San Francisco primary election guide, March 2020

Barak Gila

There's an election?

Yes, now through March 3, where you can vote not just for President but also DCCC members (Democratic endorsers), judges, and local propositions.

How do I sign up?

It's ✨easy and free✨ for U.S. citizens to register to vote at It only takes 5 minutes, so do it right now.

Why should I vote?

At the state and local level, your vote isn't wasted!

The endorsements

You'll be able to vote for either district 17 or 19, depending on where you live in San Francisco.

President, Democratic nominee

this space intentionally left blank.

Member, County Central Committee (DCCC) District 17
Bivett Brackett
Nancy Tung
Nima Rahimi
Victor Olivieri
Austin Hunter
Kristen Asato-Webb
Mick Del Rosario
Mike Chen
Steven Buss
Tyra Fennell

State Assembly Member, District 17
David Chiu

Member, County Central Committee (DCCC) District 19
Ahsha Safai
Cyn Wang
Jane Natoli
Janice Li
Kathleen Anderson
Mary Jung
Mawuli Tugbenyoh
Nadia Rahman
Seeyew Mo
Suzy Loftus

State Assembly Member, District 19
Phil Ting

U.S. Representative, District 12
Nancy Pelosi

State Senator, District 11
Scott Wiener

Seat #1: Pang Ly
Seat #18: Dorothy Chou Proudfoot
Seat #21: Kulvindar "Rani" Singh

State Propositions
Prop 13:cursed prop number Yes

Local Propositions
Prop A: No
Prop B: Yes
Prop C: Yes
Prop D: No endorsement (updated)
Prop E: No

The details

The Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC)
What is it?

The DCCC is the group that determines who the "San Francisco Democratic Party" endorses. As you can imagine, the Democratic Party has a fair bit of clout in SF, so having their official endorsement makes a substantial difference in how people vote.

By registering Democratic and voting for DCCC candidates that share your pro-housing, progressive values, you are influencing politics in SF positively.

How'd you decide who to endorse?

I outsourced my endorsements here to YIMBY Action (Yes in my backyard), San Francisco's main pro-housing group. Here are their full endorsements.

Aside: the SF League of Pissed Off Voters is bad

Another helpful resource (for who not to vote for) was the SF League of Pissed Off Voters. They sent candidates a questionnaire full of litmus tests for their preferred policies, which are bad, at least on housing. The League wants candidates to oppose SB 50, our state's best hope for building more homes quickly. They also wanted candidates to oppose any market-rate housing on public land, even if that land could subsidize additional affordable units to be built too. I tabulated everyone's responses to these questions, and most of the non-YIMBY-endorsed candidates agree to positions which would result in fewer homes to be built.

(Curiously for a group that purports to be pissed off, their questionnaire also asks prospective DCCC members to promise to endorse the incumbents in 4 of the 6 upcoming supervisor races. A DCCC member should endorse whomever they feel is the best candidate depending on their values, issue positions, and political considerations; binding them to endorsing incumbents greatly reduces the power of the DCCC.)

U.S. Representative, District 12

I support Nancy Pelosi for reelection. She is the current Speaker of the House of Representatives. Though I do wish we had a younger generation of leadership in Congress, she's been effective in running the House, getting bills passed, and managing impeachment in a popular way.

Her most prominent opponent, Shahid Buttar, is a democratic socialist in the Bernie vein. An interesting endorsement for him is by Cory Doctorow. As you can imagine, almost everyone has endorsed Pelosi.

State Senator, District 11

Scott Wiener is the best legislator I've ever known. He's been tireless in advocating for more housing, our state's biggest issue. Though SB 50 has recently failed in the State Senate, he'll be back with other housing bills in the coming months, and SB 50 (and its predecessor SB 827) have already changed the housing conversation. Wiener did pass SB 35, which has led to the under-construction 2000-home project in Cupertino at the site of Vallco.

Among many other bills, Wiener wrote California's bill protecting net neutrality, and has been working to extend nightlife hours so that bars can be open until 4am.

By contrast, his most prominent opponent, Jackie Fielder, has a housing plan to spend $100B over 10 years to build 100,000 more homes. Unfortunately, we have a shortage of more than 3 million homes (we are 49th in housing units per resident), so this would barely make a dent in the crisis.

State Assembly, District 17

David Chiu is running unopposed. Conveniently, he's endorsed Wiener's SB 50, and has introduced AB 1905 to limit the CA mortgage interest deduction. (Did you know you can't deduct your rent from your state taxes, but you can deduct interest from your mortgage on even your second house in Tahoe?)

State Assembly, District 19

Phil Ting is also the most pro-housing candidate, having endorsed SB 50.


I outsourced these endorsements to the SF Chronicle. In each case, they selected the more mainstream candidate with more endorsements from other judges and elected officials.

Note that in each case, the SF League of Pissed Off Voters (which is bad) endorsed the opposite candidate.

The propositions

See the SF Chronicle voter guide for summaries of each Prop (and their endorsement) as well as the SF Voter Pamphlet (and CA Voter Guide for state Prop 13) for fuller details.

Prop 13: Yes

Unlike the other, notorious Prop 13which has ruined CA's finances and turned our state into a feudal society, in which homeowners' children and grandchildren can inherit artificially low property tax rates, meaning that those who have owned their home longer can pay a tenth or less of what newer homeowners pay, this one authorizes $15B in state bonds to improve our schools. The SF Chronicle, CA Democratic Party, and most state officials endorse it.

Threshold to pass: 50%
Importance: low
Conviction: low

Prop A: No

In 2012, the accrediting commission for SF City College "said the college should lose accreditation because of tangled governance structures, poor fiscal controls and insufficient self-evaluation and reporting," according to the SF Chronicle (Wikipedia has more details). Given my impression that SF City College is not well-run, and the absence of Mayor Breed's or any Supervisors' endorsements on this prop, I am inclined not to give them another $845M in bond funds. The SF Chronicle's endorsement is to vote Yes, with the caveat that they may not be as likely to agree if City College asks for another bond.

Threshold to pass: 55%
Importance: low
Conviction: low

Prop B: Yes

Supported by the Mayor and almost all the Supervisors, this measure authorizes $629M in bonds to finance earthquake- and emergency-preparedness infrastructure improvements.

Threshold to pass: 2/3
Importance: low
Conviction: medium

Prop C: Yes

This measure restores some retirement benefits to 25 city employees, at a cost of $80,000, fixing a technical issue caused when they transferred from a federal to a city agency.

Threshold to pass: 50%
Importance: tiny
Conviction: medium

Prop D: No endorsement (updated)

Update 2020/02/13: Following discussions and especially the endorsement of San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), I've decided to change my position from No to No endorsement. I'll still be voting No, but my reasons are mostly political (opposition to Aaron Peskin and placing the blame for vacant storefronts on landlords/tenants rather than the city / NIMBY groups). In terms of subtantive impact of this measure, it would likely be minor and even possibly positive. Below remains my original No argument.

This measure places a vacancy tax on commercial landlords or tenants when their space is unoccupied for more than half a year. At a glance, it seems appealing: aren't vacant storefronts bad? Aren't property owners undertaxed anyways (due to Prop 13)?

The root cause of vacant properties is not the lack of a vacancy tax. As a rough estimate: if a 1k sq ft retail space, with 20 ft facing the street, fetches $120k per year in rent, and a landlord is forgoing that, another $5k-$20k per year will likely not change their mind.

In San Francisco, regulations and permitting processes are slow, arbitrary, and expensive, and "community groups" which can often veto projects they don't like, are the culprits of our retail woes. Some egregious examples:

Passing this vacancy tax would validate vilifying landlords as the problem, when they're not, giving credence to an incorrect narrative. It would give these "community groups" more leverage to meddle with small businesses. It's also not clear the tax will work: in Washington, D.C., the city could not provide evidence of properties being renovated or leased as a result of the tax, and some owners may be filing bogus permit applications to avoid the tax (source).

Finally, I don't trust our government to implement the vacancy tax effectively and fairly: there are exceptions in the measure so that businesses aren't taxed while approval permits are pending, but there are so many kinds of permits and potential obstacles, and I'm not confident all of them are covered. I'd be concerned about a tenant being forced to pay the vacancy tax, while being prevented from opening their business. We should not be adding more regulatory burden to both our businesses and government agencies when our problem is too much regulation. Vote No on Prop D.

Threshold to pass: 2/3
Importance: low
Conviction: low

Prop E: No

This measure would further restrict SF office development, unless the city meets goals for affordable housing construction that are unlikely to be met.

It's hard to be more critical of this measure than the city's economist, which calculated that it would, after 20 years

It is a worthy goal to correct the housing/jobs imbalance in the Bay Area, by building more homes. But if we don't allow offices to be built in the city, accessible by BART and Caltrain, more of them will be built in car-dependent suburbs. The pressure on affordability will still be there, but we'll have worse traffic and pollution problems. Stripe recently decided to move to South San Francisco, in part because it could find a suitable space here. Vote No on this anti-growth measure.

Threshold to pass: 50%
Importance: high
Conviction: high


Thanks for reading! Let me know of any errors, comments, or simply if you found this a useful guide! It would make my day.

Thanks to Vadim Graboys for your helpful suggestions.