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Voting Guide: San Francisco & California, November 2020

I.e. what to do with the 16 elections and the 25 (!!!) propositions to vote for in SF alone
Voting be like 🗳️
🏠 Philosophy
This voting guide is about local San Francisco/Bay Area/California issues. It’s based on my
pro-housing, transportation, and justice policy lens
to these issues where the “Democratic” or “Republican” positions can be less clear ー and yet day-to-day, local policy deeply impacts how people live and work.

Why trust this guide?
First, if your policy viewpoint aligns to mine, I suspect this guide can be a “shortcut” through the plethora of candidates and ballot measures. Second, I have followed these issues extensively for years and in the Bay Area in particular. I have worked directly on urban technology since 2014 and over the course of that work, met with numerous government officials, community groups, and other interested parties in cities to understand these issues from all sides.

Key policy beliefs:
1. We need more housing across income levels
now
.
I see today’s housing policy as a core mechanism reinforcing racial and economic inequality. Scarce, expensive housing means fewer economic opportunities and financial security for all, but especially for those with the least means. We need to solve for the disproportionate impact of displacement on poorer communities, and we also need to balance the needs of the “future residents” who are blocked from cities due to today’s policies, but could access them in the years to come with more just policies.
2. Transportation should be people-first, not car-first.
Cars, including rideshare, have an important role. However, they
we need to in cities, use nearly 25% of many city’s land mass (e.g. SF or NYC), and are heavily subsidized through free roadway use and car storage (e.g. cheep parking). Public transportation, bikes/micromobility, and other creative solutions are how we’ll build a
livable
city and enable people from all areas of a city to access economic opportunity and community. I’m not dogmatic on these, but we should (Also, yes, we’re in COVID. But we’re building infrastructure for decades ahead, not just the next year).
3. In a just society, anyone irrespective of race, wealth can live freely and access opportunity.
This ties to issues of criminal and climate justice and worker protections. It also ties to wealth inequality, which the above issues exacerbate today. Note: in California, many decades-old “environmental protections” are actually mechanisms to implement segregation under a different name and continue to be used to exclude people from communities.
4. Competitive markets and an un-corrupt government can help enable the above.

Please share feedback at
. While I’m using Coda to write this and happen to work there, this is a purely personal project. All views are my own.

Thank you’s
Ling Lin for bouncing ideas and research off each other and pushing me to write this up;
. Some of the propositions titles come from
and SPUR.

💁‍♂️ Recommendations
✅ Just the Choices
Elections summary
3
US President
Country-wide
Biden/Harris (D)
US House
District 12 (SF)
Nancy Pelosi (D)
District 14 (SF + San Mateo County)
Jackie Speier (D)
CA Senate
District 11
Scott Wiener (D)
CA Assembly
District 17
David Chui (D)
District 19
Phil Ting (D)
SF Board of Education (4 seats)
San Francisco-wide
Michelle Parker
SF Community College Board (4 seats)
San Francisco-wide
Tom Temprano/Victor Olivieri/Jeanette Quick/Aliya Chisti
BART Board
District 7
Lateefah Simon
District 9
Bevan Dufty
SF Supervisor
District 1
Marjan Philhour
District 3
Rank order: 1. Danny Sauter/2. Spencer Simonsen
District 5
Vallie Brown
District 7
Rank order: 1. Myrna Melgar/2. Emily Murase/3. Joel Engardio
District 9
ー (I’m unable to endorse Hillary Ronen, but she’s the only balloted candidate)
District 11
Ahsha Safai
Propositions summary
2
Scope
#
Title
My choice
California-wide
14
Issues $5.5 billion in bonds for state stem cell research institute
No
15
Requires commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on market value and dedicates revenue
Yes
16
Repeals Proposition 209 (1996), which says that the state cannot discriminate or grant preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, education, or contracting
Yes
17
Restores the right to vote to people convicted of felonies who are on parole
Yes
18
Allows 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primaries and special elections
Yes
19
Changes tax assessment transfers and inheritance rules
Yes
20
Makes changes to policies related to criminal sentencing charges, prison release, and DNA collection
No
21
Expands local governments' power to use rent control
No
22
Considers app-based drivers to be independent contractors and enacts several labor policies related to app-based companies
No
23
Requires physician on-site at dialysis clinics and consent from the state for a clinic to close
No
24
Expands the provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and creates the California Privacy Protection Agency to implement and enforce the CCPA
No
25
Replaces cash bail with risk assessments for suspects awaiting trial
No
San Francisco
A
Health and Homelessness, Parks, and Streets Bond
Yes
B
Department of Sanitation and Streets, Sanitation and Streets Commission and Public Works Commission
No
C
Removing Citizenship Requirements for Members of City Bodies
Yes
D
Sheriff Department Oversight Board and Inspector General
No
E
Police Staffing
Yes
F
Business Tax Overhaul
Yes
G
Youth Voting in Local Elections
Yes
H
Neighborhood Commercial Districts and City Permitting
Yes
I
Real Estate Transfer Tax
No
J
Parcel Tax for San Francisco Unified School District
Yes
K
Affordable Housing Authorization
Yes
L
Business Tax Based on Comparison of Top Executive's Pay to Employees’ Pay
No
Caltrain Districts
RR
Caltrain Sales Tax
Yes

💬 Choices & Explanations
Elections
3
Office type
Scope
My choice
Candidates (*=incumbent)
Why (tap for more on mobile)
US President
Country-wide
Biden/Harris (D)
Biden/Harris (D)
Trump/Pence (R)*
My lived experience.
US House
District 12 (SF)
Nancy Pelosi (D)
Nancy Pelosi (D)*
Shahid Buttar (D)
Pelosi has consistently been an effective advocate for both Democrats broadly and San Francisco in particular. Her seniority gives her additional leverage to fight for the district and state. Buttar lacks such a compelling case.
District 14 (SF + San Mateo County)
Jackie Speier (D)
Jackie Speier (D)*
Ran Petel (R)
CA Senate
District 11
Scott Wiener (D)
Scott Wiener (D)*
Jackie Fielder (D)
Wiener is one of the most effective, thoughtful, and tireless advocates for progressive housing and transportation policy in Sacramento. His opponent lacks such a demonstrated capability. Wiener is the candidate I’m most excited to be voting for on this whole ballot.
CA Assembly
District 17
David Chui (D)
David Chui (D)*
Starchild (Libertarian)
District 19
Phil Ting (D)
Phil Ting (D)*
John McDonnell (R)
SF Board of Education (4 seats)
San Francisco-wide
Michelle Parker
Michelle Parker
Mark Sanchez
Alida Fisher
Paul Kangas
Nick Rothman
Kevine Boggess
Matt Alexander
Andrew Douglas Alston
Jenny Lam
Genevieve Lawrence
SF Community College Board (4 seats)
San Francisco-wide
Tom Temprano/Victor Olivieri/Jeanette Quick/Aliya Chisti
Victor Olivieri
Anita Martinez
Jeanette Quick
Aliya Chisti
Alan Wong
Shanell Williams
Dominic Ashe
Han Zou
Geramye Teeter
Tom Temprano
Marie Hurabiell
BART Board
District 7
Lateefah Simon
Lateefah Simon*
Sharon Kidd
Pro-transit-oriented development advocate, which covers much of what happens in the land around BART stations.
District 9
Bevan Dufty
Bevan Dufty*
Patrick Mortiere
Michael Petrelis
David Young
Pro-transit-oriented development advocate, which covers much of what happens in the land around BART stations.
SF Supervisor
District 1
Marjan Philhour
Connie Chan
Sherman D'Silva
Amanda Inocencio
David Lee
Andrew Majalya
Marjan Philhour
Veronica Shinzato
District 3
Rank order: 1. Danny Sauter/2. Spencer Simonsen
Aaron Peskin*
Danny Sauter
Stephen Schwartz
Spencer Simonsen
Note: Peskin is one of the most anti-housing and anti-justice supervisors today. Using logical loops to block housing projects in the name of “equity,” helping reinforce economic and racial inequality. He represents old-money, Nob Hill interests who benefit from the status quo. Peskin needs to go.
District 5
Vallie Brown
Dean Preston*
Vallie Brown
Daniel Landry
Nomvula O'Meara
District 7
Rank order: 1. Myrna Melgar/2. Emily Murase/3. Joel Engardio
Joel Engardio
Stephen Martin-Pinto
Ben Matranga
Myrna Melgar
Emily M. Murase
Vilaska Nguyen
Kenneth Piper
District 9
ー (I’m unable to endorse Hillary Ronen, but she’s the only balloted candidate)
Hillary Ronen*
District 11
Ahsha Safai
Ahsha Safai*
John Avalos
Marcelo Colussi

Propositions
2
Scope
#
Title
My choice
Why (tap for more on mobile)
California-wide
14
Issues $5.5 billion in bonds for state stem cell research institute
No
While aiming to solve a valuable problem, the impact after the original grants has been unclear and I don’t think there’s been a clear reason that this receive funding outside the normal legislative process.
15
Requires commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on market value and dedicates revenue
Yes
Prop 13 from 1978 is one of the largest statutory root causes to California’s housing crisis. It subsidized those who are older, richer, and less likely to be a person of color paid for by those who are the opposite and most likely to be harmed by the housing crisis. While there were tempting reasons to pass this in the 1970s, it’s left public goods (e.g. education) underfunded and distorted residents’ and cities’ incentives to build more housing. This is one of the most important propositions on the ballot. It doesn’t go nearly far enough, but decisively moves in the right direction.
16
Repeals Proposition 209 (1996), which says that the state cannot discriminate or grant preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, education, or contracting
Yes
I see each side on this issue. I want to live in a world in which considering race, gender, etc. is never required nor helpful. However, we're not there yet and need it as a tool without it being over-used and abused, which can be a real risk.

First, today California’s government nor public universities cannot even consider gender or race in
any
activity. For example it cannot target women or non-white/Asian students for outreach encouraging them to apply. This isn’t even affirmative action, and would be legal were it not for the original proposition that Prop 16 is overturning. Other similar examples demonstrate that the status quo is overly restrictive. Second, any activities considering race/gender/etc. (e.g. affirmative action) would will still be required to follow the many local/federal regulations on these subjects.
17
Restores the right to vote to people convicted of felonies who are on parole
Yes
This propositions allows those deemed
the right to participate in the democratic functions of society. This also helps avert at least some of the racial biases that felon voting restrictions bring from the criminal justice system into our voting system.
18
Allows 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primaries and special elections
Yes
This provides a small but basic extension of our democratic institutions while maintaining adulthood as the primary cutoff for general elections.
19
Changes tax assessment transfers and inheritance rules
Yes
Like this year’s Prop 15, this reduces the subsidy to older, wealthier homeowners created by 1976’s Prop 13. It reduces how much the tax subsidy can be inherited. It doesn’t go nearly far enough by a wide margin, but net moves in the right direction.
20
Makes changes to policies related to criminal sentencing charges, prison release, and DNA collection
No
The end result of this proposition is a harsher justice system for no clear public safety benefit to society.
21
Expands local governments' power to use rent control
No
I’m on the margin for this one. I see how rent control disincentivizes new housing construction. I also see how displacement is a real and very immediate concern with many down-stream effects for those of less means. I appreciate how the proposition segments corporate vs smaller property owners (who face different incentives). In the end, I would be a “yes” if the rent-control kicked in after more than 15 years to ensure more incentives for new housing construction.
22
Considers app-based drivers to be independent contractors and enacts several labor policies related to app-based companies
No
This law is a partial repeal of AB5, which codified a definition of employees vs contractors. tl;dr: it will define app-based workers as contractors with some minimal benefits and wage minimums. And this has resulted in the
.

I do not think AB5 is the right way forward. I think we need a third employment category. But this isn’t about AB5; it’s a vote about Prop 22.

Here’s the arguments you hear for Prop 22:
Drivers value flexibility (and indeed, research shows a significant “flexibility tax” drivers are willing to take for it), and thus ~70% of drivers would be ineligible to drive
Uber will be far more expensive or non-existent without Prop 22
Drivers gain more-than-minimum wages and benefits

The reality:
Workers will actually get less than minimum wage:
it’ll be as low as
given Uber et al.’s carve-outs to define work hours.
Workers don’t receive the
multitude of other protections
associated with employment (e.g. discrimination protection)
It’s a
subsidy to Uber
et al.
If you’re a W2 employee, your employer is subsidizing Uber. Drivers received unemployment insurance (for good reason) during COVID, but Uber never paid into the pool, and won’t with Prop 22.
Social services for workers who don’t receive proper benefits will again be paid for by your tax $$$
Driver support is overstated:
Notice Uber hasn't released the % of hours driven written by part-time drivers (e.g someone working 1hr/wk is counted the same as someone working 60hrs/wk). That’s the relevant figure to gauge, and having seen public policy campaigns like this from the inside, it means the figure isn’t favorable to Uber et al. Also, nothing in AB5 prevents Uber et al. from giving workers flexibility.
Business impact is overstated:
This isn’t the first labor regulation global companies like Uber have seen; they’ll most likely
they’ve used abroad. Drivers will largely still drive.
You can’t fix Prop 22’s problems easily:
For all these problems ー Prop 22 is virtually impossible for the state legislature to amend going forward, requiring a 7/8th super-super-majority. And it would emboldens other companies to weaponize the proposition system for commercial vs. societal gain.

There’s so much fear, uncertainty, doubt, and just plain lies through this campaign (and
). No, Uber et al. won’t shut down and be ridiculously more expensive. Yes it’ll look different. And yes, workers matters if you care about inequality.

Addendum:
After publishing my guide, Li Jin + Nate D’Anna wrote a great case against Prop 22 that goes in greater depth to my points above.
if you’d like even more detail.
23
Requires physician on-site at dialysis clinics and consent from the state for a clinic to close
No
This is about a labor dispute between dialysis workers and companies. Voters should not be legislating the nuances of doctor presence in a clinic, but instead continue to allow the State Legislature and rule making bodies to continue to do their job. Further, I have see no evidence that this improves patient safety; even the proponents of this measure do not cite any explanation for this claim.
24
Expands the provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and creates the California Privacy Protection Agency to implement and enforce the CCPA
No
The privacy community is split on this measure. Overall, I think it doesn’t go far enough on the issues that matter to build on CCPA, which the legislature could do without reverting to a proposition.
25
Replaces cash bail with risk assessments for suspects awaiting trial
No
This proposition decides whether to overturn 2018's SB10. A "Yes" keeps SB10 in place; a "No" is to overturn the law.

Cash bail perpetuates inequalities in our justice system: richer folks can pay it to get out of jail before trial (and do so without exorbitant bail bond interest rates), even if they’re a bigger risk to society. Thus, I generally find cash bail reform a positive move.

However as SB10 and thus this measure are written and given recent cash bail court rulings, I ultimately oppose them. First, SB10 introduces new biases; algorithmic assessments have their own problems even with the controls specified in the law. Second, it gives judges significant discretion to jail those who are innocent prior to being proven guilty without recourse. Third, the
requires means-tested and non-cash bail options, providing a meaningful improvement in the equity of the cash bail system. This makes the non-SB10 status quo better. Finally, most civil rights groups are either against or neutral on the measure (e.g. CA ACLU chapters, NAACP). They assess it will do little to reduce pre-trail imprisonment, and their positions imply that this doesn't feel like the last word (i.e. the best we can get for a while) on cash bail reform.

Full disclosure:
I originally supported this proposition on the margin. After conversations since releasing this guide, I've seen more of SB10's problems. Thank you to those who messaged me to help better inform me on the issue.
San Francisco
A
Health and Homelessness, Parks, and Streets Bond
Yes
Capital projects to maintain the city’s infrastructure on reasonable and necessary issues
B
Department of Sanitation and Streets, Sanitation and Streets Commission and Public Works Commission
No
Splits the Department of Public Works up. Yes there’s corruption there, but it’s unclear how this solves it and their ability to keep SF’s streets clean, all while costing an extra $2.5-6M/yr in a time of budget constraints.
C
Removing Citizenship Requirements for Members of City Bodies
Yes
Immigrants are an essential part of SF. Their expertise can only help these groups they may join.
D
Sheriff Department Oversight Board and Inspector General
No
Solves for a worthy issue ー oversight of the Sheriff Department, which is in need of it. However, the Sheriff Department was put under Department of Police Accountability (DPA) oversight and it’s unclear how this would be significantly than the current state while costing $3M/yr. Better is to continue strengthening the DPA.
E
Police Staffing
Yes
Removes minimum police staffing requirements. Instead, the city can now use other means (e.g. non-police) for public safety as it sees fit. (Nothing changes though; the city doesn’t hit these minimums today anyway)
F
Business Tax Overhaul
Yes
Simplifies the SF tax code as part of a broader transition from a payroll tax to a gross receipts tax (i.e. revenue tax), levied on businesses. Reasonable short-run carve-outs given COVID.
G
Youth Voting in Local Elections
Yes
I think 18 is a reasonable threshold for general election races generally, but I’m amenable to arguments that this will help increase lifetime voter turnout. Local elections matter a lot, so engaging younger folks in local issues feels useful.
H
Neighborhood Commercial Districts and City Permitting
Yes
Clears a bit of SF’s notoriously slow bureaucracy to support local businesses in the current climate.
I
Real Estate Transfer Tax
No
Would apply a higher tax rate to selling properties such as multifamily buildings (e.g. apartment complexes), depressing new housing construction, including low income housing, by adding yet another cost to these direly needed projects. The majority of the Board of Supervisors didn’t even vote for it.
J
Parcel Tax for San Francisco Unified School District
Yes
Funds SF schools for reasonable expenditures (e.g. teacher pay) and similar to how voters intended to in 2018, but due to the complexities of propositions, got tied up in litigation.
K
Affordable Housing Authorization
Yes
Allows the city to directly develop 10,000 units of affordable housing, a worthy and important need. There are additional hurdles for the city to tackle even if this passes to successfully develop those units, but it’s a useful initiative.
L
Business Tax Based on Comparison of Top Executive's Pay to Employees’ Pay
No
Income inequality is an important goal, but the mechanisms to achieve it through a tax tied to executive pay does not seem likely to achieve the desired real-world outcomes given its only city-wide scope. Further, it seems more likely to disincentivize lower-income hiring than change executive compensation.
Caltrain Districts
RR
Caltrain Sales Tax
Yes
This will ensure Caltrain continues to operate. In a post-COVID world, this will be essential to keep people moving around the Bay.
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