With five ballot propositions covered at the September meeting (recap is here), HANC’s October member meeting will aim to enlighten voters on seven more key initiatives on the November 8 ballot. HANC’s Board has recommended positions on these propositions (see next column), but members will want to hear the substance of each to make their own voting decisions.
Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, will speak on Propositions Q and R. Proposition Q is Sup. Mark Farrell’s initiative to further victimize and criminalize homeless people by allowing SFPD to remove them and their belongings from city sidewalks with 24 hours’ notice. It does nothing to provide any actual housing beyond a single night in a shelter but does give its backers a platform to present themselves as tough on “quality of life crimes” like being unable to afford a roof over one’s head. The Department of Justice recently advised other cities that measures that criminalize homelessness are very likely unconstitutional—just one reason to vote No on this initiative.
Proposition R is an unhelpful measure pushed by Sup. Scott Weiner to carve out a dedicated a “Neighborhood Crime Unit” from the police department’s budget and staff it with 60 officers to focus on “unlawful street behavior” plus such things as promoting “civil sidewalks.” The City recently reported that SFPD spent more than $20 million in 2015 on so-called quality of life violations. Many feel the City can get far better results by focusing on mental-health, housing and job-training services for the homeless, and should let SFPD spend its budget on the community policing and serious crime that are clear priorities for most voters.
Gabriel Medina, policy manager at the Mission Economic Development Agency, will speak on Propositions N and X. Proposition N would allow non-citizens over 18 whose children attend San Francisco Unified School District schools to vote in elections for the school board. These parents and guardians pay the same taxes as citizens to fund the schools, but currently have no representation on the school board. San Francisco has an exceptionally high proportion of parents who have not yet gained citizenship; it’s important that we engage this community in our public schools.
Proposition X is intended to preserve space for industrial, non-profit and arts use in the Mission and SOMA areas by requiring conditional use authorization for properties currently zoned for these uses to be converted to new uses.
We’ll also be joined by a speaker from the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO) to cover developer-backed Propositions P and U (which both stink) and Proposition C (which smells a lot better).
Proposition P adds a bunch of red tape to the process of building affordable housing and cloaks it in the guise of getting good value for public money. It requires a minimum of three bids for projects building affordable housing on city-owned properties. While that seems smart, the reality is that a limited number of developers are currently willing to work within the tight profit margins to build projects such as housing for transitional age youth. 40% of these projects currently don’t get three bids, and this measure wouldn’t magically attract more developers but simply stall those projects.
Proposition U would gut San Francisco’s affordable housing requirements and allow these units instead to be rented or sold to some of San Francisco’s better-off residents. Right now, 12–15% of new units in larger developments have to be available to people making under 55% of area median income. Prop U would double that income threshold so that developers could rent an “affordable” one-bedroom at $2,369 a month instead of $1,185. 71% of San Francisco’s homeless population previously had homes in the city. Prop U will make it harder for regular working people to live here and give underserved property developers a holiday gift.
Finally, Proposition C is something that should actually increase the stock of affordable housing in the city. It would take about $260 million that was authorized for seismic retrofit loans in 1992, but never spent, and reallocate it to loans for rehabbing older multi-unit buildings. The aim is to ensure that decent rental housing stays safe and affordable, and also encourage the construction of new affordable units.
To get your questions answered on these and other propositions come to the HANC general membership meeting, 7 pm Thursday, October 13 at 1833 Page Street.