San Francisco Voter Guide, Nov 2022

About

For a few years now I’ve been writing an informal voter guide for some friends. It’s basically a byproduct of my own decision process: I need to figure out how to vote, and I may as well tell you. This year, I’m publishing it for anyone who finds it helpful.

Before we get started, a bit about my political views and how they affect this voter guide, to get a sense of whether and where you might agree with me:

  • I’m a software engineer who once minored in political science, and have lived in SF for about 6 years now; see more about me.
  • I’m a registered Democrat. In general I consider myself very progressive, but care more than many progressives about good government, realistic economics, and general competence. In practice in SF this puts me somewhere in the middle between the “moderates” and the “progressives”, and I tend to agree with urbanists and YIMBYs on housing and related issues.
  • I’m not a fan of the number of propositions we get in California. I sometimes joke about the “anti-proposition voter guide” which is not real but if it were it would endorse no on everything that could possibly be done legislatively. I don’t always follow that theory, but I tend to hew a bit closer to it than most of the voter guides out there.
  • I’m very excited about democracy and about the fact that you and I might not agree on absolutely everything. In this voter guide, I’ll try to tell you what I actually think, whether I’m quite certain or not really sure yet. I don’t do “no endorsement”: I have to decide what to put on my ballot, even if it’s a weak leaning, and so do you. (I basically never leave a race blank.) I’ll also usually try to tell you why you might disagree, if I think people with broadly similar values but some differences of opinion might want to vote another way.
  • Needless to say, these are my own views and not those of anybody else.

I may still edit this guide up until election day (and will try to leave a changelog if I do). If you think I’ve missed something important in some race, by all means let me know via the links in the header!

Summary

Federal & state candidates:

SF candidates:

State propositions:

SF propositions:

I’ve also put these in a sheet along with other endorsements I consulted (inclusion doesn’t imply I agree with the endorser or their endorsement, of course). The SF Standard also has a longer list of endorsements.

Federal & state candidates

  • Governor: Newsom

I think Newsom has been pretty good even as Democrats go; you may disagree, but Dahle, a pretty ordinary Republican, will surely be worse.

  • Lieutenant Governor: Kounalakis

Lieutenant Governor doesn’t matter that much unless Newsom becomes president (or something); Kounalakis seems fine, her opponent seems both super conservative and kind of unserious.

  • Secretary of State: Weber

Shirley Weber seems genuinely really great; she chaired the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee including backing the law to restore voting rights to people on parole, and since being appointed she seems to have done a good job. Not to mention she got a Ph.D. at the age of 26.

  • Controller: Cohen

Controller is a bit exciting because there are actually two qualified candidates! Cohen is a very establishment Democrat (and endorsed by the Democrats accordingly), who was an SF Supervisor for 8 years. She has dreams clearly a bit bigger than the office; her campaign website says she considers the Controller the “second most important statewide constitutional officer after the Governor” and talks about how the Controller’s office can protect reproductive freedom and demand climate accountability. Meanwhile Chen seems to be a plausibly moderate Republican who wants to bring in a more independent perspective (to an office where that has genuine value) and is very excited to audit all the Democrats. Personally I don’t think “I’m not a Democrat” is quite enough reason to elect someone, but both the SF Chronicle and the LA Times did, so if you want to split your ticket, this is the one.

  • Treasurer: Ma

Why the heck do we need to elect both a controller and a treasurer? Anyway, Ma, the incumbent treasurer, will presumably win, despite a pile of moderately bad scandals. (She seems to be doing fine as far as her core job responsibilities go.) Sadly, her opponent Guerrero, a Republican, seems bad (the L.A. Times says he “cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 presidental election”), so maybe vote for Ma and hope she loses all the lawsuits against her.

  • Attorney General: Bonta

Bonta has really taken up the mantle of chief enforcer of California housing law (read: forcing cities to build housing), and everyone (except the NIMBYs) seems to love him for it. Four more years!

  • Insurance Commissioner: Lara

Insurance Commissioner is the same morality play as Treasurer, but worse. Sadly, Levine, the seemingly most reasonable candidate, didn’t make it to the general. Instead we have Lara, the Dem incumbent with some pretty bad scandals (like accepting donations from companies he regulates after promising not to, oops), and Howell, a self-described “Reagan Republican” who doesn’t seem to totally know what’s going on outside of his pet issues. On wildfire coverage neither seem great but Lara seems to at least have some clue that we have a problem that may relate to insurance. So I don’t love it, but Lara is the clear choice here.

  • Board of Equalization D2: Lieber

For the Board of Equalization, the Chron regrets to inform us that none of the candidates want to abolish it. Lieber didn’t do anything else wrong as far as I know, so vote for her, I guess? Or write in Batman, who cares really.

  • US Senate (twice): Padilla

I mean, Padilla seems great but honestly even if he weren’t I don’t want California electing a Republican (and a Republican opposed to abortion rights at that) to the Senate; don’t forget to vote for him twice (once for the next two months and once for the subsequent 6 years).

  • US House D11: Pelosi

Love her or hate her, Pelosi’s opponent is a Republican who touts his endorsement from Rand Paul. He’s not your man.

  • CA Assembly D17: Haney

Haney was a great supervisor and seems to have already gotten himself busy in Sacramento, so I’m excited to see what he will do with a full term. Plus, his opponent, Campos, isn’t really running anymore after losing in February and April (for which he has my deepest thanks).

  • Supreme Court: Yes to all
  • Court of Appeals D1: Yes to all

No matter how much I hate voting for Superior Court judges in contested elections, voting to retain Supreme and Appeals Court Justices is sillier: you can vote yes or no, and that’s it. Nobody seems to have a problem with any of them, and none of them have received disciplinary action, which sadly is as good as we get for judicial retention.

  • Superintendent of Public Instruction: Thurmond

Superintendent of Public Instruction is technically non-partisan, but Thurmond is basically a Democrat and Christensen is basically a Republican. Thurmond has done some good things but also has his problems – a “toxic” office environment and a lackluster response to COVID. But his opponent, Christensen, supports staff-led prayer in schools and opposes abortion rights, so Thurmond it is.

SF candidates

  • Board of Education: Fisher, Motamedi, Weissman-Ward

First of all, let’s take a moment to celebrate the fact that we have six candidates for three seats, most of which seem both competent and like they actually care about the school board and not just higher office. It has not always been thus. We’ll need it, given that several candidates felt the need to have “pay teachers on time” in their platforms. On to the candidates:

  • Fisher, a special education advocate, is left-leaning and seems very knowledgeable and involved. She kinda seems like she wants to invest in everything.
  • Fleshman talks a lot about improving diversity and inclusion, but her plans to do so are unclear. She thinks it’s too easy to fire bad teachers, and her answer to GrowSF’s (very leading) question about the recall is a 600-word screed against “the POA, tech companies, and real estate developers”.
  • Hsu, one of the appointed incumbents, talks a lot about academic excellence and supports merit-based admissions at Lowell. She feels the school district has enough funding but needs to use it better. She got in trouble for writing in an endorsement questionnaire that one of the biggest challenges in educating Black and Brown students was “lack of parental encouragement to focus on learning”, for which she apologized.
  • López you know all about from the recall and the New Yorker interview. She seems as ever.
  • Motamedi, another appointed incumbent, seems very knowledgeable about the details of SF education policy. (Her answer to GrowSF’s question about “one thing you think needs to change … that the average voter wouldn’t know about” was the only one I in fact didn’t know about.) She seems a bit more aligned with Hsu ideologically.
  • Weissman-Ward (who seems to be campaigning with Motamedi), the third appointed incumbent, also seems reasonable and aligned with Hsu and Motamedi.

Ideologically, it’s a bit tricky to put school board issues directly on a one-dimensional spectrum, but to the extent one can, it seems the ordering is, from “left” to “right”, López, Fleshman, Fisher, Motamedi/Weissman-Ward, Hsu. The latter three are the mayor’s appointees.

Fleshman doesn’t seem great to me, and we’ve already recalled López, so that leaves the other four. Hsu’s comments certainly seem bad, so the question is does an apology suffice? I’m conflicted, but in any case Motamedi and Weissman-Ward seem similar ideologically so why not elect them instead? And then I think Fisher provides a bit of balance as well as her own specific experience in special education. So that leaves me aligned with the Democratic Party, Haney, and Ronen, voting for Fisher, Motamedi, and Weissman-Ward. If you think Hsu’s apology suffices, and don’t like Fisher as much, then maybe vote the mayor’s ticket. If you still like López, maybe replace Weissman-Ward, who just doesn’t seem quite as knowledgeable as Motamedi.

  • City College Board (4-year term): Chung, Rizzo, Selby
  • City College Board (2-year term): Green

Again, we give thanks for the many candidates, even though it makes the decision harder. I’ll start with the full-term election (vote for three).

There are two main slates here. Chung, Martinez, and Solomon are the change slate, a bit more on the left, and are endorsed by the unions and the more left groups. Davila, Rizzo, Selby, the three incumbents, are a bit more to the center and endorsed by Matt Haney, and in the case of the latter two, several of the supervisors and other less-left groups. (Davila seems to have a weirdly nonexistent campaign for an incumbent.) Yee is running separately but is also more to the center (and endorsed by Breed). None of the remaining three seem great:

  • Hurabiell was a Republican until just before filing for the race, said Critical Race Theory is “dangerous nonsense”, and while apologizing for that said of Black Lives Matter that “I’m not sure I fully understand that movement”, which, uh, I guess let’s say is all too bad since she does seem to have some good experience.
  • Walker seems to not have much of a serious campaign (his Twitter is mostly commentating on the DA and school board races) and is a bit light on details as to how he would improve City College, other than convincing residents that City College is great.
  • Zeng seems a little out there, also light on details, and has no endorsements.

Finally, note that Chung is a recent CCSF student and student trustee, Walker was a student and student trustee a decade ago, and Yee was a student a while ago. Meanwhile Martinez is a retired faculty member, administrator, and union leader, and Yee is a current faculty member and administrator.

Now: what does City College need? If only anyone knew; it has had a lot of trouble of late and while arguably on the upswing there’s still plenty to fix, especially low enrollment and keeping finances in order as pandemic funding dries up. But of course all candidates say they will increase enrollment and balance the budget. Martinez, Rizzo, and Selby seem to be the heaviest on details, to the extent that’s meaningful.

So one way to go here is to follow the slates: Chung, Martinez, and Solomon if you feel the current Board has made a mess and a more union-aligned Board is the way to go; or for Rizzo, Selby, and Yee if you feel that they’re doing fine experience, brass tacks, and continuity are more important. (I put Yee rather than Davila there, since I do care about candidates telling us what they think.) Personally, I lean towards the latter in this case, but I do also feel that there’s value in both a recent student and a diversity of views, which most likely leaves me voting for Chung, Rizzo, and Selby. I’m not super confident about this recommendation, so I may yet change my mind if I have time to do more research before the election.

For the two year term, we have three candidates: Green (appointed incumbent), Landry, and Velasquez. Landry doesn’t seem very serious and has no endorsements. Velasquez, a former City College student and counselor, is on the Chung et al. slate and endorsed by many of the left orgs. Green, also a former City College counselor, is running on the slate with the other incumbents and is similarly endorsed. Neither seems quite as strong as the full-term candidates, and either seems probably good enough. I lean towards Green, who seems to have a bit more relevant experience.

  • Assessor-Recorder: Torres

Torres is the incumbent and only candidate, so what is there to say? He’s a citywide elected official who doesn’t have a corruption scandal yet? He seems plausibly qualified and pro-housing? Good enough.

  • District Attorney: Hamasaki, Veronese, Jenkins

This one is a doozy. It’s just as hotly contested as the 2019 election and the recall, but the battle lines are much less clear. And it’s ranked choice, so you arguably have to think about all four candidates.

From seemingly most progressive to most conservative:

  • Hamasaki was an outspoken and critical member of the Police Comission, and is running the seemingly most progressive campaign, endorsed by various left/progressive orgs. He would continue various Boudin reforms around cash bail, prosecuting children as adults, and the Innocence Commission, although he of course insists he’s not Boudin and promises to prosecute fentanyl dealers. He says he’s not “anti-cop” but it sure doesn’t seem like SFPD will agree. He’s also had quite a few hot takes on Twitter over the years.
  • Veronese seems somewhere in between: he talks about being unhappy with both Breed and Boudin, about reforming (but not ending) cash bail, about being both a “reformer” and “tough on crime”, and about being “not left, not right”. Or at least that’s where he’s trying to position himself, which sometimes seems moderate, and sometimes a bit contradictory. (He says he wants to support “drug-addicted people” but doesn’t support safe consumption sites.) He wants the police department to report to him, and in general seems to have a bit of a “those other guys are incompetent, I will be more successful” vibe. He has a few endorsements from unions.
  • Jenkins is the mayor’s appointee and the mayor’s candidate (whether she’s the mayor’s lackey is a matter of debate). She’s endorsed by, yes, the mayor, and also a bunch of the rest of the city establishment. She’s more on the “tough on crime” side, threatening to charge fentanyl dealers with murder and instituting a “five strikes” program for drug users (one she claims is about treatment and “support”, but which does include criminal charges as an inducement), but will keep some reforms, including the Innocence Commission, and supports safe consumption sites. And she’s apparently against ranked-choice voting, which I take as a personal insult.
  • Chenier seems perhaps the most conservative, although he’s a bit all over the map, and a bit unserious. His interviews and questionnaires are pretty vague other than to cast him generally on the right.

Where does that leave us? If you like reform, Hamasaki’s perhaps the most reform-minded, but he’s also a bit of a loose cannon. If you want somewhere in between, and someone who the police will like a bit more, Veronese is maybe in between, or maybe just all things to all people. Jenkins maybe represents some continuity for an office that has had a lot of changes, or maybe hasn’t done enough in 2 months and won’t do enough in the next 2 years. Messy as it is, I can’t make heads or tails of which candidate will be the most competent, so I think I have to go based on ideological alignment, which puts me at Hamasaki, Veronese, Jenkins, Chenier, but boy I don’t feel great about that. As a consolation, maybe we’re just picking who gets to lose to Stefani next year!

  • Public Defender: Raju

The only thing really in question in this race is which DA they’ll be across the table from in court. Raju, the incumbent, is endorsed by everybody from GrowSF to the Berniecrats, and as far as I’ve read seems to be doing a good job.

  • Supervisor D6: Mahogany, Dorsey

Perhaps you already know how you’re voting here; this race has been gearing up for months. Dorsey is a former cop, appointed by the mayor, generally leans “tough on crime”, although with a personal perspective of his own struggle with substance abuse. Mahogany was Matt Haney’s Chief of Staff and the first trans Chair of the SF Dems (and has accordingly many endorsements from Dem electeds). Both seem reasonably pro-housing and support Prop D, and both support transit and car-free JFK; Mahogany got the first endorsement from the SF Bike Coalition while Dorsey got YIMBY Action, but both endorsed the other as #2. (There are two more candidates, but neither seems very serious.)

I expected this to be an easy one: vote for the one who’s not a literal cop, right? But in his five-odd months in office so far, I’ve been far less unhappy with Dorsey so far than I expected; he’s a bit to the right of my ideal but he’s mostly been reasonable in practice, and the many dual endorsements agree. But in the end, he’s a bit to the right of my ideal, Mahogany is closer and also seems plenty competent, so I’ll vote for her, and put Dorsey as #2.

State propositions

  • Prop 1 (Abortion): Yes

If you don’t support abortion rights, why are you reading my voter guide? This proposition is a bit less obvious; it doesn’t actually expand abortion rights, it just puts them in the constitution to make it harder for a future legislature to restrict them. I’m not a big fan of propositions that we don’t strictly need, and I’m not convinced we actually need this prop, but putting rights in constitutions is still probably good, and I mean, who knows, maybe we do need this prop! So I’m not totally sold, but I’m voting for it.

  • Prop 26 (Gambling on tribal lands): No
  • Prop 27 (Gambling online): No

Lucky us, not one but two gambling props on the ballot this year. To lay my cards on the table, I think restricting gambling is probably good in theory but basically a lost cause at this point. But either way, these props aren’t the way to do it.

Let’s start with Prop 27: it’s a hot mess. It’s 60 pages of regulatory capture by the big players (including nine-figure license fees and a 5/6 threshold to amend—have you noticed that every stupid regulatory capture prop picks a different unreasonably high threshold—not to mention the obligatory “funds homelessness programs!” to try to hide the ball). Nobody endorses it. Vote no.

Prop 26 isn’t quite as bad: it’s just expanding existing gambling on tribal lands, is only 6 pages of regulatory capture, and hey, at least the money goes towards our country’s twisted form of reparations. (Accordingly, a long list of tribes supports it; beyond that it’s basically only endorsed by the Berniecrats, Pissed Off Voters, and their ilk.) But it seems to still amount to a bunch of regulations written by those being regulated where the legislature could do—let’s be realistic and say a less bad job—so I still think it’s a bad idea.

By the way, in the unlikely event both of these pass, we’re in for some hilarious lawsuits: the backers of Prop 27 say the two don’t conflict, while the backers of Prop 26 say they do. (As a reminder, in case of a conflict, the one with more votes wins.) So if 27 gets more votes, both will go into effect, while if 26 does, they get to fight it out in court.

  • Prop 28 (Arts and music education): No

Prop 28 is a set-aside for arts and music education programs, and it’s one of the tricky ones. I love arts and music education programs as much as the next guy; I grew up in a town with very strong music education and really appreciated that. But set-asides, I hate set-asides. This prop isn’t as bad as some; it allows for amendment by a 2/3 majority and has some escape hatches for low state revenue. But at the end of the day, I just can’t bring myself to vote for an unfunded set-aside like this. Here’s to hoping the legislature increases music and arts education funding the old-fashioned way.

  • Prop 29 (Dialysis, take 3): No

I am so tired of writing about dialysis propositions. I am unconvinced this regulation is a good idea, but I am absolutely convinced that we should not be regulating the staffing requirements for specific medical procedures at the ballot box, and I am even moreso convinced that when you lose at the ballot box twice you shouldn’t come back for round three. The SEIU does many good things, but how stupid do they think we are at this point?

  • Prop 30 (Tax the rich for electric cars): No

Prop 30 increases taxes on the rich (1.75% on income above $2M) to fund electric cars and wildfire response and prevention. Now you know I don’t mind a good tax on the rich, but it’s really unclear whether this one is a good idea. California recently passed a regulation requiring 100% of new car sales to be zero-emission by 2035; it’s unclear if this would actually change the adoption rate of electric cars. So the question is: is it better to tax the rich to fund electric cars people will already buy? (Lyft would like that, which is why they’ve spent $45M on it. Newsom wouldn’t, or perhaps he just wants us to thank him, not Lyft, for the emissions reductions.) At the end of the day I’m really not sure, and when I’m really not sure on a prop, I generally vote no. Let’s tax the rich for something we definitely need; there are enough options to go around.

  • Prop 31 (Flavored tobacco referendum): Yes

This is a bit like dialysis, but reversed. On flavored tobacco, I am less convinced that the ban is a good idea; I suspect a more targeted regulation might be smarter. But I am, again, absolutely convinced that it’s a terrible idea to let companies stop regulations by spending millions of dollars on a referendum, so I’m voting yes (which allows the law to go into effect) in any case.

SF propositions

  • Prop A (Retirement system funding): Yes

Prop A is a technical fix to the city’s pension system to make it more fair to somebody-or-other by overriding some court decision. It’s endorsed by everybody. I honestly didn’t even really bother to understand the details; I wish we could just make it so the supervisors we pay to do this stuff could, you know, do this stuff.

  • Prop B (Public Works, take 2): No

It’s these propositions that make me think, “what is good governance really?”. I think in San Francisco we often vote for the appearance of good governance over actual good governance. Here’s my tirade.

Prop B basically reverses Prop B from 2 years ago, which split a new Department of Sanitation and Streets from the Department of Public Works. The split hasn’t really been implemented yet, and some supervisors were surprised, after voting for it, to learn that it will cost around $6M a year. (For reference, the two departments combined have a budget around $400M, of the city’s almost $14B.) The new prop would mostly reverse the split, keeping both oversight commissions. (More on commissions under Prop C.)

To me this all seems very stupid. Back in 2020 I wrote:

The best argument for [Prop B] seems to be ‘Matt Haney knows what he’s doing’, and the best argument against it seems to be ‘well, it will cost a couple bucks and it’s not clear it will help’. Does no one have an opinion?!

Now, suddenly, two years after passing it, everyone has an opinion; some of the original supporters now want to repeal, while Matt Haney and the affected unions want to keep the split. I still don’t know if the split is a good idea. If it was a good idea in the first place the fact that it will cost $6M seems fairly minor; we knew it would cost some money.

I somewhat smell a rat here: who has decided it’s advantageous for them to re-merge the departments? I’m honestly not sure, but I wonder. More to the point, it really bothers me that some supervisors seem to have changed their minds because they didn’t realize that a reorg would cost money. So not knowing, as we still don’t know, if this will help or hurt, my inclination is to say: elections have consequences; next time if they want to reorg departments because it seems like a good idea maybe they’ll do their homework first.

You may say that means I’m voting no just because I’m grumpy; SPUR and various other orgs support B (and indeed SPUR opposed the split in the first place). You might be right. But I’m still voting no.

  • Prop C (Homelessness Oversight Comission): No

More “good” governance. Prop C creates Yet Another Oversight Commission, this time for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Once again, let me take a moment to stand on my soapbox, this time on the subject of commissions.

According to the City Attorney, San Francisco has 49 commissions and boards, as well as 73 advisory committees. If oversight commissions made for good government, we’d be the best-run city in the nation. Instead, we seem to have a mix of commissions that don’t do that much and commissions that actively participate in the corruption. Both, I feel, tend to hide the ball in making it hard to know who to blame when things get so bad you need a data journalist to help map the corruption.

Let’s try something new: when things don’t work, we blame the mayor. Maybe the supervisors too, but in SF, the mayor has most of the power. No new commissions. No new oversight boards. The mayor hires and fires (almost) all of the department heads; the mayor signs the laws; the mayor basically controls most of the commissions anyway. If something is wrong, we blame the mayor. If somebody is corrupt, the mayor appointed them, and the mayor had better deal with it. If not, we can vote her out (more on that in Prop H).

Is SF wasting a lot of the money it spends on homelessness? Sure. But will a new commission with a very specific list of qualifications (but still 4/7 members appointed by the Mayor) actually change that? I just don’t see it. Will it hurt? I don’t know, maybe not. But at the end of the day I am just not voting for another commission.

  • Prop D (YIMBY version): Yes
  • Prop E (Supes' version): No

Take a deep breath, these two are important but they’re honestly pretty easy: do you think the solution to the housing crisis is to build more housing, some of it affordable, or do you think it’s to maybe build a few more 100% affordable developments, as a treat?

Both props are, in theory, about streamlining affordable housing development. First came the YIMBY version, which would streamline approval for 100% affordable projects (with a fairly low floor for what counts as affordable) and for mixed projects that go (a small amount) above the already-mandated requirement for affordable units and put them on site. The Board of Supervisors didn’t like that, and put their own competing measure on, with the same broad strokes but higher requirements and in some cases still requiring approval from the Supervisors as well as environmental review. (Yes, the same supervisors, and the same environmental review, that so carefully protected the Nordstrom valet parking lot.)

We could talk more about the specific provisions, but basically, it seems like Prop E is for people who think no new housing is better than housing that’s not a high enough percentage affordable. I don’t; I think we need lots of new housing at all levels, and Prop D is clearly better for that.

We will, however, mention some fun 17-dimensional chess. If Prop D fails, it may increase the chances SF fails to pass an acceptable housing element explaining how we will build 82,000 units of housing by 2030. That means all sorts of state pre-emption will kick in, which in short will basically mean SF loses the opportunity to deny many more kinds of project approvals. Is there an accelerationist case for Prop E? I don’t know, and I’m not really that kind of person even if there were, but it’s kinda funny to think about.

  • Prop F (Preserve the Library Preservation Fund): Yes

I mean, set-asides are usually bad, right? Everyone seems to think Prop F is good; it’s extending an existing set-aside to fund the SF Public Library. The SF Public Library is great; it wins national awards and all that jazz. Everybody endorses the proposition. In principle, is a set-aside the right way to fund that? I don’t tend to think so, but given that this one is working I’m inclined to leave it be.

  • Prop G (Grants to SFUSD): No

On the other hand, Prop G is a new set-aside to provide some grants for a “community school model” in the SF School District. Mostly this is coming out of state “excess revenues” that go to counties (itself a bizarre system). Everybody also endorses this. I’m less clear that it’s a good idea; if we want to have a community school model let’s have the supervisors fund it the normal way so we can, for example, take it all back if it doesn’t end up working.

  • Prop H (City elections in even years): Yes

Prop H moves elections for Mayor, DA, and other citywide offices to even years (moving the next set from 2023 to 2024, and thereafter every 4 years again). Unlike Props B and C, this is what good governance looks like: let’s elect the thing that actually matters at the election people actually show up to.

In the last cycle, the 2020 election got over twice the turnout of the 2019 Mayoral election; four years before the difference was almost as big. It will be such a big change to Mayoral election turnout that the prop has to change the signature requirement for ballot props, which was previously a percentage of Mayoral turnout. (While I’d be okay raising the threshold, this prop keeps it basically the same.) The only person opposed is the Mayor herself, who I guess is worried that this might make a challenger more likely? I say, if more voters mean more contested elections, great!

You are welcome to remind me of this section when I complain about how much longer our ballot, and this voter guide, is in 2024.

  • Prop I (JFK Drive: bring back cars): No
  • Prop J (JFK Drive: keep as-is): Yes

This is another pair of competing props and it’s also pretty easy. In case you’ve been living under a rock, JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park is now closed to cars, in a pandemic change made permanent. The chair of the DeYoung Museum board doesn’t like that, and got a prop on the ballot to get it undone. That’s stupid; vote no. (If you needed more reasons, it would also bring cars back to Great Highway on weekends in perpetuity, even if (when) Great Highway falls into the ocean.)

Prop J is on the ballot, I guess, to compete with Prop I; it would make the new status quo on JFK Drive (i.e. no cars) permanent. I’m honestly not really sure why it needs to be a proposition, but we are where we are and it’s probably good to vote yes just in case Prop I passes too.

(Note that there is no Prop K; this guide is long enough so I will only make the briefest of nods to the hot mess that TODCO and John Elberling put on, then took off, of our ballot.)

  • Prop L (Extend sales tax for transit): Yes

Prop L extends a sales tax that funds transit for another 30 years. It’s endorsed by everybody except the Republican party. Sure, why not; I only wish we had extended it forever, to save ourselves some time in 2053.

  • Prop M (Residential vacancy tax): No

Prop M, one of two new taxes on the ballot, is a vacancy tax on residential properties of at least three units, to go with the commercial vacancy tax we passed in 2020. In general I tend to think vacancy taxes are questionable economics; some level of vacancy is necessary for the market to work and if we need more housing we should build it instead of trying to mess around with a small number of vacant units. Additionally, this vacancy tax doesn’t apply to that many units anyway, and may not have enough of a grace period for new construction, which is why SPUR is opposed. Some folks seem to be leaning towards voting for this because it probably mostly won’t hurt, and may help a little, but for me, that’s just not enough to vote for it. (YIMBY Action is endorsing it “as a means to move on to other topics”, which is kinda funny but also unconvincing to me.)

  • Prop N (JFK Drive: parking): Yes

In between the taxes we go back to JFK Drive with Prop N, which removes the weird governance structure for the Concourse Garage (under the DeYoung and Cal Academy). One of the weird quirks of the JFK fight has been that the City doesn’t actually control the garage because of the proposition that originally built it, which means the city can’t, for example, add more accessible parking, or make it cheaper, to offset the impact of removing parking from JFK. This prop removes that weird structure, which would be good on the merits, simplify governance, and (my favorite) repeal a past proposition.

  • Prop O (Parcel tax for city college): No

Prop O, the other new tax, is a parcel tax to support City College. In general I’m fine with more taxes to fund City College, but it seems like the specifics are less than ideal (read the controller’s report), and it’s not clear that another $37M a year is what City College (total budget upwards of $300M) needs. I’m not too sure about this one as basically all the City College Board candidates support it; but a default position of no, and a corresponding endorsement from SPUR, lead me towards no.