San Francisco has become the poster child for the national housing shortage in cities. San Francisco YIMBYs have elected pro-housing leaders to the State Senate, the State Assembly, and the Mayor’s office, and are working to elect more pro-housing leaders to local offices, especially the Board of Supervisors.
To determine who to endorse, the San Francisco YIMBY chapter interviewed candidates and created a thorough questionnaire. They believe the endorsed candidates below would most effectively advocate for more housing in the city and end exclusionary single-family-home-only zoning.
November 2020 Election Cheat Sheet
Explanations for endorsements are below.
- District 11
- Scott Wiener
- District 17
- David Chiu
- District 19
- Phil Ting
- District 7
- Lateefah Simon
- District 9
- Bevan Dufty
- District 1 (Richmond District)
- Marjan Philhour
- District 3 (North Beach, FiDi, Polk Gulch)
- Danny Sauter
- District 5 (Haight, Western Addition, Hayes Valley)
- Vallie Brown
- District 7 (West Portal, Lake Merced)
- Myrna Melgar
- District 9 (Mission, Bernal Heights, Portola)
- No Endorsement
- District 11 (Excelsior, Ingleside, Outer Mission, Crocker Amazon)
- Ahsha Safai
* Endorsements marked with an asterisk are made by only by the local chapter. All other endorsements are from both the local chapter and YIMBY Action.
California State Senate
CA State Senate District 11
San Francisco, San Mateo County
Senator Scott Wiener fights every day as our representative in Sacramento to address our housing crisis. He’s consistently authored the boldest pro-housing legislation in the state, pushing the entire legislature to truly face our housing shortage. Senator Wiener has passed laws to ensure that California’s cities become more welcoming and inclusive by enabling them to build more housing. From major streamlining bills to ADU legislation, Scott has been at the forefront of every effort to improve housing in California. If re-elected, he will continue to fight for a future where there is abundant housing—affordable to working people and families—near good jobs and transit.
California State Assembly
Eastern San Francisco
Assemblymember David Chiu has served as Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee, ushering numerous YIMBY bills through challenging committees. As part of the informal Bay Area Housing Caucus, David had been part of every major housing victory in the legislature. Both in Sacramento and back in his district, Chiu has taken bold stances for housing and supported the local activists fighting for change. Recognized both for his strong work on Affordable Housing and housing across the income spectrum, Chiu is a powerful advocate for housing abundance.
Western San Francisco and northern San Mateo county
Assemblymember Ting has carried important housing bills, including co-authoring the More HOMES Act (SB 50). He has been a critical leader on successful state-wide legislation making it easier to build Accessory Dwelling Units, also known as Granny Flats or Backyard Cottages. Allowing these small units in single-family-home-only neighborhoods has the potential to become a major tool for addressing the state housing shortage, especially in our most exclusionary communities. He is a consistent vote for housing.
California State Ballot Propositions
Proposition 15: Schools & Communities First
Proposition 15 will get rid of property tax breaks for big businesses, and put billions of dollars towards schools and local services.
Currently, thanks to 1978’s Prop 13, owners pay property taxes based on the price they originally paid for that real estate—typically a lot less than what it’s worth today. Prop 15 will roll this back for many large businesses, raising property taxes to be assessed based on the property’s current (probably much higher) market value. Prop 15 will raise approximately $6.5 to $11.5 billion — 60% for cities, counties and special districts, and 40% for schools and community colleges. Homeowners and businesses with under $3 million in California property will be exempted, along with farm land.
Proposition 17: Allows Parolees Right to Vote
California has the opportunity to expand voting rights to people on parole with Proposition 17, something that is already legal in 19 other states. There are currently 50,000 Californians who have completed their prison sentences and can’t vote, which is a racist disenfranchisement of poor people and people of color who are more likely to be convicted of crimes and lose their voting rights. Furthermore, finding housing is often difficult for people who have completed their prison sentences, and they are then not even able to vote for politicians who can represent them and work to address their housing needs. YIMBYs are dedicated to promoting anti-racism and fair democratic representation, and Prop 17 would significantly advance both of those goals. We strongly recommend a YES vote on Proposition 17.
Endorsed by SF YIMBY.
Proposition 19: Changes Some Property Tax Transfers and Exemptions
Proposition 19 adjusts the rules of 1978’s Proposition 13. While many YIMBYs would like to see major reform to Prop 13, this is a small adjustment to California’s property tax rules. Prop 19 reduces tax subsidies for people who inherit multiple homes, and shifts them to people downsizing homes or who are moving due to natural disasters. Any excess tax revenue from reducing the multiple-homes subsidy goes to wildfire protection.
Currently, for homeowners who want to downsize to a smaller home, if it costs more than the original price of their big home, they can end up paying more taxes (depending on their county’s rules). Prop 19 makes sure that people who are down-sizing homes are protected from tax increases. Ideally, this allows long-time homeowners to downsize and allow others who need more space to move into their larger homes. Prop 19 also extends to people who are moving due to natural disasters, so they don’t face a tax hike on top of the trauma of losing their homes.
Proposition 21: Expands Options for Local Rent Control
YIMBY Action’s goal is to “bring down the cost of living in opportunity-rich cities and towns” so that “every person has access to a safe, affordable home near jobs, services, and opportunity,” and sensible limits on rent are part of the toolbox to do so — this is why we supported 2019’s AB-1482, which enacted statewide limits on rent increases. However, Proposition 21 divided our membership, and we could not reach consensus.
Summary of Argument in Favor:
While producing a lot of housing of all types in all communities will eventually make housing affordable to everyone, rent-burdened households need help now. Proposition 21 would allow jurisdictions to overcome the arbitrary 1995 (or 1979, for San Francisco) status-quo rent control cutoff, while providing reasonable guardrails (no rent control for properties <15 years old, and vacancies allow at least a 15% rent increase) to ensure jurisdictions can’t use rent control to oppose new housing. Compared to AB-1482, Proposition 21 allows cities to expand rent control to houses and condos owned by individuals who own more than two units, allows lower caps on rent increases (CPI as opposed to CPI+5%), and does not expire in 2030. The small impact rent control would have on supply is negligible compared to apartment bans; we can and should both protect existing communities and dramatically increase our housing supply.
Summary of Argument Against:
While Proposition 21 is a marked improvement on 2018’s Proposition 10, its guardrails are hard to amend (it would require at least a 2/3 legislative majority and perhaps a statewide vote). Furthermore, its inclusion of vacancy controls — while well-intentioned — could have a number of negative consequences: dilapidated units with “under-the-table” bribes/black markets and discrimination as prospective tenants fight over the units that turn over … thus favoring relatively privileged prospective tenants with more resources. Even with the 15 year moratorium, increasing controls could make it harder to build new market-rate housing (which means less money for affordable housing), and encourage developers/landlords to convert leased housing into condos. Rent control should be reformed in the legislature, which would be easier to amend and could be paired with production streamlining bills to solve our long-term housing shortage.
BART Board of Directors
Lateefah Simon shares SF YIMBY’s goals of building more housing at all affordability levels. She has supported transit-oriented development projects with housing on BART land and was elected by her colleagues to serve as BART Board President this year. We would like Lateefah Simon to continue being a steady hand with a vision for convenient, equitable transportation and widely affordable housing.
Bevan Dufty has a strong record for housing. As BART Director he has supported all transit-oriented development projects on BART property that have come up to the board. We appreciate that he voted in support of the BART Board endorsing Scott Wiener’s SB 50, to zone California’s high-transit & high opportunity neighborhoods for higher density. As a former San Francisco Supervisor and City Hall staffer on homelessness, Bevan understands the nexus between housing abundance and strong public transportation. Bevan Dufty has been a good steward of the BART system and he has a solid vision for the future of BART.
While we wish Bevan were a stronger champion of integrating bikeshare with existing transit, and regret his decision to move a planned bikeshare station from the Mission/24 plaza to a nearby library, we do not view this shortfall as a dealbreaker.
Regional Ballot Measures
Measure RR is a ⅛ percent sales tax providing dedicated funding to save Caltrain from shutdown during Covid and to deliver more frequent service when the pandemic lifts, with better all-day, all-week service for commuting and many other types of trips, and better connections with other local and regional services, supporting an longterm 3-4x increase in ridership. Caltrain service is essential to address the housing shortage in our area – new housing for all income levels along the line from San Francisco through San Jose and Gilroy depend on continuing and improving Caltrain service.
Caltrain is also essential to environmental goals. Pre-Covid, Caltrain kept 4 lanes worth of cars off of freeways and roads, removing 400 million driving miles per year, which would grow by about 240 million with improvements funded by the tax, removing 110 additional metric tons of carbon emissions each day. While a sales tax is regressive, Measure RR would fund unprecedented new equity policies and programs to diversify Caltrain’s ridership. The grassroots support from YIMBY Action and other partners would likely be the margin of victory.
San Francisco Supervisors
Supervisor District 1
Marjan has a consistent record in support of building housing of all types throughout District 1, especially on transit corridors like Geary Blvd. She backs streamlining the approval process for badly needed housing. As a small-business owner and founder of the Balboa Village Merchants Association, she understands the need to streamline the business permitting process as well.
None of the other candidates approach the issue of housing with the seriousness it deserves, too often falling back on disingenuous slogans like “only 100% Affordable housing.” We deserve a Supervisor who realizes that 100% of 0 is nothing. Marjan is that candidate.
Supervisor District 3
Embarcadero, Financial District, Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, Polk Gulch, Chinatown
Danny led support for new subsidized affordable senior housing at 88 Broadway against delays from the current incumbent. On issues of zoning, Danny supports legalizing fourplexes across San Francisco. These modest, missing middle homes will provide opportunity for middle-class families. As President of North Beach Neighbors, he works to make his neighborhood more inclusive, livable and vibrant, including advocating for housing.
Danny Sauter is a strong advocate for San Francisco YIMBY’s goal to create housing affordability through housing abundance. Danny recognizes that market rate housing is key to building more subsidized affordable housing, and we need to build both. Danny is a renter and understands the impact of our housing crisis. He advocates for expanded renter support, tenant law clinics, and better enforcement of rent control violations through a rental registry.
Supervisor District 5
Haight, Western Addition, Hayes Valley
Vallie supports building housing at all income levels. She grew up housing insecure, and has 10+ years experience working in the District 5 office. Vallie was instrumental in identifying, purchasing, and funding new affordable housing in the District, and upzoned the Divisadero corridor, paving the way for hundreds of new families to have a place to live in the city.
Supervisor District 7
West Portal, Lake Merced
Myrna Melgar knows more about housing, and the barriers to building more housing, than anyone on the ballot this year. Until stepping down to run for office, Myrna had the challenging role of President of the San Francisco Planning Commission. She has a Master’s in Urban Planning, and has also worked for the Jamestown Community Center, Mission Economic Development Agency, and deeply understands the unique challenges all housing and especially affordable housing face.
Myrna believes in reforming the permitting process and upzoning along commercial corridors. As a former Planning Commissioner, she can lead the way in ending discretionary review abuse and streamlining the production of affordable housing. She supports safe parking sites in her District, which will provide stability to the unhoused population living in cars and RVs.
Supervisor District 11
Excelsior, Ingleside, Outer Mission, Crocker Amazon
Ahsha Safai helped create HOME-SF, the city’s density bonus program that increases height limits in exchange for more below market rate housing. He supports statewide housing reform, and advocated for new homes in his District, such as at 65 Ocean Ave.
He also worked closely with then Supervisor Vallie Brown to create a vehicular navigation center at Balboa Park, giving a safe sleeping site for our most vulnerable residents. It is vital that we keep his pro-housing voice on the Board of Supervisors.
This race is a clear choice between a candidate who believes in addressing the housing crisis through building more housing and a candidate who uses anti-displacement language to defend racially segregated zoning.
San Francisco Ballot Measures
San Francisco once again has a general obligation bond on the ballot in November 2020. This bond is designed to support the recovery of San Franciscans, with $207 of the $487.5 million directly funding services for people experiencing homelessness, including permanent supportive housing for those who need it most. Other funding will support our local parks and playgrounds and ensure that our streets and sidewalks are safer and more accessible. With historically low interest rates, there is no better time to borrow for municipal bonds to fund urgent services. SF YIMBY is proud to join Mayor London Breed and many others in supporting a good measure that will directly help some of our most vulnerable neighbors and fund important services.
Measure B introduces more complexity into San Francisco’s already byzantine bureaucracy and is fiscally irresponsible, especially while the city’s budget is so strained. While we support the goal of keeping our streets safe and clean, we have no reason to believe that spinning off and forming another department will accomplish that goal. Measure B would create a new layer of senior level administrative positions and increase cost overhead without solving the root problems at the Public Works department.
We have a historical precedent in the form of 1994’s Prop G, which split out the Department of Building Inspection from Public Works and gave it a commission. This reform did not work, both departments are mired in corruption scandals today. We do not believe that trying the same thing again will lead to more efficiency or accountability. Instead, we suggest improving agency focus by forming a Sanitation and Streets unit under Public Works and introducing reforms to hold the entire agency accountable. To address transparency and anti-corruption, Public Works could be required to provide disclosures on public expenditures. We can solve the accountability problem by setting standards for public services and having Sanitation and Streets report on service levels. In short, there are many good ways to reform the Public Works department, this measure is not one of them.
We recommend No on Measure B because it expands administrative costs, creates more commissions, and does nothing to prevent corruption.
Opposed by SF YIMBY.
Measure C allows non-citizens to serve on the various commissions that guide our city’s agencies. Non-citizens pay MUNI fares, rent apartments, and raise families in our city just like citizens do. We should therefore allow them to serve on these oversight commissions.
Endorsed by SF YIMBY.
Back in 1994, San Francisco voters mandated the city maintain at least 1,971 full-duty sworn police officers. Measure E would remove this target, which we’ve never even succeeded in meeting. While this issue is not directly related to housing, we support good governance and oppose arbitrary requirements in our charter. Police staffing levels should be set by our elected officials and public safety experts, not voters from 25 years ago.
Endorsed by SF YIMBY.
Proposition F finishes a process begun in 2012 to reform the city’s business taxes from a payroll tax (which penalizes employment) to a gross receipts tax. It also phases in tax increases to help balance the city’s budget during a time of reduced revenue, including city spending on housing and homelessness. This measure was a strong compromise supported by Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors. We recommend Yes on Measure F to reform business taxes, balance the city’s budget, and provide housing.
Endorsed by SF YIMBY.
San Francisco badly needs Prop H, the Save Our Small Businesses ballot measure. That fact alone is a damning indictment of our bureaucracy and political system.There is no good reason why it should take anywhere near a year or more just to open a small business, but aspiring entrepreneurs wait an average of 10 months to get their permits. Over the last year, we’ve seen minority-owned ice cream and falafel shops delayed for months by other businesses trying to prevent competition. These delays come with substantial costs, as the owners have to pay rent on their space for months before they can serve even one customer. When it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to open a business it’s no wonder that we see so few BIPOC owned businesses in the city.
We could lose half of our small businesses this year, and we need immediate action to prevent our commercial corridors from becoming ghost towns after COVID-19. Further, our budget depends on tax revenue from merchants, which is one reason we have a nearly $2 billion budget hole for The City. Prop H can address these issues. The bill reduces the permitting time for new local businesses down to one month at most, when it can take literally years at present. Further, it gives restaurants and cafes ways to stay in business, like operating a patio space and allowing workspaces in the back during daylight hours.
Keeping small businesses alive also means that workers can continue to make a living. We’ve seen how COVID-19 disproportionately hurts BIPOC, who also make up a higher percentage of small business workers compared to other groups. With our economy in tatters, Prop H breaks through red tape to make life better for all San Franciscans.
Endorsed by SF YIMBY.
Measure I is a perfect example of why people are fed up with San Francisco politics. The measure’s author disingenuously claims that it is taxing wealthy homeowners, but what it is really doing is taxing apartment construction, including below market rate apartments, while letting multi-millionaire homeowners off the hook completely. Measure I increases the transfer tax when a property is sold for more than $10 million. That might sound progressive, but the vast majority of transactions at that price are made by developers of apartment buildings — the most affordable type of housing. Apartment developers will have to pay this tax when they purchase the property and again have to pay it when they sell the building to a property manager (this is standard procedure for apartment builders who focus on construction and not on running the properties themselves). Economists estimate that Measure I will result in 20% fewer apartments being constructed per year — a huge decrease in the midst of the region’s worst housing shortage.
San Francisco YIMBY would likely support a tax on the sale of luxury single-family homes. Most single-family homes in the city sell for between $2 and $5 million and those homes (including the author’s own mansion) are exempt from this tax. This measure taxes the construction of missing middle income and below market rate apartments and condos and rewards wealthy landowners. It is yet another example of city politicians dressing up NIMBYism in progressive talking points.
In June of 2018, voters passed a tax on land parcels in San Francisco to fund educator salaries in the San Francisco Unified School District. However, because the proposition only received 61% of the vote, rather than ⅔, there is ongoing litigation regarding its constitutionality under Prop 218. The tax is being collected, but the City is holding it in trust rather than giving it to the District while we await a court ruling. This year, we are attempting a do-over, and if Measure J passes with ⅔, the parcel tax will go forward, and the litigation will become moot. We support higher property taxes so that public services, such as schools, can be properly funded. Vote Yes on Measure J.
YIMBY Action has long sought to overturn article 34 of the California Constitution, a racist law that requires cities to get voter approval to build affordable housing. We supported State Senator Scott Wiener’s constitutional amendment, SCA 1, that would have repealed article 34. While SCA 1 did not succeed this legislative cycle, we are fortunate that San Francisco voters have repeatedly approved of the city building more affordable housing. In fact, the city still has approval to build thousands more subsidized homes from the last time we voted on this issue.
So while we support the principles of this ballot measure, we are disappointed that it will have no impact on our affordable housing crisis. The barriers to building more subsidized housing in San Francisco are funding, identifying sites, and our byzantine permitting process. This ballot measure does nothing to address those issues. Instead it allows the Board of Supervisors to say that they’re doing something without having to actually make any tough decisions. We support this measure, but we want more from our elected officials.