Proposition C — Homelessness Oversight Commission

See our November 2022 SF Election Guide for a nonpartisan analysis of measures and contests on the ballot in San Francisco for the election occurring Nov. 8, 2022. Voters will consider the following proposition in that election.

Proposition C is a proposed charter amendment that would create the Homelessness Oversight Commission to oversee the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The charter is the city’s constitution and can only be changed by a majority of voters in an election approving an amendment. This measure requires more than 50 percent affirmative votes to pass.

In 2016, former Mayor Ed Lee established the department to be in charge of directing all housing and social services for San Franciscans experiencing homelessness, including street outreach, homeless shelters, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is the eighth largest city services department with a spending budget of approximately $672 million in FY 2022-23, and $636 million in FY 2023-24. The department is not subject to direct oversight by a city commission.

The idea of an oversight committee has been on the table for years. The ballot measure to establish it was drafted in 2019 in partnership with the Homeless Emergency Service Providers Association, which represents 30 homeless service providers, along with Supervisors Gordon Mar, Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen and Shamann Walton.

“The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has less oversight, less accountability, and less transparency over its budget, strategy, and policies than nearly every other large city department,” wrote Matt Haney, in an op-ed when he was on the board of supervisors prior to being elected to the state assembly.

On July 19, 2022, the board of supervisors approved placing the measure on the November ballot, with no votes in opposition. It was co-sponsored by supervisors Ahsha Safai, Shamann Walton, Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman, Gordon Mar and Catherine Stefani.

Supervisor Safaí was one of seven board members to oppose the measure in 2019, amid firm opposition from Mayor London Breed and fears that the proposal would add more bureaucracy. But a report by the Public Press in partnership with ProPublica found that the city had more than 800 units of permanent supportive housing vacant every month for a year while twice as many people approved for those homes waited for assignments, with many living in tents on the street. A recent San Francisco Chronicle investigation that shed light into the poor conditions inside much of the supportive housing stock fueled public discourse, calling for more accountability into homeless services.

If Proposition C passes, the duties of the Homeless Oversight Commission are to:

  • Formulate, evaluate and set homeless policies.
  • Serve as a public forum to raise accountability issues and advocate for fair policies.
  • Conduct investigations into any aspect of governmental operations within its jurisdiction.
  • Nominate candidates for department head to the Mayor, and remove a department head – currently, only the Mayor has this authority.
  • Approve goals, objectives, plans, service programs and departmental budgets before the Board of Supervisors cast a final vote.

Additionally, prior to May 1, 2023, three charter amendments to the administration codes of these committees will allow the Commission to:

  • Appoint all members of the Local Homeless Coordinating Board, which serves as the governing body of the Continuum of Care, which coordinates housing and federal funding for homeless services. The board advises the department on homeless policy and budget allocations, but its advice is not binding. The board will advise the commission on the city’s participation in the Continuum of Care program.
  • Receive advice and recommendations from the Shelter Monitoring Committee, which tracks the conditions of group shelters in San Francisco, and staff documents and investigates complaints.
  • Receive advice and recommendations from the Our City, Our Home Oversight Committee, which advises the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors on administration of the Our City, Our Home Fund.

Proposition C would also specify that homeless services are subject to audit by the city controller.

But the commission would not have the authority to approve, disapprove or modify criteria used to determine eligibility or priority for programs and services administered through the city’s Coordinated Entry System. A Public Press and ProPublica investigation found the system scores trauma, and it could bar some homeless populations from getting indoors.

The Commission will have seven members. Initial appointments will be made by March 1, 2023, with four appointed by the Mayor and three appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

Initial opposition to Proposition C stemmed from a debate over seat appointments.

“A majority Mayoral-appointed commission would not offer real oversight, and would be indistinguishable from the current oversight structure over HSH, which reports directly to the Mayor,” the San Francisco Berniecrats wrote in a letter.

After three drafts of the proposition, changes were made to balance membership and auditing by the city’s controller. The Mayor and Board of Supervisors will each appoint a person who has personally experienced homelessness, and a person with significant experience providing services to or engaging in advocacy on behalf of persons experiencing homelessness.

Additionally, the Board of Supervisors will be required to appoint a person with significant experience working with homeless families and youth. And the Mayor will be required to appoint a person with expertise in mental health service delivery or substance abuse treatment, and a person with experience in budgeting, finance and auditing. One of the Mayor’s appointees would be required to have a record of participation in a merchants’ or small business association, or a neighborhood association.

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