SAN FRANCISCO—Supervisor Dean Preston introduced a ballot measure at the Board of Supervisors meeting on June 16, proposing the creation of 10,000 permanent units of affordable housing.
Pending approval from the rest of the supervisors to add this to the ballot, San Franciscans would vote on this proposition in November. So far, the measure has gathered support from Supervisors Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen, and Shamann Walton.
This affordable housing project requires the approval of the San Francisco electorate due to a California law called Article 34. The article states that no “low rent” housing development can take place without a voter majority.
Article 34 was created in 1950 and has since caused some friction in the public sphere. In March 1971, the article was contested in the U.S. Supreme Court in James v. Valtierra. It was argued that Article 34 was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated the Equal Protection Clause. However, the Supreme Court held that by allowing public housing projects to be voted on, Article 34 maintains democracy. Thus the article was upheld.
Article 34 has also encountered several repeal attempts. For example, in September 2019, State Senators Ben Allen and Scott Wiener proposed a bill to repeal Article 34. Both senators spoke out against the fairness of the law.
“Article 34 is a scar on the California Constitution – designed to keep people of color and poor people out of certain neighborhoods – and it needs to be repealed,” Wiener said in a statement on September 10, 2019, “Publicly owned affordable housing for low income people is critical to reduce homelessness and ensuring that housing is available to people of all income levels. This important source of housing shouldn’t be singled out for voter approval when other types of housing aren’t.”
Allen and Wiener’s 2019 repeal bid did not take. Another repeal effort has thus been launched and will be on the November 3 ballot this year.
In the meantime, Preston is following the protocol required by Article 34 and taking the project of commissioning 10,000 affordable housing units to the voting booths.
Preston did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said in an Instagram post on Tuesday, June 16, “With our local ballot measure, we are making it possible to create thousands of units of municipal housing for the people of San Francisco, especially people of color.”
If approved, Preston plans to finance this affordable housing project through the revenue generated by a proposed increased real estate tax—a motion that may also see the voting booths this November. This measure would increase the tax on real estate sales greater than or equal to $10 million from 3 percent to 5.5 percent. Similarly, for sales equal to or above $25 million, the tax would increase from 3 percent to 6 percent.
The San Francisco News awaits a comment from the San Francisco Association of Realtors regarding this proposed tax policy.