The two most important things on the November ballot are state Proposition 10 and San Francisco Proposition C. Both would address the housing crisis; both are desperately needed.
Prop. 10 would overturn one of the worst examples of a bad trend in California: The state Legislature likes to take away the ability of cities to deal with problems that the state won’t fix.
In this case, the Costa-Hawkins act bars local government from imposing effective rent controls. Under the law, cities and counties can’t impose controls on vacant apartments, giving landlords an incentive to get rid of long-term tenants.
Prop. C would do what San Francisco has needed to do for years: Tax the wealthiest corporations in town to pay for housing for homeless people.
Together, they could make a dramatic difference in this town: Prop. Cs money would provide housing for thousands of people currently on the street. Rent controls on vacant apartments would slow the evictions and displacement that create more homelessness.
So our position on this election is clear: The position any candidate for office takes on Prop. 10 and Prop. C is central to our endorsement.
Both measures are bitterly opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and the landlords. But both have a real chance of passing: Yes on C has a massive, broad-based grassroots campaign and has raised enough money to be competitive. Yes on 10 has a strong statewide campaign.
So no matter what else you do, go to the polls and vote Yes on 10 and yes on C.
A final note: The major forces of evil in San Francisco these days are Big Tech and Big Real Estate, with the Chamber of Commerce a close third. These individuals and corporations, driven by greed and a desire for private profit, have done immense damage to the city and their agenda of unlimited growth (with no concern for the costs to existing residents) is frightening.
Working through a superPAC called Progress San Francisco, they have already at press time raised close to half a million dollars to attack candidates they don’t like.
Anyone supported by Progress SF and whatever other Big Tech and Real Estate PACs show up in the next month should be opposed by every independent-minded person who cares about the future of the city.
Our complete endorsements follow
It boggles our collective mind that, in the great state of California, with so much political talent and potential, the best we seem to be able to do is put up Gavin Newsom for governor. Newsom was an ineffective and conservative supervisor, an ineffective and pro-developer, anti-tenant mayor, an ineffective lieutenant governor who sued his own city to allow more waterfront development … and now he’s the Democratic Party’s standard bearer.
Newsom did one amazing thing: He legalized same-sex marriage in San Francisco, and changed the entire national discussion. He went up against much of the party establishment, pushed the issue, and helped create the political environmental that led the Supreme Court to say that same-sex marriage is the law of the land. We give him immense credit for that.
He is running for governor in part on a promise to create single-payer health care in California – which is a great idea. But Newsom is now saying that it probably won’t happen in his administration – because it would require him to do what he has never been willing to do: Take on the corporate power structure.
Newson is a neoliberal, a supporter of the economic status quo, someone who has shown no inclination to promote policy measures that would redistribute wealth and income from the disgustingly rich to the poor and the middle class. He will do nothing to change the direction of California.
This is the best the Democratic Party can do? What a disgrace.
Neither Eleni Kounalakis nor Ed Hernandez is campaigning for Prop. 10. Neither has shown a clear progressive agenda. We can’t support either of them.
Secretary of State
Padilla has increased voter registration in the state, stood up to Trump’s charges of voter fraud, and will probably cruise to re-election against a little-known Republican.
Yee’s been one of the most progressive state officials for years, and we’re happy to endorse her for another term as controller.
Fiona Ma was a friend of special corporate interests (mobile home park owners, waste haulers, and others) as a state legislator, and during her time on the Board of Equalization, the agency has been so badly discredited that its authority has been all but eliminated. She has only a Republican opponent. No endorsement here.
Becerra has filed, at last count, 31 lawsuits against the Trump Administration. He’s become the president’s leading nemesis among state AGs, and deserves a chance to keep up the fight.
Lara is a huge supporter of single-payer health care, the author of a single-payer bill that failed to clear the Legislature, and we hope he continues his campaign from the post of insurance commissioner.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
This one’s an easy call – and important. Thurmond has the support of the teachers’ unions, and his opponent, Marshall Tuck, is a big charter school supporter. Vote for Thurmond.
Board of Equalization District 2
SF Supervisor Malia Cohen, the Democrat for this office, at first wouldn’t even vote in favor of a resolution at the SF Board of Supervisors supporting Prop. 10. She is nowhere on Prop. C. We can’t support her for a statewide office.
Kevin De Leon
Good for Sen. De Leon for challenging Dianne Feinstein. Our issue with the incumbent senator has nothing to do with her age; she is clearly still competent and qualified. We just don’t like her politics. De Leon offers a much more progressive, activist approach and is more likely to challenge Trump at every point and on every level.
Congress, District 12
We’ve had our issues with Rep. Pelosi over the years, and we still do today. She has made it clear that she represents not San Francisco but the national Democratic Party, and she’s more concerned about regaining her post as Speaker of the House than pushing the issues her constituents care about (she has, for example, insisted that she will not move to impeach Donald Trump.)
But she is raising money and working tirelessly to take back the House (which will at least allow Democrats to block the worst of Trump’s agenda) and she voted Yes on C at the Democratic County Central Committee.
Pelosi came into office in 1986 as the result of a power play by the old Burton Machine. She had never held any elective office, never even served on a commission. But she was plucked from obscurity and put in that seat to be sure that Harry Britt (who the establishment derided as a “gay socialist”) wouldn’t go to Congress.
At some point, she will retire – and she needs to make a clean break and not attempt to anoint a successor.
State Assembly District 17
David Chiu, the incumbent, supports Prop. 10 but just came out against Prop. C. Unacceptable.
State Assembly, District 19
We’ve had issues with incumbent Phil Ting; he backed Sen. Scott Wiener’s disastrous SB 827 last year. But he told us he is endorsing both Prop. 10 and Prop. C, and we give him immense credit for that.
Affordable housing bonds
Prop. A would allow the state to issue $4 billion in bonds for existing affordable housing programs. That’s an easy call; the only problem is that the $4 billion is way too low. Vote yes.
Housing for people with mental illness
This measure would allow the state to issue $2 billion in bonds for permanent supportive housing for mentally ill people. Vote yes.
This nice-sounding “watershed restoration” bond will also allow money to go for dams and does nothing to address the biggest problem with the state’s water system: The unsustainable farming practices in the Central Valley and Southern California. The Sierra Club opposes this, and so do we.
Hospital bonds for children’s health care
Again, this sounds just dandy: Who can be against health care for children? The problem with this $1.5 billion bond act is that 72 percent of it would go to private hospitals. Yes, they’re nonprofit hospitals, but it’s not clear to us why these big nonprofits (like Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford) ought to be getting public money. Vote no.
Prop. 13 expansion
State law currently allows people over 55 or disabled to sell their home, buy a new place of equal or lesser value, and keep their Prop. 13 tax exemption. This measure would allow seniors and disabled people to buy any house, of any value, in any county in California and keep that low tax rate. This is an expansion of a bad law (Prop. 13) and should be defeated. It would cost local government hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Vote no.
Gas tax repeal
NO, NO, NO
Republicans and anti-tax folks are trying to block the state’s new tax on gas that funds, among other things, transit improvements aimed at getting people out of their cars. Prop. 6 would also make it harder to pass new gas taxes. We agree that gas taxes aren’t the most progressive way to raise money – but the idea that we can discourage driving and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure is a solid one. Vote no on 6.
Daylight Savings Time
Since 1949, California has followed federal rules on Daylight Savings Time – and that can only be changed by a vote of the people. Under Prop. 7, the state Legislature could make DST standard all year long. That, some say, could have positive environmental impacts by lowering energy use during the evenings. There’s no reason this needs a vote of the people. We’re yes on 7.
Caps on dialysis charges
Prop. 8 would set caps on what providers could charge for life-saving dialysis treatments. It’s only one procedure, and not really a step toward single-payer, but it’s hard to oppose.
(Prop 9 was removed from the ballot by the courts)
YES, YES, YES
This is the most important issue on the state ballot. It would undo one of the worst pieces of housing legislation in California history, protect tens of thousands of tenants, and help fight evictions (and homelessness). That’s why the real-estate industry is going to spend tens of millions of dollars to defeat it.
Prop. 10 doesn’t impose any form of rent control, anywhere. It simply removes the state ban on effective controls, and allows cities to make their own decisions about how to regulate housing.
The bill in question is called the Costa-Hawkins Act, and it was passed in 1995 to stop cities like Berkeley, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood from extending rent controls to vacant apartments. Since the early 1980s, those cities had laws that set rents based on the landlord getting a “reasonable rate of return,” not the maximum possible profit.
A Berkeley landlord sued, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the vacancy-control law was upheld. Immediately, the landlords went to the state Legislature to try to ban rent control that works; they failed over and over again, as then-State Senate President David Roberti (who represented West Hollywood) refused to allow the measure to come to the floor for a vote. (Willie Brown, of San Francisco, then ran the state Assembly; he voted No on the bill, but allowed it to proceed).
When Roberti was forced out by term limits, in 1995, the measure passed. Prop. 10 would overturn it, and return the state rules to what they were from the birth of California until 1995: Rent control should be a local issue.
Costa-Hawkins requires all rent controls to cover only existing tenants; when a unit is vacated, that is, when a tenant moves out, the landlord can raise the rent to whatever the market will bear. So landlords have a major incentive to evict, buy out, or otherwise get rid of long-term tenants who are paying below market rent. That’s the source of thousands of dubious, even illegal evictions (and the cause of significant homelessness).
The existing law alsoexempts from rent control all single-family homes and condos and anything built after 1979.
Landlords argue that repealing Costa-Hawkins will slow the development of new housing and cause existing buildings to fall into disrepair. But we have 15 years of actual data that shows vacancy control worked, in three California cities, between 1980 and 1995. None of the horrors that landlords predicted came true. Instead, tenants had more stability (and more disposable income to spend in the local economy).
New housing construction today has nothing to do with rent-control laws. Investors want a quick return on development; they set initial rents and condo prices at a level that will give them that return, then build and flip. The days when small builders put up three-unit apartments with the intent of owning and renting them for many years to come are long over.
Prop. 10 won’t have any impact on new housing – but it will keep tenants in existing housing from becoming homeless, will discourage evictions, and will provide housing stability in cities that choose to use this tool.
Again: Cities that don’t want vacancy control don’t have to enact it. If Prop. 10 passes, that will be up to the Board of Supervisors and the mayor. Vote yes.
This measure would allow private ambulance companies to avoid labor-law protections by requiring their employees to be on duty during lunch and other breaks. Yes, these are first responders – but the private companies just want to be able to avoid hiring enough staff to cover all of the time that paramedics and drivers are needed. Vote No.
This one’s not easy. Prop. 12 would set stricter rules for the confinement of farm animals. It would require more space for chickens, veal calves, and breeding pigs. The Human Society and the ASPCA support it.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which opposes most commercial meat farming, is against it, saying that it doesn’t do enough to protect animal rights. We support it as a step in the right direction toward more sustainable and humane farming practices, but if you agree with PETA, you should vote no.
SAN FRANCISCO ENDORSEMENTS
Supervisor, District 2
This race to replace Mark Farrell, who resigned to become interim mayor, pits his chosen replacement, Catherine Stefani, against BART Board member Nick Josefowitz. Stefani has been a predictably conservative/moderate vote on the board. On the transit agency board, Josefowitz has been a big fan of building housing over BART stations. He’s campaigning on the promise of creating 3,000 new shelter beds.
Shelter beds aren’t a long-term solution to homelessness; that would be Prop. C, which Josefowitz hasn’t endorsed.
Supervisor, District 4
On the overall geopolitical stage of San Francisco, this is seen as a chance for progressives to pick up a seat. Katy Tang, the incumbent, decided at the last minute not to run for re-election, instead anointing her aide, Jessica Ho, as her successor. Ho has only lived in the district since March.
Her main challenger is Gordon Mar, a longtime labor activist who now runs Jobs with Justice. Mar has been a progressive leader for years.
But this is also a district race that will likely be determined by local issues: Housing, homelessness, transit, parks, schools, development, zoning, crime and the like. And the fact that Mar has lived in the district for 13 years and is exceptionally familiar with neighborhood concerns makes him a strong contender.
It’s also a district with a large population of union members, and labor is strongly supporting Mar.
Progress San Francisco, the Big Tech superPAC, has already dumped $50,000 into supporting Ho. That’s reason enough to back Mar.
Based on experience, as well as the issues, Mar is by far the best candidate, and would make an excellent supervisor. He’s yes on C and 10; Ho is not. Vote for Mar.
Supervisor, District 6
Matt Haney’s been an excellent School Board member who everyone knew was headed for higher office, and he’s got a broad base of support in D6 and citywide. He’s got a background in community organizing and tenant law, a clear understanding of the issues, and a proven ability to get things done.
His two opponents are Christine Johnson and Sonja Trauss, who are running a ranked-choice-voting campaign together. Johnson is a Planning Commission member who typically sided with developers, and she used to work for SPUR. Trauss is a founder of the SF Yimbys, and argues that the city needs to limit zoning and allow hundreds of thousands of market-rate housing units in the hope (and it’s little more than hope, since there is no evidence to support her thesis) that eventually prices will come down.
The Yimby agenda is not just wrong but dangerous. Allowing unlimited market-rate housing development leads to massive displacement of existing vulnerable communities, and the city doesn’t need an advocate for that discredited neoliberal position on the board.
Incumbent Jane Kim has not by any stretch been an anti-development supervisor, and Haney won’t be either. But like Kim, he will fight for as much affordable housing as developers can be forced to pay for and will put the interests of the residents ahead of those of the real-estate industry. He is Yes on 10 and yes on C. The Yimbys couldn’t come to a consensus on 10.
Haney is the clear choice in D6.
Supervisor, District 8
This race was effectively over in June, when Mandelman beat incumbent Jeff Sheehy in a special election to replace Scott Wiener, who went to the state Senate. He’s already demonstrated that he’s a progressive, thoughtful, and effective supervisor, and he will easily win a well-deserved full term.
Supervisor, District 10
- Tony Kelly
- Shamann Walton
D10 is often the forgotten district of San Francisco, the Southeast corner of the city and the neighborhoods with the worst toxic pollution, worst public services, and the least attention from City Hall. It’s also ground zero for new development: The district contains some of the last big industrial sites in the city (and some of last remaining areas that are zoned for production, distribution, and repair – and that offer good blue-collar jobs). Developers are drooling at the prospect of turning that land into high-end housing. Lennar Corporation wants to build 12,000 new housing units on a site that we now know is still contaminated, and perhaps radioactive.
It’s also one of the last neighborhoods with a sizable African American population (in a city where African American out-migration, driven by economic displacement, has been a crisis for decades).
So land use, development, and environmental issues are going to dominate politics in D10 for the next decade, and it’s critical that the next supervisor be independent of the forces that seek to transform this community and have a deep understanding of how city planning works (and doesn’t work).
It’s in that context that we give our strong first-place endorsement to Tony Kelly.
Kelly has been directly involved in environmental and land-use issues in the neighborhood for more than two decades. He was warning about the toxic dangers at the shipyard when many local politicians (and current candidates) were supporting the project. He has never trusted Lennar – a position that has proven prescient.
Kelly understands the issues of market-rate housing and the displacement that can be caused by housing developers. He understands that the private market will never solve the city’s housing problem. He understands the need to protect blue-collar jobs. He would be an excellent supervisor from D10.
Shamann Walton runs Young Community Developers and has been a resident and activist in the neighborhood for years. He has a broad base of support, from Gavin Newsom to David Campos, Hillary Ronen to London Breed.
We are a bit nervous about Walton because of his past ties to Lennar, which is one of the supporters of his nonprofit. On the other hand, he has an excellent record on the School Board, where the teachers union considers him one of their strongest and most reliable allies.
So we will endorse Walton number two – but if he wins, he needs to show the neighborhood that he’s willing to stand up to Lennar and other developers.
Mia Satya, Allison Collins, Faauuga Moliga, Li Miao Lovett
For a combination of reasons, this race is highly unusual: There’s not a single incumbent running. Matt Haney and Shamann Walton are running for supervisor; Emily Murase, through some bizarre confusion, missed the filing deadline. Hydra Mendoza, whose seat was up this fall, moved to New York. So three seats are up and three newcomers will join the board.
The issues are daunting. SFUSD has improved dramatically in the past decade, and is one of the best-performing big-city school districts in the state. But with the cost of living, it’s hard to attract and retain top teachers (who can make a lot more money in some suburban districts). The achievement gap remains stubbornly high. Many parents aren’t happy with the school assignment system, although all of the alternatives may turn out to be worse. Charter-school advocates continue to push the privatization of public education.
And one of the top candidates, Josephine Zhao, has made such radically transphobic comments that her supporters (including, sadly, state Sen. Scott Wiener and Mayor London Breed) were happy to see her drop out and stop campaigning. She remains on the ballot, though, and she hasn’t said what will happen if, as is entirely possible, she wins a seat.
So this is a race where voters need to think both politically and strategically. That’s why we’ve taken the unusual step of endorsing four people for three seats. Let us explain and lay out the issues.
Zhao’s attacks on transgender people, starting with her opposition to a bill that would have allowed students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as, and escalating to overall homophobic comments, have put the issue of trans youth in the center of this race. It’s a profound problem: More than half of transgender youth contemplate suicide by ninth grade, and almost all of them struggle in school.
That’s why we are endorsing Mia Satya, a transgender woman who has worked with youth and would be an incredible inspiration to students who could see her as a successful role model as well as an advocate.
But Satya doesn’t have much of a citywide campaign and even her supporters agree that she’s a longshot for the job.
That leaves us with the reality that three people are going to win – and it’s critically important that Josephine Zhao is not among them.
There are at least five candidates who we could happily endorse. But if the progressive movement wants to ensure that three solid candidates come in at the top in a low-attention, down-ballot race, there’s an argument that we should come together around a slate that has the support of both the teachers union and the Democratic Party.
Pretty much everyone supports Faauuga Moliga, who grew up in public housing, attended SF public schools, City College, and San Jose State, eventually earning a master’s in social work. He created a program that successfully helped hundreds of Pacific Islanders attend college, helped save Burton High School, and wound up as a mental-health counselor for the city. He would be the first Pacific Islander on the board; he’s also eminently qualified and deserves election.
Allison Collins is a parent and educator who has the support of the teachers union and the Democratic Party. She’s worked with Coleman Advocates and Jobs with Justice on community schools.
Li Miao Lovett was going to run for supervisor in D4, but backed off to avoid splitting progressive resources when Mar entered the race. She’s a City College counselor and would be a needed connection between CCSF and SFUSD on the board.
We also like Gabriela Lopez, a teacher at Flynn Elementary, and Monica Chinchilla. Any of the five – Moliga, Lovett, Collins, Lopez, and Chinchilla – would be excellent School Board members. We are endorsing the three who are most likely to keep Zhao and the right-wing agenda off the board, with a nod to Mia Satya.
Community College Board
Brigitte Davila, John Rizzo, Thea Selby
Our endorsement of three incumbents is an encouraging confirmation that one of the city’s most important institutions has survived a brutal attack and is generally in good hands. The board stood up to a rogue accreditor, kept City College alive, worked with the supervisors to make City College free, and is on track to move the school forward.
That said, there are still a lot of problems: The administration keeps trying to cut classes, set unreasonable enrollment requirements, and fight with the faculty, who are and always will be the heart of any educational institution. The board needs to take an active role in making sure that the gains of the past few years aren’t undermined by a chancellor who has a history of clashing with faculty unions.
That said, the incumbents have done a good job, and there are no challengers who offer any better alternatives.
Adachi is unopposed, but we want to take a moment to talk about his office and his accomplishments.
Since he took office in 2003, Adachi has turned the Public Defender’s Office into one of the premier criminal defense operations in the nation. He has been an outspoken advocate for criminal-justice reform, has taken on the police and the district attorney, has stood up to judges, and has pretty much personified what a public defender should be.
We are happy to endorse him for another term.
The San Francisco assessor could be an advocate for tax reform. The office holder could organize a statewide effort to reform Prop. 13, could be actively aggressive in taking on assessment appeals by big corporations, could work to make all of the city’s public records easily accessible on the web … there’s so much this office could be, and incumbent Carmen Chu has done none of it. Her challenger, Paul Bellar, has no political base and has proposed nothing that we consider significant in terms of reform.
BART Board, District 8
BART has a lot of problems. The system is overloaded (thanks to massive development in SF with no concern for transit infrastructure), the existing board bungled a bitter labor strike, there’s pressure to turn BART stations into (gentrified) market-rate housing, and that’s just the start. We’ve seen some move toward reform with the election of Bevan Dufty and Lateefa Simon.
This seat, which represents the west side of town, is open because Nick Josefowitz decided to run for D2 supervisor. Six candidates are running; our choice is Jonathan Lyens.
Lyens, who has worked as a contract analyst and in the mayor’s budget office, has plenty of experience with public-sector finance. He’s been blind since birth, and is an advocate for people with disabilities. He supports Prop. C and Prop. 10, and has the strong support of BART’s labor unions and the endorsements of the Democratic Party and former Sups. Tom Ammiano and David Campos. We’re happy to agree with them.
Local ballot measures
You can’t argue about the need for this $425 million bond to shore up and improve the Embarcadero Seawall. With rising water levels and tides in the Bay, critical parts of San Francisco’s infrastructure (think: BART and Muni) are at serious risk of flooding. The current seawall is old and falling apart. The entire planet, with the US in the lead, should have slowed climate change a generation ago; today, we have to deal with its reality.
We agree with the Tenants Union that there are problems with this approach. Why should all of us pay to protect massive overdevelopment along the waterfront – development that should never have happened in the first place? The law allows 50 percent of the cost of the bonds (which will total close to $1 billion by the time we pay them off) to be passed on to tenants; that’s clearly unfair. It’s time for the supervisors to re-examine the pass-through laws.
But on balance, we have little choice. Vote yes on A.
Prop. B sounds great: San Francisco needs a policy that requires not only the city but its contractors and businesses getting city licenses to inform the public about information-collection practices and limit the collection and sale or other dissemination of private information. All good.
But Prop. B also has a hidden flaw: It would allow the supervisors, without a vote of the people, to amend the Sunshine Ordinance. That has nothing to do with privacy and everything to do with the potential for elected officials, who are not always happy with the sunshine laws, to undermine a measure that the voters approved to ensure open government. Every journalism and open-government advocacy group in the city is opposing Prop. B. So are we.
YES, YES, YES
This is the most important issue on the local ballot. After decades of failed policies, it’s a plan that could actually make a huge difference in the homeless crisis in San Francisco.
Prop. C is the result of more than a year of work by the Coalition on Homelessness and other advocates to draft what the city has needed since the 1980s: A homeless policy that is rooted in reality.
Shelters aren’t an answer to homelessness. Housing is. And since many of the thousands of homeless people on the streets need support with mental and physical health issues, that housing has to include social services. And it has to be long-term affordable and stable.
That costs money, a lot of money.
The city currently spends more than $250 million a year on homelessness. That sounds like a lot – but it’s a small fraction of a city budget that totals more than $10 billion. And homelessness is by many accounts the single greatest problem San Francisco faces today.
Much of the money that the city currently spends goes for supportive housing – for people who were homeless, but are no longer living on the streets. If the city had enough money to double that commitment, then thousands more could be housed.
At the same time, the problem doesn’t go away if the city houses existing residents living on the streets – but does nothing to prevent more people from becoming homeless.
Prop. C does both, offering as much as $300 million more a year, most of which would go to supportive housing and homelessness-prevention measures, including rent subsidies and tenant protections. The money would come from a modest tax increase on the small handful of local companies with gross receipts of more than $50 million.
Pretty much every corporation that would pay a small amount more to the city received a far greater tax cut from Donald Trump.
Don’t be fooled by the Chamber of Commerce arguments that this is “the biggest tax increase in San Francisco history.” It’s a tax hike on the rich – the very rich – and nobody else. The city’s economist concluded recently that it will cause essentially zero job loss.
If you do nothing else, vote Yes on C.
We’ve always argued that cannabis should be legal, regulated, and taxed. This small tax on gross receipts of more than $500,000 makes perfect sense and won’t damage the lucrative and expanding industry. Vote yes.
Hotel tax allocation
It’s a tough time for the arts in San Francisco, particularly community-based, smaller institutions and artists. Rampant gentrification has displaced venues and studios; high rent and evictions have driven artists out of town. Prop. E would redirect part of the city’s hotel tax to support nonprofit cultural organizations, cultural equity programs, culture districts, and city-owned community cultural centers. It’s overdue and makes perfect sense. Vote yes on E.