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November 6, 2018 — California General Election
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County

City and County of San Francisco
Proposition C Charter Amendment - Majority Approval Required

To learn more about measures, follow the links for each tab in this section. For most screenreaders, you can hit Return or Enter to enter a tab and read the content within.

Election Results

Passing

215,491 votes yes (61.34%)

135,835 votes no (38.66%)

Shall the City impose additional business taxes to create a dedicated fund to support services for homeless people and prevent homelessness, including one tax of 0.175% to 0.69% on gross receipts over $50 million that a business receives in San Francisco, and another tax of 1.5% on certain administrative offices' payroll expense in San Francisco, raising an estimated $250-300 million in combined tax revenues annually, and with no expiration date for these taxes?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters of San Francisco

The Question

 Shall the City establish a tax on San Francisco businesses’ annual gross receipts over $50 million and use the revenue from this tax to fund supportive housing, homeless services, and mental health treatment?

 

Note: This Pro/Con information is also available in Spanish.

The Situation

 In the most recent one-night homeless tally in January 2017, counters found 7,499 homeless people in San Francisco. During the 2015-16 school year, nearly 1 in 25 San Francisco Unified School District students were identified as homeless. More than two-thirds of the City’s homeless population previously had a home in San Francisco and thousands of San Franciscans currently experience housing instability or face potential eviction.

 According to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), the City has about 2,500 temporary shelter beds for the homeless population, with over 1,000 people on shelter waitlists each night. Around 3% of the City’s annual budget goes to spending on these shelter beds, housing for over 7,000 people, and related homelessness prevention costs. HSH’s October 2017 Five-Year Strategic Plan claimed that “achieving and sustaining the meaningful reductions in homelessness” described in that plan would require additional investment and funding.

 The City currently levies a business tax on about 13,000 companies in San Francisco, most of which is based on the company's gross receipts. For the majority of companies, this gross receipts tax ranges from 0.16% to 0.65% at most, depending on the business’ activities. Some businesses instead pay the tax based on the amount of their payroll taxes.

The Proposal

 The City would impose an additional tax of about 0.5%, on average, on corporate gross receipts above $50 million. The tax would affect roughly 5% of the City’s 88,000 businesses. The new tax is expected to generate up to $300 million annually, nearly doubling what the City currently spends on housing and homeless services. This revenue would be placed in the new “Our City, Our Home Fund” and used to supplement existing City funding on homelessness.

This new fund would be spent according to specified guidelines, designed to implement HSH's Five-Year Strategic Plan. At least 50% of the fund must go to housing programs, including short and long-term subsidies and construction of new units. Roughly half of these funds would be dedicated to housing families and youth. At least 25% of the fund would provide mental health services for homeless individuals experiencing severe behavioral health issues. At most 15% of the fund would be used to assist those at risk of becoming homeless. Finally, at most 10% of the fund would be used for immediate housing needs, including funding shelter/ navigation center beds and hygiene programs.

 The Board of Supervisors would determine each year how to distribute funds between the above categories and would take recommendations from a new Oversight Committee of nine appointed experts in homelessness/ supportive housing, mental illness, substance abuse, and development. The proposal would go into effect on January 1, 2019.

 

 

Supporters say

  • Funding homeless services is good for all San Francisco residents and business owners. It will help attract tourists and workers to the City and improve public health and safety by keeping people off the streets.
  • This would create a clear plan for funding a comprehensive solution to our homelessness problem. Spending would be based on advice of experts in the field and the proposal would promote transparency in City funding.
  • People are confused about how much the City currently spends addressing homelessness. About two-thirds of last year’s funding went to preventing people from becoming homeless. Without Prop C, the City is only spending about $10 per person per day on services for the homeless population.
  • The City desperately needs more resources to address our homelessness crisis. Prop C would only be the third funding measure passed in 20 years for homeless and housing services in San Francisco.
  • Prop C is supported by dozens of community leaders, nonprofits, and elected representatives at local, state, and national levels. The only organized opposition comes from corporate interests who offer no alternative solutions.
  • Prop C will help protect people of color, youth, and LGBTQ people, who disproportionately experience homelessness and housing instability.

Opponents say

  • The City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development has stated that this new tax would disproportionately impact employees in mid-level jobs, like administrative staff in retail companies and grocery stores.
  • The businesses that would pay this added tax make up approximately 15 to 20% of the City's job base. This measure could cause a major drain of middle-income jobs from San Francisco.
  • San Francisco already is spending more than $300 million a year on homelessness and the problem seems to be getting worse. Throwing more money at the problem won’t help.
  • The City does have a homelessness problem, but it has historically been a federal responsibility to subsidize housing for the very poor. We should address this issue at a state and national level, not by increasing taxes on San Francisco’s job-makers.
  • San Francisco doesn’t want bureaucratic responses to homelessness. Residents voted down similar measures in 2016 and again in June of this year.
  • This proposal offers no accountability or plan. It’s a windfall for City Hall and the agencies who wrote the ordinance.

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

YES vote means

If you vote “yes,” you want to impose additional business taxes to create a dedicated fund to support services for homeless people and prevent homelessness.

NO vote means

If you vote “no,” you do not approve these additional business taxes.

 

Summary

SF Ballot Simplification Committee - https://sfelections.sfgov.org/sites/default/files/Documents/BSC/2018%20Nov/3-Final_

The Way It Is Now:
The City collects a tax on gross receipts from many businesses operating in San Francisco. The current maximum tax rateson gross receipts rangefrom 0.16 percent to 0.65 percent.
Certain businesses with more than $1 billion in gross receipts, 1,000 employees nationwide, and administrative offices in San Francisco pay an administrative office tax based on their payroll instead of gross receipts. For those businesses, the tax rate is 1.4 percent of their payroll expense.

Some businesses, including certain nonprofit organizations, banks and insurance companies, are exempt from these taxes.

Increasing tax revenue spending limits requires San Francisco voter approval.


The Proposal:
Proposition C would impose additional business taxes:

  • For businesses that pay a gross receipts tax, an additional tax of 0.175 percent to 0.690 percent on those gross revenues in San Francisco over $50 million;
  • For businesses that pay the administrative office tax, an additional tax of 1.5 percent of their payroll expense in San Francisco.


These additional taxes would not apply to:

  • Certain nonprofit organizations and businesses exempt from local taxation, such as banks and insurance companies;
  • Revenues that are exempt from the gross receipts tax;


and

  • Revenues from commercial rents that are subject tothe City’s Early Care and Education Commercial Rents Tax.


Proposition C would deposit this additional tax revenue into a dedicated fund serving homeless people and preventing homelessness. The Board of Supervisors would determine each fiscal year how to distribute the additional funds from these new taxes, within these limits:

  • At least 50 percent to secure permanent housing for homeless people;
  • At least 25 percent for mental health services specifically designed for homeless people with severe behavioral health issues;
  • Up to 15 percent for services for people who have recently become homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless;


and

  • Up to 10 percent to secure short-term shelter and access to hygiene programs for homeless people.The fund would be administered by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. An advisory committee would monitor the fund.


Proposition X would increase the City’s annual tax revenue spending limit for four years.

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

Who supports or opposes this measure?

More information

News (23)

Commentary: Can Prop C Shelter the City’s Homeless? — September 23, 2018 Bay City Beacon
Could barracks and ships house the homeless? — September 10, 2018 Curbed SF
Newsom Slams SF Homeless Funding Effot — August 30, 2018 SF Weekly

Videos (2)

In this archived audio stream, Rose Aguilar hosts a debate on San Francisco’s Proposition C. The measure would raise taxes on large businesses by an average of a half-percent to fund homeless services. Additional resources on California housing are included in the post.
The tax would be paid by the city's wealthiest companies — which opponents worry could lead to job losses, and supporters say is simply asking them to pay their fair share
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