Endorsements 2008: San Francisco measures

Yes, yes, yes on A and H. No, no, no on P and V...
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SAN FRANCISCO MEASURES

Proposition A

San Francisco General Hospital bonds

YES, YES, YES

This critically needed $887 million bond would be used to rebuild the San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, which is currently not up to seismic safety codes. If the hospital isn't brought into seismic compliance by 2013, the state has threatened to shut it down.

Proposition A has the support of just about everyone in town: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, all four state legislators from San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom, former mayors Willie Brown and Frank Jordan, all 11 supervisors, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Service Employees International Union, Local 1021 ... the list goes on and on.

And for good reason: SF General is not only the hospital of last resort for many San Franciscans and the linchpin of the entire Healthy San Francisco system. It's also the only trauma center in the area. Without SF General, trauma patients would have to travel to Palo Alto for the nearest available facility.

Just about the only opposition is coming from the Coalition for Better Housing. This deep-pocketed landlord group is threatening to sink the hospital bond unless it gets concessions on Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier's legislation that would allow landlords to pass the costs of the $4 billion rebuild of the city's Hetch Hetchy water, sewage, and power system through to their tenants.

These deplorable tactics should make voters, most of whom are tenants, even more determined to see Prop. A pass. Vote yes.

Proposition B

Affordable housing fund

YES, YES, YES

Housing isn't just the most contentious issue in San Francisco; it's the defining issue, the one that will determine whether the city of tomorrow bears any resemblance to the city of today.

San Francisco is on the brink of becoming a city of the rich and only the rich, a bedroom community for Silicon Valley and an urban nest for wealthy retirees. Some 90 percent of current city residents can't afford the cost of a median-priced house, and working-class people are getting displaced by the day. Tenants are thrown out when their rent-controlled apartments are converted to condos. Young families find they can't rent or buy a place with enough room for kids and are forced to move to the far suburbs. Seniors and people on fixed incomes find there are virtually no housing choices for them in the market, and many wind up on the streets. Small businesses suffer because their employees can't afford to live here; the environment suffers because so many San Francisco workers must commute long distances to find affordable housing.

And meanwhile, the city continues to allow developers to build million-dollar condos for the rich.

Proposition B alone won't solve the problem, but it would be a major first step. The measure would set aside a small percentage of the city's property-tax revenue — enough to generate about $33 million a year — for affordable housing. It would set a baseline appropriation to defend the money the city currently spends on housing. It would expire in 15 years.

Given the state of the city's housing crisis, $33 million is a fairly modest sum — but with a guaranteed funding stream, the city can seek matching federal and state funds and leverage that over 15 years into billions of dollars to build housing for everyone from very low-income people to middle-class families.

Prop. B doesn't raise taxes, and if the two revenue measures on the ballot, Propositions N and Q, pass, there will be more than enough money to fund it without any impact on city services.

The mayor and some other conservative critics say that set-asides such as this one cripple the ability of elected officials to make tough budget choices. But money for affordable housing isn't a choice anymore in San Francisco; it's a necessity.

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