California November 2016 Propositions

There are 17 statewide proposition on the ballot, so the guide should be very useful this year. There are also lots of city measures, including 24 on San Francisco's ballot and 11 on Berkeley's. I don't normally cover local issues but since there are so many I'll dig into those too.

A few words on my political preferences. I am in favor of transit, housing, and jobs, in that order. I like to see bonds used to fund long-term things like construction. Using taxes for those things is acceptable but harder to pass; using bonds for short-term or ongoing things is bad. And while I am a fan of direct democracy, it is often over-used. If I think a proposition should have been handled by the legislature, I won't vote on it, and my recommendation here will be DGAS. More generally I'm a yellow dog Democrat and hardcore liberal, with a few exceptions that I'll note if they come up.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th. You can also vote before then at Early Voting locations. Check your sample ballot, or ask your county's Registrar of Voters to find out where. For instance, in Alameda County you can vote at the Registrar's office in downtown Oakland, among other places.

State-wide: 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62/66 63 64 65/67
Regional: A1 C1 RR F1
San Francisco: A B C D/H/L/M E F G I J K N O P/U Q R S T V W X
Oakland: G1 HH II JJ KK LL
Berkeley: E1 T1 U1/DD V1 W1 X1 Y1 Z1 AA BB/CC
Albany: N1 O1 P1 Q1 R1 S1
Alameda: B1 K1 L1/M1


don't know Prop. 51: School Bonds
Authorizes $9 billion in bonds for school construction. I like schools but this is a lot of money. Make up your own mind on this one. For what it's worth, Governor Brown is against it. Maybe he's worried it'll soak up money he needs for his giant water tunnels. The League of Pissed-Off Voters is also declining to recommend on this one.

yes Prop. 52: Medi-Cal
Makes permanent the current temporary fee on hospitals to help fund Medi-Cal.

no Prop. 53: Voter Approval of Bonds
Requires statewide voter approval of any bonds over $2 billion. Since we already vote on large bonds: no. Also, this would require state-wide approval for regional bonds such as the BART one on this ballot, so again: no.

yes Prop. 54: Legislature, Legislation, and Proceedings
Requires 72-hour waiting period between publishing a bill and voting on it. Also mandates video recordings of all public meetings of the legislature, and that they be available on the internet.

yes Prop. 55: Extension of Education/Healthcare Tax
Extends 2012's Prop. 30 temporary 7-year tax increase by another 12 years.

yes Prop. 56: Cigarette Tax
Raises the tax from $0.87/pack to $2.87/pack, with equivalent tax hikes on other nicotine products such as e-cigs. Absolutely. The arguments against this complain about how the money would be spent, but you could set that money on fire and I'd still be in favor of it. The point is not the spending, the point is the collecting, and thereby discouraging a filthy and offensive habit.

yes Prop. 57: Criminal Sentences
A followup to 2014's Prop. 47. That one reduced some felonies to misdemeanors; this one authorizes earlier release for some non-violent felonies.

yes Prop. 58: Multilingual Education
This is a partial repeal of 1996's racist Prop. 227 which mostly eliminated bilingual education in California. 58 doesn't get rid of the requirement to become proficient in English, but it does encourage bilingual programs as a path towards English proficiency. That is a good strategy, and works better than the current English-only sink-or-swim.

yes Prop. 59: Advisory on Repealing "Citizens United"
A referendum on whether California should support a US Constitutional Amendment repealing Citizens United. A bunch of states have done this already. California should join in.

no Prop. 60: Condom Use in Adult Films

Requires adult film actors to use condoms. I think they *should* use condoms, to help normalize their use for everyone, but requiring it is silly. The adult film industry does a very good job of testing actors, which actually is more effective than condom use.

Note that Los Angeles voted on a similar measure in 2012, and it passed 57%-43%.

yes Prop. 61: Prescription Drug Pricing
Pegs the price state agencies pay for prescription drugs to be at most what the VA pays. My only objection to this one is it doesn't go far enough - more states and health-care orgs should sign on as well! The opposed arguments say it could cause the VA's prices to rise, but that seems pretty far-fetched to me.

yes Prop. 62: Repeal Death Penalty

no Prop. 66: Revise Death Penalty
Prop. 62 would repeal the death penalty in California. Prop. 66 would make death penalty procedures more efficient. These two are paired; if they both pass, only the one with more Yes votes would take effect. This is somewhat counter-intuitive, but probably won't arise. Most of the time when you have paired measures, they are similar; these two are opposites. I can't imagine a majority wanting to Repeal but a bigger majority wanting to Revise, or vice-versa.

no Prop. 63: Firearms and Ammunition
Requires a background check before buying ammunition. Also requires a bunch of other stuff that I think already got passed by the legislature. I'm one of those weird liberals in favor of gun rights so I recommend No, but I recognize I'm in the minority here.

yes Prop. 64: Marijuana Legalization
Legalizes marijuana for adults 21 and over, same as cigarettes. Includes usage, possession, selling, and growing your own. This would probably do away with the Medical Marijuana system, eventually, which is good because it has become a massive farce.

no Prop. 65: Paper Grocery Bag Charge Redirection

yes Prop. 67: Plastic Grocery Bag Ban
These two measures were put on the ballot by, basically, Big Bag - out-of-state companies who make plastic bags and want to continue to do so. Prop. 65 would direct the 10¢ charge for grocery bags to a new fund for environmental projects. We don't need this, the current system is fine. Prop. 65 is really just a distraction from Prop. 67, which asks for voter approval of the existing state-wide ban on plastic grocery bags. Here again Big Bag is going for confusion - you have to vote Yes to get No Bags. Plastic bags are horrible for many reasons. Don't be fooled by the fake Prop. 65 and the backwards Prop 67. Use this guide to mark up your ballot and tell Big Bag to get stuffed!


yes Measure A1: Affordable Housing Bonds
$580 million in bonds for affordable housing.
yes Measure C1: A/C Transit Parcel Tax
Extends the existing $8/month parcel tax for another 20 years. I'm not generally in favor of parcel taxes but I like transit and we already have the tax, so sure.

yes Measure RR: BART Bonds
$3.5 billion in bonds for BART improvements. Absolutely necessary. And don't be surprised to see more BART bonds on future ballots, a lot more is needed.

don't know Measure F1: Hayward Area Parks Bonds
$250 million in bonds for area parks. I think this is a regional measure, and not a Hayward city measure, because Hayward has a bunch of neighboring unincorporated areas such as San Lorenzo, Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, and Castro Valley. Yes, Castro Valley is unincorporated. True fact. I don't actually have a recommendation for the measure, I just wanted to share geography trivia. But sure, parks, why not.

San Francisco

yes Measure A: School Bonds
Up to $744,250,000 in bonds for school repairs.

yes Measure B: City College Parcel Tax
Extends existing $99/year parcel tax supporting CCSF for 15 more years.

yes Measure C: Affordable Housing Bonds
$260 million in bonds to convert buildings into multi-unit affordable housing.

no Measure D: Vacancy Appointments

no Measure H: Public Advocate

no Measure L: SFMTA

no Measure M: Housing and Development Commission

To explain why these four measures are grouped together I have to go into some background on San Francisco politics. San Francisco has two political parties: Regular Old Leftists, and Ultra Hyper Mega Leftists. Berkeley is the same way, so I'm familiar with some of the coded language and tactics the two groups use, although it's not identical. These four measures were placed on the ballot by a 6-5 vote of the Board of Supervisors along strict party lines - the U.H.M.L. party is in favor of them, the R.O.L. party opposed. All four are designed to increase the influence of the Board, where the U.H.M.L. party has that 6-5 majority. I don't trust any of them.

Measure D: Some changes in how vacancies in local elected offices, including the Board of Supervisors, get filled. The current way is fine, and this would require more special elections which are a waste of money. No.

Measure H: Creates a new Public Advocate position, for investigating complaints about any city services and programs. This one might be ok, but I lean no just because it's part of this group of Four Terrible Measures (good band name). And also it would be a new bureaucracy. But maybe it would be helpful.

Measure L: Some changes in top-level oversight of the SFMTA, including how its board members get appointed and how its budget gets approved. Would give more control to the Board of Supervisors instead of the Mayor. The current way is fine, and this would mean more politicization of Muni which would be terrible. No.

Measure M: Creates a new Housing and Development Commission out of the current Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development. In other words: re-org. The current way is fine, and this would create a big new bureaucracy and waste lots of money. No.

yes Measure E: Street Trees
In 2011 San Francisco transferred responsibility for street trees from the city to the property owners. This transfers it back.

no Measure F: Youth Voting
Allows 16- and 17-year-olds to vote on local candidates and ballot measures. Ugh, no. I'm barely in favor of 18-20 having the vote.

yes Measure G: Police Oversight
Renames the Office of Citizen Complaints to the Department of Police Accountability, which is better but not very significant. Also makes some changes in how the department operates, which sound good. And I think most significantly, separates out the department's budget from the Police Commission, removing an obvious conflict of interest.

no Measure I: Dignity Fund
The Dignity Fund would pay for programs and services to assist seniors and adults with disabities. It would have a budget of at least $38 million per year. This sounds good but it's not actually new money, SF is already spending about that much on a variety of programs which would come under the new fund. Budgeting by ballot measure is bad. No.

no Measure J: Homelessness Fund and Transportation Fund
The Homeless Housing and Services Fund would pay for services to the homeless including housing and Navigation Centers. It would have a budget of $50 million per year. The Transportation Improvement Fund would be used to improve the city's transportation network. It would have a budget of $101 million per year. Those both sounds good but (a) we are already doing that stuff and (b) why are they both in one ballot measure? So: no.

yes Measure K: Sales Tax
Raises the sales tax by 0.75%. The current rate is 8.75% and the ballot description says the new rate will be 9.25%. I have questions about the math, but the general idea is ok with me.

yes Measure N: Non-Citizen Voting
Allows non-citizen residents who have children in the SF school system to vote for Board of Education members. This sounds good, but implementing it may turn out to be complicated. Still: yes.

yes Measure O: Development Limit Exemptions
Exempts Candlestick Point and Hunters Point from the city's 950,000 square foot annual limit on new office space. Seems like this would eventually create concentrations of office buildings in those areas, which would not be a bad thing.

no Measure P: Affordable Housing

no Measure U: Affordable Housing Eligibility

These two measures were placed on the ballot by developers. They sound good at first glance but they are not in your interest.

Measure P: Requires competitive bidding on affordable housing projects. This sounds fine except there's a weird provision: there must be at least three proposals. If only one or two organizations submit bids, the project can't proceed. This is actually a back-door way of ending affordable housing development, because very few projects get three bidders. So: no.

Measure U: Raises the eligibility threshold for getting into affordable housing to 110% of area median income. Which means affordable housing would be less affordable, but the developers and owners would make more money off it. No.

yes Measure Q: No Tents
Prohibits tents on public sidewalks. Formalizes the process for removing tents: This would be better than the current informal procedures. However it probably won't actually do anything, since the offer of shelter space requires shelter space to exist, which it doesn't. Maybe this will provide added incentive to create shelter space? Don't know. Homelessness is a hard problem. Still, generally in favor.

no Measure R: Neighborhood Crime Unit
Creates a new Neighborhood Crime Unit to prevent and investigate crimes that affect neighborhood safety and quality of life. The new Unit would consist of 3% of the police force. This would only occur if the city has at least 1971 full-duty uniformed police officers, which I believe they currently do. Sounds like a pretty vague mission statement to me, and allocating police resources by ballot measure is just as bad as allocating the budget by ballot measure. No.

no Measure S: Allocation of Hotel Tax
This would direct the city's hotel tax to two specific areas: arts programs and family homeless services. Those are great but budgeting by ballot measure is terrible. NO.

yes Measure T: Gifts from Lobbyists
Places a bunch of restrictions on lobbyists in SF, where currently there are very few restrictions.

yes Measure V: Sugary Soda Tax
A 1¢ per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. Big Soda has come to town with millions of dollars opposing this measure. Their ads call it a "grocery tax"; that's a lie, it's actually a tax on giving kids diabetes. The ads also say this was on the ballot before, which is true, and that the voters said no, which is false. The last time it was on the SF ballot, two years ago, the measure was worded differently and needed 2/3rds to pass. It didn't get 2/3rds but did get a majority, i.e. the voters said yes. Berkeley did pass this tax two years ago and it's working just fine. No mass closures of small businesses, and soda consumption is down. Oakland and Albany also have Sugary Soda Taxes on the ballot this year. It's a movement.

yes Measure W: Real Estate Transfer Tax
Raises the transfer tax on properties over $5 million. Great, although less significant without a state-wide split-roll fix to Prop. 13.

dgas Measure X: Preserving Space
This is pretty complicated. It requires developments that affect certain kinds of buildings (production/distribution/repair, institutional community, arts) in certain neighborhoods (Mission, SOMA) to provide for no net loss of those spaces. Sounds good but it's way more specific than I like to see in a ballot measure. Seems like a classic example of something that the Board of Supervisors should have just done on their own.


yes Measure G1: School Parcel Tax
Extends the OUSD parcel tax for abnother 12 years. Requires 2/3rds to pass.
yes Measure HH: Sugary Soda Tax
A 1¢ per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. See my above comments on San Francisco's Measure V.

dgas Measure II: Maximum Lease Term
Would raise the maximum lease term of city-owned property from 66 years to 99 years. Unclear to me why this is on the ballot instead of just being handled by the City Council. In any case: don't care.

yes Measure JJ: Rent Control
This is a combo rent control measure. Looks like it does three things: So the important part is changing who has to petition about rent increases. I guess the rollback in exemption date is compensation for that. Anyway: yes.

yes Measure KK: Infrastructure Bonds
$600 million in bonds for city infrastructure and affordable housing.

yes Measure LL: Police Commission
Oakland does not currently have a Police Commission and citizen's review board. It very much needs them.


yes Measure E1: School Parcel Tax
Extends the BUSD parcel tax for eight more years, with adjustments for inflation. Requires 2/3rds to pass.
yes Measure T1: Infrastructure Bonds
$10 million in bonds for infrastructure.

yes Measure U1: Rental Tax / City Council

yes Measure DD: Rental Tax / Initiative
Oh joy, dueling rental tax measures. From the capsule descriptions they sound very similar, except that the City Council's version has a larger rate increase - to 2.88% vs. 1.5% for the initiative version. But apparently the details are different enough to prompt denunciations and pamphleteering. I'll have to wait for more info in these. For now I'll just say they both look fine.

yes Measure V1: Raise Appropriation Limit
Authorizes spending already-approved taxes.

yes Measure W1: Redistricting
Switches responsibility for redistricting from the City Council to a new Citizens Redistricting Commission. Commission members would be selected partly at random from a pool of applicants, and partly by other commission members. The state-wide Redistricting Commission has worked out well, so I'm willing to try one locally.

yes Measure X1: Public Campaign Financing
Provides 6X matching funds for campaigns, with the total limited to $4 per resident or about $500,000 per year.

no Measure Y1: Youth Voting
Authorizes the City Council, provided certain conditions are met, to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote for the BUSD Board of Directors. Even though this is much more limited than San Francisco's youth voting measure, again no.

yes Measure Z1: Affordable Housing
For reasons that escape me, the State Constitution requires voter approval before the city can develop affordable housing. So let's approve it.

yes Measure AA: Rent Control
Makes a bunch of changes to Berkeley's rent control law. They look ok.

no Measure BB: Minimum Wage / City Council

no Measure CC: Minimum Wage / Initiative

Dueling minimum wage measures. The weird thing is that proponents of both measures now want both of them to fail. This is because after getting them on the ballot, the two sides got together and passed a compromise bill, which is now in effect. If either measure passes anyway, it overrrides the compromise bill; if both measures pass, the one with more Yes votes takes effect.

The situation is actually kind of interesting from a Game Theory point of view. Both sides have incentive to betray the compromise and resume campaigning for their own measure. Maybe at the last minute, so the other side doesn't have time to respond.


yes Measure N1: Residential Parking
Allows the City Council to modify Albany's residential parking requirements as necessary. It's a ballot measure because the original residential parking law from back in 1978 was also a ballot measure.

yes Measure O1: Sugary Soda Tax
A 1¢ per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. See my above comments on San Francisco's Measure V.

yes Measure P1: Sidewalks
A ten-year ~$40/year parcel tax to repair sidewalks.

no Measure Q1: City Council Misc Authorization
Authorizes the City Council to make a bunch of unrelated changes in the city charter. I dislike grab bag measures. No.

yes Measure R1: Dissolve Civil Service Board
Functions of the Civil Service Board would be taken on by regular city staff.

yes Measure S1: No Term Limits for Board of Education
I like term limits because they limit the accumulation of power. However for lesser offices, finding enough people to fill the seats can be a problem.


yes Measure B1: School Parcel Tax
Continues the existing AUSD parcel tax for another seven years. No change in rate. Requires 2/3rds to pass.
yes Measure K1: Utility Modernization
Updates the language on the Utility Users Tax; does not raise the tax.

yes Measure L1: Rent Stabilization

yes Measure M1: Renter Protection
Dueling rent control measures. L1 is from the City Council; it limits rent increases to 5% annually. M1 is from the Alameda Renters Coalition; it limits rent increases to 65% of the CPI, and establishes an elected Rent Control Board. There are other differences, here's a comparison. I don't know whether the two measures are paired, so if they both pass then only the one with more Yes votes takes effect, but I expect they are. I'm inclined to suggest voting Yes on both.

CA Secretary of State's voter information page.
San Francisco Department of Elections voter information page.
Alameda County's voter information page.
Another propositions rating page.
The League of Pissed-Off Voters.
SPUR's voter guide for San Francisco. This is very detailed!
Hoodline's Election Guide Tool, a meta-guide to other guides.
My recommendations for the June 2016, 2014, November 2012, June 2012, November 2010, June 2010, 2008, 2006, 2005, and 2004 propositions.
Back to Jef's page.