A Brief Guide to the Housing Propositions

School of Medicine

Once again, it’s that special time of year when those registered to vote in San Francisco will have the opportunity to play a part in electing local government and changing laws.

One of the most prominent issues on the ballot this year is “The Housing Crisis,” so, as a follow up to our recent article on housing and elections, we thought it would be apropos to give a rundown of the propositions about that issue. I will be borrowing heavily from the “Voter Information Pamphlet” (available online at voterguide.sfelections.org) to summarize the meaning of each proposition.

  • A: Affordable Housing Bond

    • A “YES” vote means: $310 million in general obligations bonds (a promise issued by the City to pay back money borrowed, plus interest, by a certain date) on projects designed to build, buy, improve, and rehabilitate housing in San Francisco.

    • IN FAVOR: Essentially everyone supports this initiative. Simply put, it literally allocates future City money towards housing.

    • AGAINST: Main arguments include grammar in the legal text (i.e. the legal text reads “may be allocated…” rather than the more explicit “shall be spent on….”) and the potential for an increase in the property tax, if needed, to cover the bonds, although the City does not expect this to happen.

  • D: Mission Rock

    • A “YES” vote means: you want to increase the height limit from 40 to 240 feet for 10 of 28 Mission Rock acres and establish a City policy to encourage development, provided that it includes eight acres of parks and open space and housing of which at least 33% is affordable for low- and middle-income households (“For [the] purposes of Proposition D, [these are] residential units that are affordable to households earning from 55% to 140% of the Area Median Income. For a two-person household, this income would be from $44,850 to $114,100”). In total this would add a total of around 1900 units, of which around 600 would be affordable.

    • IN FAVOR: More housing, a third of which is guaranteed as “affordable”, and new parks, what’s not to approve?

    • AGAINST: Main argument is that the increased height limits will create “wall on the waterfront”. Since only 10 of the 28 acres will have the height limit raised and the buildings will “step down in height towards the water,” this is a moot point.

  • F: Short-term Residential Rentals → This is one of the most hotly contested propositions. If you feel strongly about it, you should definitely vote on this one!

    • A “YES” vote means:

      • Limit short-term rentals from 90 days per year to 75 days per year

      • Require owners to prove that they authorize the unit as short-term rental

      • Require residents who offer short-term rentals to submit quarterly reports on number of days they live in the unit as compared to renting it

      • Prohibit short-term rentals of in-law units

      • Allow interested parties to sue hosting platforms

      • Make it a misdemeanor for a hosting platform to unlawfully list a unit as a short-term rental

    • IN FAVOR: Called “FAirBnB” by proponents, this initiative is supposed to protect the “availability and affordability of scarce housing” by closing loopholes that allow people to rent rooms “illegally converted into hotel rooms” to tourists.

    • AGAINST: It is touted as being too restrictive given the recently passed existing regulations for short-term rentals. The ability for neighbors to sue one another for mere suspicions is also a huge counterpoint. Finally, back in July the city supervisors voted to limit short-term rentals to 90 days, so opponents argue that the restrictions already in place are sufficient to protect the housing supply.

  • I: Suspension of Market-Rate Development in the Mission District → This is probably the second-most hotly contested proposition, so vote, vote, VOTE!

    • A “YES” vote means: you want to suspend the issuance of City permits on certain types of housing and business development projects in the Mission District for at least 18 months and require the City to develop a “Neighborhood Stabilization Plan” for the Mission District by Jan. 31, 2017.

    • IN FAVOR: Dubbed “Pause for a Plan,” this initiative is meant to delay the construction of luxury housing in the Mission District while a plan for more affordable housing can be formulated.

    • AGAINST: Opponents argue that this “moratorium will stop all new housing construction in the Mission,” and that the last thing needed in a city short on housing is less housing.

  • K: Surplus Public Lands

    • A “YES” vote means: you want the City to expand the allowable uses of surplus property to include building affordable housing for a range of households, from the homeless to those that earn up to 120% of the area median income, or to 150% or more of the median income for projects of more than 200 units.

    • IN FAVOR: Would encourage more “mixed-income housing”. The City is short on housing. Housing is good.

    • AGAINST: What I’m getting from the arguments against this initiative is that too much of the new housing would go to the homeless instead of “workforce housing for [the] middle class”. How it’s bad to give people with absolutely zero housing a place to live is totally over my head.

These and many other important decisions will be made on November 3rd. Make sure to get out and vote!