at the Main Library, among other improvements.

The supervisors’ current compromise would instead see that $9 million spent on energy audits, replacing boilers at libraries citywide, and installing solar panels for energy independence at libraries in Eureka Valley, the Excelsior, the Presidio and on 9th Street.

This is a key part of the compromise proposal that stops Supervisor Aaron Peskin from needing to negotiate over the $181 million itself for energy needs, because it uses a different portion of the ERAF.

Tuesday night he told me, “it ain’t over til it’s over.”

Another key portion of the compromise includes pulling roughly $10.9 million from San Francisco’s rainy day reserve, which right now sits at about $50 million, toward paying educators.

It’s a smart move, some supervisors said, because it also removes educator pay from the debate over the ERAF funding writ large.

“Growing the pie is a win-win,” said Supervisor Matt Haney. “No one should be pitting homelessness resources against schools and teachers. Both are critical, urgent priorities, and we can fund them both.”

I should emphasize here, these things are always in flux, and this is about as sturdy as a matchstick house until the plan is approved by a Board of Supervisors Committee on Wednesday.

All that’s left to see is what will change by midday — and if Breed will feel the supervisors have compromised enough.

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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