A corporate tax to help homeless people passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote on Tuesday Nov. 6, surprising many San Francisco residents who expected that an opposition campaign with massive corporate funding would squash grassroot organizing.
“It became a very divisive issue in city,” said Christin Evans, a volunteer with “Yes for Prop C”. “It quickly became most contested and debated measure on the ballot.”
The ballot measure’s passage means the city will levy taxes on companies that generate more than $50 million in annual revenue. This half percent increase to gross taxes is expected to generate about $300 million for mental health services and shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
The “No on Prop C” campaign outspent “Yes on Prop C” by more than three to one, with about $78 million compared to $25 million. The supporters won out because people are exasperated by ineffective solutions to the homeless crisis, Evans said.
“We got endorsements not just from progressive organizations but also the moderate ones,” she said. “There has been homelessness crisis for some time, and band-aid solutions and half measures that were proposed in the past frustrated the public.”
Evans began to see momentum swing toward support for Proposition C less than a week before the midterm elections. It may have been spurred on by the media’s intensive coverage of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s public support of the measure, despite the estimated $10 million per year that it will cost him and his company.
Then there was the influence of the Coalition for Affordable Housing’s grassroots campaign, which Evans said exceeded her expectations. She and the organization went door to door and gathered 28,000 signatures to get the proposition on the ballot — 19,000 more than required to make it onto the ballot.
The division among large Bay Area-based tech and service companies, who would absorb the tax, grew larger as election night neared, she said.
“It was never a sure thing because there was a ton of money poured in from handful of companies,” Evans said. “Stripe, Twitter, Square, Visa, SF Chamber of Commerce, PG&E, Lift and others put money into ‘No’ campaigning.”
Also opposed were Mayor London Breed, Supervisor David Chiu and District 11 Supervisor Scott Wiener, California Rental Housing Association and the National Apartment Association.
“They all come out as a united threesome against Prop C,” Evans said. “They were clearly working with the No on Prop C Campaign to torpedo the measure.”
But there were also several influential supporters, such as Benioff, minority leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein and several SF supervisors expressed their support for Prop C.