SF Voter Guide – November 2020

It’s that time again…

For those living in California (and San Francisco in particular), this year’s election ballot is a doozy. In addition to all the elected officials, there are up to 25 (!) propositions to vote on. This is a consequence of the love of “direct democracy” and local control that defines California politics. Instead of just trusting representative elected officials, some individual citizens or lobbying groups seem to enjoy creating their own ballot initiatives and can often gather the needed signatures to force a vote.

I really don’t know how the average voter can be expected to fully read through all the proposed legislation and make a truly informed decision with full knowledge of all the potential consequences. This is where voter guides come in – essential tools to help others cut through all the legalese. All you have to do is decide whether your values align with the guide author.

With that, here is my very first rudimentary voter guide for the California and SF propositions in the November 3, 2020 election.


14NoResearch should be funded at the university level. Also not a high priority for limited state funds at this time.
15YesStart the rollback of Prop 13, California’s original sin.
16YesAsian-Americans will likely be impacted in college admissions for the most selective universities, but not in their long-term careers – so chill.
17YesWhy did we even take away voting rights for felons in the first place? They’re still people, not slaves.
18YesEncourage more people to vote and start young!
19YesMixed bag here, but net result is hundreds of millions of dollars of property tax revenue for government (via limiting transfer of property tax assessments to children) so overall worth it.
20NoWe already incarcerate too many people and make it too difficult for reformed criminals to re-enter society. Previous reforms are fine to keep.
21NoTough one, since rent control can be an important piece of the sustainable housing strategy puzzle. In the end, the deference to local control seems ineffective compared to AB1482, a law already passed that effectively established state-wide rent control.
22NoSneaky initiative to deprive gig workers of real employment benefits. Also f*** Uber and the other companies trying to buy their way out of regulation.
23NoNo evidence that the current dialysis clinics are actually having problems, so this seems to be unnecessary meddling by labor unions. Things like this shouldn’t be on the ballot.
24NoAlthough I’m an advocate for privacy and do believe that more regulation on this is needed for tech, this particular initiative goes a bit too far. It seems to be driven primarily by the person who caused the CCPA to happen but wants more, which seems premature given CCPA has only been in effect since January 2020.
25YesA complex one, but ultimately the parties against this are bail bond companies who stand to lose their business – which seems just fine.

San Francisco

AYesSF needs money, and the supportive housing component is a proven method for addressing chronic homelessness.
BNoThis is bloating an already bloated organization, in the name of preventing future corruption. There are far more effective ways to address the problems with the Department of Public Works, and the Board of Supervisors who sponsored this should know better.
CYesMakes government more reflective of the actual community in San Francisco. No real downsides.
DYesWhile I’m generally not a fan of adding more bureaucracy, this year we have all learned that police departments need more oversight – SF is no exception.
EYesSimply allows reduction of the police force, which we know is likely excessive.
FYesMove closer to a full gross receipts tax structure, in an equitable and progressive fashion. Tech companies are hurt the most, but the result is net better for employment levels and revenue for the city.
GYesEncourage more people to vote and start young!
HYesStreamline processes and make it easier for planners to get stuff done! Tell the Board of Supervisors and obstructionist neighbors to get out of the way.
INoThis proposition sounds good at first read, but analysis has demonstrated that it would significantly suppress new housing development (by making large projects financially unfeasible).
JYesIt’s sad that this had to be on the ballot, since the 2018 Prop G was fine but is now tied up in litigation. While this tax raises less revenue than the previous proposition, at least it won’t be challenged in court.
KYesAlso sad that voters need to “authorize” the city to build every single unit of subsidized affordable housing, but here we are. More of a formality than anything else.
LYesI admit this proposition is clumsily written (Board of Supervisors should really stop trying to write these things), but any effort to improve the state of inequality is worth supporting as long as there are no harmful side effects, of which I see no real serious ones.
RRYesWhile a sales tax is not ideal (i.e. it’s regressive), this is a last-chance effort to save Caltrain, essential transportation infrastructure for SF and the entire peninsula!


Here are some of the resources I used to put together my stances.

4 thoughts on “SF Voter Guide – November 2020

  1. I generally agree with you on most of these (I’m also a fan of SPUR), but not following your argument on 16. Why would a policy that displaces working-class Asian Americans in favor of more affluent students of different ethnicities produce net socially positive results? (Or taken to the extreme, potentially displaces working-class students of all ethnicities in favor of certain affluent students due to malincentives — as described a the end oft https://edsource.org/2020/california-universities-prepare-for-possible-return-of-affirmative-action-in-admissions/634178)


    • Thanks for sharing that article! It covers the range of potential outcomes of Prop 16 pretty well. The suggestion from Kahlenberg at the end that low-income students of all colors would suffer seems to be one of the more pessimistic takes, assuming the UC system would completely overhaul their admissions processes and give up on supporting low-income prospects entirely.

      I would say that runs counter to UC’s historical record of going to great lengths to provide opportunities for the economically disadvantaged (regardless of race), as described here:



      My understanding from the conversations I’ve had with university officials is that the admissions process is holistic (to an excruciatingly thorough degree), so no factor like race or income would be the sole dominant determinant. Of course Prop 16 makes anything possible, but I generally trust the judgment of the admissions staff.


      • Thanks for the response. I do agree that Kahlenberg’s thoughts are one of the more pessimistic, but he backs up this effect at other universities in his article (https://tcf.org/content/report/achieving-better-diversity/). I doubt they’ll entirely stop supporting low-income prospects – it’s the general dialing down of outreach programs that suffer. Kahlenberg’s very argument is that UC supports low-income students so heavily only because they can’t use race to achieve purely “racial diversity”. I admit though this is speculative.

        Nonetheless, I don’t see how the losers of the change are not lower-income Asian Americans. Keeping academic standards constant, any racial preference has to decrease SES preference. Lower-income URM are largely unaffected (same preference level), low-income non-URM lose SES preferences, while higher-income URM receive benefits. (High-earning Asian Americans are also unlikely to be affected as SES or racial preferences work equally against them). This is empirically backed up by the effect of UCLA introducing quasi-racial considerations around 2007 (https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2008-aug-30-me-ucla30-story.html), where “acceptance rates of other low-income students declined, particularly among Vietnamese”.


      • That Century Foundation piece has many good points, and I do concur with the sentiment that an attempt to correct for one type of injustice/inequality could inadvertently lead to another. Ultimately, I believe the stance of the UC Regents and others who support the repeal of Prop 209 comes down to the realization that racial diversity hasn’t been improving *fast enough* under current policies, so removing barriers in furtherance of that goal becomes increasingly popular. Perhaps it could be too much of a knee-jerk reaction and we’ll have to correct the unintended consequences for low-income applicants again in another 20 years, but until then I think the current zeitgeist (magnified by the events of this year) explains the broad appeal of Prop 16.


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