Backers of Props J, K rally to fund homeless, transit services

Proponents of two propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot that would create a fund and a funding source for transportation needs and homeless services kicked off their campaign on Wednesday at San Francisco City Hall.

Proposition J would create the Homeless Housing and Services Fund and the Transportation Improvement Fund. Its counterpart, Proposition K, would provide the funding for Proposition J through a three-quarter general sales tax increase.

The City would allocate $50 million beginning of 2018 for the next 24 years to provide services for the homeless such as housing, programs to prevent becoming homeless and services to transition out of homelessness.

Jeff Kositsky, director of The City’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said the funds would also help build out the navigation center system, which provides temporary housing for the homeless.

He said that navigation centers are only a temporary solution, and that the real solution to homelessness is for the person to have a permanent home:

“Most importantly, J and K is going to bring in a significant amount of money. Well more than half of the funding will be used for permanent exits, more supportive housing, for more rent subsidies.”

Mayor Ed Lee said at the rally that the sales tax increase would be a steady stream of $150 million for making improving transportation and homeless services in The City:

“It is important that we have this combined because that will dedicate the sustainable funds to transportation and to helping people get off the streets.”

Proposition J would also allocate $101.6 million to improve transportation needs starting in 2018 for the next 24 years.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency would be able to use 12.4 percent of the funds to continue funding its free Muni programs and improve transit service in low-income communities.

Another 18.8 percent of funds would go toward maintaining Muni’s fleet, expanding the fleet and to make upgrades to Muni stations.

SFMTA’s Board of Directors Chairman Tom Nolan said The City is growing with more people living and working in San Francisco:

“This means we’re trying to fit more and more people into our already crowded transportation system.”

Nolan said that funds from Proposition K would to help invest to make transportation better and that Proposition J would make sure the funds would go the transit agency’s highest priorities such keeping Muni’s fleet in a state of good repair and expansion needs for future population growth.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority would also get a percentage of funds to improve the Muni system and expand capacity, to carry out the Vision Zero goal of ending traffic fatalities by 2024 and to improve the reliability and to increase the capacity of BART and CalTrain.

In 2013, Lee created the Transportation Task Force 2030 to make recommendations how to fund a $6.3 billion gap in funding for transportation infrastructure in The City, which included a $500 million bond measure that San Francisco voters passed in November 2014. The report from the task force also recommended a sales tax increase.

A percentage of funds will go to the Department of Public Works to repair streets and preventative maintenance.

The SaveMuni organization, which is against both Propositions J and K, cite City Controller Ben Rosenfield, who said Proposition J would “significantly increase the cost of government.” The group said on its website that Prop. K is a “regressive tax” that would hurt low- and middle-income families.

Howard Wong, a member of SaveMuni, sent out a press release Wednesday that read that despite billions spent on Muni already, the transit system’s on-time performance had fallen and remain stagnate.

Lee said despite what the public has heard about Proposition K, he said the sales tax increase was “progressive, fair and sustainable.”

Both propositions need a simple majority to pass. Proposition J would give Lee the authority to terminate either or both the homeless and transportation fund on Jan. 1 2017 depending on the financial picture of The City.