As San Francisco voters struggle over a dizzying array of local and state ballot measures, two initiatives offer an easy choice: Yes on Props J and K. These measures will bring the city $100 million annually for public transit, bike lanes and pedestrian safety and another $50 annually to address homelessness.
If there is anyone who thinks San Francisco does not desperately need this funding, they must not be spending much time in the city.
It costs a lot more to implement transit improvements and to house homeless persons than many think. Even seemingly low cost pedestrian safety improvements cost big bucks.
For example, activists have been trying to get two-way streets implemented on Eddy and Ellis Streets in the Tenderloin since the Board of Supervisors approved the plan in 2007! Mayor Lee got us the money to finish the job back in 2012, but costs rose while the Tenderloin waited for the city to perform. The price of a basic new streetlight is staggering, and if a fire hydrant has to be moved as part of the process, that’s a potential $200,000 additional cost. Due to cost issues and the project being forgotten from 2007-2010, the two way streets is now slated to be completed in 2017—a ten year delay.
Bike lanes are also not cheap if done correctly. It’s great that SFMTA has allowed bike activists affiliated with SF Transformation (@SFMTrA) to use cones and other strategies to improve bike lane safety. But ideally there would be the funding to do the lanes right without such intervention.
Props J and K provide the additional funding bike riders, pedestrians, and public transit riders deserve.
With the federal government refusing to end homelessness (See “The Republican War on Affordable Housing,” July 6, 2015) and our own Governor Brown unwilling to tackle the challenge head on (See “California’s Epic Housing Fail,” August 25, 2016), it is up to San Francisco taxpayers to address the city’s homeless crisis. That’s why the $50 million Props J and K direct to fund efforts to reduce homelessness is so vital.
Unlike Prop Q, which increases homeless sidewalk encampments, Props J and K offer real solutions to homelessness. Housing the longterm homeless requires major rent subsidies and on site supportive services; it cannot be done on the cheap.
Some think vital government services should not be funded by an increase in the sales tax. And in an ideal world, the federal government would meet its obligations under the 1949 Housing Act and provide “safe and affordable housing for all Americans.”
But we are far from an ideal world. Props J and K are the only options on the November ballot to make a dent in San Francisco’s homeless problem. Both deserve approval.
Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron and Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. THC runs SRO housing for homeless persons and would be eligible for the new funding provided by Props J and K.San Francisco News