Arts and Homeless Groups Unite Behind Ballot Measure for More Funds

Supporters of a new ballot measure proposal to restore funding from the city's hotel tax to support arts organizations and homeless services participate in a rally at San Francisco City Hall (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

Representatives from local arts groups and homeless advocacy organizations delivered about 16,000 signatures to the San Francisco Elections Department on Monday. That's considerably more than the roughly 9,500 signatures  needed to qualify a ballot measure that would give the groups a bigger share of the city's growing hotel tax fund.

“We are here as one big beautiful undeniable voice,” said Jon Moscone, chief of civic engagement at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, a multi-disciplinary arts organization in San Francisco.

Martha Ryan Executive Director of the Homeless Prenatal Program and Jon Moscone Chief of Civic Engagement for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Martha Ryan, executive director of the Homeless Prenatal Program and Jon Moscone, chief of civic engagement at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts brandish pages of signatures (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

The effort is the product of a rare coalition begun two years ago linking arts groups like the San Francisco Opera and the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, with homeless organizations like the SRO United Families Collaborative, and the Homeless Prenatal Program.

“This measure is a statement to SF,” Martha Ryan, executive director of the Homeless Prenatal Program said before a midday rally of about 100 people on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, “We must stop the displacement and the cycle of displacement for both artists and families in the city.”

The measure, if it passes in November, would re-allocate a percentage of San Francisco’s hotel tax, now about $400 million, to the purpose set by supervisors in the 1970s: funding for the arts and the homeless.

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The measure would bump arts funding to about $58 million, and create a new “ending family homelessness fund,” of about $14.4 million.

“This is not just about art,” said Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center executive director Vinay Patel. “This is about our community. This is about diversity. This is about telling the city that we’re here, and we’re staying here, and we’re not going to be pushed out.”

The department of elections has 30 days to verify the signatures. Because the proposal is a tax measure, it would need a two-thirds voter majority to pass.

To read more of KQED's coverage of this story, click here.

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