Kim removes homeless shelter reform measure from ballot

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Under pressure from the Mayor's Office, Sup. Jane Kim today removed her sponsorship of the Fair Shelters Initiatives, effectively killing the measure that was set to appear on the November ballot, according to activists working on the issue. Sup. Eric Mar reportedly followed Kim's lead and also removed his sponsorship, telling activists he was deferring to Kim's decision.

“We hardly expected the supervisors would put a measure forward and then cave in before the campaign had even started,” said Bob Offer-Westort of the Coalition on Homelessness, which had asked Kim to be the lead sponsor of a measure that he said is the homeless community's highest priority.

The measure would have removed shelter beds from the definition of housing under the city's voter-approved Care Not Cash program, thus freeing up beds for the larger homeless population that is often denied space in shelters even as beds reserved for CNC recipients – who give up most of their welfare support in return for housing and services – often remain vacant.

The measure -- which was sponsored by Sups. Ross Mirkarimi, David Campos, and John Avalos, in addition to Kim and Mar, giving it one more than the four votes it needed to make the ballot – had been harshly criticized by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and other downtown groups, as well as Mayor Ed Lee and other moderate politicians, who said it would somehow destroy CNC and attract more homeless people to the city.

In a recent email blast, Chamber head Steve Falk called the measure “alarming” and was “effectively dismantling the nationally-recognized program.” He tried to use the 100 nightly vacant shelter beds as a rationale against the measure (despite the fact that was the very problem the measure tried to correct), and wrote, “This measure is nothing more than pure politics to turn out progressive voters in a crowded mayoral race.”

Kim and her staffers haven't returned Guardian calls for comments, and neither Mar nor Mirkarimi could be reached. But Offer-Westort said the arm-twisting by the Mayor's Office shows just how little things have really changed at City Hall.

“It sets a really bad precedent when once again a mayor bullies members of the Board of Supervisors to get his way,” he said, noting that Kim still claimed to support the reform in her conversations with COH members. “It certainly wasn't because she changed her mind about whether this was right or wrong. It had more to do with her concerns over the board's relationship with Room 200.”