It’s an old political saw, but it’s worth discussing: Are you better off today in San Francisco that you were five years ago? If you’re a tenant, or a person making a middle-class income or less, or if you ride Muni, or if you care about homelessness and displacement, the answer is almost certainly worse.
The agenda that the late Mayor Ed Lee started with the tech boom, and his successor Mayor London Breed has largely continued, has been devastating to this city. Income inequality is soaring. Homelessness gets worse every year. Thousands of residents lose their homes to evictions and displacement. The streets are so clogged with Uber and Lyft vehicles that Muni can’t get through – and the cost of living in this town is so high that the bus system can’t hire enough drivers to keep the fleet moving.
The mayor has no credible opposition, and will win a four-year term. But in other ways, this election is a referendum on her policies. In D5, her appointed candidate faces a strong progressive challenge. A reformer who wants to change the way we address criminal justice is running against the mayor’s candidate.
More than politics is at stake – it’s the future of the city. Our endorsements follow.
The real race for mayor of San Francisco was in May, 2018, when London Breed narrowly defeated Mark Leno, with Jane Kim in a close third. Breed, as widely expected, is now running with no serious opposition.
Breed ran in 2018 as the candidate of the status quo, someone who would not disrupt the tech boom or try to make any dramatic steps toward addressing income inequality. Her administration has been much as we expected. She opposed Prop. C, the measure to tax tech wealth to address homelessness. She’s continued the homeless sweeps. Her office is leading the opposition to a measure that would increase the impact fees developers pay for affordable housing.
Breed is pushing for a $600 million affordable housing bond, and supports the tax on Uber and Lyft to pay for Muni. We’re glad she’s supporting a buyout of PG&E. But she’s not a mayor who will lead the city in a direction of greater equity; she’s not offering anything close to the profound and dramatic changes San Francisco needs. She will be re-elected easily, but we can’t support her for another term.
Board of Supervisors
You can see the importance of the D5 race – and the key differences between the two leading candidates – reflected in an issue that’s about to come before the Board. Sup. Matt Haney wants to raise the fees that developers pay the city for affordable housing. The fee hasn’t been raised in more than 20 years, and the city’s own studies show that new office development creates a big demand for affordable housing – enough that developers ought to be paying $193 a square foot just so the city’s breaks even.
Haney wants to raise the rate to $69. That’s extremely modest. And yet the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development is opposing it, the Planning Department tried to reduce the proposal to $24, and since the mayor oversees those two agencies, it appears at this point she doesn’t want Haney’s measure to go through.
It’s the developers against affordable housing. Seven supervisors have signed on with Haney – one short of what’s needed to override a mayoral veto.
Challenger Dean Preston strongly supports the proposal. So far, incumbent Sup. Vallie Brown does not.
The stakes are high for this lone supervisorial race, made possible because the City Charter requires appointed incumbents like Brown to face the voters at the next possible election. Preston is running as a Democratic Socialist, and he has a strong agenda for reform. He supports a Green New Deal for San Francisco. He supports the establishment of a public bank. He argues that developers and big tech companies can and should pay higher taxes and fees to fund community needs. A career tenant lawyer and organizer, he would be one of the strongest voices on the board for renter rights.
You can see the difference equally clearly with the Chronicle’s recent endorsement of Brown. The paper backed her because she specifically said that commercial, market-rate development is a key part of the city’s affordable housing future. That’s never worked before.
Brown has been largely a vote for Breed’s agenda. She refused, for example, to support a measure to create a commission to oversee homelessness, something progressives supported and the mayor opposed. D5 is one of the most progressive districts in the city – and at a time when San Francisco desperately needs major political change, Brown is not the candidate. We strongly support Dean Preston for D5 supervisor.
Herrera has no opposition – and for good reason. He’s been an excellent city attorney, willing to stand up to everyone from Donald Trump to the tobacco industry. He did the early legal work to win same-sex marriage rights. He’s been a strong consumer advocate and used the power of his office to take on powerful interests both locally and nationally. He’s gone after corrupt landlords. Now he’s helping lead the fight to bring public power to San Francisco through a PG&E buyout. He clearly deserves another term.
It’s been a century since the voters had a chance to weigh in on the District Attorney’s Office with no incumbent on the ballot. George Gascon is retiring because he has no way to run a credible re-election effort: Conservatives are mad that he has supported criminal justice reform, moderates are mad that he hasn’t stopped the rash of car break-ins (though that’s not his fault) – and progressives won’t support him because he’s refused to prosecute a single one of the long list of police officers who killed people of color without good reason.
Four candidates are in the race to take over the prosecutor’s job – and only one of them offers the chance for a profound change in the way the city handles criminal justice. We’re endorsing Chesa Boudin.
Boudin’s a public defender, not a prosecutor; he’s spent his career trying to keep people out of jail, not lock them away. He grew up the child of incarcerated parents – both his mother and father were Sixties radicals who were caught in an armored car robbery that went bad, and he grew up visiting them behind bars.
That gives him a unique perspective on what’s wrong with the system – and he wants to change it. Boudin told us that he wants all of his prosecutors to consider what happens after people are convicted – to look for ways to avoid recidivism, and to seek rehabilitation, not punishment. He is keenly aware, as a PD, of the racial disparities in the justice system. He notes that two-thirds of the cases that go to trial in San Francisco are misdemeanors that could be better addressed outside of the criminal justice system – giving prosecutors more time and resources to handle serious felonies. He wants to end cash bail.
He also told us that he is willing to prosecute police misconduct and political corruption – which no DA since Terence Hallinan has taken seriously.
Boudin is backed by Sups. Hillary Ronen, Gordon Mar, Aaron Peskin, and Sandra Lee Fewer, as well as Democratic Party Chair David Campos.
Suzy Loftus, who was a prosecutor in the office of Kamala Harris, has the support of Mayor London Breed, state Sen. Scott Wiener, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and the rest of the moderate power structure. She would not be a bad district attorney. But she wouldn’t be a transformative district attorney.
Leif Dautch, who is a deputy attorney general, offered us some interesting ideas, including prosecuting landlords for fraudulent evictions. But he has the support of the Police Officers Association, a terrible, regressive organization, and that pretty much disqualifies him for our endorsement.
Nancy Tung, a career prosecutor, shows no indication of being a serious reformer.
Pretty much everyone with any sense now agrees that the era of mass incarceration (particularly of African Americans) has been a failure, that this country needs to take a dramatically different approach to criminal justice. Electing Chesa Boudin as SF’s district attorney would be a major statement to the nation, and give this city a chance to prove that the office of a chief prosecutor can also be a force for reform. Vote for Boudin.
After the untimely death of longtime PD Jeff Adachi, Mayor Breed made a smart decision: She appointed a veteran of Adachi’s office to replace him. Adachi built one of the best PD’s offices in the nation, staffed with top-notch lawyers. He also promoted, actively, an alternative vision for criminal justice. Raju, who has the support and respect of the team that Adachi built, is a worthy successor, and we are happy to support him.
There was a time when San Francisco had a tradition of progressive sheriffs. So it’s too bad that the only person running for the job this time is Paul Miyamoto, a career deputy sheriff who, we fear, will reverse a lot of the gains and turn the office into a more traditional law-and-order place.
The city is poised to shut down an ancient, unsafe, and inhumane jail at the Hall of Justice, to change the way it handles juvenile justice, to end cash bail, and to move the criminal justice reform movement forward. We wish there were a candidate for sheriff who would be an active part of that. There isn’t.
The Treasurer’s Office isn’t a high-profile political job, but Cisneros has shown a lot of courage and leadership. He stood up to the mayor and demanded that Airbnb pay its hotel taxes. He’s created the Financial Justice Project, that seeks to ensure consumers aren’t cheated by banking and lending institutions. As the city moves toward creating a municipal bank, he could play a key role, and we hope he does.
Board of Education
When Matt Haney was elected to the Board of Supervisors, Mayor London Breed appointed Jenny Lam to replace him. Lam has solid credentials for the job; she’s a parent and longtime community activist with ties to the school district.
But there’s a problem: She’s also Breed’s paid, full-time education advisor. She works for the mayor.
When Gavin Newsom was mayor, we had a similar situation: His full-time education staffer, Hydra Mendoza, was also on the School Board. Nobody knew when Mendoza was voting as an advocate for public education and when she was voting as a paid mayoral staffer promoting his agenda.
This is a bad idea. School Board members should be independent of the Mayor’s Office – which among other things has some control over city money that goes to the public schools. On that principle, we’re not endorsing Lam.
Bobby Coleman, a longtime tenant advocate, announced his campaign for the board largely because of the decision to paint over (then later, to cover up) the Life of Washington mural at Washington High. We have tremendous respect for Coleman’s years of tenant advocacy, but we don’t the board’s decision on the mural is such a crucial issue that it ought to define this race.
Community College Board
Lee, as a staffer to former Sup. Jane Kim, was one of the architects of the Free City College program. She’s on the new Budget and Audit Committee, and pushed recently to delay huge raises for administrators, calling the administration on a politically boneheaded move. She also has a potential conflict, as a staffer for Board President Norman Yee, but the supervisors have no direct control over City College, and while we are not entirely comfortable with the situation, we are supporting Lee.
Affordable Housing Bond
The only problems with Prop. A are that it’s too limited – and tenants will have to pay for some of it.
There’s no question that the city needs to build more affordable housing. There’s no question that raising bond money is a good way to go. This $600 million affordable housing bond would make a big dent in the city’s desperate need, and we are happy to support it.
That said: The Mayor’s Office carefully constructed this measure to make sure that it doesn’t raise anyone’s taxes. The cap on the bonds is based on how many existing bonds are getting paid off, since new debt can be reflected in property taxes.
In the vast majority of cases, homeowners, landlords, and commercial property interests can well afford higher taxes for affordable housing. The city needs to raise and spend billions, not just $600 million, on non-market housing.
Unfortunately, under state law bond acts need a two-thirds vote. And anything that raised taxes would spur opposition from commercial real-estate interests. A truly progressive and committed mayor might take those interests on directly, but that’s not Mayor Breed’s style.
Under local law, landlords can pass through half of the bond costs to their tenants. That’s a problem, and the city ought to change it (again, risking landlord opposition to bond acts).
But for now, it’s critical to vote Yes on A.
Department of Disability and Aging Services
This is a technical charter amendment by Sup. Norman Yee that changes the name and scope of this department and sets standards for commission members. Vote Yes.
NO, NO, NO
Prop. C is a scam. There’s no other way to describe it.
The San Francisco supervisors voted to ban the sale of vaping products in the city – and for very good reason. Juul, which controls the largest share of this market, has aggressively marketed its products to kids. Just as the country was finally winning the war against youth smoking – a lot fewer high schoolers take up cigarettes these days – along comes Juul, backed by Big Tobacco money, with flavors like mango and cotton candy, to hook the next generation on nicotine.
Prop. C would overturn the city’s ban. It would allow a company that can only be described as evil to continue tricking young people into a life of addiction in the name of helping adults quite smoking.
The facts are clear:
For every adult who uses vaping to quit cigarette smoking, 80 young people will take up the deadly habit after starting with products like Juul’s devices.
Juul’s misleading ads suggest that vaping can help adults quit smoking, and that vaping is safer. The evidence on that is scanty. What’s clear is that Prop. C is a tobacco-industry attempt to prevent one of the most progressive cities in the country from protecting its kids. Vote no.
Traffic mitigation tax
Prop. D would impose a tax of 3.25 percent on all passenger fares from so-called transportation network companies – that is, Uber and Lyft. Half of the money would go directly to Muni, which desperately needs cash to hire more drivers and improve the system. The other half would go to the County Transportation Authority for planning, design studies, and potential implementation of pedestrian and bicycle safety and traffic calming measures.
The congestion on the streets of San Francisco has become far worse since the explosion in Uber and Lyft cars. The two companies started off as illegal taxis, operating in direct violation of city law while the administration of then-Mayor Ed Lee looked the other way. Now there are tens of thousands of these ride share cars clogging the already-crowded roadways. And they have a huge impact on the city’s transit system: Most of Muni’s lines are on surface streets, so TNC-driven traffic slows down the buses.
We agree that planning and studies are important, but the biggest need right now is more reliable funding for Muni, and we would have preferred a more Muni-centered allocation system since the tax is relatively modest.
Still, the concept that Uber and Lyft should pay for some of the damage they have done to San Francisco is solid. Vote yes on D.
Affordable housing and educator housing
Prop. E would streamline rules and facilitate the construction of 100 percent affordable housing and housing for educators on public land. Mayor London Breed had wanted to use market-rate housing to subsidize teacher housing, but the unions representing teachers at SFUSD and City College rejected the idea, and the supervisors refused to go along. Instead, the board put this measure on the ballot, and the mayor agreed to support it.
The housing would be a mix of unit sizes and affordability levels, from low-income (affordable to teachers’ aides and child-care providers) up to 120 percent of area median income (which is what two teachers living together, both at about the salary max for the school district, would earn). SFUSD says about half of its teachers are paying more than a third of their income on rent, and many spend half their income just trying to live in the city. That makes it hard for the college and the school district to hire – and retain – educators.
Combined with Prop. A, this could have a real impact on the housing crisis. Vote Yes.
Campaign contributions and ads
Prop. F is a crucial reform measure that would reduce the influence of dark money and big independent spending on San Francisco elections. It would require the secretive groups that pour huge sums of cash into so-called “independent expenditure” committees disclose the true source of their money – before election day. It would bar anyone with a financial interest in a land-use decision from contributing to any candidate until year after the final decision is made. Vote yes.