March 2020 Election Guide: Prop E

From the Public Press’ March 2020 Nonpartisan Election Guide:

Proposition E is a proposal to restrict new office development in step with the shortfall of affordable housing construction. It was put forward by the affordable housing nonprofit TODCO. 

The restriction would work like this: If San Francisco builds only 35% of its affordable housing goal for a year, the next year, it could build only 35% of its annual allocation of office space.

The intention here is, according to the measure’s proponents, to encourage the production of affordable housing. It’s also to bring the number of jobs added in line with the number of housing units being added. Right now the balance skews far in favor of jobs: We’re adding about eight and a half jobs for every unit of housing being built. 

Opponents say the measure does nothing to directly promote the production of any kind of housing, including affordable. In fact, since office developers pay fees to the city, which go into the city’s fund for affordable housing construction, if less office space is built, less money will be collected for the development of below market rate units, they contend. 

They also have concerns about limiting the city’s economic growth. The chief economist predicts that Proposition E, if passed, could slow the growth of the local economy and cause the city to create about 91,000 fewer jobs by 2040 than it would have without Proposition E. The report also projects that by limiting office development at a time when demand is already high, the ballot measure could cause rents to rise in existing office space.

The San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, also known as SPUR, argues that since housing development takes years, changing the office space cap year after year is too narrow a time frame.

To pass, Proposition E needs a simple majority. 

Listen to “Civic” host Laura Wenus discuss Proposition E with Jon Jacobo, director of community engagement and public policy at TODCO, the affordable housing development nonprofit that proposed the ballot measure.

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