Let’s Make Sense of the San Francisco Ballot: Your 2016 Voting Guide

Wednesday November 2, 2016

Oh hey, did you guys know there’s an election coming up? Nothing major, just a little election you probably haven’t heard much about til now.

Ok ok, so, yeah, there’s the Presidential race, which has sucked all the air out of the room. But, there are actually other offices that we have to choose, and — get this — there are forty one (41) measures and propositions you can weigh in on. The ballot is basically a wheelbarrow full of local ballot measures. Let’s take a look.

(All candidate links take you to their campaign website. I may sprinkle in other links just to overwhelm you with information.)

(If you’re feeling all JUST TELL ME HOW TO VOTE, you’re in luck. SPUR, SF’s urban planning think tank, has published their recommended votes on all the measures.)

(If you have no idea where to go to vote, Google is doing us all a huge service this year: by plugging in your street address, it will tell you where to vote.)


U.S. Senate

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez are vying for Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat. Click through here to listen to KQED’s Forum episode discussing the race.


U.S. Congressional

For District 12 (Most of SF)

Nancy Pelosi is running against Preston Picus, a public school teacher and political author.

For District 14 (Ingleside, St. Francis Wood, south of Sloat Blvd)

Representative Jackie Speier is running against entrepreneur Angel Cardenas.


State Assembly

For District 17 (neighborhoods east of Twin Peaks and Treasure Island)

State Assemblymember David Chiu is running against Matthew Del Carlo, a political consulting strategist


For District 19 (neighborhoods west of Twin Peaks and Daly City, Colma, South SF, and Broadmoor)

Assemblymember Phil Ting is running against Carlos “Chuck” Taylor.


State Senate, District 11 (All of SF as well as Daly City, Colma, and South SF)

SF Supervisor Jane Kim is running against SF Supervisor Scott Weiner




SF Ballot Measures

(Links are to Ballotpedia, where you can read more about the measure, read its text, as well as arguments in favor and against.)


Measure A — School Bonds

Would allow the SF Unified School District to issue $744 million in school bonds for the repair of School District facilities

Measure B — City College Parcel Tax (needs 2/3rds majority)

Would allow a parcel tax of $99 for 15 years to provide funds for the City College of San Francisco

Measure C — Loans to Finance Acquisition and Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing

Would authorize the city to issue $260.7 million in general obligation bonds, in order for the city to buy and improve buildings that can then be converted into affordable housing.

This is a complicated one. Listen to a Forum episode discussing the pros and cons here.

Measure D — Vacancy Appointments

Would require the mayor to make a temporary appointment to fill any vacant elected position within 28 days of the vacancy, and the temporarily assigned person may not run in the subsequent election

Measure E — Responsibility for Maintaining Street Trees and Surrounding Sidewalks

Would shift the responsibility for maintaining street trees and sidewalks to the city (currently the responsibility of property owners) as well as allocated $19 million from the general fund for that purpose

Measure F — Youth Voting in Local Elections

Would permit 16 year olds to vote in city elections

This is a really interesting one, which Forum dedicated an episode to. Click through to hear the pros and cons.

Measure G — Police Oversight

Would rename the Office of Citizen Complaints to the Office of Police Accountability, and require the office to review use-of-force practices and handling of police misconduct

Measure H — Public Advocate

Would create a position for a Public Advocate, who would be responsible for investigating and resolving public complaints against City services

Measure I — Funding for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities

Would set aside at least $38 million per year from the General Fund to pay for services for seniors and adults with disabilities

Measure J — Funding for Homelessness and Transportation

Would allocate $50 million per year for 24 years to create a Homeless Housing and Services Fund to provide services to the homeless in the form of housing and Navigation Centers as well as help transitioning out of homelessness; this measure also includes an allocation of $101.6 million for 24 years to improve the city’s transportation network

Measure K — General Sales Tax

Would allow the city to increase the sales tax by 0.75%

Measure L — MTA Appointments and Budget

Would allow the mayor to nominate four members to the SFMTA Board of Directors subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors would be allowed to appoint three members (currently the mayor appoints all seven members), as well as reduce the number of Supervisors needed to reject an SFMTA budget proposal from 7 to 6 Supervisors.

Measure M — Housing and Development Commission

Would create a Housing and Development Commission to oversee two new departments on housing and the workforce, taking over the current Office of Economic Development and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (which would both cease to exist)

Measure N — Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections

Would allow non-citizen residents of San Francisco, whose children attend the SFUSD, to elect members to the Board of Education

Measure O — Office Development in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point

Would permanently exempt new office space in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point from the city’s annual 950,000 square foot limit (in 1986, SF voters established an annual limit of 950,000 square feet on new office construction in the city.)

Measure P — Competitive Bidding for Affordable Housing Projects on City-Owned Property

Would prohibit the city from proceeding with an affordable housing project on city property unless the project has received at least three proposals

Measure Q — Prohibiting Tents on Public Sidewalks

Would prohibit placement of tents on city sidewalks without a permit, and allow the city to remove the tents if they provide 24-hours advance notice, offer shelter for tent residents, and store the resident’s personal property for up to 90 days.

This is a controversial one, obviously. Forum covered it as well, so click through to listen to the pros and cons.

Measure R — Neighborhood Crime Unit

Would create a SF Neighborhood Crime Unit within the SFPD that would consist of 3% of police officers, who would prevent and investigate crimes harmful to neighborhood safety and quality of life, through methods like neighborhood foot patrols

Measure S — Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds

Would allocate a portion of taxes raised through the existing hotel tax to arts programs and family homeless services

Measure T — Restricting Gifts and Campaign Contributions from Lobbyists

Would require lobbyists to identify which city agencies they plan to lobby, would prohibit lobbyists from making campaign contributions to elected officials in those agencies and would prohibit lobbyists from providing gifts to city officials.

Measure U — Affordable Housing Requirements for Market-Rate Development Projects

Would increase the income eligibility limit for affordable housing units from the current 55% of median household income to 110% of median household income

Measure V — Tax on Distributing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Would allow the city to collect a 1%/ounce tax on distributers of sugar-sweetened beverages

(Yes, this is the “Grocery Tax” commercials you’ve been seeing. It’s not actually a tax on groceries but a tax on sugary beverages.)

Measure W — Real Estate Transfer Tax on Properties Over $5 Million

Would allow the city to increase the real estate transfer tax by 0.25 to 0.5% on properties over $5 million

Measure X — Preserving Space for Neighborhood Arts, Small Businesses and Community Services in Certain Neighborhoods

Would require developers of projects in the Mission and SOMA build replacement spaces if they remove over 5,000 square feet of PDR (light industrial), 2,500 square feet of community facilities, or arts activities of any size.

Measure RR — BART Safety, Reliability and Traffic Relief

Would allow BART to issue $3.5 billion in bonds for acquisition and improvement of real property, including upgrading 90 miles of track and 44-year-old train control systems.

Forum dedicated an episode to Measure RR. Click through to hear the pros and cons.



California State Propositions

(Links to KQED’s excellent discussions of each proposition)


Prop 51 — School Bonds, Funding for K–12 School and Community College Facilities

Would allow the state to issue $9 million in bonds to improve and construct public school facilities and community colleges

Prop 52 — Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program

Ok, honestly, I can’t make heads or tails of what this will/won’t do. There’s a lot of language and competing ballot descriptions. Just go read about the pros and cons on KQED.

Prop 53 — Revenue Bonds

Would require there be voter approval before the state issues any bonds for $2 billion or more

Is it a safeguard or just make it harder for California to operate? If you’re on the fence, Forum devoted an episode to it.

Prop 54 — Legislature, Legislation and Proceedings

Would require the state to publish a bill in print or online 72 hours before a vote on it, would require the state to record any public proceedings and publish them within 24 hours, and would allow anyone to record an open legislative hearing for a legitimate purpose.

Some propositions look simple on their face but are secretly complex. This is one of them. Forum interviewed proponents and opponents here.

Prop 55 — Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare

Would continue tax rates approved by Prop 30 in 2012 through 2030 (the tax increases income taxes for those making more than $263,000 singly or $526,000 jointly by roughly 1 percent.) It will otherwise expire in 2019.

Forum has the pros and cons here.

Prop 56 — Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement

Would increase the cigarette tax by $2/pack, as well as other tobacco products and e-cigarettes, with revenue going to physician training, tobacco-use prevention, Medi-Cal, medical research, and school programs aimed at ending tobacco use.

Forum’s episode on the cigarette tax is here.

Prop 57 — Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing

This comes in two parts. First, would increase parol chances for non-violent crimes. Second, would allow judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether certain juveniles are tried as adults.

Forum has the pros and cons here.

Prop 58 — English Proficiency and Multilingual Education

Would repeal Prop 227 which prohibited non-english instruction at schools (relevant for language immersion schools — teachers will be permitted to teach in dual languages, parents will no longer have to sign waivers for their kids to be taught in non-english languages, and schools would be required to offer English learner classes if enough parents ask for them.)

This is a hotly contested one. Forum dedicated an episode to it here.

Prop 59 — Corporations, Political Spending, and Federal Constitutional Protections

Would call on state officials to work to overturn Citizens United, and ask officials to allow the regulation of campaign contributions by corporations and make clear that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings. (The prop wouldn’t require any state action, this is just advisory.)

Prop 60 — Adult Films, Condoms, and Health Requirements

Would require the use of condoms in porn films

Out of all the measures and propositions this year, I have no idea why I need to weigh in on this. If you’re on the fence, Forum has the pros and cons here.

Prop 61 — State Prescription Drug Purchases and Pricing Standards

Would forbid any state agency to enter into a purchasing agreement for prescription drugs, if those drugs are priced higher than the net cost the Department of Veterans Affairs pays.

This is basically a class on microeconomics. What should win: access to drugs or drug cost?? Forum has the pros and cons here.

Prop 62 — Death Penalty

Would repeal the death penalty. This prop is not compatible with Prop 66 below which would keep the death penalty; whichever one gets the most ‘Yes’ votes would succeed.

As you can imagine, this one is quite controversial and has been covered on Forum. Click through for a discussion of the pros and cons of Prop 62 and Prop 66.

Prop 63 — Firearms and Ammunition Sales

Would require individuals who want to buy firearm ammunition to first obtain a 4-year permit; dealers would be required to check for this permit; would also eliminate grandfather exception for large capacity magazines, which would all be banned pursuant to 2000 legislation.

This one is also quite controversial and also covered by Forum twice. Click through to hear the pros and cons. And an additional episode just on Prop 63.

Prop 64 — Marijuana Legalization

Would allow adults 21 and over to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes

This is ALSO controversial and covered twice by Forum. Click through to hear the pros and cons. And here is an additional episode with even more arguments.

Prop 65 — Carryout Bags and Charges

Would redirect funds raised through bag charges to an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board

Forum’s got the pros and cons here, along with Prop 67 below.

Prop 66 — Death Penalty

Would keep death penalty in place; would change death penalty appeals to speed up the process. This prop is not compatible with Prop 62 above to repeal the death penalty; whichever one gets the most ‘Yes’ votes would succeed.

And here is that same Forum episode that discusses this and Prop 62.

Prop 67 — Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags

Would ban the use of (most) single-use plastic bags by groceries and other retail chains, exceptions are made for meat, bread, produce, bulk items, and perishable goods. (Does permit recycled paper bags and reuseable bags for a 10 cent charge.)

Forum’s got the pros and cons here, along with Prop 65 above.

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