Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
Get the facts before you vote.
Brought to you by
League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
November 6, 2018 — California General Election
Invest in unbiased information

With your support, we can reach and inform more voters.

Donate now to spread the word.


City and County of San Francisco
Proposition A Charter Amendment - 2/3 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


288,146 votes yes (82.7%)

60,276 votes no (17.3%)

To protect the waterfront, BART and Muni, buildings, historic piers, and roads from earthquakes, flooding and rising seas by: repairing the 100 year old Embarcadero Seawall; strengthening the Embarcadero; and fortifying transit infrastructure and utilities serving residents and businesses; shall the city issue $425,000,000 in bonds, with a duration up to 30 years from the time of issuance, an estimated tax rate of $0.013/$100 of assessed property value, and estimated annual revenues of up to $40,000,000, with citizen oversight and regular audits?

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 and County of San Francisco be authorized to issue up to $425 million in bonds to repair and reinforce the Embarcadero Seawall and Embarcadero infrastructure and utilities for earthquake and flood protection?


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

The Situation

Largely invisible, the Embarcadero Seawall acts as a retaining wall against the ocean for three miles along the waterfront, from Fisherman's Wharf to Mission Bay (AT&T Park).  It was constructed more than 100 years ago by dredging a trench through the mud and filling it with rock and rubble. A wall was built on top of the rock, and the marshland behind it filled.  This Seawall thus helped facilitate over 500 acres of new land between San Francisco Bay and First Street.  Today, the Seawall supports San Francisco's maritime activities, piers, wharves, and local businesses such as restaurants and tourist destinations, which bring an estimated 24 million people to the waterfront each year.  It helps protect key utility networks and infrastructure, including the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Muni Metro, and ferry transportation networks.  It further serves as an emergency evacuation area and provides flood protection for regional transportation, and downtown neighborhoods and businesses.  All told, the Seawall protects an estimated $100 billion of assets and economic activity.  It is the City's responsibility to maintain the Seawall, which it does through the Port of San Francisco.

The City estimates there is a 72% chance of another major earthquake in the next 30 years.  During an earthquake, it would be vital to relief and evacuation efforts to keep the Embarcadero and its transportation and utility networks functioning.  However, analysis found that in its dilapidated state, the Seawall would be unable to protect the area. The seismic risk is compounded by the accelerating risk of flooding due to rising sea levels.

To address the risks, the Port is leading the Seawall Earthquake Safety and Disaster Prevention Program, ("Seawall Program"), that will invest a projected $2-5 billion over the next 30 years to protect and enhance the three mile stretch of the San Francisco waterfront.

The Proposal

Proposition A would authorize the City and County of San Francisco to borrow up to $425 million in bonds to finance the first phase of a multiyear project for the  construction, improvement and seismic strengthening of the over 100-year old Embarcadero Seawall.

 The proposed cost of the first phase is projected to be $500 million, with the additional $75 million anticipated to come from state and federal funds.  Construction is scheduled for completion by the end of 2026.

 The interest on the bonds would be financed by an increase in residential property tax of an estimated $0.013 per $100 of assessed value. Landlords would be allowed to pass on up to 50% of the increase to their tenants.  The Citizens' General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee would review bond spending and provide an annual report to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors.

Supporters say

  • Given the likelihood of a major earthquake in the next 30 years, passage of Prop A would enable the City to act now to reinforce the Seawall and prevent flooding of BART and MUNI tunnels so vital escape routes would remain open in an emergency. 
  • A January 2018 poll showed that 73% of San Francisco residents support the idea. 
  • A citizen oversight committee will review spending and issue an annual report.
  • An estimated 4,000 jobs would be created by the Seawall Program. All contracts would be subject to the "First Source Hiring Program", which fosters employment opportunities for qualified economically disadvantaged individuals, and the "Local Business Enterprise and Non-Discrimination in Contracting Ordinance", which supports the hiring of local businesses.


Opponents say

  • Opinions of seismologists and climate experts on the effectiveness of seawalls are divided, so there may be other, more effective ways to protect the waterfront.
  • The money raised by this proposition is only the first phase of a multi-year project, with a total estimated cost of $2-5 billion.  This bond only finances upgrades to the three-mile stretch of the San Francisco coastline between Fisherman's Wharf and AT&T park. 
  • Property owners will be able to pass on up to 50% of their property tax increase to their tenants, which could drive further rises in already high San Francisco rents.
  • The businesses in the area behind the Seawall should pay for its repair and upgrade.

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

YES vote means

A yes vote is a vote in favor of authorizing the city and county of San Francisco to issue up to $425 million in bonds at an estimated tax rate of $0.013 per $100 of assessed value to fund repairs and improvements to the Embarcadero Seawall and Embarcadero infrastructure and utilities for earthquake and flood safety.

NO vote means

A no vote is a vote against authorizing $425 million in bonds at an estimated tax rate of $0.013 per $100 of assessed value to fund repairs and improvements to the Embarcadero Seawall and Embarcadero infrastructure and utilities.


Ballot Simplification Committee

The Way It Is Now:
The 100-year-old Embarcadero seawall is the foundation of approximately 3 miles of San Francisco’s northeastern waterfront. The seawall no longer adequately protects the City from tides, floods and rising sea levels. The seawall is also not protected from earthquake damage. Through the Port of San Francisco, the City is responsible for maintaining the seawall. The City plans to fortify the seawall over the next 30 years.
The Port’s recommended plan is estimated to cost up to $5 billion, and the City seeks to finance the first phase. To pay for large capital projects, the City relies on several funding sources, including borrowing money by selling general obligation bonds. The City uses property tax revenues to pay the principal and interest on these bonds.

The Proposal:
Proposition A would allow the City to borrow up to $425 million by issuing general obligation bonds for the repair and upgrade of the City’s seawall. The Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee would oversee the spending of general obligation bond revenue proceeds.

The Port and the Board of Supervisors will conduct a public process to determine the specific projects to repair and upgrade the City’s seawall.The bond will fund ongoing design and construction improvements that address the most significant earthquake and flood risks to the seawall.

Proposition A would allow an increase in the property tax to pay for the bonds, if needed. It is City policy to limit the amount of money it borrows by issuing new bonds only as prior bonds are paid off. Landlords would be permitted to pass through up to 50 percentof any resulting property tax increase to tenants.


On June 26, 2018, the Board of Supervisors voted 11  to 0 to place Proposition A on the ballot. The Supervisors voted as follows:
Breed, Cohen, Fewer, Kim, Peskin, Ronen, Safai, Sheehy, Stefani, Tang, Yee.


Financial effect

Should the proposed $425 million in bonds be authorized and sold under current assumptions, the approximate costs will be as follows:

  • In fiscal year (FY) 2019-2020, following issuance of the first series of bonds, and the year with the lowest tax rate, the best estimate of the tax required to fund this bond issue would result in a property tax rate of $0.00181 per $100 ($1.81 per $100,000) of assessed valuation.
  • In FY 2024-2025, following issuance of the last series of bonds, and the year with the highest tax rate, the best estimate of the tax required to fund this bond issue would result in a property tax rate of $0.0117 per $100 ($11.70 per $100,000) of assessed valuation.
  • The best estimate of the average tax rate for these bonds from FY 2019-2020 through FY 2042-2043 is $0.00767 per $100 ($7.67 per $100,000) of assessed valuation.
  • Based on these estimates, the highest estimated annual property tax cost for these bonds for the owner of a home with an assessed value of $600,000 would be approximately $69.39.

These estimates are based on projections only, which are not binding upon the City. Projections and estimates may vary due to the timing of bond sales, the amount of bonds sold at each sale, and actual assessed valuation over the term of repayment of the bonds. Hence, the actual tax rate and the years in which such rates are applicable may vary from those estimated above. The City's current debt management policy is to issue new general obligation bonds only as old ones are retired, keeping the property tax impact from general obligation bonds approximately the same over time.

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

More information

Videos (1)

Measure A: Embarcadero Seawall Improvement — September 24, 2018 KALW
KALW streaming radio broadcast about the Embarcadero Seawall
Use tabs to select your choice. Use return to create a choice. You can access your choices by navigating to 'My Choices'.

Who supports or opposes this measure?

Please share this site to help others research their voting choices.