TransForm's 2020 Election Reflections

Headshot of Darnell Grisby

 "Thank you for voting!"Last week was a long one, but we now know that change is coming to the White House and the country. Despite the focus on narrow margins in the few states that decide the presidential contest, we can celebrate that we just saw the highest voter turnout in 120 years, even amidst an uncontrolled pandemic. Joe Biden earned a greater share of the votes than any challenger since FDR. While there is clearly deep work to do to reckon with the profound divisions in our country, justice has the momentum as the struggle continues.

That and the vote count of suburbs and cities around the country point to the dawn of a new American century where a multi-racial majority can create equitable economic growth that leads us out of the COVID recession, breaks down systemic racism, and addresses the climate crisis. The president tried to frighten suburban voters with divisive rhetoric about “low-income housing,” but they were one demographic that largely switched their support from 2016.

However, with probable political deadlock in Washington, the Bay Area and California must provide leadership for the rest of the nation. We have the capacity to develop an innovative, equitable regional ballot initiative to fund transit; establish partnerships with private mobility providers to promote mobility justice; provide safe spaces for all users of our streets, while fighting sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions.

To win, we must first come together as a region and center justice at the core of all of our actions. To that end, TransForm is committing to take bolder steps in developing anti-racist policies that offer pragmatic solutions for our region’s problems, working with our partners and as many stakeholders as possible to advance mobility and housing justice.

In California and the Bay Area, we accomplished some of what we needed to in this election. But statewide, progressives failed to define the narrative and lost some key propositions.

  • The passage of Measure RR for Caltrain on the Peninsula shows that even during an economic downturn, voters understand that transit is essential and they’re willing to invest in it. The only other major transportation funding measure on Bay Area ballots, Measure DD in Sonoma County, also passed by a comfortable margin. The needs in our region are great and a regional ballot measure to further invest in equitable, sustainable transportation is likely in our near future.
  • Though votes are still being counted, the likely failure of Prop 15 means local government agencies hit hard by the COVID recession, including transit agencies, will have to look elsewhere for relief. While this outcome is disappointing, the fact that Prop 15 came within just a couple of points of passing is a hopeful sign.
  • Prop 16 would have reestablished affirmative action in California. Since that policy ended, we have learned that it is one of the easiest ways to broadly implement inclusion that protects and expands the middle class. Yet while voters clearly believe in the goal of racial inclusion, they are not clear on how to achieve it. This result points to a complicated path forward.
  • For the second election in a row, an attempt to allow local jurisdictions to expand rent control (Prop 21) lost by a wide margin. There is important work to do to shift the narrative on housing policy in California to the belief that housing is a human right, and the collective benefits and responsibility of ensuring everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home.
  • In a similar vein, several Bay Area cities had the chance to reject racist, exclusionary zoning/housing policies in this election, and the results were mixed. We’re hoping the good news sticks in San Mateo, where Measure Y is failing by just 122 votes as of today —that would let an outdated exclusionary zoning law expire. San Francisco easily passed Measure K to allow 10,000 units of social housing. These communities are paving the way for more affordable homes. We were disappointed that Measure Z failed in the city of Alameda, leaving a ban on multi-family homes in place on the island. It would be worth analyzing the dynamics of these campaigns to learn what works and what doesn’t.
  • Prop 22 was the most expensive ballot initiative in state history. As we acknowledged in a previous blog post, the passage of Prop 22 is an improvement on the status quo. It will create some new benefits for app-based drivers and allow them to preserve the flexibility many of them value. There is more than one way to promote social equity within the shared mobility space. Improving the treatment of gig economy workers remains important, as is maintaining and increasing mobility access for those who use app-based mobility to get to essential destinations. In many of our communities, public transportation and driving alone does not provide sufficient access to the basics — such as reaching doctors appointments or groceries. The companies that inhabit this space are here to stay and need to be a part of any effort to promote mobility justice, particularly in communities that are hard to serve with traditional forms of public transportation. We will continue to constructively engage with them to create innovative interventions that benefit communities.

Looking ahead to next year and the next election, we will build on the successes and learn from the losses. There has never been more urgency or opportunity to advance anti-racist policy that ensures a green and just recovery from the COVID recession.

Below is a list of all the issues we took a position on and the results, as of November 10, 2020. And while we can’t take positions on candidate races, we want to congratulate newly elected AC Transit board members Jovanka Beckles and Jean Walsh. Congrats to Lateefah Simon, Bevan Dufty, Rebecca Saltzman, and Debora Allen for their re-elections to the BART Board, and to re-elected AC Transit Director Chris Peeples.


  • YES on Prop 15 - “Schools and Communities First” aka split-roll reform of Prop 13
    Failing - 51.8% no
  • YES on Prop 16 - Repeal Prop 209 to allow affirmative action
    Failed - 56.7% no
  • YES on Prop 21 - Rental Affordability Act
    Failed - 59.7% no
  • NO on Prop 22 - App-Based Drivers Contractor Classification
    Passed - 58.5% yes


  • YES on Measure RR - Caltrain
    Passed - 69% yes

East Bay:

  • YES on Alameda Measure Z - Repeal Citywide Apartment Ban
    Failed - 60% no
  • YES on Berkeley Measure GG - Trip tax on Transportation Network Companies
    Passed - 59% yes
  • YES on Berkeley Measure MM: Rent Stabilization Ordinance
    Passed - 56.4% yes
  • YES on Antioch Measure T: Voter Approval for amending Urban Limit Line
    Passed - 79.1% yes

San Francisco:

  • YES on Proposition A - Health and Homelessness, Parks, and Streets Bond
    Passed - 70.6% yes
  • YES on Proposition K - Affordable Housing Authorization
    Passed - 73.5% yes
  • YES on Proposition I - Real Estate Transfer Tax
    Passed - 57.6% yes

Peninsula and South Bay

  • YES on East Palo Alto Measure V - Transient Occupancy Tax for affordable housing
    Failed - 64.7% (needs 66.7% to pass)
  • NO on San Mateo Measure Y - Let exclusionary zoning policy expire
    Failing - 50.1% no (margin was just 122 votes)
  • NO on Mountain View Measure C - Recreational Vehicle Parking Ban
    Passed - 56.5% yes

North Bay

  • YES on Sonoma County Measure DD - Extending existing sales tax for transportation
    Passed - 71.1% yes



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