California November 2020 Propositions

We've got a whole bunch of propositions this time: twelve state-wide, twelve for San Francisco, eight for Berkeley, and one regional.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd. 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.

This year, every California voter is getting a ballot in the mail. You can mail it back, return it by hand to a drop box or voting location, or ignore it and vote in person.

State-wide: [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25]
Regional: [RR]
San Francisco: [A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L]
Berkeley: [FF] [GG] [HH] [II] [JJ] [KK] [LL] [MM]


qmark Prop. 14: Stem Cell Research Bonds
$5.5 billion bond for stem cell research. This is a continuation of 2004's Prop. 71, which established the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. I guess your vote on this should depend on whether you think they have done good work over the past 15 years and should continue.
yes Prop. 15: Split Roll
This fixes a huge loophole in 1978's Proposition 13. Under Prop. 13, properties only get reassessed when they are sold. Many commercial property owners realized they could avoid reassessment with a trick: put the property into a corporation and sell that instead, or only sell a minority share of the property, or just never sell since businesses last a long time. And so for 40 years much of California's commercial real estate has not been reassessed, and the tax burden has shifted over to residential owners. Split Roll closes this loophole by treating commercial and residential property differently - residential properties would still only get reassessed when sold, while commercial properties would get reassessed automatically every few years.
yes Prop. 16: Re-Legalize Affirmative Action
1996's Proposition 209 banned Affirmative Action in CA - considering race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting. Prop. 16 would repeal that and allow Affirmative Action again.
yes Prop. 17: Restore Right to Vote After Completion of Prison Term
The current status of felon voting rights in California is that they get restored after completion of parole. This proposition would restore the right at the beginning of parole instead of the end. It makes sense to me. Parole means you are being allowed to rejoin society, contingent on good behavior. Voting is good behavior! California has about 50,000 people on parole.
yes Prop. 18: 17-Year-Olds Can Vote in Primaries If They'll be 18 for the General
This seems harmless. 18 other states already do this.
yes Prop. 19: Changes to Transfers of Prop. 13 Assessment
California currently has a way for homeowners to transfer their Prop. 13 property tax assessment to a new home. The rules for when this is allowed are somewhat complicated and restrictive. It looks to me like this proposition would simplify them. While I don't really like the idea of transferring the tax assessment in the first place, if we're going to do it we should try to do it fairly.
no Prop. 20: "Law and Order" Grab Bag
This one mushes together a bunch of barely related proposals for treating criminals more harshly, such as raising penalties, restricting parole, and collecting DNA. None of them are particularly compelling. Also I don't like to see propositions which push the boundaries of the Single-Subject Rule (CA Constitution Art. II §8 d).
yes Prop. 21: Allow Rent Control
The Costa-Hawkins Act prohibits rent control on buildings constructed after 1995. This proposition would amend that to allow (but not require) rent control on buildings more than 15 years old. This is a simple and obvious fix, and Costa-Hawkins should have been written this way in the first place.
no Prop. 22: Re-Legalize Uber & Lyft Screwing Their Drivers
You may get the impression, from the title I gave this one, that I'm against it, and you would not be wrong. But one thing the title doesn't mention is that Uber & Lyft added a provision requiring a SEVEN-EIGHTHS majority in the legislature to modify it. That by itself merits a hard NO. Anyway, the background is that the legislature passed AB5 to stop exploitation of gig workers, requiring they be hired as real employees, with a few exceptions. Uber and Lyft immediately started crying that they couldn't possibly comply, and put Prop. 22 on the ballot to get themselves an exception. But they can comply, and should.
no Prop. 23: Dialysis Again
This looks a lot like a rerun of 2018's Proposition 8. I recommended No on that one, and it was defeated. My reason for rejecting it then had nothing to do with the merits of the proposal, I just didn't want to see the initiative process used as a negotiating tactic in a labor/management dispute. That applies to this year's version too. But aside from that, this actually looks ok.
yes Prop. 24: Expand Consumer Data Privacy
Expands existing data privacy laws. This is not perfect but it's definitely good.
yes Prop. 25: Replace Money Bail System
This is a voter referendum on a change the legislature already made, but which is on hold. It replaces money bail with a risk assessment system. While the new system will probably have problems too, at least it won't be blatantly biased in favor of rich people. I think the main opposition to this one comes from the bail bond industry, who will be put out of business.


yes RR: Caltrain Sales Tax
1/8th¢ sales tax to finally support Caltrain with a stable source of revenue. Must pass with a 2/3rds majority in the combined electorates of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties.

San Francisco

yes A: Homelessness, Parks, and Streets Bond
$487 million bond to buy property for assistive housing and parks. Requires a 2/3rds majority to pass.
yes B: Department of Public Works Reorg
Moves DPW from the City Administrator to a new Public Works Commission. Also, some parts of DPW would be split off into a new Department of Sanitation and Streets, with its own Sanitation and Streets Commission.
yes C: Remove Citizenship Requirement for Members of City Bodies
This changes the citizenship requirement to a residency requirement, which makes much more sense.
yes D: Sheriff Oversight Reorg
Creates a new Sheriff's Department Oversight Board and Sheriff's Department Office of Inspector General.
yes E: Police Staffing
Currently SF's number of sworn police officers is set in the city charter. This would make it instead set by recommendation of the Police Chief and approval of the Police Commission.
yes F: Business Tax Overhaul
This is a complicated set of changes to SF various business taxes, but the net result looks positive and necessary. The arguments against it are procedural only.
yes G: Youth Voting in Local Elections
Lowers the voting age for local elections from 18 to 16.
yes H: Neighborhood Commercial Districts
This is complicated but the basic gist of it is to formalize and streamline the kinds of flexible commercial activity we've seen during COVID lockdown. Parklets, popups, that sort of thing.
yes I: Real Estate Transfer Tax
Raises the transfer tax on properties of $10 million or more.
yes J: Parcel Tax for Schools
This is a replacement for 2018's Measure G, which passed but has been held up in the courts. The problem there was it got a majority but not a 2/3rds majority, so it was challenged. Measure J unambiguously requires 2/3rds. It also lowers the amount of the tax somewhat.
yes K: 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 L: Business Tax Based on Comparison of Top Executive's Pay to Employees' Pay
Adds a small gross receipts tax on businesses where the ratio of the highest-paid employee's compensation to the median compensation is more than 100:1.


yes FF: Fire, Emergency Services, and Wildfire Prevention Tax
A parcel tax generating about $8.5 million / year to fund wildfire preparedness. Requires a 2/3rds majority to pass.
yes GG: Tax on Transportation Network Company Trips
50¢ per ride charge on Uber/Lyft trips originating in Berkeley.
no HH: Utility Users Tax
Would raise the tax on electricity and gas from 7.5% to 10%. That is a substantial increase, and I don't see any particular justification for it.
yes II: Police Accountability Board
Would establish a Police Accountability Board to replace the existing Police Review Commission, which has been around since 1973. The new version would be better, maybe? Fine.
no JJ: Mayor and Council Compensation
Large raises for the Mayor and City Council members. Why? No reason.
no KK: City Charter Cleanup Grab-Bag
This is a collection of five unrelated changes to the City Charter. As mentioned elsewhere, I don't like propositions which skirt the Single-Subject Rule. In addition, one of the changes would get rid of Berkeley's requirement that firefighters live within 40 miles of the city. I like that requirement, and in fact would prefer to see it extended to all first responders rather than discarded. The argument for this measure calls the residency requirement "outdated". It very much is not.
yes LL: GANN Limit Spending Authority
Extends a spending limit increase passed in 2016 for another four years.
xxx MM: Rent Stabilization Changes
This would make a few changes in Berkeley's rent control laws, particularly relating to emergencies and ADUs, a.k.a. in-law units. The implications are unclear to me.

Secretary of State's voter information page.
San Francisco's Department of Elections.
Alameda County's voter information page.
Berkeley Ballot Measures.
Ballotpedia's information page.
Pete Rates the Propositions.
SPUR Voter Guide.
SF's League of Pissed Off Voters.
Alfred Twu's illustrated twitter thread on the Propositions.
John Bauters's twitter thread on the Propositions.
My recommendations for the November 2018, June 2018, November 2016, June 2016, 2014, November 2012, June 2012, November 2010, June 2010, 2008, 2006, 2005, and 2004 propositions.
Back to Jef's page.