November’s Local Election Looms, Already

Sick of local politics? Too bad! We only have five months until the next election, with homelessness and housing front and center.

Democracy can be exhausting, but with our current administration we can’t afford to slack off.

Take a big breath and let it out. You signed petitions, read election guides, recycled piles of political mailers, and cast your ballot. The June election is over, and summer is upon us. But don’t get too comfortable, San Franciscans; November is just around the corner, and despite the absence of a mayoral race on the ballot, it’s going to be major. Democracy needs you, and it’s never too early to learn who wants your vote.

City Supervisors

This week, while Department of Elections staff counted thousands of ballots for June’s election, another project was underway. The deadline for candidates for supervisor to file paperwork for the elections in District 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10  passed on Tuesday, June 12.

We predict one of those races will be fairly quiet, although another suddenly became exciting. District 4’s Katy Tang is up for re-election in the Sunset. There wasn’t anyone on the ballot who we believed would successfully unseat her, especially in a city that loves its incumbents. But in an unexpected twist, Tang announced after 5 p.m. Tuesday — the filing deadline for supervisorial candidates — that she would not be running. With no particularly strong candidates, it’s a mystery who will be chosen to lead the Sunset for the next four years, though Tang’s legislative aide Jessica Ho just so happened to file papers minutes before the first deadline. It’s now been extended through Monday, so more candidates may appear.

And voters just overwhelmingly selected Rafael Mandelman for District 8, so unless he messes up during his first couple months in office, chances are he’ll sweep the re-election in November to run for a full term.

District 2, on the other hand, is already mired in a colorful race. Pacific Heights resident Nick Josefowitz, currently a member of the BART Board of Directors, caused a stir in local politics with the $400,000 he spent on a failed ballot measure to close a term-limit loophole that would stop a supervisor or mayor from serving more than two four-year terms. The move was blindingly strategic, as former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier was rumored to run for re-election. (Spoiler alert: She didn’t end up pulling papers to do so.) 

Josefowitz also attempted to sue San Francisco to move the District 2 race from November to June, which the city denied.

Regardless of his flashy moves, Josefowitz has serious competition in current Supervisor Catherine Stefani, whom Mayor Mark Farrell appointed to the role when he vacated it. She’s campaigning largely on public-safety issues, which in the comfortable Marina, Cow Hollow, and Pacific Heights neighborhoods she represents, effectively capitalizes on the fear of car break-ins, property theft, and concealed firearms. As an added boost, Recreation and Parks Commissioner Kat Anderson just backed out of the race, endorsing Stefani for the position.

District 6 might be one of the ugliest and most fun races. Supervisor Jane Kim is termed out, and former San Francisco Board of Education President Matt Haney has won the lion’s share of endorsements for the job, with the support of Sen. Kamala Harris, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mark Leno, and six current supervisors. His intentions are largely neighborhood-focused, with plans to clean up streets, construct more affordable housing, and assist those experiencing homelessness.

Haney’s biggest opponent may be Sonja Trauss, a leader in the controversial YIMBY party, whose platform largely consists of building higher, denser, and faster. She promises to “rebuild District 6,” and has state Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu backing her efforts. The vocal candidate has an even louder crew of campaigners backing her, which should keep things interesting.

Arguably the most challenging district to lead at the moment, however, is District 10, which encompasses Bayview, Visitacion Valley, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, and the troubled Hunters Point. The latter came under scrutiny after the discovery of decades of falsified reports hiding serious levels of environmental toxicity on the site of an enormous future housing development. Major props to the list of candidates who want to take that on, which include former San Francisco Board of Education President Shamann Walton — see a pattern here? — S.F. Human Rights Commissioner Theo Ellington, community activist Neo Veavea, and three-time candidate Tony Kelly.

Thus far, Walton has garnered the most endorsements, from a surprising array of both progressive and moderate politicians, but Ellington has the support of soon-to-be-Mayor London Breed and current-Supervisor Malia Cohen, so we’ll see how that plays out.

Ballot Measures

Unlike the list of candidates running for supervisor, November’s ballot measures are not yet confirmed. The Aug. 3 deadline for City Hall insiders (like the mayor or four-or-more supervisors) to submit ballot measures without collecting tens of thousands of signatures is coming up quickly.

As for the signature-gathering masses, they have only until July 9 to submit petitions, which is really just around the corner. That means that if anyone wants to get something on the ballot for November, they most likely have been hustling for months now.

Thus far, November ballot measures appear to fall into two categories: lofty and silly.

In the lofty category, the YIMBY party has brought back their Affordable and Teacher Housing Now measure to speed up the approval process of certain housing developments, a proposal that failed to collect enough signatures to make the ballot in June. If passed, it would grant automatic approval to any housing project built entirely for low- or moderate-income renters (or teachers) and would remove the hurdles of public feedback and Planning Commission review.

“This is mostly going to be projects that are about 55-percent area median income,” YIMBY Executive Director Laura Foote Clark told SF Weekly. “You have to qualify for this subsidized affordable housing. It’s the stuff that people are waiting 10 years in line for.”

But, it would also give developers a massively loose reign in a city that’s already dominated by major corporations, taking power away from everyday people.

Update: Laura Foote Clark, executive director of the YIMBY group, tells SF Weekly that the ballot measure has been abandoned.  

Also lofty is the Our City, Our Home initiative, which if passed, would have a drastic impact on the city’s homelessness crisis. The measure supports a one-half-percent tax for any company based in S.F. that earns more than $50 million a year. All told, this would generate approximately $340 million annually, more than doubling our current $300 million budget for homelessness services and supportive housing. If passed, around 50 percent would go to construction and rehabilitation of housing, 12 percent would go to creating more shelter beds, and 25 percent would be dedicated to mental health services.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin throws his hat in the lofty ring with an ordinance to protect San Franciscans from data-hungry tech companies. The measure proposes the city block permits or contracts with any company that doesn’t abide by the rules in a new Privacy First Policy, which would, among other things, require corporations to publicly disclose how they use clients’ data.

Peskin told the Examiner that it would be “the first time a city has endeavored to protect its constituents from the misuse and misappropriation of their personal, private information by outside corporations for profit.”

Definitively in the “silly” category is a measure to change Kearny Street to Mayor Ed Lee Street, a measure to make permits for Summer of Love festivals free, and a strange measure to block the city from building more than 1,000 units of housing on the 17-acre Balboa reservoir site (which is really just a parking lot) until City College finishes constructing its performing arts center next door.

Silly as they may be, voters only have to look at this June’s Proposition I, which rapped S.F.’s knuckles for luring the Golden State Warriors over the Bay from Oakland, to note that even ridiculous measures can make it on to the ballot, and pass.

There are many, many more ballot measures wending their way through the process (check out sfelections.sfgov.org for more). And with November election deadlines sneaking up on us, it’ll be no time at all before our mailboxes and doorknobs are once again filled with political mailers. Enjoy the peace and quiet while you can; we predict the next election will get noisy.

Nuala Sawyer is SF Weekly’s news editor.
nsawyer@sfweekly.com |  @TheBestNuala

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