TransForm's November 2020 Voter Guide

"Vote like a TransFormer" with icons for a bus, a house, a pedestrian, and a bike. With so much attention focused on November 3rd’s momentous presidential election, it’s easy to forget the many other important issues on the ballot. As usual, there are some very important decisions for California and Bay Area voters to make on transportation, housing, and land use. We’re here to walk you through it from our perspective.

As always, these are TransForm’s recommendations based on our vision for creating more just, healthy, connected communities. Voters should come to their own conclusions, and we hope our perspective helps you do that.

Highlights/spoilers:

  • We’re particularly excited to vote YES on Prop 15 to raise billions of dollars for local governments, schools, and transit districts across California by closing a long-standing tax loophole for big corporations.
  • We believe new mobility technology can and should be a force for racial and economic justice, so we’re opposing Prop 22.
  • The very survival of Caltrain is on the ballot, so we recommend voting YES on Measure RR, which would also put in place a solid equity framework that helps address our concerns about the sales tax.
  • Bay Area cities also have the opportunity to end racist and exclusionary zoning practices that perpetuate our housing affordability crisis by voting YES on Measure Z in Alameda, YES on Prop K in San Francisco, and NO on Measure Y in San Mateo.

Read on for all our recommendations, a listing of candidates in transit board races, and some tips and links for voting in this extraordinary moment. Here’s a summary of our positions, with links to the rest of this long post:

State Propositions

  • YES on Prop 15 - “Schools and Communities First” aka Split-Roll Reform of Prop 13
  • YES on Prop 16 - Repeal Prop 209 to allow affirmative action
  • YES on Prop 21 - Rental Affordability Act
  • NO on Prop 22 - App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies

Regional

  • YES on Measure RR - Dedicated Sales Tax for Caltrain

East Bay

  • YES on Alameda Measure Z - Repeal Citywide Apartment Ban
  • YES on Berkeley Measure GG - Trip Tax on Transportation Network Companies
  • YES on Berkeley Measure MM - Rent Stabilization Ordinance
  • YES on Antioch Measure T - Voter Approval for Amending Urban Limit Line

Peninsula and South Bay

  • YES on East Palo Alto Measure V - Transient Occupancy Tax for Affordable Housing
  • NO on San Mateo Measure Y - Let Exclusionary Zoning Policy Expire
  • NO on Mountain View Measure C - Recreational Vehicle Parking Ban

San Francisco

  • YES on Proposition A - Health and Homelessness, Parks, and Streets Bond
  • YES on Proposition K - Affordable Housing Authorization
  • YES on Proposition I - Real Estate Transfer Tax

North Bay

  • YES on Sonoma County Measure DD - Extend Existing Sales Tax for Transportation

Candidates in Transit Board Races

State Propositions

YES on Prop 15 - “Schools and Communities First” aka Split-Roll Reform of Prop 13
Prop 15 is arguably the most important state proposition on the ballot this year. It’s a golden opportunity to bring billions of dollars to local communities throughout the state, including $80 million per year for AC Transit, SFMTA, BART, and other transit agencies in dire straits due to COVID-19. Prop 15 would end a tax loophole for big businesses that own properties worth $3 million or more, a loophole that has been impoverishing schools and other public services in California since the 1970s. Read more, take action, and spread the word about Yes Prop 15! (It’s also fun to look up how much Prop 15 would bring to your county.)

YES on Prop 16 - Repeal Prop 209 to Support Racial and Gender Equality
Prop 16 isn’t explicitly about transportation or housing — it’s about racial justice and opportunity in our society, which affects absolutely everything. People of color and women are routinely discriminated against in hiring, education, the workplace, and beyond, but California is one of just a handful of states that bans affirmative action as a tool to combat discrimination. Structural racism and sexism are not problems that will just fix themselves. It’ll take effort and intentional anti-racist policymaking, and Prop 16 is a great place to start. Learn more about Yes on Prop 16.

YES on Prop 21 - Rental Affordability Act
Prop 21 would allow local governments more power to expand rent control and implement tenant protections to prevent displacement and make housing more affordable for everyone in California. In 2018 we supported Prop 10, which would have repealed the highly problematic Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Prop 21 would instead replace Costa-Hawkins. New rules would allow local governments to establish rent control on properties over 15 years old, with rent increases of up to 15% over the three years after a vacancy, and exempt owners of 1-2 properties from new rent control policies resulting from this proposition. These moderating changes seem to have won broader support for Prop 21, and they will be wise compromises if they can get us to a win. Learn more about Yes on Prop 21.

No on Prop 22 - App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies 
Prop 22 was put on the ballot by Uber, DoorDash, and Lyft (with help from Postmates and Instacart) to exempt these companies from a 2019 law that requires them to classify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors and guarantee benefits such as health care and overtime pay. We’re opposing Prop 22 because we believe new mobility technology can be a force for racial and economic justice, but only if its workforce is doing well. This was not a simple decision for us, and we hope you’ll take a few minutes to read our take on it.

Regional

YES on Measure RR - Dedicated Sales Tax for Caltrain
Caltrain has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and its existence as we know it is at stake in this election. Measure RR is a 1/8-cent sales tax on the ballot in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco counties that must earn 2/3 of the total vote in order to pass. While we’re sick and tired of using regressive sales taxes to fund transportation, the gravity of Caltrain’s current crisis and the fact that this measure is tied to meaningful new equity policies lead us to support it. Read more on our blog, including ways to help the campaign.

East Bay

YES on Alameda Measure Z - Repeals Citywide Apartment Ban
We’re delighted to support Measure Z and urge the City of Alameda to repeal its racist and exclusionary ban on multi-family housing. TransForm has opposed Alameda’s apartment ban for a long time, because it exacerbates our housing crisis, keeps people with lower incomes from making their homes on the island, and keeps the city from having enough places for people to live. We applaud the Alameda City Council for putting Measure Z on the ballot and hope other cities follow suit in rooting out discriminatory zoning laws from their municipal codes. Learn more about Yes on Measure Z.

YES on Berkeley Measure GG - Trip Tax on Transportation Network Companies
Measure GG attempts to address the impacts of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft on city infrastructure by enacting a tax of 50 cents per trip for private rides and 25 cents for pooled or shared rides. The rise of TNC use has increased traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, even in places with public transit options. Plus, the official arguments against this measure don’t hold water. While we’d like to see the money from Measure GG dedicated to equitable, sustainable transportation initiatives, putting it in a special fund would have increased the threshold for voter approval to 66.7%. However, our friends at Walk Bike Berkeley have been advocating for relevant uses of this revenue and city leaders seem inclined to cooperate. Learn more about Measure GG.

YES on Berkeley Measure MM - Rent Stabilization Ordinance
Measure MM prohibits eviction for nonpayment of rent during declared emergencies (such as COVID-19) in the future, helping ensure that a sudden expiration of Berkeley’s current state of emergency doesn’t trigger a wave of evictions. It also allows the rent board to collect data on rental units not currently subject to rent control, which would help with policymaking, and charge an annual fee for those properties. Finally, it updates rent control policy around Accessory Dwelling Units to close a potential loophole created by a new state law that could allow landlords to evade rent control protections. Learn more about Measure MM.

YES on Antioch Measure T: Voter Approval for Amending Urban Limit Line
Sprawl development that encroaches on wild and open space is a major problem in some suburban cities like Antioch. We need new homes near transit, jobs, and other destinations, but we should prevent them in places where they would exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions from driving. Measure T would lock in Antioch’s urban limit line (a zoning border to contain sprawl) at its current location and require voter approval to move it — otherwise it’ll be at the whim of the City Council starting next year. See the East Bay Times endorsement of Measure T.

Peninsula and South Bay

YES on East Palo Alto Measure V - Transient Occupancy Tax for Affordable Housing
Measure V would increase the East Palo Alto's tax (a total of 2% over two years, to 14% in 2023) on guests of hotels and short-term rentals, specifically to fund rehabilitation and maintenance of affordable housing. Short-term rentals like through AirBnb have put pressure on housing stock, reducing the number of units available and contributing to the high cost of housing in the region. See the text of Measure V.

NO on San Mateo Measure Y - Let Exclusionary Zoning Policy Expire
Like Alameda, the City of San Mateo also has the opportunity to do away with a racist, exclusionary zoning law that is exacerbating the housing crisis and limiting the city’s ability to build more affordable homes. Measure Y is an attempt to extend this harmful policy, which limits building heights and residential densities, and requires that only 10% of new homes be affordable — far below what is needed. Learn more about No on Measure Y from our friends at the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County.

NO on Mountain View Measure C - Recreational Vehicle Parking Ban
Last year the Mountain View City Council passed an RV ban on almost all city streets. Volunteers with the Mountain View Housing Justice Coalition successfully placed this referendum on the ballot, to overturn this racist and exclusionary policy that criminalizes homelessness. Individuals and families experiencing homelessness, or whose best housing option is an RV, need supportive services and more affordable housing options — not to be displaced from the communities where they live, work, and go to school. A “No” vote overturns the ban, a “Yes” vote would let it go forward. Learn more about No on Measure C.

San Francisco

YES on Proposition A - Health and Homelessness, Parks, and Streets Bond
Proposition A is a 30-year bond that would raise about $40 million per year for supportive housing and mental health and substance abuse services for the city’s residents experiencing homelessness, parks and rec centers in historically underserved areas, and public space improvements such as plazas and curb ramps. It maintains existing bonds that are expiring to fund some of the city’s most urgent issues, so isn’t even a new tax. A no-brainer yes, unanimously supported by all SF supervisors and many other SF organizations and leaders. Learn more about Yes on Prop A.

YES on Proposition K - Affordable Housing Authorization
Prop K undoes an outdated and racist law from the 1950s and allows San Francisco to build its own municipal affordable housing. The proposition would initiate a pilot program for the city to create up to 10,000 units of social housing, which includes nonprofit rental housing and land trusts, as well as municipal housing. This is an essential step to address the city’s affordability crisis by clearing the way to build thousands of affordable units. While this proposition doesn’t include funding, another measure on the ballot (Proposition I) would provide some seed money for the pilot. Learn more about Yes on Prop K.

YES on Proposition I - Real Estate Transfer Tax
Prop I would double the tax on real estate sales of $10 million or more and use that money to seed the new Social Housing Program Fund created by Prop K. The transfer tax for real estate sales of less than $10 million would not change at all. This is the kind of progressive revenue mechanism and anti-racist policy we love to see — using wealth from the super-rich to support affordable homes for working-class families.

North Bay

YES on Sonoma County Measure DD - Extend existing sales tax for transportation
Measure DD would extend an existing 1/4-cent sales tax for public transportation across Sonoma County. While we’re looking hard at sales taxes these days, Measure DD revenues are allocated relatively well, and now is not the time to deprive cash-strapped transit agencies of funding they currently rely on. Learn more about Yes on Measure DD from trusted allies in Sonoma County.

Candidates in Transit Board Races

Please be sure to also cast a vote in the following BART and AC Transit Board of Directors races if they are on your ballot.

  • The BART board is made of nine elected officials, one from each ward, who serve four-year terms -- use this map to see which district you live in.
  • The AC Transit board is made up of seven elected officials, one from each ward and two elected at-large, and they also serve four-year terms -- use this website to find your district.

As a 501c(3) nonprofit, TransForm does not endorse any candidates. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name. *asterisk denotes an incumbent.

  • AC Transit District 1 - Jovanka Beckles, Ben Fong, Joe Wallace*
  • AC Transit District 2 - Greg Harper*, Jean Walsh
  • AC Transit At Large - Victoria Fierce, Dollene C. Jones, H.E. Christian “Chris” Peeples*
  • BART Director 1 - Emmy Akin (on the ballot but has withdrawn from the race), Debora Allen*, Jamie Salcido
  • BART Director 3 - Rebecca Saltzman* is running unopposed for re-election and will not appear on the ballot
  • BART Director 5 - Steven Dunbar, John McPartland*, Mike Wallace
  • BART Director 7 - Sharon Kidd, Lateefah Simon*

How to vote this year

Because of COVID-19, every registered voter in California will receive their ballot in the mail before the November 3 General Election. Here are a few important things to know:

  • The last day to register to vote online is October 19. You can register to vote in person up to and including election day, but it’s better to get it done early.
  • When mailing or dropping off your ballot, you must sign the back of the envelope provided or your vote may not be counted.
  • Your ballot must be postmarked on or before November 3, and it is highly recommended to mail it at least a week before that or as early as possible. No postage is necessary when mailing your ballot.
  • Find a list of secure ballot drop-box locations near you.
  • Every county will have in-person early voting locations available (with room for physical distancing) from Saturday, October 31 through Tuesday, November 3.

While many election rules are the same across California, some details vary by county and all the county registrars of voters have extensive local information online. On election night, they'll have results (though ballots will continue to be counted for at least a couple of weeks after the election).

 

About This Blog

TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.