A lot of you are probably sick of reading stories about affordable housing, moratoriums on building, Airbnb, and a bizarrely contentious fight over something called District 3, wherever that might be. For those new to town, you're probably not even listening, and I probably wouldn't either. But here's the thing: Especially if you're new here, you've come at a somewhat awkward time, and given California's and especially San Francisco's penchant for ballot-box lawmaking via propositions, you might want to take a glance at the voter guide you got in the mail and brush up on a few topics, just in case you plan to stay.
Your votes, especially for Props F and I the short-term rental law revision, and the Mission housing moratorium, respectively are actually going to be pretty important, especially given how low the voter turnout typically is in these city elections on odd-numbered years.
The last time we had one, in 2013, the turnout was a laughable 29 percent compare that to the 72 percent turnout for the presidential election the year before. Turnout was a little better in 2014, when two of our supervisors were battling for a seat in the state Assembly, but even then only 53 percent of registered voters turned out in person or by mail and only about half of SF's population is currently registered to vote (out of 626,000 eligible voters).
As SF Weekly talks about in this week's cover story, voter turnout is generally pretty dismal in local elections, and only 25 to 30 percent of you are expected to turn out on Tuesday, this "despite a slew of voter initiatives on Tuesday's ballot directly related to the city's ongoing housing crisis."
SFist doesn't do endorsements, and we never have. But we do think you should vote this time around if you were thinking about skipping it. Mailing in a ballot is an option if you don't think you'll be able to get to a polling place Tuesday morning or evening.
But here are several reasons why your vote is going to matter.
I don't see that many people are likely to oppose this, but Prop A is the Mayor's proposed affordable housing bond measure, allowing the city to borrow up to $310 million in order to finance affordable rental housing construction and rehabilitation. This is all with a goal of having 30,000 new and rehabilitated housing units by 2020, with a third of those below market rate.
Those in favor of more housing construction, and the Giants' plan to develop the parking lots of Pier 48 into a huge mixed-use development with almost 1,500 new rental units (40 percent of them affordable), should vote yes on this. It's basically about increasing the height allowed on this waterfront parcel, and opponents echo those who shot down the 8 Washington development in 2013, because they reject allowing private development over a certain height on public, waterfront land. The Sierra Club and the Coalition for SF Neighborhoods oppose, but the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, and even anti-waterfront development guy Art Agnos are all in favor of this one.
Prop F may end up being the one that gets the most campaign money spent on it, especially given Airbnb and No of F spending upwards of $8 million to shoot this one down. The main points here: It cuts the number of short-term rental days on both un-hosted and hosted units to 75, down from 90 (currently there's no limit to how many days you can rent a single room in your house or apartment), increases the possibility of enforcement and increases the reporting burden on hosts, and makes it a misdemeanor for a rental platform to unlawfully list a unit as a short-term rental. It could, also, as the No on F campaign says, encourage more neighbors to go after their neighbors for violations, but they can already do this, and it makes it harder for mom-and-pops to rent spare rooms for extra income. Dianne Feinstein loves this Prop, so do Danny Glover, Mark Leno, and Tom Ammiano, and the Mayor does not. Will the passing of this Prop lead to more available rental housing stock for all? That is hard to say.
The so-called Mission moratorium is on the ballot, and it proposes the suspension of all new permits for market rate housing and "business development projects" in the Mission district for 18 to 30 months. Proponents say this is a necessary pause/reset to allow for the city to acquire more sites for affordable housing, and may encourage 100-percent affordable development. Opponents insist that affordable housing only gets built on the back of market-rate development, and this will not only stop the construction of needed housing, it won't create more affordable units in the end, either. It will, effectively, stop the construction of 1,500 units, not to mention the plan to turn the Armory into a concert venue, which will be a casualty of this as well.
The office of Sheriff in SF has long been held by a progressive favorite son, and currently that is former supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. Mirkarimi was caught up in a domestic violence scandal a couple years ago that had a lot of his enemies out for his head, but he weathered that (his conviction was expunged this year), and he has retained the support of many progressives, as well as the Examiner, for his running of our local jail. Meanwhile, the woman who served as interim sheriff while he faced an ethics trial, Vicki Hennessy, is running to replace him, and has the support of the Mayor, London Breed, and the San Francisco Deputy Sheriff's Association. This could get interesting.
District 3 Supervisor
If you don't live in District 3, this won't matter. But for newcomers, this supervisory district covers North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, the Embarcadero, Financial District, and Union Square. Long ago, before the age of unicorns, it was ruled over by Aaron Peskin, a progressive local politician who eventually became President of the Board of Supervisors. He was termed out, and most recently the district has been led by a mayoral appointee, Julie Christensen, whom progressives now paint as being in the pocket of the Mayor and developers, etc. The campaign to elect Christensen to the seat has been as aggressive and expensive as it's been because the Mayor has enjoyed a fairly business-friendly climate on the Board the last few years, and a vote to bring Peskin back could shift the balance of power back in a more far-left, anti-development direction. A lot of people want to see that happen, though, and long for the days when Board of Supervisor meetings were more contentious and fun.
Community College Board of Trustees
There's one seat coming available, and this elected office has long been seen as a stepping stone to other roles in local politics. Running for the seat are incumbent trustee Alex Randolph, who has endorsements from the Mayor, former mayor Newsom, and others; Virgil's Sea Room owner, Harvey Milk Democratic Club President, and local DJ (Hard French), Tom Temprano, who has endorsements from the progressive bloc of supervisors as well as Tom Ammiano; a data analyst named Jason Zeng; and Wendy Aragon, a construction project manager who has the endorsement of the SF Tenants Union, and others.
Hey, if you want to make things interesting and vote for everyone but Ed Lee in the ranked choice thing, be our guest. But he's all but guaranteed to win unless a whole ton of you do that.