SPUR Talk: The Election and the Bay Area’s Future

David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics and Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting Discuss the Election. Photo: Streetsblog.
David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics and Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting discuss the election with a packed house at SPUR SF. Photo: Streetsblog.

Wednesday afternoon SPUR sponsored a discussion about the previous day’s election and what it could mean for the Bay Area. The panel consisted of Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting and David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics. It was attended by some seventy people, with at least ten more standing in the back.

First, Clemens gave his initial impressions. “In the greater scheme of things this was a crap election,” he gibed. Turnout, their charts showed, has fallen from a historic high of forty percent in 2008 to thirty percent in more recent years “which we should all be rightfully ashamed of,” he said. But, he added, perhaps the low turnout shouldn’t be a huge surprise. “We had five local elections that had no opposition, [and] a presidential race and a state senate race that won’t get decided until November.” Latterman explained that turnout figures would improve as the final counting is completed.

Latterman looks at a chart of __ Photo: Streetsblog.
Latterman looks at a chart showing support for Prop. C. Photo: Streetsblog.

That said, they saw promise for the passage of Prop B, the “Park, Rec, and Open Space Fund,” which passed by sixty percent, and Prop. C, San Francisco’s “Affordable Housing Requirements Charter Amendment,” which will “increase requirements for affordable housing on developments with 25 or more units and give the San Francisco Board of Supervisors the authority to alter existing and impose new affordable housing requirements through ordinances,” according to the San Francisco information book.

But it may have been Measure AA that the panelists thought was most telling for the Bay Area’s ability to function as a coherent region and pass new funding sources. As the San Francisco Chronicle explained:

Measure AA will impose a flat tax of $12 per parcel per year throughout the region for marsh restoration and improved public access along the bay’s shoreline. It required two-thirds majority cumulative vote, which it exceeded with all precincts in the nine counties reporting.

All in all, Latterman felt the results are somewhat informative about what might happen in November. “It shows the Bay Area is willing to put money down on things that they care about,” said Latterman. The decision to move forward with a $3.5 billion BART improvement bond on the November ballot could be made as early as tomorrow.

But will Bay Area voters drive that large a bond over the two-third threshold, all across the region?

The short answer is “no.” Latterman said that passing the BART bond will depend on turning out yes votes “in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, and hope it does okay in the rest of the region. But this city is willing to pay for bonds and transit, so [the measure] will be fine if they bank as many votes in San Francisco as they can.”

But Clemens isn’t sure the two-thirds threshold can be met. “This will be an extraordinarily expensive bond but hopefully people will see how important it is,” he said, adding that at this point the highest priority is to start an educational campaign. “BART is an amazing thing,” he said. “Imagine if they hadn’t built it in in the 1950s and 1960s? Without BART, we’d be a nice little agrarian, granola-eating city.”

Ultimately, Clemens believes nothing would educate the public better about the importance of passing a BART bond than if the system were suddenly taken away for a while. “It will depend what happens with BART…. Is it working? Is it on fire?”

On housing, the environment, and transportation, Clemens said one thing is clear: the Bay Area has to think regionally. “It has to be the future,” he said. “Our big fight is who gets to stay here and where do they live and do they need nine roommates–San Francisco can’t solve things without all the counties and districts.”

And SPUR, he said, with its offices in San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, will have to play a big role in that. “SPUR will need to be herding the cats.”

A packed house attended SPURs post-election discussion. Photo: Streetsblog.
A packed house attended SPUR’s post-election discussion. Photo: Streetsblog.
  • RichLL

    ” Latterman said that passing the BART bond will depend on turning out yes votes “in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, and hope it does okay in the rest of the region. But this city is willing to pay for bonds and transit, so . . ”

    Although Oakland and Berkeley do have a lot of parcel taxes – the result of passing bond measures – San Francisco really does not have that same history. Take a look at a property tax bill in SF and there are only a few, meaning that the tax assessment isn’t so far from the neutral Prop 13 basis. Whereas in Oakland and Berkeley there are a lot, and it’s something you really need to take into account when you buy a property in either city.

    Also critical to getting a bond measure passed in SF is the pass-through provision to the tenants. Otherwise you would have the anti-democratic situation where 2/3 of the voters would approve every one because it wouldn’t cost them anything. The SF Rent Board allows bond increases to be passed through to tenants, meaning that tenants can and do vote against them.

    That in turn shows the problem with trying to stick these costs only on property owners rather than all residents. Less of an issue outside the big cities because of the higher rate of home ownership elsewhere. Especially since tenants probably use transit more than the typically wealthier property owners, they should bear some of the cost.

    SF has rejected a lot of bond measures, including a number for affordable housing. While Oakland and Berkeley love to spend other peoples’ money. And you have to ask why SF voters would want to pay more tax to mostly benefit people in the East Bay?

  • JustJake

    Simply this: No to regional government. It would serve to expand the too big, too corrupt, too unaccountable and fiscally irresponsible people that already call the shots. Get rid of MTC, BAAQMD, BCDC and the always hated “Bay Area Council”… then come back and we can talk about the future of regional government.

  • RichLL

    I disagree 100%. The real city is the Bay Area. But bizarrely it is divided up into 9 counties and dozens of “cities”, all with their own quirks and fiefdoms. This directly harms things like transit and housing policies, as the Balkanized fiedoms play beggar-thy-neighbor with each other.

    Take the furore over Twitter’s threat to leave SF, for instance. SF capitulated rather than lose Twitter and gave them a tax break. But where were they threatening to move to? Brisbane, maybe a dozen miles away but, crucially, in another city and county.

    Or SF trying to blame the South Bay cities for its own housing affordability problems.

    The real problem is that cities and counties that should be working together actually seeing each other as the problem. We need more regional government and co-operation

  • JustJake

    And this is the choice we have. Do you want to become LA? Absolutely nothing “bizarre” about the existence of counties that have millions of residents to govern and provide services for. A semblance of independence and accountability in government. SF is a circus, with clowns in charge. Other cities and counties have zero desire to share in the choices and paths that SF is taking. Atherton isn’t Vacaville. Berkeley and Alamo are very distinguishable. To think that there is some commonality that can be addressed via governmental powers is absurd, at minimum unrealistic. Transit? Yeah whatever, I’ve been on BART perhaps a dozen times in 30 years. To each their own. If people can vote, regional government will never happen. Right now it’s regulators and appointees, nothing that the residents have wanted.

  • RichLL

    I agree that all these Bay Area towns are quirky and different, but that is exactly why we should instead have regional government, so that there is a reasonable moderate government rather than some left-wing crank in Berkeley and some right-wing bigot in Tracy or Solano County somewhere.

    And since transit is the issue here, look at what works: BART, CalTrain, the ferries, the airports and the freeways. All regional.

    What doesn’t work? Buses (see article earlier today) and a couple of ponderously slow light rail systems. All municipal rather than regional, and with pitiful farebox recovery rates.

  • JustJake

    ” Reasonable. Moderate. Government “. This. It will never happen. Politics are the problem, not the solution.

  • Chris

    Politics is part of the problem, but how do you get rid of it? Politics is inherent not only to representative democracy, but to any other actual form of government that I’ve heard of. (I don’t count philosopher kingship as an actual form of government.)

  • JustJake

    Can’t get rid of it, true. Best hope is to keep it in proper size and retain accountability. We’ve had the city/county type government for centuries. Not perfect, but way better than regional government. If you want cooperation, respect the needs of the various counties. Which is opposite to what just happened in the MTC hostile takeover of ABAG. Collectively, SF, Oakland and SJ are 30% of the Bay Area. The other 70% should have twice the voice and twice the power. A complete flip from the status-quo.

  • Jame

    BART, Caltrain, and Ferries don’t get you to school, the grocery store or your doctors appointments. And they don’t get you to the last mile to/from home or work.

  • Jame

    Really, because it seems like SF racks up by adding a lot of daytime office workers and doesn’t need to house them collecting all that business revenue.

  • Frances Taylor

    “my room mate Lori Is getting paid on the internet $98/hr”…..!tl195x

    two days ago grey McLaren. P1 I bought after earning 18,512 Dollars..it was my previous month’s payout..just a little over.17k Dollars Last month..3-5 hours job a day…with weekly payouts..it’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over hourly. 87 Dollars…Learn. More right Here !tl195x:➽:➽:.➽.➽.➽.➽ http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsRocketGetPay$98Hour…. .★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★::::::!tl195x….,.

  • Kelsiejhouse4

    “my room mate Lori Is getting paid on the internet $98/hr”…..!tv120x

    two days ago grey McLaren. P1 I bought after earning 18,512 Dollars..it was my previous month’s payout..just a little over.17k Dollars Last month..3-5 hours job a day…with weekly payouts..it’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over hourly. 87 Dollars…Learn. More right Here !tv120x:➽:➽:.➽.➽.➽.➽ http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsRapidGetPay$98Hour…. .★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★::::::!tv120x….,…

  • Agreed. People tend to forget that a robust transit system, be it local or regional, should provide a level of service that satisfies the needs of non commuters and car-free households.

  • 16 years in SF and 16 years reading how SPUR likes to pat itself on the back touting the same, tired ideas. Meanwhile, no credible solutions have been implemented and nothing in the pipeline other than an overbudget $2B bus station.

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