It would be almost impossible for any pedestrian, driver, and cyclist traveling through the city to avoid the multitude of billboards, pamphlets, flyers, and banners promoting a certain stance on the many ballot measures (also known as propositions) up for vote next month. With vague over-simplistic statements such as “No On Gridlock” or “Vote Yes On G” it can be difficult to ascertain the true purpose of the propositions and its affects on the city if approved. We visited the San Francisco’s ballot measure website to better understand each of the 12 propositions (A through L) and summarize the overall purpose. Below is the result of our findings.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-a-san-francisco-transportation-and-road-improvement-bond”]Proposition A calls for wide scope enhancements to the city’s transportation, transit, and road infrastructure. The improvements include modernizing Muni facilities, updating traffic signals, installing bike lanes, and adding pedestrian safety features such as new corner bulb-outs, median islands and speed tables. Funding for these enhancements will come from a new $500,000,000 bond paid for by the city’s property taxes. As property taxes vary each year based on new and retiring debt it is unclear whether the actual property tax rate (currently at 1.1743%) will grow as a result of this bond, however, the measure does state that their will be a “resulting property tax increase”. $500,000 will be spent on an oversight committee that will review bond spending and a webpage will be created that reports on bond progress and activities.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-b-adjusting-transportation-funding-for-population-growth”]The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) pulls funding from multiple sources including the city’s general fund, passenger fares, parking meters, fees, and grants. Each year, the SFMTA is allocated a percentage of the general fund’s aggregate discretionary revenue (ADR), which was 9.193% in 2014. This proposition would increase the ADR allocation by a value matching the city’s annual population growth rate. For example, if the base ADR rate was 9.193% in 2015 and the population growth was 2% then the overall funds allocated to SFMTA from the general fund’s ADR would be 11.93%. The added money from the extra 2% would be divided 75% to Muni’s railway and 25% to street safety improvements.
C – Children’s Fund; Public Education Enrichment Fund; Children and Families Council; Rainy Day Reserve
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-c-childrens-fund-public-education-enrichment-fund-children-and-families-council-rainy-day-reserve-20″]Proposition C contains a myriad of changes that expand, extend, and increase child and youth care within San Francisco. Proponents of the measure argue that increased support for children is necessary because state spending per student is one of the lowest in the country, the amount of poor African American and Latino children has increased over the last five years, and the city needs to attract more families with young children to combat the overall child population decline.
The city’s Children Fund was created in 1991 to offer child care and after school programs to children 18 years or younger. The measure would extend the fund through 2041, broaden the benefits to include transitional aged youth ages 18 to 24, increase yearly funding allocation by 25%, and improve transparency, efficiency, and management of fund spending through a new advisory committee. Instead of increasing taxes, the new allocated money would be taken from other fund programs including the MTA, libraries, and the Public Education and Enrichment Fund (PEEF). If approved, the measure would increase funding from $49.1 million last year to roughly $65.4 million annually.
The measure will also make changes to the PEEF, a fund created in 2004 to increase sports, libraries, arts and music programs in public schools. Changes include extending the fund through 2041, increasing the scope of early education programs to children three to five years of age, removing in-kind services thereby increasing the city’s cash obligations, and holding annual funding steady even through budget deficits. The current annual city contribution to PEEF is $77.1 million.
During years where the city is flushed with cash from excess revenues, 50% of the excess money is funneled to a Rainy Day reserve. This measure splits the Rainy Day reserve into a City Rainy Day reserve and School Rainy Day reserve. To avoid layoffs and program cuts during years of economic downturn, the San Francisco School District can tap into the School Rainy Day reserve.
At the end of the document there is an unrelated section that dissolves the taxi commission.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-d-retiree-health-benefits-for-former-redevelopment-agency-and-successor-agency-employees”]Prior to California’s February 1, 2012 dissolution of redevelopment agencies, employees working for these agencies used the state to manage their pensions and health benefits. After the agencies dissolved, many employees of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency moved to other city departments that managed health benefits using the city’s own health care program. These transitioned employees (many near retirement) had no credit towards the city’s retiree health benefits, since their benefits were originally managed by the state. Proposition D credits these employees for time served and gives them the option to elect into the city’s health benefits during retirement.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-e-tax-on-sugar-sweetened-beverages”]Proposition E, known as the Soda Tax, would impose a two cent tax on distributors for every ounce of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) they sell in San Francisco. The 19 page document describes in detail sugary drinks’ health effects, definition of an SSB, types of products under the new tax, and where the new tax revenue will be spent. Consumers would ultimately pay for the tax increase which would amount to an additional $1.36 for two litter soda bottles and $0.16 more for 8 ounce cans. The tax is meant to discourage soda consumption and fund programs that promote health and prevent obesity in low income communities.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-f-pier-70″]Proposition F gives developer Forest City expanded room to redevelop Pier 70, a large industrial and historic pier along San Francisco’s bay waterfront. If approved, the measure will increase height limits from 40 to 90 feet and authorize the creation of 2,000 housing units (30% affordable) and 2,000,000 sq. feet of office space. The developer envisions the 28 acre site to become a new district of offices, homes, art facilities, retail and parks.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-g-additional-transfer-tax-on-residential-property-sold-within-5-years-of-purchase”]The city has seen an increase in investors buying out small apartment buildings, evicting long term rent controlled tenants, and reselling the building for a large profit as single family homes or tenancy in common properties. With stories of the city’s elderly being kicked out of their homes, Proposition G was added to the November ballot to curb these “flip” sales and reduce the amount of no fault evictions. The proposition imposes a steep surtax to any building between 2 and 30 units resold within the first five years of the initial sale. The tax starts at 24% of building value in the first year and gradually drops to 14% in year five.
H – Requiring Certain Golden Gate Park Athletic Fields To Be Kept As Grass With No Artificial Lighting
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-h-requiring-certain-golden-gate-park-athletic-fields-to-be-kept-as-grass-with-no-artificial-lighting”] In response to an effort to add artificial turf and nighttime lighting to certain fields in the western part of Golden Gate Park, Proposition H was created to disallow such unnatural environmental changes. The measure contends that such changes are both health and environmental hazards, and violate the park’s master plan in keeping the park’s west side natural for residents escaping nearby “urban pressures”.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-i-renovation-of-playgrounds-walking-trails-and-athletic-fields”]Several city departments and groups want to increase the amount of city playgrounds and athletic fields by renovating areas in Golden Gate Park that are plagued by poor drainage, dead grass, and gopher holes. The renovations include adding artificial turf and nighttime lighting. Opponents to these changes created Proposition H and contend the changes will have negative effects to the environment and resident health. In response, Proposition I was created to approve the park changes even if Proposition H passes provided Proposition I passes with more votes.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-j-minimum-wage-increase”]The city’s hourly minimum wage, currently set to $10.74, was initially set to $8.50 in 2005 and gradually increased each year based on the consumer price index. Today, proponents of Proposition J seek to grow the minimum wage by a greater rate that sets a new baseline amount of $15.00 by 2019. Thereafter, the wage would then gradually increase based on the consumer price index.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-k-affordable-housing”]Proposition K creates a non-binding policy declaration that affirms the city’s commitment to construct or rehabilitate 30,000 new homes by 2020. 30% of these homes will be marked as affordable for those making moderate and low incomes, and 50% will be targeted to working middle class. The Mayor and Board of Supervisors will devise a plan to outline funding, land acquisition, and public housing rehabilitation strategies to achieve this housing goal. As the proposition is a nonbinding measure, it does not specifically and legally commit any building, district, or area to have a percentage of affordable housing above what is currently required by city law.
[maxgallery name=”ballot-measure-2014-l-policy-regarding-transportation-priorities”]Within the last five years, the city’s transportation policies have dramatically increased support for bicycles and public transit. This increased support has come at the expense of automobiles, as added bike lanes, reduced parking spaces, and increased car fines have made owning a car more difficult, more expensive, and less efficient. Proposition L seeks to reduce parking meter expansion, add funding for parking garages, add automobile representation in the SFMTA, and apply pressure to the Board Of Supervisors to enact legislation that preserves the importance and usage of the automobile within the city.
We found reading the ballot measures an arduous endeavor as many are hard to understand due to their length, ambiguous verbiage, and complicated technical terms that average voters will more than likely not understand. Examples include Proposition G’s stating a 24% tax increase as a $120 surtax for each $500 and Proposition C’s long 52 page document containing too much detail for voters to read and comprehend. Additionally, the propositions are presented as poorly scanned PDF documents that are not text searchable with many containing already approved text from previously signed charters and ordinances.
Despite obstacles comprehending each ballot measure, we felt the effort a worthy endeavor and recommend city residents to endure a similar experience to fully understand the meaning behind each of the propositions. Since many of the measures will have significant effects on the city’s affordability, livability, and accessibility, it is not only important to vote, but to understand what exactly is being voted upon.