Stirring up San Francisco’s alphabet soup ballot

With an increasingly unpopular mayor, a divided Board of Supervisors and polls showing most San Franciscans believe The City is moving in the wrong direction, it’s perhaps no surprise voters are being asked to weigh in on a series of major issues at the ballot box this November.

The two dozen local ballot measures this fall present voters with an alphabet soup of choices ranging from Propositions A to X. The decisions voters make will help decide key battles on some of the biggest issues facing The City such as housing, Muni, homelessness, education and public safety. The thread through most of these measures are the questions raised by what’s happened to San Francisco during the luxury condo boom and eviction and displacement waves of the last five years: What kind of city will San Francisco be, and who will it be for?

As a starting point to prepare for the November ballot quiz, here are the 24 local measures that will appear on the San Francisco ballot this November, grouped by category, along with a short description of a few of the most high-profile measures.

Housing and development measures

Proposition P: Bidding Rules for Affordable Housing Projects

Proposition U: Changing Affordable Housing Requirements for Private Developments

The Association of Realtors spent more than $250,000 to pay for petition signatures to qualify these twin measures for the ballot. Prop. P seeks to shift affordable housing projects away from nonprofits to private developers, while Prop. U would turn new affordable housing into higher-cost (and higher-profit) housing. Sometimes corporate interests try to hijack the ballot initiative process for financial gain as the real estate lobby is trying to do here with these Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum measures. P-U, indeed.

Proposition C: Loans to Finance Acquisition and Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing

Proposition O: Office Development in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point

Proposition X: Requirements for Changing the Use of Certain Properties

Good government measures

Proposition M: Affordable Housing and Development Commission

Currently, there is no real transparency or oversight of the two powerful but largely obscure city agencies responsible for building affordable housing and making sure The City gets the best deal in development agreements with developers. Prop. M would establish an independent commission responsible for letting the sun shine in on the Offices of Housing and Economic Development so people can see how they are doing the public’s business.

Proposition D: Vacancy Appointments and Letting Voters Elect District Supervisors

Proposition E: Responsibility for the Maintenance of Street Trees

Proposition F: Youth Voting in Local Elections

Proposition G: Police Oversight and Accountability

Proposition H: Independent Public Advocate (Full disclosure, I’m managing the Yes on H campaign)

Proposition L: Balancing MTA Appointments

Proposition N: Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections

Proposition R: Neighborhood Crime Unit

Proposition T: Restricting Gifts and Campaign Contributions from Lobbyists

Money measures

Proposition V: Tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Prop. V would place a tax of one cent per ounce on sugary soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks to encourage healthier habits and raise funds for public health and education, as the cities of Berkeley and Philadelphia have already done. The soda industry fears this measure so much they deluged San Francisco voters with more than $10 million in negative ads to narrowly defeat a similar measure on the ballot in 2014 and will likely try that again this time.

Proposition A: School Bonds

Proposition B: City College Parcel Tax

Proposition I: Funding for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities

Proposition J: Funding for Homelessness and Transportation

Proposition K: General Sales Tax

Proposition S: Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds to the Arts & Family Homeless Services

Proposition W: Luxury Real Estate Tax to Fund Education

Lastly, perhaps it’s fitting that in the year where the craziest reality show on TV is the Republican presidential nominee there is also one hot-button social issue on the San Francisco ballot cynically put there to target a vulnerable group for pure political gain. That would be Proposition Q, a measure that goes after the homeless by purporting to “Prohibit Tents on Sidewalks” — which other city laws already do.

The real story is that Supervisor Mark Farrell is trying to get elected mayor in 2019 by claiming that he alone can magically solve a complex problem with a slogan that demonizes a vulnerable group of people who can’t defend themselves. Will the Donald Trump playbook work in San Francisco? We’ll see.

Along with a regional BART bond measure (Measure RR), 17 statewide measures and candidates running for federal, state and local offices ranging from President of the United States to Community College Board, there is a lot at stake this fall. Get informed by reading the full text of any of these measures at And most importantly, vote in November — San Francisco’s future needs you to help shape it.

Jon Golinger is an environmental attorney who lives in North Beach.

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