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.
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.
Prop. 52: Medi-Cal
Makes permanent the current temporary fee on hospitals to help
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.
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.
Prop. 55: Extension of Education/Healthcare Tax
Extends 2012's Prop. 30 temporary 7-year tax increase by
another 12 years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
Prop. 62: Repeal Death Penalty
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.
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.
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.
Prop. 65: Paper Grocery Bag Charge Redirection
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
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!
Measure A1: Affordable Housing Bonds
$580 million in bonds for affordable housing.
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.
Measure RR: BART Bonds
$3.5 billion in bonds for BART improvements.
And don't be surprised to see more BART bonds on future ballots,
a lot more is needed.
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
Yes, Castro Valley is unincorporated.
I don't actually have a recommendation for the measure,
I just wanted to share geography trivia.
But sure, parks, why not.
Measure A: School Bonds
Up to $744,250,000 in bonds for school repairs.
Measure B: City College Parcel Tax
Extends existing $99/year parcel tax supporting CCSF for 15 more years.
Measure C: Affordable Housing Bonds
$260 million in bonds to convert buildings into
multi-unit affordable housing.
Measure D: Vacancy Appointments
Measure H: Public Advocate
Measure L: SFMTA
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Measure E: Street Trees
In 2011 San Francisco transferred responsibility for street trees
from the city to the property owners.
This transfers it back.
Measure F: Youth Voting
Allows 16- and 17-year-olds to vote on local candidates and
I'm barely in favor of 18-20 having the vote.
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
And I think most significantly, separates out the department's
budget from the Police Commission, removing an obvious conflict
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Measure P: Affordable Housing
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.
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.
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?
Homelessness is a hard problem.
Still, generally in favor.
- 24 hour notice
- offer shelter space
- store belongings for 90 days
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.
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.
Measure T: Gifts from Lobbyists
Places a bunch of restrictions on lobbyists in SF,
where currently there are very few restrictions.
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.
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.
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.
Measure G1: School Parcel Tax
Extends the OUSD parcel tax for abnother 12 years.
Requires 2/3rds to pass.
Measure HH: Sugary Soda Tax
A 1¢ per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.
See my above comments on
San Francisco's Measure V.
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.
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.
The owner can petition for a rent increase higher than
the limit, while currently the renter has to petition to
deny an increase.
Increase transparency of the rent program, including
regular reports to the City Council.
Does not apply to buildings constructed from 1996 on,
while currently rent control does not apply to buildings
constructed from 2002 on.
Measure KK: Infrastructure Bonds
$600 million in bonds for city infrastructure and affordable housing.
Measure LL: Police Commission
Oakland does not currently have a Police Commission and citizen's
It very much needs them.
Measure E1: School Parcel Tax
Extends the BUSD parcel tax for eight more years, with adjustments for inflation.
Requires 2/3rds to pass.
Measure T1: Infrastructure Bonds
$10 million in bonds for infrastructure.
Measure U1: Rental Tax / City Council
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.
Measure V1: Raise Appropriation Limit
Authorizes spending already-approved taxes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Measure AA: Rent Control
Makes a bunch of changes to Berkeley's rent control law.
They look ok.
Measure BB: Minimum Wage / City Council
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.
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.
Measure O1: Sugary Soda Tax
A 1¢ per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.
See my above comments on
San Francisco's Measure V.
Measure P1: Sidewalks
A ten-year ~$40/year parcel tax to repair sidewalks.
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.
Measure R1: Dissolve Civil Service Board
Functions of the Civil Service Board would be taken on
by regular city staff.
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.
Measure B1: School Parcel Tax
Continues the existing AUSD parcel tax for another seven years.
No change in rate.
Requires 2/3rds to pass.
Measure K1: Utility Modernization
Updates the language on the Utility Users Tax; does not raise the tax.
Measure L1: Rent Stabilization
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
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
Back to Jef's page.