The case against Prop. D

If you really want to clean up Market Street, it will require community input, a comprehensive revitalization plan, and real solutions for homelessness
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OPINION Proposition D is a classic developer's scam. It was written by a mid-Market Street property owner who is spending more than $250,000 million to push hollow propaganda pieces preaching the wonders of his bill. When you strip away the glossy photos and misleading language, Prop. D is an attempt by private real estate owners to put up huge, flashing billboards and keep virtually all the money for themselves.

There is all kinds of misleading information in this thing. Individual signs are limited to 500 square feet — but the legal text encourages property owners to cluster as many signs as they want to display a single, massive, synchronized, electricity-sucking advertisement. What really pisses us off about the campaign for Prop. D is how the backers market it as "for the kids." (Because what kind of monster would vote against helping the kids, right?)

But that's all a bunch of non-binding fakery. The 20 percent to 40 percent of advertising revenue that doesn't go straight into the property owners' pockets would go to the Central Market Community Benefits District — a self-selecting, self-reguutf8g group made up of the very landlords who own the buildings on Market Street. Then the CBD would get to decide how to spend the money with no public input or regulation. There's no definition of what the "youth programs" would be. The backers also plan on spending money on a new ticket booth and on their own staff and expenses.

Back in 2002, 77 percent of San Franciscans voted to ban new advertising signs anywhere in the city. The Planning Department has issued a brutal analysis of Prop. D, calling it an unprecedented power grab that would strip regulatory oversight of the billboards from the (public) Planning Department and hand it over to the private CBD.

The mid-Market area needs help, for sure. But Prop. D is not the way to do it. If you really want to clean up Market Street, it's gonna require some actual elbow grease in the neighborhood, some community input, a comprehensive revitalization plan, and real solutions for homelessness. Prop. D has zilch. If developers are serious about helping the underserved youth of the Tenderloin, why is there no binding language requiring a mandatory minimum of money for community benefits? Since when have digital billboards ever improved the quality of life of anyone — let alone cured poverty or homelessness?

We're pretty bummed at the miserable press coverage of this totally sneaky proposition. We're joining with a diverse group of community leaders and organizations, including state Sen. Mark Leno, Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, Sups. John Avalos and Ross Mirkarimi, School Board Vice President Jane Kim, Community College Trustee Steve Ngo, SoMa Community Action Network, the Coalition on Homelessness, the Alliance for a Better District 6, Senior Action Network, League of Conservation Voters, Livable City, and others in saying a big "hell no" to Prop. D. If Prop. D somehow does pass, we plan on working to put something on the 2010 ballot that would put real community input and oversight into this clusterfuck.

Jeremy Pollock and Ali Uscilka are on the steering committee of the SF League of Pissed Off Voters, which empowers young people to become politically engaged and educated on the issues. Since 2003 we've been organizing broad-based coalitions to create permanent, progressive, grassroots change. Read our entire voter guide at www.theballot.org.