Is LA More Pro-Homeless Than SF?

by on March 9, 2017

On March 7, Los Angeles voters approved Prop H, a quarter cent sales tax increase that will raise $355 million a year for ten years for homeless services. A 2/3 vote was needed, and voters came through. That’s $3.55 billion dollars in new money.

Last November, San Francisco voters had their own chance to raise $50 million annually for homeless along with $100 million annually for transit. Props J and K both needed to pass, but Prop K, the sales tax, barely exceeded 1/3 of the vote.

As I argued after the election, the presence of Prop Q—which offered a “free” solution to homelessness—gave voters an alternative to Prop K’s sales tax hike. Whether this alone stopped Prop K from getting anywhere near the necessary majority vote cannot be known.

There are other explanations for Prop K’s failure as well. Maybe mixing homelessness and transit in one sales tax hike was a mistake.  Perhaps many voters were not voting against reducing homelessness but instead opposed a higher tax for transit after approving a similar tax for BART.

That sounds like wishful thinking.

It sure looks from here that Los Angeles voters feel a lot better about funding homeless services than do those in San Francisco. The sales tax won in Los Angeles despite a low turnout election; San Francisco had a monster turnout last November and the sales tax for homeless services still got crunched.

The biggest difference between the LA and SF campaigns was that in the former, all key players were united in support. This was not true in San Francisco, where Aaron Peskin, most notably, opposed the tax.

San Francisco can’t let this division happen again. Not if we care about reducing homelessness.


Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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