Election is just two days away and Q'ed Up is zooming in on important local measures across the Bay Area.
Q'ed Up host Ryan Levi talked with KQED reporters Guy Marzorati, Farida Jhabvala Romero and Sonja Hutson to get the lowdown on a range of local ballot measures ranging from taxes on businesses and vacant properties, as well as, an affordable housing bond in Santa Rosa.
First up is Proposition C in San Francisco, which would tax the city's biggest businesses to help pay for homeless services. The debate around the measure has even led to a Twitter beef between Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Twitter's Jack Dorsey. Proposition C would bring in an estimated $300 million annually from tech companies, banks and retail stores to pay for supportive housing, shelters, navigation centers and mental health services for the homeless. The idea, supporters say, is that big companies that have done well in San Francisco should do more to help solve its biggest problem — homelessness.
Proponents say corporations have benefitted this year from a federal tax cut and it's only fair to redirect some of that cashflow toward local problems. While some companies such as Twitter, Lyft and Macy's have come out against the tax, Salesforce's Benioff has been a huge proponent of the measure, pouring millions into the campaign supporting Proposition C.
Arguments against the measure run the gamut — that it would make doing business in the city more expensive and force companies to relocate, leading to a loss in jobs and that the city should first look at how it spends its money on homeless services first before imposing a tax.
There are also political divisions around the measure as well. Most notably, Mayor London Breed and state Senator Scott Weiner oppose it, while U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is in favor. But if the measure doesn't pass by two-thirds of the vote, it could be challenged through the courts.
Outside of San Francisco, Measure HH in East Palo Alto would tax large commercial office spaces at a rate of $2.50 per square foot to pay for affordable housing. Supporters want to capitalize on expansions by Amazon and Facebook. Meanwhile in Mountain View, Measure P would tax companies for each employee. The tax would essentially impact the city's biggest employer, Google, and revenues would go into the general fund with the promise that it would be used for transportation. It's expected to raise about $6 million annually with more than half of the amount coming from the tech giant. Google is not opposing the measure.
In Oakland, Measure W would increase taxes on vacant properties. This could mean as much as $6,000 per parcel annually for owners of properties that are in use fewer than 50 days per year. The revenue for Measure W would go toward affordable housing, homeless services and blight remediation. Proponents say this tax would incentivize property owners to develop their land to create much-needed housing in the city. Critics worry that the tax could disproportionately hurt small landowners. One landowner told KQED he would be willing to develop his property but was discouraged by the skyrocketing permitting and construction costs. The city currently estimates that 1,000 square feet of new construction costs about $200,000.
Finally, there's Measure N in Santa Rosa, the $124 million housing bond that would be put toward preservation and construction of housing for people earning less than 80 percent of the area's median income. The bond would also go toward home ownership programs to help people stay in the city. The measure is a response to a dire need for affordable housing after last year's wildfires, which wiped out 5 percent of the city's housing stock, putting a squeeze on an already tight rental market. The biggest opposition comes from the labor group — the North Bay Labor Council, which represents 70 unions in the North Bay. The group says the measure doesn't include enough labor protections.