June 2022 SF Election Guide

This is a nonpartisan analysis of contests on the ballot in San Francisco for the election occurring on June 7, 2022. It was created by Liana Wilcox, Sylvie Sturm and Lila LaHood, who are part of the team that brings you “Civic,” our local public affairs radio show and podcast. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify or Stitcher.

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San Francisco Ballot Measures

Proposition A — MUNI Reliability and Street Safety Bond

This $400 million bond measure would finance the repair, improvement and construction of various street safety, transportation and transit related infrastructure projects.

To pass, this measure requires the approval of two-thirds of voters.

Landlords would be allowed to pass along half of the cost of this property tax increase to their residential tenants. Proceeds from this bond would be used to improve bus yards, facilities and equipment; make Muni more reliable and faster; and improve street safety and traffic signals.   

This measure would require that any contract funded with proceeds of bonds be subject to a project labor agreement, meaning that one or more unions would negotiate collective bargaining agreements for workers hired for these projects.

Proponents say this bond would make traveling by foot, train, car, bike and other vehicles safer, faster, more reliable and “greener.” They say the bond will address equity by providing better transit in underserved areas, reducing carbon emissions and traffic speeds, improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, preventing traffic related injuries and increasing accessibility for people with mobility issues. They also say this measure will not raise taxes because the new bond will replace expiring bonds, thus keeping property taxes close to 2006 levels. 

The new bond would allow the city to tap into federal matching funds, and proponents say improved transportation would help the economy rebound. Because Muni ridership has decreased, revenue from fares will not be enough to sustain the system. Even if commuting remains below pandemic levels, proponents say system improvements are necessary to provide transportation for the people who live in San Francisco.

Opponents say the bond isn’t necessary because so many people are still working from home, public transit ridership is at half of 2019 levels, and the measure’s language doesn’t designate funding for specific projects. They say the bond would increase taxes by 15% over four years, and the passthrough allowance for landlords would lead to rent increases. Other opposition arguments say that SFMTA projects regularly come in late and over budget, and claim that the project labor agreement requirement would end competitive bidding. They also dispute arguments that the bond would promote safer streets because, opponents say, the money wouldn’t prevent violent crime or ensure criminal prosecution.

In the controller’s assessment, the highest estimated annual property tax cost for these bonds for a home with an assessed value of $600,000 would be $66.77. The city’s current policy is to keep the property tax rate for the city’s general obliga­tion bonds below the 2006 rate by issuing new bonds as older ones are retired and the tax base grows, though this property tax rate may vary based on other factors. 

Proposition B — Building Inspection Commission

This measure proposes to amend the city charter to revise the way members are appointed to the Building Inspection Commission, which oversees the Department of Building Inspection, and to revise the commission’s duties and composition.

The amendment includes a plan for transitioning to the new composition of the commission by July 1, 2023. Previously, the commission consisted of four mayoral appointees that must include a structural engineer, a licensed architect, a residential builder and a representative of a nonprofit housing developer; and three appointees by the president of the Board of Supervisors, including a residential tenant, a residential landlord and a member of the public. 

This charter amendment would eliminate the requirement for each Building Inspection Commission seat to have a designated profession, background or industry affiliation. Instead, it would require two of the mayor’s appointees to have qualifications as either engineers, architects or residential builders, and one of the appointees designated by the president of the Board of Supervisors must be a residential tenant and/or work for a nonprofit housing organization. 

This amendment would also require that those making appointments prioritize recruiting commissioners who are concerned with tenant and habitability issues. 

The amendment would preserve the nominating rights of the mayor and the president of the Board of Supervisors, but would make each nomination subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors within 60 days. 

The measure would also remove the commission’s ability to appoint the director of the Department of Building Inspection, and would require that the commission provide names of at least three qualified candidates to the mayor, from among which the mayor would choose a director.

The measure also simplifies charter language that emerged from earlier amendments.

This measure has no official opponent and no one paid to submit opposition arguments to the Department of Elections. The controller’s statement indicates that if approved, this measure would have minimal impact on the cost of government.

Proposition C — Recall Timelines and Vacancy Process

This measure would modify the city charter to ban recall petitions within one year of an official’s election — an increase from the current ban on recalling officials during their first six months in office. It would also ban submitting a recall petition to the Department of Elections if a regularly scheduled election for that seat was less than 18 months away. 

The measure would also bar anyone who the mayor appoints to a recalled position from running for the same seat in the subsequent election. The rule would apply to any vacancy created due to a recall election held on or after June 7, 2022. 

The city controller confirmed that this measure would save the city money since it would likely decrease the number of special elections and the number of ballot measures added to regularly scheduled elections. 

The proposed recall reform was submitted to the Department of Elections for the June ballot following a 7-to-4 vote at the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Aaron Peskin proposed the recall reform, and six other supervisors voted with him in favor of it.

Proponents of the measure, in statements filed with the Department of Elections, say it would reduce costly special elections, ensure high voter turnout and limit the ability of “outside special interests to constantly distort and undermine our democracy.” 

They say that recalls shouldn’t be a “second bite at the apple for those who just lost an election,” and that newly elected officials deserve at least a year in office to show how they handle the job and fulfill their voter mandate. 

Supervisors Myrna Melgar, Ahsha Safai, Rafael Mandelman and Catherine Stefani oppose the measure, citing concerns over accountability and equity. Opponents also include Grow SF — a tech coalition that formed in 2021 and was a force behind the recall of three San Francisco Unified School District board members this year, and the ongoing effort to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin. (See Proposition H in this voter guide for more details.)

Opponents call the proposal a power grab, saying it would “elevate elected officials above the people” and “rig the system to protect failed politicians from voter accountability.”

In arguments filed with the Department of Elections, opponents say the recent school board recall succeeded “because they failed to do their jobs and prioritized their personal agenda ahead of public schoolchildren.” Opponents say if this proposed policy had been in place earlier this year, the recalled school board members would still be in office today, “damaging our public schools and students.”

Proposition D — Office of Victim and Witness Rights; Legal Services for Domestic Violence Victims

This measure is asking voters to approve creating a department that will focus on victims’ and witnesses’ rights, and will launch a pilot program to provide free legal services to victims of domestic violence in civil cases.

The proposed department would coordinate with other city agencies, including the police department, the district attorney’s office and the department of public health, to help victims navigate City Hall and access services. Currently, services available to victims are spread out and managed by several departments. 

Within the first three months, the new department would submit to the Board of Supervisors a plan for a one-year pilot program to provide free legal services in civil cases to victims of domestic violence. These could include restraining orders, as well as divorce, custody, housing and immigration cases. The program would cover victims of domestic violence who live in San Francisco, or who were victims in incidents that took place in San Francisco.

Proponents say members of marginalized groups are more often victims of crimes, have difficulty navigating city services, might be hesitant to ask police for help and frequently face language barriers. They note that cases of domestic violence have been increasing during the pandemic, and that criminal charges are often dropped in domestic violence cases. 

In an opposition statement, David Pilpel — a San Franciscan known for frequently filing statements opposing city measures — wrote that the city doesn’t need a new department when the services are already being provided and that adding a department would make coordinating services more complicated and bureaucratic. He wrote that the Board of Supervisors could hold public hearings, allocate resources and seek the mayor’s approval for such programs without sending it to voters. He did not address the lack of legal representation in civil domestic violence cases.

The controller’s statement explains that the financial impact of adding this department would be determined during the budget process, but estimates a likely cost of $700,000 to launch the pilot program and $340,000 to run it annually.

Proposition E — Behested Payments

This measure proposes amending the city’s Campaign and Government Conduct Code to expand the scope of an existing ban on soliciting behested payments to prohibit members of the Board of Supervisors from requesting such payments, directly or indirectly, from contractors whose contracts the board has approved. If a contractor has ongoing business with the city, this prohibition would apply for 12 months following the end of the contract.

Soliciting behested payments means asking for money, goods or services to be given for a “legislative, governmental or charitable purpose” — for example, requesting a donation that would support a city program or a nonprofit organization that may or may not be working with the city.

The measure would also amend the code to require the Ethics Commission and two-thirds of the Board of Supervisors to approve further changes to this law.

The Board of Supervisors is split on this proposition. Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Dean Preston, Connie Chan, Gordon Mar and Shamann Walton signed the proposed ordinance to place it on the ballot. The Municipal Elections Code allows measures to be placed on the ballot with the support of at least four supervisors. Supervisors Catherine Stefani, Myrna Melgar and Rafael Mandelman signed the official opponent statement along with Sen. Scott Wiener.

The controller’s statement indicates that this measure, if approved, would not affect the cost of government.  

Proponents say allowing behested payments creates opportunities for corruption and encourages a culture of pay-to-play politics. 

“San Franciscans deserve to know that public officials are making decisions based on their best judgment, and not on behalf of large corporations and special interests,” proponents wrote in their statement supporting the measure. “When City Officials raise money from entities who stand to benefit from their actions, their duty to the public is impaired.”

They pointed to the corruption scandals involving former Director of Public Works Mohammed Nuru asking Recology to donate to an outside slush fund, and former inspectors from the Department of Building Inspection raising money from permit expediters as reasons for supporting the measure.

Opponents wrote that the way the measure is crafted could “impair the City’s ability to partner with vital community organizations and receive critical charitable support. The measure will prevent the City from closely work­ing with nonprofit partners on projects addressing homelessness, housing, equity, public safety and envi­ronmental justice.”

Proposition F — Refuse Collection and Disposal Ordinance

This measure would change the makeup of the city’s Refuse Rate Board, which decides the way garbage collection rules and rates are set

Supervisor Aaron Peskin submitted the ballot measure with the support of the full board and Mayor London Breed in the wake of a scandal revealing that the city’s waste management company overcharged San Francisco residents nearly $95 million.

While one private company, Recology, is responsible for waste hauling and recycling services, the city approves rates. Recology allegedly got away with the overbilling by colluding with disgraced former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who approved excessive trash collection rates. Nuru was later implicated in a wide-ranging bribery scandal involving many companies doing business with the city. Recology has since agreed to pay over $130 million in fines and refunds.

At a March 1 Board of Supervisors hearing, Peskin said the current garbage collection rate system is broken because it lacks ratepayer advocacy and regular audits, making it vulnerable to cronyism and corruption. 

“What was broken here? It wasn’t just that Mohammad Nuru was corrupt,” he said. “And it speaks to a much larger systemic corruption that has permeated this entire government. The entire government was either being complicit or being corrupt.”

This measure would introduce ratepayer advocacy, regular audits and anti-corruption safeguards, which proponents argue could save customers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Recology initially opposed the measure, and spent nearly $400,000 trying to place a less sweeping measure on the June ballot. But in early May, Recology CEO Sal Coniglio did an about face in a letter to the measure’s co-sponsors, Breed and Peskin.

“Though we do not agree with everything that supporters of this measure have said about Recology, we support Proposition F,” Coniglio wrote. “We welcome stronger controls, greater transparency, and stricter accountability in the rate-setting process. We also agree that the future rate process should be overseen by an independent regulator, rather than either of the departments we report to.”

The proposition has one opponent, David Pilpel, who wrote that the measure would create more bureaucracy with no meaningful public benefit. He wrote that the city should be using existing resources and oversight mechanisms more effectively.

The measure would make the controller, not the director of Public Works, responsible for proposing rate hikes during public hearings. Instead of serving on the Refuse Rate Board, the controller would serve as the Refuse Rate administrator. In that capacity, the controller rather than the director of Public Works would be responsible for monitoring rates and proposing new rates to the Refuse Rate Board. The Refuse Rate Board would also need to hold a public hearing on proposed rates before issuing a final decision. 

Voters could amend the Refuse Ordinance in the future, but the measure would also allow amendments by the Board of Supervisors with a supermajority of at least eight votes. Those amendments would need to be recommended by the Refuse Rate Administrator, the Rate Board, and the mayor.

The controller’s statement indicates that this measure, if approved, would have a moderate impact on the cost of government, with projections of additional expenses of $500,000 to $1 million annually. The Controller’s Office would be directly involved in administering duties detailed in this measure. 

Proposition G — Public Health Emergency Leave

This measure would amend the Police Code to require employers to provide public health emergency leave in addition to any other kind of employer-provided paid time off. It would extend the additional paid leave for people who work in San Francisco that was created under an emergency ordinance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The additional leave is separate from regular employer-provided paid time off. It covers full-time, part-time and temporary employees, and is for use in specific instances designated as public health emergencies. 

This measure would apply to businesses with 100 or more employees. It would not apply to most nonprofit organizations, with a few exceptions. 

Proposition G expands the paid leave added during the COVID-19 health emergency — it would also include some bad air quality days as public health emergencies, for example, when smoke blankets the city during wildfires. 

Workers would be able to use this leave if they got sick during a public health emergency, if they needed to take care of a family member who got sick or if school or other care facilities closed because of a public health emergency. If an employee works outside and was advised by a doctor to stay inside, they would also be eligible for this paid leave. 

In cases of health care providers or emergency responders, employers can limit use of leave unless the employee has a recommendation from a doctor to isolate, or is experiencing symptoms that align with the current public health emergency. Employers are not otherwise allowed to restrict using this leave, or to retaliate against employees who request it.

If employees are able to work remotely safely during a public health emergency, then they are not eligible for this paid leave. Employers can require a doctor’s note to confirm an employee’s vulnerable status only if the leave use seems outside of the proposition’s scope.

If passed, this ordinance goes into effect Oct. 1. The Board of Supervisors has the power to amend through ordinance. This is essentially making permanent a policy that was enacted using emergency powers to prepare for future public health crises.

Proponents say that people shouldn’t have to choose between paying rent or going to work and potentially exposing their coworkers to contagious diseases, and highlight how wildfires are worsening throughout the state.

There were no official arguments submitted in opposition, but in paid arguments against this proposition, the San Francisco Republican Party says this measure would put an additional burden on local businesses, which would have to comply, while giving exemptions to nonprofits that have contracts with the city.

Proposition H — Recall Measure Regarding Chesa Boudin

This is a measure to recall San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin with a simple majority vote. 

Boudin’s four-year term would normally end on Jan. 8, 2024. If the recall is successful, Mayor London Breed would appoint a replacement. The city would then allow voters to decide on the next district attorney in the Nov. 8, 2022, election. 

Boudin was a San Francisco public defender when he won the 2019 election for district attorney by promising to use incarceration as a last resort, to tackle systemic racial inequities and to prosecute police brutality. He took the city prosecutor office in January 2020. Opponents registered the domain name recallchesaboudin.org within days of his being sworn in. 

Boudin’s first new program as DA diverted parents charged with certain low-level crimes out of the prison system and into classes and therapy. 

That was meant to reduce jail and prison populations and focus on services and rehabilitation. 

His office also eliminated cash bail and “three strikes” charges. And it stopped filing charges for contraband seized during “stop and frisk” cases, which data shows overwhelmingly target people who are Black and Latino. 

Boudin also filed the first homicide charges in the history of San Francisco against a police officer for actions while on duty. Boudin’s office now has pending cases against 11 officers, seven of whom face charges for alleged misconduct while on duty.

In November 2021, the Department of Elections announced that a petition to recall Boudin received more than 83,000 signatures — well over the 51,000 signatures needed to put a recall measure on the ballot. 

Boudin filed a 200-word official response with the Department of Elections, calling the effort “yet another recall relying on false and disproven Republican talking points attempting to undo progress and take us backwards.” He said he is committed to public safety as evidenced by the 5,000 new prosecutions his office initiated since he was elected.

Fundraising in favor of the recall has far outstripped support for Boudin thanks to ultra-wealthy political donors in the tech industry. A super PAC called Neighbors for a Better San Francisco Advocacy has funneled more than $4 million into the recall campaign as of May 11. Mission Local recently analyzed Ethics Commission data on the sources of nearly $6 million contributed to the recall campaign.

In mid-May, Catherine Stefani became the only San Francisco Supervisor to endorse the recall measure. She is considered a potential contender for Boudin’s seat if he’s voted out of office. Six supervisors said they oppose the recall and four supervisors as well as Mayor London Breed have not publicly commented.

In April 2022, an analysis of police data by the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that while San Francisco has higher property crime rates than other California cities, it shows no obvious signs of worsening public safety. The data also showed that Boudin prosecuted more drug cases than his predecessor, while police solved crimes at historically low rates.

The Department of Elections received several paid proponent arguments in favor of the recall measure. Signatories included several lawyers formerly with the district attorney’s office, delegates to the Democratic Party assembly, the San Francisco Republican Party, members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, the municipal advocacy group GrowSF, the San Francisco Taxpayers Association, and several private citizens and small business owners. 

“He has refused to enforce the laws of the State of California fairly, equitably, and effectively,” wrote Don du Bain, who quit his job as Assistant DA to join the recall effort. “He has refused to enforce existing laws to prosecute illegal gang activity, drug dealers and repeated criminal offenders based on his radical political view, not the law.”

The Department of Elections also received paid arguments opposing the measure with signatures from the San Francisco Democratic Party, the ACLU, several labor unions, members of the BART Board of Directors, civil rights leaders in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, city supervisors, former police commissioners and several retired judges.

For state-level candidate races and ballot measures, we recommend the CalMatters 2022 Voter Guide.

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