Illustration by: Joey Fajardo
Illustration by: Joey Fajardo
Photo provided by creative commons
By Xpress Magazine Staff
A unique coalition of candidates is attempting to take advantage of San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system.
A Board of Supervisors race has the potential to tip the balance of power at City Hall.
In this editorial, an Xpress Magazine staffer goes on a journey to define San Francisco’s own brand of progressivism, in a town where everyone seems to already hold progressive values.
Ed Lee’s $310 Million Affordable Housing Bond will be put on the ballot for voters to decide on.
This ballot measure, which aims to provide a more open government, is getting unexpected resistance.
San Francisco’s love-hate relationship with home sharing website Airbnb will be determined with the outcome of this proposition.
San Francisco’s new program to provide green energy to the city could sink or swim depending on the outcome of two ballot propositions.
Did you miss our June profile on mayoral hopeful Stuart Schuffman? Click the link above to catch up on our mayoral coverage.
Don’t know what the rest of the propositions on the ballot will do this election? Follow our handy guide!
Amy Farah Weiss (left), Stuart Schuffman (middle), Francisco Herrera (right) take a moment out of their campaigning at SF State to pose for a portrait. Photos by Ryan McNulty/ Xpress
By Zak Cowan
Amy Weiss ran to speak to potential voters about her hot-button issues. With her cap tilted slightly to the side and button up fixed to the top, she couldn’t wait to talk about housing issues, small businesses, non-profits and everything else relating to her campaign.
Francisco Herrera had a debonair demeanor, with his tied-back ponytail and sharp three-piece suit, his hands gripped his bright green campaign sign.
Stuart Schuffman oozed San Francisco local with his neatly trimmed beard and trademark fedora. His disposition was relaxed, but he seemed anxious to move on to his next duty as potential mayor of San Francisco.
Mayor Ed Lee faces competition from these under-funded, but united candidates. The three mayoral hopefuls came to San Francisco State University Oct. 13 to inform students on their unique strategy to take the mayoral position. Herrera, Schuffman and Weiss have formed a campaign labeled “Vote 1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee” in hopes of elevating at least one ahead of the incumbent.
Six candidates are on the Nov. 3 ballot for mayor and San Franciscans will decide if the city will lend its leadership role to Edwin Lee for another four years, or if someone new will take the reins of a community in transition.
“From the start, we’ve been ignored and haven’t been considered viable candidates because we don’t have millions of dollars,” Herrera said.
Each voter will have the option to choose not only who they wish to take the office, but also their second and third choices. This voting process, known as ranked-choice voting, will be used for the San Francisco mayoral election. The method has already lead to hotly-contested races in the Bay Area, most recently in Oakland when Libby Shaaf become the city’s mayor in November of last year.
According to the Department of Elections, counting the ballots starts with first-place votes, eliminating the candidate with the smallest tally. The voters that chose that candidate get their ballots shifted to their second choice. This continues until the city has a winner with at least 51 percent of the vote.
Ranked-choice voting is what Schuffman, Weiss and Herrera hope to take advantage of next week in the election.
“[Our goal] is to get a larger portion of the vote,” Schuffman said. “Whoever makes it to the third round of voting will get the other two persons’ second or third share of the votes. That way, you can get a huge percentage of the vote even if you start with a low percentage. It’s really advantageous”
According to the latest campaign finance reports, Lee raised over $1.18 million in the last calendar year, an amount that is unfathomable to the three underdog candidates, who raised $56,742 in combined campaign contributions. Weiss sees the three candidates’ supporters as a sort of collective that can unite against Lee or, as she calls him, “the corporate giant.”
“We all have different reaches,” Weiss said. “They overlap, but we do have different networks that can come together and support one another so that we don’t have to fight each other.”
Lee’s donations, according to the same campaign finance reports, comes largely from individuals, but also includes many political action committees. The difference between Lee’s campaign contributions and the others’ is the amount of real estate individuals and development individuals that have contributed to his campaign for mayor.
“Ed Lee is a millionaire candidate with corporations backing him up, facing the other candidates who have people instead of money who support us,” Herrera said.
It’s likely that this major discrepancy in funding is the reasoning behind the majority of local news outlets labeling Lee’s run for reelection as “unopposed,” according to Herrera.
“At this point, it’s very embarrassing to be a world-renown, international city, and have this behavior of ignorance,” Herrera said of the lack of attention his campaign and others’ have received.
Wilma Peng, candidate for District 3 Supervisor, encompassing San Francisco’s Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods, poses for a portrait in Chinatown. Photo by James Chan
By Sean McGrier
The race for the District Three seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors pits a familiar political face against a fresh mayoral appointee, while an educator and longtime community activist is content to sit in a distant third place.
Aaron Peskin represented the district, which encompasses the iconic North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods, from 2001 to 2009. Peskin served as the board’s president for the last four years of his tenure.
Peskin is trying to win his old post back from Julie Christensen, who was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee in January. Lee is a longtime Peskin foe.
The tech-friendly, moderate mayor has a favorable majority currently sitting on the board. Moderate board members hold a six to five vote stranglehold over the progressive caucus on many civic issues. If Peskin takes the seat from Christensen, that balance of power could shift to the progressives.
“(Peskin) would certainly be progressive,” said District 11 Supervisor John Avalos. “Whether we would have enough to get to six votes and be a majority? On some issues, yes. On other issues, no.”
Peskin has, as predicted, relied on his record to help him regain the seat he vacated six years ago. While speaking to SFGov.TV, the Telegraph Hill resident championed his successful opposition to the 8 Washington luxury condominium development project. Had the 8 Washington project been allowed, it would have given developers the green light to build high-rise condos along the district’s eastern waterfront.
Peskin also pointed to a dysfunctional City Hall and a Lee-controlled District Three incumbent as reasons to reinstall Peskin on the board.
“We need an independent voice at City Hall,” Peskin told SFGov.TV. “(Someone) not basing decisions on who’s for it or who’s against it, or what special interest has donated or what the mayor thinks.”
Rebecca Sarinelli, a North Beach resident and owner of North Beach Copy Center, said she’s voting for Peskin because she believes he’ll help redirect a city she claims has gone wayward. She said Peskin’s independence from special interest parties, like Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway, gives her some hope for San Francisco’s future.
“This is bigger than just San Francisco,” Sarinelli said. “(This election) is gonna set the tone and the footprint for what’s gonna happen in the next decade.”
Lee appointed Julie Christensen to the District Three seat on Jan. 8, 2015 to replace David Chiu, after Chiu was elected to the California State Assembly.
Christensen, a North Beach small business owner before her appointment, gained popularity in her neighborhood after she helped push through major renovations to the North Beach Library. That project came coupled with an overhaul of the then run-down Joe DiMaggio North Beach Playground, which sits adjacent to the new library. She helped the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground, a non-profit organization comprised of North Beach residents, secure city funding for the park’s facelift.
Christensen could celebrate her first public office victory shortly before the park’s makeover is completed. The playground is scheduled to reopen 10 days after the Nov. 3 election.
Wilma Pang, 75, is District Three’s familiar long-shot candidate. The City College of San Francisco music teacher has run for the board of supervisors seat twice before. She has also run for mayor twice, and for the board education once. Despite running for office on five separate occasions, Pang is the only District Three candidate who has never held public office. The Chinatown resident said she doesn’t expect to win this time either.
“I am not trying to win the district because in reality, these two people spent millions in campaign money,” Pang said. “I really did not intend to run, but the community said, ‘You have to speak up for us.’“
Pang said Peskin and Christensen “bombard” Chinatown with signs and flyers because, according to the media, it’s the district’s swing neighborhood. If Pang carries a large enough number of votes, her involvement could determine the victor.
In 2008, Pang grabbed 3.5 percent of the District Three electorate, finishing fourth with 939 votes, according to the San Francisco Department of Elections.
Pang fared better in 2012,when she garnered 1,033 votes for 4.4 percent of voters.
By Ashley Goldsmith
Up first on the Nov. 3 ballot is a proposition aimed at addressing increasing rental prices caused by the ubiquitous gentrification in San Francisco. Proposition A, also known as the Affordable Housing Bond, allows the city to borrow $310 million dollars in the form of general obligation bonds. The proposition will help the city reach its goal of building 30,000 new housing units by 2020. The funds will be allocated for many uses including, but not limited to, development, preservation and purchasing of affordable housing.
“Prop A builds critically needed homes for low- and middle-income San Franciscans without raising taxes,” said Mayor Lee in an advertisement supporting Proposition A.
According to Zillow.com, the current median rental price in San Francisco as of September 2015 is $4,895. Affordable housing is determined by a pricing bracket that is based on a percentage of the area’s median income. Typically tenants of affordable housing, also known as below market rate units, pay no more than 30 percent of their income.
The Libertarian Party of San Francisco is one of the only groups to oppose the measure. Marcy Berry, vice chair of the Libertarian Party said that voters need to think about this bond proposal before voting yes because it is the popular opinion.
“Three hundred million dollars is just a drop in the bucket, because it can cost up to $800,000 to build one unit,” Berry said. “Bonds are a debt and once you incur a debt, it must be paid. The city is rolling in money now, but what happens if there is downturn? Most importantly, who says that we need affordable housing?”
Endorsers of the proposition include Supervisor David Campos, Senator Dianne Feinstein and the San Francisco Chronicle.
“San Francisco voters should not be under the illusion that they are making more than a very modest incremental dent in the city’s affordable-housing crisis when they vote for Proposition A,” read an endorsement piece released by the Chronicle on September 19.
The qualifications necessary to apply for affordable housing units in San Francisco require that the applicant’s household income must be less than 60 percent of the median income in the area. This varies depending on family size. It may be easy for many residents in San Francisco to qualify, but actually being approved for and moving into a unit is extremely difficult.
One of the most qualified groups for affordable housing, are families living in single room occupancy units, or SROs, considered by many housing rights groups to be the “housing of last resort.”
According to an SRO family census conducted in late 2014 by the SRO Families United Collaborative, 60 percent of families living in SRO units have been on an affordable housing wait list for three years or more.
“The city needs this affordable housing bond to build more affordable housing and hopefully this time, we’ll get it passed, a two-thirds vote is no easy task,” said Norman Fong, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, a non-profit organization that has been fighting for housing and tenant rights since the late 70s. “The housing market is so hot, we need additional resources to counter the gentrification going on in this city. Please get out there to vote.”
By Colin Blake
Come Nov. 3 San Francisco voters will have the option to approve Proposition E, which aims to bring more participation to the political process by live streaming all public government meetings, allowing for digital and pre-recorded comment so constituents can engage in the political process remotely.
“With this, we are able to bring more government meetings to more people,” said David Lee, the San Francisco State political science professor whose students, in conjunction with himself, wrote the proposition.
Proposition E, also known as The Sunshine and Open Government Act, was added to the ballot after the application received nearly 17,000 signatures; Only 9,000 were required
Currently, San Francisco holds around 2,000 public meetings a year that are hosted by nearly 120 individual committees or boards. However, at a cost of $3.4 million to run SFGovTV.com and traditional tv broadcasting, San Francisco manages to cover the actions of only 33 of the committees and boards.
According to Lee, the meetings that are not shown control $6 billion of the city’s $9 billion budget.
Implementation of Prop E’s internet live streaming would have an initial start up cost of $1.7 million and an annual operating cost of $750,000, according to a report from the city controller. With that cost, full, translated coverage of government meetings would be possible.
“We think the cost will actually be much less because technology is constantly improving,” Lee said.
Prop E, beside the ability to view government meetings, would allow the public to comment via recorded video or audio messages. These comments would need to be submitted 48-hours in advance. In order to submit comment, residents would need to create an account that would confirm residency and provide attribution.
Convening governing bodies would retain the power to determine how long the comment section is – so long as it is not less than 30 minutes – the duration of the comments and the ability to screen comments for profanity and threats.
“This legislation has been formulated to afford the board or committee the most flexibility in administering this technology,” Lee said.
However, committees and boards would be bound by time-certain agenda items. This means items on meetings outline start as advertised. Also, if 50 or more persons request an item be moved to a specific time slot at least 48-hours before, the policy body must abide if possible.
“It’s a pretty simple idea,” said Lee. “If you come to a board meeting for particular item, it starts on time.”
Formal opposition to Prop E is condensed into the group Smart Open Government SF. Pledges of support for the group come from the SF Bicycle Coalition, San Francisco Democratic Party, President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed and the San Francisco Labor Council just to name a few.
Requests for comment from Smart Open Government SF have not been returned.
However, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, through its communications director Chris Cassidy, did make a comment.
“We aren’t heavily involved in the campaign,” Cassidy said.
Smart Open Government SF, through their webpage, contends that “Proposition E is billed as a ‘good government’ measure. In fact, it is not. Under the guise of good government, this proposal will reduce participation of San Franciscans in the policies that affect us.”
San Francisco Tech Dems is also listed as a supporter of Smart Open Government SF. Request for comment from its chief of policy, Rebecca Lee, were not returned.
David Maass is an investigative researcher for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF is a nonprofit that advocates for and defends civil liberties in the digital age. Maass and EFF have taken the position of supporting Prop E.
“This is a pretty ambitious project,” Maass said. “But if 10 teenagers can organize a video chat over their cell phones, government should be able to do this.”
While Lee contends that only San Francisco residents will be able to comment during meetings, Maass said more residents have a legitimate interest in San Francisco politics and should be involved.
“What if you have someone who works 60-hour weeks here?” Maass said. “They have a vested interest in how the city deals with policy because it affects them too.”
Maass also said expert testimony could be hindered if non-residents could not comment.
“Sometimes an expert on subject matter may be in Oakland or Huston,” Maass said. “The experts and advocates don’t always live in the area.”
Overall, this legislation would be a boon to keeping government transparent and accountable because more eyes on government is always better, according to Maass. However, some elements will need alteration if approved.
“The time table is a little ambitious,” Maass said. “The board of supervisors should, and probably will, vote to increase the time required to implement this.”
If the proposition passes, the city will have six months to begin implementing the live streaming network and the policy-body-specific links to view the feeds. A simple majority vote is required for passage.
“What we are trying to do here is for the people, not the politicians,” Lee said. “If this passes, this is designed to give the average citizen the power to see their government.”
By Jenna Van De Ryt
Pissing off the public could in fact be one form of campaigning that is strategically working for Airbnb. If it was not for the $8 million imbursement to defeat the ballot measure, or the passive-aggressive billboards targeting different service groups across the city, taunting the rental company’s tax payments is what is putting not only Airbnb, but the proposition alike on the campaign map.
Proposition F is days away from being voted on by San Franciscans to either restrict Airbnb’s short-term home rentals, or continue the rental market frenzy as is.
Prop F requires a 50 percent plus one vote approval by residents in order to pass. If the proposition is approved, short-term housing rentals across San Francisco will be limited to 75 specific days throughout the calendar year to be rented. One significant requirement of the proposition is for owners to provide legitimate proof that the unit is publicized as a short-term rental. Furthermore, residents who put their units up for short-term renting must submit quarterly reports in regards to the number of days they personally reside in the home as well as the specific number of days the unit is occupied by renters. An increase of legal rights will be given to potential unit renters to sue housing parties if warranted. Prop F will restrict short-term renting of in-law units, as well as result in a misdemeanor if a host unlawfully cites a unit as a short-term rental.
Top California officials that support the proposition include, United States Senator Dianne Feinstein and State Senator Mark Leno.
According to Dale Carlson of Share Better SF, “the yes campaign for Prop F has raised a total of $385,000.”
Unite Here, the leading campaign contributor, is financially backing Prop F with a total of $300,000 and Hotel Association of New York City has donated $25,000 towards the proposition. The third largest financial donation for Prop F is from San Francisco’s Apartment Association totaling $20,000, Carlson said.
San Francisco Supervisor, David Campos is the Prop F spokesman, claiming that the issue at hand is more complex than simply short-term renting, but a displacement issue. The current citywide housing crisis is forcing homeowners to lease their units, which in turn pushes for eviction of long-term residents. Campos said the most positive effect that will result from the passing of Prop F is to protect the housing stock properly, because the city is losing housing to Airbnb.
“Prop F will keep things from getting worse,” Campos said. “In the Mission District, 40 percent of potential units are going to Airbnb instead of to local renters.”
Campos said within the last year a total of 300 long term residents have been evicted from the Mission District, all while the same 300 units were registered for Airbnb.
“Currently the law does not provide tools for rental enforcing. The regulation of Prop F will finally do so,” Campos said.
Airbnb is standing firm on the notion that the amount of hotel tax San Francisco receives each year in lieu of Airbnb rentals would greatly decrease if Prop F were to pass.
According to Inside Airbnb, an independent data source that provides publicly provided information on Airbnb listings, there are 6,361 short-term rental units featured within the heart of the city. Currently the estimated number of nights per year that a unit is rented through Airbnb is 136 with an average $224 price per night cost. San Francisco has a 76.4 percent availability for booking, which is quite high compared to other cities.
There are nine key players financially backing Airbnb’s campaign total. The top three supporters are Sadler Strategic Communications, Joe Slade White Communications and David Binder Research. Sadler Strategic is commissioning a grand total of $1,715,097 towards the campaign. Joe Slade White totals in at $316,904.45 and David Binder Research rounds the third largest cash sum with $264,800.
Dani Sheehan-Mayer, owner of a high-end gallery and gift store, Cliche Noe Gifts and Home is voting no on Prop F.
“We do not usually get organic visitors to the area, but because of Airbnb we are receiving new customers, mostly tourists. ” Sheehan-Mayer said.
Voting no would create no change. According to Sheehan-Mayer renters and Airbnb alike already have checks and balances to protect local housing in San Francisco.
Currently 41 political parties across San Francisco have taken a stance on the proposition, with three parties claiming “no position.” There are 22 parties in favor of Prop F and 16 political parties voting against it.
The Consolidated Municipal Election will take place on Nov. 3.
Solar panels sit atop Sunset Reservoir overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and George Washington High School. The instillation is the largest in the city and provides up to 5 megawatts of power. It tripled the amount of municipal solar generating capacity upon completion in 2010. Photo by Emma Chiang
By Naomi Outlaw
After 12 years of patience San Francisco may finally see the fruits of its environmentally conscious labor. Set to launch in spring 2016, CleanPowerSF is the city’s nonprofit program that will provide green and renewable energy to San Franciscans as well as challenge Pacific Gas & Electric, which provides power to 5.4 million Californians.
Since 2004, San Francisco has pushed a zero emissions goal. Seen in the forms of composting, plastic bag taxes and environmental improvements to public transportation, the city has aggressively attacked greenhouse gases and the climate change they produce.
Typically, citizens have always been offered environmentally friendly programs. Residents will be automatically enrolled in CleanPowerSF, which is overseen by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
Customers will have the choice between the “Green Plan” which utilizes 33 to 55 percent renewable energy at rates equal to PG&E’s, which is 23 cents per kilowatt per hour. The second option is the “SuperGreen Plan,” which offers 100 percent renewable energy at rates 10 to 15 percent higher than the standard price of PG&E. Customers have the option to opt out and stick with PG&E if they wish, and will continue to receive the current energy cocktail containing 27 percent renewable energy.
Renewable energy is “derived from resources that are replenished naturally” and can be replenished in an average human lifespan, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. Such resources include biomass, geothermal heat, sunlight, water and wind.
The exact cost of CleanPowerSF’s renewable energy will be determined in the coming weeks, when SFPUC will choose from 52 eligible local renewable energy providers, not including conglomerates like PG&E or Shell.
Propositions G and H, which are set to appear on the November ballot, have the potential to determine the effectiveness of the program.
“The definition would change calling nuclear energy green,” said Kim Malcolm, director of California Policy and Programs at Local Energy Aggregation Network U.S. and former director of CleanPowerSF. “It would not allow the city to call all of its purchases green even though the state would consider it green.”
If passed, Proposition G would restrict San Francisco to only use one of three energy categories for its clean energy. PG&E would be able to label all three categories as green energy. Both propositions will require CleanPowerSF to inform its customers about the varying percentages of renewables included in their plan.
Proposition G, originally proposed by one of PG&E’s unions, is seen as a threat to CleanPowerSF. In response, Supervisors London Breed, John Avalos, Scott Wiener, and Julie Christensen fired back with Proposition H, which would require the city to follow state renewable energy standards, just as PG&E does.
While all supervisors support the CleanPowerSF program it has hit its fair share of road spikes. Until January, Mayor Ed Lee opposed the program, saying that the original $19.5 million in investments could be used for something more relevant, like city infrastructure, according to SFGate. The mayor eventually voiced his support, but even with his backing, the people stalling the decisions are SFPUC board members, which he appointed.
“There has been a rabbit hole of continual excuses between SFPUC and the mayor,” said Jason Fried, executive officer of the Local Agency Formation Commission, who has been monitoring CleanPowerSF.
CleanPowerSF has the potential to eventually lower energy bills while creating local, consistent revenue, jobs, political power and meeting California’s stringent renewable energy objectives without much more planning, according Fried.
“The goal isn’t what the program looks like on the first day,” Fried said. “It’s what it looks like in 10 years and where that puts San Francisco.”
By Jordan Lalata
Sponsored by a coalition of neighborhood organizations such as the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods, with funding from the Mission Economic Development Agency and Yerba Buena Consortium, a yes vote on this measure will protect middle-income housing, businesses and art and culture in the Mission District. The proposed Mission Moratorium is an 18-month prohibition of any housing project containing five or more units that is not 100 percent affordable housing. The city will be required to develop a Neighborhood Stabilization Plan, a plan to protect working class families and businesses by creating affordable housing by January 2017. It also prohibits buildings that are in the production, distribution and repair zone such as automotive and wholesale businesses from being demolished, converted or eliminated. Supervisor Scott Wiener is opposing this measure.
By Marc Arguello
Proposition K would authorize the city to use public lands specifically for low income housing. The proposition would expand the target income levels of housing developments allowed on surplus lands to a range of incomes, from homeless to those making nearly double the median income.
According to the city controller, the proposition wouldn’t cost the city any extra money if it were enacted, as the proposed changes would be taking advantage of the existing sources of subsidies for affordable housing.
The proposition would also establish policy that encourages the building of affordable housing on public lands that aren’t owned by the City and County of San Francisco, such as state and special district agencies. The policy would prioritize the building of more affordable housing over any other type of development on these lands.
Prop K currently enjoys overwhelming support from a variety of political parties, including the Democratic party and many of San Francisco’s news organizations. One party who has voiced its opposition to prop K is the San Francisco Libertarian party.
“The Libertarian position is that if the city has land that it doesn’t need or use, it should sell it at market rates and reduce the tax rates and ‘fees’ this city charges,” said Aubrey Freedman, chair of the Libertarian Party of San Francisco. “With the market as crazy as it is right now, it would get millions and millions of dollars.”
According to Freedman, if the city really wanted to help the middle class in terms of affordable real estate, the city should get out of the real estate business by selling off all the property it doesn’t need.
By Naomi Outlaw
Proposition H will define that the city can call clean energy, green energy and renewable greenhouse gas-free energy by state standards. State standards, under Senate bill 2, require that all entities that provide power to end-use consumers must have at least 33 percent of the electricity they provide from eligible renewable resources by 2020.
In 2016 San Francisco will be rolling CleanPowerSF to directly provide its citizens more renewable energy than PG&E currently offers. If this bill is passed then CleanPowerSF will be allowed the same renewable energy resources and guidelines as large conglomerates such as PG&E.
This measure is supported by Supervisors London Breed, John Avalos, Scott Wiener, and Julie Christensen, The Sierra Club Bay Area Chapter, IBEW 1245, The San Francisco Labor Council, The League of Women Voters, and the San Francisco Young Democrats.
There has not been an officially campaign filed to oppose this measure, but The Libertarian Party of San Francisco supports this measures counterpart, Prop G.
By Carlos Mendoza
Proposition C’s plan on regulating lobbyist that spend an amount of $2,500 or higher on city officials and legislations in City Hall creates an equal atmosphere in the political realm.
The proposition is aimed at individuals, party groups and unions who spend the regulated amount to disclose information. The information would contain how much money was spent, and who or what the money was spent on.
Supported by the San Francisco Ethics Commission, Prop C not only regulates funding, but it also prohibits individuals or groups to provide city officials with gifts higher than 25 dollars.
Setting the political field in a fair environment is crucial because it guarantees that every city official and legislation has a fair chance of representation and eliminates the influence of money.